Released: November 30, 1979
Charted: December 8, 1979
Peak: 115 US, 3 UK, 113 CN, 14 AU, 110 DF
Sales (in millions): 11.5 US, 0.3 UK, 30.7 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: classic rock
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.
Total Running Time: 81:00
4.278 out of 5.00 (average of 24 ratings)
Quotable:“Has become synonymous with, if not the very definition of, the term ‘concept album.’” – Bret Urick, TheWallAnalysis.com
Awards:(Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
Much had changed since Pink Floyd released their debut album in 1967, the psychedelic classic Piper at the Gates of Dawn. 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon became one of the biggest albums of all time, establishing the band as of history’s most successful and most important bands. “Gone were the days when they attracted this artsy crowd that sat quietly and enjoyed the music. Now they were on the same popularity plane as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones playing stadiums so the audiences were rowdier, got drunk and sometimes shot off fireworks.” J1
OriginsBy the conclusion of their In the Flesh tour in support of their 1977 album Animals, the band were growing weary of their status as arena rockers. Bassist and singer Roger Waters found it depressing and alienating to play large stadiums. Fans couldn’t even see the band and sometimes weren’t even listening to the music. Waters was also disillusioned “with stardom and the godlike status that fans grant to simple rock stars.” BU
On the final date of the tour at the Montreal Olympic Stadium in July 1977, he spat on a particularly noisy fan who was part of a group who had been shouting at the band through the entire show. V1
Guitarist and singer David Gilmour was frustrated as well. He refused to play the encore, leaving backup guitarist Snowy White to perform. He wasn’t sure what was left for the band to do.
The ConceptDuring the making of the subsequent album The Wall, Waters actually pitched the idea to the band of “constructing a wall or a barrier on the stage to separate himself from the audience.” WA While the band nixed that idea, the eventual stage production of the album did incorporate the actual building of a wall across the stage.
Waters developed the idea of “an emotionally crippled rock star” AMG named Pink based on himself and former bandmate Syd Barrett. The story traces the protagonist “from his boyhood days in war-torn England to his self-imposed isolation as a world-renownedrock star, leading to a climax that is as questionably cathartic as it is destructive.” BU The character builds a metaophorical wall to block out the trauma he has endured, including his father’s death in World War II, an overbearing mother, a soul-sucking educational system, and a failed marriage. The largely autobiographical story became an elaborate double album which explored feelings of alienation, abandonment, isolation, and despair and how people build walls to protect themselves.
Presenting the Idea to the BandWhile Gilmour and keyboardist Rick Wright were working on solo albums, Waters developed not only a 90-minute demo with the working title Bricks in the Wall, but another concept album called The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking The latter was about a “man's dreams across one night, and dealt with marriage, sex, and the pros and cons of monogamy and family life versus promiscuity.” WA
When the band reconvened in July 1978, Waters presented both ideas to the band. They unanimously chose the first. Waters eventually released the other as his first solo album in 1984.
Waters conceived the project as an album, live show, and movie from the beginning. He even brought on artist and animator Gerald Scarfe early on in the project. He provided pieces which would be used in the album art, on the tour, and in the movie.
Recording the AlbumThe band hired Bob Ezrin to produce The Wall, which would be the band’s eleventh studio album. He previously worked with Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel, Kiss, and Lou Reed. Ezrin encouraged Waters to make the story less autobiographical so that it would have more widespread appeal. That helped change The Wall into “a metaphorical story of Everyman, portraying events and emotional states (albeit, in the extreme) that nearly all of us can personally relate to.” BU
The album was recorded in several locations, including France, New York, and Los Angeles from December 1978 to November 1979. Production costs were $700,000. V1 During recording, the band was advised to leave the UK by April 1979 for a minimum of one year to avoid paying UK taxes since they were at risk of bankruptcy.
Waters’ bullying behavior rubbed Ezrin and other bandmates the wrong way. At one point, Waters proclaimed that this was his album and he was just letting the others play on it. V1 Gilmour considered Waters a good lyricist, but didn’t think he was as strong at the music. V1
Rick WrightMeanwhile, Rick Wright, who’ been with the band since the beginning, wanted a producing credit on the album. After a confrontation with Ezrin – who was often trying to take the reins on keyboard J1 – he ended up working only at night when the others weren’t around. Gilmour was annoyed by Wright’s lack of input. Wright was dealing with a divorce and missing his school-age children and has acknowledged feeling “creatively bankrupt.” J1 When the band agreed to return early from vacation to finish the album in time for a Christmas release, Wright refused to cut his time short with his family. Waters demanded that Wright be fired from the band or he would release The Wall himself as a solo album. Wright continued to work on the album and subsequent tour as a session musician.
ReceptionWith such an involved and complicated story, it was no wonder that the album spurned dedicated followers as well as mixed reviews. On one hand, it has been called “possibly the greatest rock opera ever recorded.” V1 Sales would support such a claim from a purely objective standpoint. It ranks as one of th best-selling albums of all time, and Pink Floyd’s second-best seller, only behind Dark Side of the Moon.
However, it can also be viewed as “a narcissistic, double-album rock opera” AMG which “has become synonymous with, if not the very definition of, the term ‘concept album.’” BU All Music Guide called it “a series of fragments that are held together by larger numbers” AMG and said that while “the fully developed songs are among the finest of Pink Floyd’s later work, …The Wall is primarily a triumph of production: its seamless surface, blending melodic fragments and sound effects, makes the musical shortcomings and questionable lyrics easy to ignore.” AMG
Reviewer J.T. Curtis says, The Wall is “a towering achievement” but “I get bored listening to one slow, morose tune after another.” J1 He especially thinks some of the song on the second disc show the lack of band input. J1
“If The Wall is examined in depth, it falls apart, since it doesn’t offer enough great songs to support its ambition, and its self-serving message and shiny production seem like relics of the late-‘70s Me Generation.” AMG A reviewer for Melody Maker said, “‘I’m not sure whether it’s brilliant or terrible, but I find it utterly compelling.’” WA
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First posted 3/22/2008; last updated 12/12/2022.