Thursday, August 2, 2007

No. 87: The Wall

Band: Pink Floyd
Album: The Wall
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: A huge piece of rock opera, "The Wall" is among rock's most recognizable works. Armed with some of Floyd's most accessible and famous songs ("Comfortably Numb," "Young Lust," "Another Brick In The Wall," etc.), the album is a rock opera dealing with the classic Floyd themes of alienation and insanity.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Unlike "Dark Side Of The Moon" or "Wish You Were Here," "The Wall" doesn't have the universal appeal. As David Gilmour has said, a lot of "The Wall" is Roger Waters blaming other people for his problems.
Best song: "Young Lust" is great, "Comfortably Numb" is great, "Hey You" is great. There are tons of great songs.
Worst song: As a double album, "The Wall" has tons of filler.
Is it awesome?: For all its faults (and it has many), "The Wall" is full of great songs.

Short plot synopsis: Man loses his father in WWII, has an overbearing mother, goes to a school (operated within a system that discourages individuality) as a child.

This man then decides to totally withdraw from real society and wants to build the albums namesake, an imaginary wall to shut himself off from the world. In the real world, he becomes a rock star. His wife cheats on him while on tour. He lives the life of a true rock star, eventually taking lots of drugs.

During a hallucination, he finds himself in a Hitler role with his audiences acting the role of a fascist organization. Eventually his hallucinations get the better of him, wherein he hallucinates that a prosecutor is putting him on trial. He has an epiphany wherein he decides to tear down the wall.

Yes, now that you ask, it is a little strange.


It's hard to get away from "The Wall." It's monumentally important in the scheme of rock and roll. For one, it's the big bang that broke up Pink Floyd's classic lineup. Roger Waters was the sole songwriter on most of the album and it's clearly his cross to bear. Tensions came up big during the tour, eventually leading Richard Wright to quit the band (but stay on as, basically, a touring musician, for the length of the tour).

And what a tour it was. There was a full-sized wall that was constructed every show and puppets of the various characters in Wat--, er, the show's protagonist's head. The teacher. The prosecutor.

Waters dressed up like a fascist. He dressed like a doctor. They had a full fake/surrogate band. A master of ceremonies. To quote my favorite tv show, it was a scene, man.


As "The Wall" was Waters' baby, here's David Gimour's best two descriptions of it:

I don't fully agree with the concept of The Wall. To me it's filled with a catalogue of complaints and I don't want to blame everything on everyone else in my life but myself...There's some wonderful stuff on the album. I think that's one of the wonderful things about music is that you can have a doom-laden lyric on top of an uplifting piece of music. It juxtaposes and gives you an uplifting feeling about it. I think the film got too black and bleak. Like I said, I don't fully concur with everything Roger says on it; I think some parts are very good and some parts are outright bleak to me. (May 1992)


And my view of what The Wall itself is about is more jaundiced today than it was then. It appears now to be a catalogue of people Roger blames for his own failings in life, a list of 'you fucked me up this way, you fucked me up that way'. (Feb. 1993)

There's a lot of truth in that. It's hard to listen to "The Wall" while trying to make sense of the themes. It's basically a complaint that the world has treated one individual particularly poorly.


As much of a fan as I am, this guy is amazing. That's a lot of analysis.

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