Thursday, July 14, 2016

When Music Mattered - The Wall (1979)

When Roger Waters set out to write The Wall, he had everything figured out in his head. He even went so far as to record a demo of the entire album by himself. I've heard the demo, and it is amazing to me that Rick Wright and David Gilmour were able to pull the music that became The Wall out of those original recordings. It was a protest album by Waters that protested, of all things, the very audience that made him successful. David Gilmour once referred to The Wall as "not having a lot of soul." The Wall is not Pink Floyd's best record, but it is definitely a classic.

It all started during the Animals tour (oddly enough - the Animals tour was called "In The Flesh") when Roger Waters became fed up with playing large stadiums. The stadium crowds were off in the distance for the band, and Waters became tired of the fireworks and screaming that was going on when the band was playing. To Roger Waters, a rock concert consisted of the band playing and the crowd listening. But as the Floyd got more popular and the crowds got bigger, the band found it harder to mesmerize audiences like it used to. By this time, the band had hit songs and that is what people wanted to hear.

There is a very famous live bootleg of the show in Montreal where Roger Waters went off on the crowd about the fireworks and the screaming. The audience booed and nearly caused a riot. While going off stage after the initial set, Waters spat on a fan who was clamoring to get closer to the stage. David Gilmour was so disgusted with Waters' behavior that he refused to come out and play the encore. So the guitar you hear in the encore of that show is Snowy White. All of this laid the foundation for Waters wanting to put a wall between the band and the audience so the band could play without being distracted by the audience.

The songs on The Wall are spiteful and almost vengeful. There are references to former Pink Floyd front man Syd Barrett, although the references to Syd are much more obvious in the movie. Waters unleashes all of his anger and frustration about show business, losing his father in World War II, and being the angered spirit of Pink Floyd in one blistering album.

By all accounts, the album is nothing short of genius. But it remains a dividing point among Pink Floyd fans to this day. When Roger Waters did three rounds of tours to do The Wall show the way he wanted to, he sold out in Buffalo twice. The Wall still has staying power, and that staying power comes from the same place that all Floyd albums get their staying power from - emotion.

Much of this record is based on 1950s Doo-Wop music, not unlike the kind of music Gilmour and Waters listened to when they were growing up. In England, American music was extremely popular in the 1950s. In the 1960s, the British Invasion returned the favor and Pink Floyd wanted to get caught up in all of that.

The Wall was the last real album the iconic line up of Pink Floyd made together. When the album was completed, Rick Wright agreed to be paid as a session player during the tour, then he left the band for a while. The next album was The Final Cut which, ironically enough, was the last thing Roger Waters and David Gilmour ever released together.

The Wall forever changed rock music. It remains one of the best selling double albums of all-time, and the live shows forever upped the bar for any future bands to try and attain. It was a watershed moment in music history, but it wound up being the swan song of one of the greatest bands to ever play rock music.

Rating: 5 out of 5

George N Root III is a music fanatic and a follower of Pink Floyd. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at