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Pink Floyd – The Wall

January 28, 2009
Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979, Columbia)

Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979, Columbia)

The Wall ushered in the eighties, released on December 8th, 1979. After a recording session filled with increasing tensions, Pink Floyd produced what many consider their (or at least Roger Waters’) magnum opus, “The Wall”. Attempting to appeal to a generation much different than that when they began in 1967, this British progressive-rock band needed a hook for their latest album, something to really draw the kids in. The answer came after an incident on their 1977 tour promoting the album “Animals” released that same year. A fan attempted to get on stage with the band by climbing over the net that separated the stage and the crowd. Bassist and vocalist Roger Waters did not like this and decided that the best course of action was to spit right in the face of this adoring fan. While not much came of this immediately, Waters began to think about the “Wall” that had been put up between the band and their fans, literally and figuratively. With that he wrote a story about a boy-turned-rock-star-turned-fascist-leader. This story, about a boy named Pink, became “The Wall”

The story begins with a look into Pink’s present life, that of an unstable middle aged man sitting alone in an apartment watching video footage of a revolt somewhere in the world. This brings back memories and he wonders how he got to where he is today.

Cut to the boy’s infancy, a mother who cares far too much about him and a father who was killed in World War Two. Raised without friends, this boy begins to turn against everything in his life. At first it is his lack of a father. Without a father, Pink doesn’t know what to do with his life, as his mother only wants to protect him. This metaphorical “brick in the wall” represents the beginning of Pink’s social alienation by building a “wall” between him and everyone else in the world.

Next, he takes out his anger on the seemingly constant enemy among all children: school. In one of Pink Floyd’s best known singles, “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2”, this boy rages against his teacher and the confines that the school has put on his intellectual freedom.

After these episodes, Pink’s depression becomes more apparent in the solemn tracks “Mother” and “Goodbye Blue Sky” dealing with the overprotective nature of his mother and growing up in a post-WWII world.

Cut to several years later. Pink is now married but still has this half-completed “wall” built around him. He and his wife are having difficulties communicating due to this “wall”. The next part of the album deals with this relationship as it begins to crumble in “Empty Spaces” and is completely gone by the time “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 3” comes around. With this track, Pink has almost finished the wall closing him off from society and he has now dismissed everybody in his life as just “bricks in the wall”

Pink then loses all concept of sanity, leading to his complete mental breakdown. He begins to believe that he is now a fascist leader leading an exodus of sorts against anyone who has ruined his life, overbearing mothers, teachers and girlfriends whose only aim is to hurt him, and fathers who were never there.

Just before this breakdown is one of the most impressive, musically that is, songs on the album. “Comfortably Numb” contains what it arguably the greatest guitar solo in the history of rock music. With constantly changing moods, those between a mental patient who seems to think that everything is perfect and a doctor who knows that nothing is, and some of the greatest instrumentation on any Pink Floyd song, “Comfortably Numb” is a song to remember. Now, back to the story.

The next twenty minutes focus on this debilitating mental state of Pink as, in his mind, he is attempting to rid the world of all evil by becoming a skin-head fascist leader rather akin to the Nazis in Germany during World War II. He is killing everyone in sight now, whether they be gay, black, or simply someone who “don’t look right”.

After this tirade, Pink is brought before a judge (who is shown during their live concerts as a giant anus wearing a powdered wig) and is convicted of the crimes he has committed. As punishment, he is required to “be exposed before his peers” and “tear down the wall”.

The album ends with Pink, sitting alone, a fallen wall around him, now alone and clueless as to what to do.

While the story is impressive, the music is equally as astounding. From the heavy guitar numbers (In the Flesh, One Of My Turns, Young Lust) acoustic ballads (Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Is There Anybody Out There?) and the combinations of the two (Another Brick in the Wall, Comfortably Numb, The Trial), Pink Floyd has succeeded in appealing to a new generation who were fed up with society the way it; however, this generation was about 16 years too late to really start a revolution. So they created the next most chaotic thing, the 1980’s.

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