The Wall (1979)


 
Disc One 1. In the Flesh? 2. The Thin Ice 3. Another Brick in the Wall (Part I) 4. The Happiest Days of our Lives 5. Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) 6. Mother 7. Goodbye Blue Sky 8. Empty Spaces 9. Young Lust 10.One of My Turns 11.Don't Leave Me Now 12.Another Brick in the Wall (Part III) 13.Goodbye Cruel World Disc Two 1. Hey You 2. Is There Anybody Out There? 3. Nobody Home 4. Vera 5. Bring the Boys Back Home 6. Comfortably Numb 7. The Show Must Go On 8. In the Flesh 9. Run Like Hell 10.Waiting for the Worms 11.Stop 12.The Trial 13.Outside the Wall

 

Without a doubt, the best thing this band ever put out. This is quite possibly one of the best things any band has ever put out. It was hailed as a masterpiece upon release and it has only gotten better with age. Quite the definition of a "concept" album, and some background helps: Roger Waters (who was now firmly in control creativity-wise) had experienced success like he had never dreamed of on the release of the last album Animals and realized he was more miserable than he ever had been. Pretty scary concerning how miserable he was already. In this double album, he basically writes an autobiography of how and why he became the way he was. He lost his father in World War II, had a miserable childhood with an over protective mother and the constricting elements of the educational system that stressed discipline and stifled creativity. He then managed to become a rock star who allowed all the excesses to destroy him on the inside.

All of those topics are addressed in length here. It can be a bit baffling since this isn't necessarily a "chronological" story. Quite often all of these elements are scattered throughout. I admit that I never fully "got it" until I saw the Alan Parker film released a few years later based on the album. Never have I heard an album where the music allowed us such a clear vision of just what the person was going through during this personal hell. The lyrics and music blend brilliantly, and, well, like most of Pink Floyd's material, can be quite depressing.

Some cynics argued that there wasn't quite enough music here. True, there are a lot of sound effects, background noises, phone conversations and intense sound effects emulating World War II everywhere, but these are absolutely necessary. This allows us to have a better visual of the protagonist's mind throughout the music. This is really an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety for the full effect to take place. Since it's a lengthy double album, that can be a bit much for some people.

Not surprisingly, it's the few tracks co-written with guitarist David Gilmour that probably stand out the best (lyrics and mood were Waters' strength, but when it came to writing catchy melodies, Gilmour had the edge). Standouts are Comfortably Numb, Run Like Hell and, the sadly underrated Young Lust. All have incredible guitar work by David Gilmour and definitely add to the "music" element of the album. Most of the other "legitimate" songs that are completely written by Waters are quite brilliant as well, including Another Brick in the Wall, Part II, which became the band's biggest selling, and most popular single ever. It probably helped that schoolyards all over the world enjoyed its "We Don't Need No Education" message that probably helped spur the sales a bit. Other strong points are the somewhat mellow numbers Hey You, Goodbye Blue Sky and the haunting Mother. Waters turns out one true rock classic with In the Flesh that's actually done twice on the album, both a bit differently.

A lot of the remainder of the album can almost be described as "theatre" in terms of arrangement and delivery. They don't really stand out that well on their own, but that was never the intention. They enhance the story and compliment the above mentioned pieces brilliantly. The concept was so elaborate, that they were financially unable to go on tour for the album (the way they wanted to), yet did perform a series of shows in selected cities in England, Germany and the U.S. Fortunately, a live souvenir was released a couple of decades after the fact, but only on compact disc. Some of the shows were videotaped, but it was determined that the quality was too poor to release. That's really too bad - I can imagine the staged show was an incredible experience. Several years later, Waters (as a solo artist) recreated the show to celebrate the demolition of the Berlin Wall with a host of musical artists trading off songs - this at least gave people a small hint of what they missed. Then, a couple of decades after that Waters actually did a tour of the whole album updating some of the effects slightly. It has rightly become a legend.

Sadly, although Waters was "exorcising his demons" it didn't seem to make him any happier nor any more pleasant to get along with. Keyboardist Richard Wright was sacked halfway through the album and the constant bickering persisted. Several years later, a very bitter lawsuit emerged between Waters and the rest of the band concerning the band's future (Waters wanted to "end" Pink Floyd, the others wanted to go on without him. They won. Long story). Although there would be a few more "Pink Floyd" albums in the years to come, many true fans attest that this was the last real Pink Floyd album. Don't know about that, but I feel it was their best. A true masterpiece.

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