Revisiting Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”

Photo credit to Brian Pounders on Flickr.

It’s only fair guitarist David Gilmour got to make two albums with Pink Floyd without the band’s bassist Roger Waters, given that Waters had an excessive amount of control over the making of their last two albums before the band broke up.

The first of the two was “The Wall,” an ambitious concept album loosely based around Waters’ life and their former frontman Syd Barrett. At this point in time, Pink Floyd had been on an amazing run of albums. From 1973 up until “The Wall’s” 1979 release, they launched “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1970), “Wish You Were Here” (1975) and “Animals” (1977). All charting in the UK and globally, Pink Floyd was in line for another classic to cement themselves as rock and roll legends. They came up with “The Wall,” a double LP with an accompanying feature film spanning 26 tracks. The film followed a rockstar named Pink and how he dealt with his childhood trauma and then fell into a pit of drug abuse and utter insanity. 

Roger Waters was frustrated with where the band was heading and was even more upset with the lifestyle that followed the band and the fast-paced world tours they performed. Waters told a psychiatrist that he wished he could build a wall between him and the crowd, which was where the concept of “The Wall” was born. The first part of “The Wall” tells the story of Pink’s childhood, the abuse from teachers (Another Brick in The Wall Pt 2), his overprotective mother (Mother) and losing his father in the war (Goodby Blue Sky). All of these aspects contributed to the construction of a figurative wall around Pink, which isolated him from reality. In the second half of the LP, Pink spiraled completely out of control, playing shows completely high on drugs (“Comfortably Numb”). He eventually came to the conclusion that he was the problem all along when a figurative judge placed him on trial for all of his crimes. From there, the wall was torn down (“The Trial”).

Musically, the album feels cold and uncomfortable. Some tracks on the album are extended skits from the previous song attempting to tell Pink’s story. Gilmour shines, per usual, giving one of the best guitar solos of all time on “Comfortably Numb.” As seen in the album, Waters felt isolated and uncomfortable, especially after Syd Barrett left the band and got lost in a world of drugs.

Pink tells Waters’ story as much as Barrett or any member of the band. They were dealing with an immense weight of fame and it was pushing them to their limits. “The Wall” pushed the conceptual limits of an album to its absolute edge and it does so masterfully. The music, lyrics and skits all contribute to the creation of a seamless story of a man falling into a pit of insanity as he builds and eventually tears down the infamous wall. 

Written By: Steve Anderson