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Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979)

Discussion in 'Album Reviews' started by ladyislingering, Apr 9, 2011.

  1. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Pink Floyd - "The Wall" (1979)

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    Personnel

    Roger Waters: vocals, guitars, synths, and sounds.
    David Gilmour: vocals, guitars, synths, and sounds.
    Nick Mason: drums.
    Richard Wright: organ, piano, synths, and bass pedals.​

    As with many concept albums, the actual "meaning" and full understanding of the present metaphors in the lyrics, or the apparent storyline (or lack thereof) will be debated endlessly until the end of time. As a writer I have found myself fascinated with the lyrical genius of Roger Waters and David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd. There always seems to be a little twist to everything. Even the simplest of songs turn into ideas with deeper purpose than I'd ever imagined, once I look a little closer. In this I have delighted, and it is my pleasure to present a personal analysis and review of their 1979 classic "The Wall".

    It was 1977 and Roger Waters was pissed. While on tour for their previous concept album, Animals (known as the "In the Flesh" tour of 1977) he was so disgusted with the behavior of some of the audiences he'd seen, that he envisioned a wall between himself and the chavs in question. Though he was not the only member of the band to feel disappointment with the tour, Roger felt deep loneliness and isolation because he wasn't enjoying what he previously loved to do. He felt a certain separation from the audience, which troubled him, and he wanted to get down to the roots of his personal struggle. Thus the idea for "The Wall" was born.

    Roger and the band went to work in January of 1979, at the golden hands of Bob Ezrin (who had previously worked with rock giants KISS and Alice Cooper). The album was written mostly by Roger, with the help of David Gilmour on the more popular tracks (such as 'Run Like Hell', 'Young Lust', and 'Comfortably Numb'). Bob co-wrote the pivotal track "The Trial". The recording of "The Wall" took place in several places, starting in France and ending up in several studios throughout greater Los Angeles, California. Keyboardist Rick Wright and drummer Nick Mason lived in the Super Bear studio in France during recording; Roger and David lived in separate homes close by. An unfortunate technicality of the situation was Bob Ezrin's marital problems, which eventually came between him and the band on multiple occasions, causing a strained relationship between himself and Roger (who was not amused by Bob's tardiness and flighty behavior during the time of trial in his life).

    The relationship between Roger and Rick became strained when Bob was displeased with the methods and volume in which Rick made progress. Roger said he would refuse to allow the album to be released unless Rick got his shit together and left. So he did. Owners of the original LP will notice that there is no mentioning of Rick's name in the sleeve. He would later return for touring as a salaried musician.

    The album was released on November 30th, 1979, and charted significantly well, reaching #1 in Norway, Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, and Austria; #3 in the UK, and #9 in Spain in 1979; in 1980 it reached #1 in the United States and France. It also spawned a handful of singles which were equally successful; "The Wall" marked one of Pink Floyd's highest points of their career, commercially, and would continue to be praised after the release of a film adaptation in 1982.

    During touring for "The Wall", the band dazzled their audiences with large, startling marionettes and fabulous visual displays. During the course of the concert, a cardboard "wall" would be assembled between the audience and the band, to be torn down at the end of the show.
     
  2. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Re: Pink Floyd - "The Wall" (1979)

    The album itself tells a marvelous story for those with great patience (or inner turmoil). It opens with a track called "In the Flesh?", which is a reference to the tour that inspired "The Wall" to be written. It begins quite gently, with the faint melody of a song that would later appear on the album: "Goodbye, Cruel World". It soon builds to a hard-driving rock song, synthesizers and guitars galore.

    "In the Flesh?"


    Lyrics, with commentary in red:

    The song ends with the roaring engine of a jet. The story's protagonist, Pink, has an awful lot in common with Roger (not surprisingly). Pink's father (we later learn) died in World War II (thus the plane). This is the first brick in Pink's wall. It flows rather seamlessly into ...

    "The Thin Ice"



    Introduced by the sound of a crying child, "The Thin Ice" is meant to represent the gentle years of childhood innocence, before one realizes that there is hurt and pain in this world.

    Lyrics (commentary in red)

    After the child ceases to cry there is a gentle vocal by David Gilmour. The passages are soft, and Roger begins to sing, thus leading into another brief (2:30) rock ballad. There's plenty of piano and crying guitars; "The Thin Ice" segues into a very well-known track:

    "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)"



    With its moody intro, the first part of this popular and memorable piece leads into Pink's pain over learning that his father has passed away in the war. He is coming to grips with it (thus putting another brick in the wall).

    Lyrics (commentary in red):

    This is mostly a very calm, somber track, as it is leading up to perhaps the most well-known groove on the entire album.

    "The Happiest Days of Our Lives"




    A sound of a helicopter breaks the calm. The voice of the headmaster is heard for the first time on the album. The song has a bit of a disco groove if you look closely; this is apparently deliberate (as the band felt they could capitalize from adopting this sound, without straying too far from the classic Pink Floyd sound). The song's title is a supposed reference to the innocence of childhood during the formative school years.

    Lyrics (with commentary in red).

     
  3. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Re: Pink Floyd - "The Wall" (1979)

    Since "The Happiest Days of our Lives" blends with the next song, "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)" they are often played as one if you hear them on the radio, and were released on the single as one. It also opens with an actual scream by Roger. It is here that you hear more of the deliberate disco groove, and the choir of schoolchildren.

    "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)"




    The schoolchildren present on this track where children from Islington Green School. The school later received a share for the trouble of their choir, and free albums to the children who participated. Also present in this song is the condescending screaming of the headmaster.

    Lyrics (with commentary in red):

    Despite its seeming simplicity, there really is a lot going on in this song. The screaming of the children (who seem to be in revolt by the end of the song) is Pink's internal conflict that he cannot play out, and so he daydreams instead. Metaphorically this could suggest that Pink is now screaming from behind the wall he is building between himself and his teacher(s).

    The first track on the album that could easily survive as a standalone is "Mother".



    It is guitar-driven and calm, with David Gilmour and Roger Waters both sharing vocals. The song tells the story of Pink's overprotective mother.

    Lyrics (with commentary in red):

    This concludes Side A of the album.
     
  4. METALPRIEST

    METALPRIEST Senior Member

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    Re: Pink Floyd - "The Wall" (1979)

    Well done!! I love The Wall and again...Well done!! I cannot wait for side two now.

    :clap::clap::clap::clap:
     
  5. That 70s Guy

    That 70s Guy Out Of Time Staff Member

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    Re: Pink Floyd - "The Wall" (1979)

    The best album ever made!!!

    It was made for me and me only!

    Mine!!
     
  6. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Re: Pink Floyd - "The Wall" (1979)

    The conflict with mother is not resolved, but narrowly avoided in the next song, which opens with chirping birds, a distant airplane, and a child (Roger's son Harry) who says "Look, mummy, there's an airplane up in the sky." This echoes back to Pink's innocent childhood. The menacing synth brings us back to his adulthood. The song is relatively quiet, with vocals by David Gilmour and lyrics that melt into each other with the precise grace and beauty Pink Floyd has been known for.

    "Goodbye Blue Sky"



    Lyrics (with commentary in red).

    Pink has then left his mother, and his relationship with the aforementioned wife/girlfriend is becoming very strained, due to the emotional distance imposed by the metaphorical wall between him and her, thus ...

    "Empty Spaces"



    Lyrics (commentary in red):

    When this track is played backwards, the following can be heard faintly in the left channel:

    (Carolyn is Roger's wife.)

    "Empty Spaces" drives right on into..

    "Young Lust"



    Pink is now touring in the United States, as he is a musician now. He has not seen his wife/girlfriend in a very long time, so he goes looking to replace what he was to her, physically, as his wall has never allowed for an emotional connection. The song itself boasts an incredible guitar solo, a long bass groove, and the makings of a true classic. The guitars are simply nasty, raunchy, and raw.

    Lyrics (with commentary in red):

    My personal theory is that the telephone call was made before Pink calls in a groupie to fulfill his needs. After finding out about his wife's affair he no longer feels reservations about inviting groupies into his place. This is evident in the next track.
     
  7. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Re: Pink Floyd - "The Wall" (1979)

    "One of My Turns"



    The track opens with the dead end of the telephone before Pink hangs up, and the voice of a groupie who has come into his flat and is greeted with silence. The sound of a television is ever-present through a series of synth tones, and Roger's gentle voice. About 2:03 the song takes a very dramatic turn as Pink begins to rage at his wife via freaking out the groupie in his flat.

    Lyrics (with commentary in red):

    After the groupie runs from Pink in fear, he realizes that he is only raging after the departure of his wife from his life.

    "Don't Leave Me Now"



    The song is rather spooky, with distant sounds of absolutely nothing but a synth, distant piano, and Roger's voice. The song is also accompanied by a deep breathing sound. It's nothing groundbreaking but it serves its purpose in the story very well. It conveys the mood perfectly.

    Lyrics (commentary in red):

    Roger begins to howl about midway through the song (or, at least, that is the best that I can explain it personally). His voice becomes pleading and needy. The music picks up once the lyrics end, to a mourning and low guitar, without of course losing its inner tenderness. Toward the end, Pink is flipping channels on his television when he is suddenly overcome with a fit of rage. At this point in the story, Pink has experienced a lot of abandonment (his father, wife, and now this strange girl he doesn't even know) and is beginning to doubt the value of surrounding himself with others.

    Pink smashes the living shit out of his television set as the album abruptly leads into ...

    "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 3)"



    The song is quite brief and aggressive. It doesn't work well as a standalone at all, but it definitely demands the listener's attention with the guitars and synth. Note how the dialogue on the television finally stops when Pink lets up on the smashing.

    Pink decides to flip a giant middle finger to the world. Observe in the lyrics (commentary in red).

    As Pink finishes out his frustrations, he begins to calm down and the music slows to a crawl again.

    "Goodbye Cruel World"



    The intro of this song echoes back to "Careful With that Axe, Eugene". It's very simple and quiet, and has often been misconstrued as a song about suicide. Pink is committing mental and social suicide. The song is less than a minute and half long.

    Lyrics:

    During live performances of "The Wall" there would only be one brick left for completion of the Wall. Roger would peek through the last space, sing his piece, and the brick would go in. This symbolizes Pink's absolute isolation from the entire world. Thus concludes side B.
     
  8. Magic

    Magic Woman of the World

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    Re: Pink Floyd - "The Wall" (1979)

    Awesome review and interpretations, the best I have seen written on The Wall.

    Muchos Kudos, LiL :good
     
  9. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Re: Pink Floyd - "The Wall" (1979)

    Side C opens with another well-known Floyd classic.

    "Hey You"




    The opener on side C begins with a deceptively gentle tone. There is much speculation as to what the lyrics have to do with the story at hand, but this is just my personal examination of what Pink is facing, mentally.

    Lyrics (with commentary):

    Everything about this song is absolutely incredible. Everything from the desperately pleading guitar, to the shared vocals (David and Roger) to the fact that the lyrics are so hard to figure out. It works beautifully even as a standalone track. It leads quietly and well into the next track.

    "Is There Anybody Out There?"



    There is hardly a sound aside from an odd scream (which, to my memory, and correct me if I'm wrong, has been taken from "Echoes") and a gentle guitar, as Pink pleads to the outside world. Lyrics are not necessary for discussion, as there are some indecipherable voices present, but for the most part it's just Roger singing "is there anybody out there?" several times. At this point in the story, Pink is regretting his decision and wants to reach out to someone to help him. Nobody is answering, which is a set-up for the next part of the story.

    "Nobody Home"



    All that is heard in the beginning of this song is a faint TV and a voice that faintly mimics that of the headmaster. It opens with a piano. The song is meant to address Pink's sadness over his isolation. Much of this song was written about Syd Barrett, which I will address in the lyrics as well as my interpretation of the story at this point.

    Lyrics (commentary in red):

     
  10. ladyislingering

    ladyislingering retired

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    Re: Pink Floyd - "The Wall" (1979)

    The television from the last track proceeds into the next.

    "Vera"




    Another minimal and brief track (which is a little bass-heavy) clocking in at 1 minute, 34 seconds, it is seemingly pointless. There was a song during the war by a woman named Vera Lynn. It was called "We'll Meet Again", written for the soldiers who were overseas, and the hope that they would come home safe.

    Lyrics (with commentary in red) of "Vera":

    However, it makes sense for the next track.

    "Bring the Boys Back Home"



    This song, though brief, is absolutely tremendous. With its massive orchestration and present unity in the vocals, it is a song that is very focused on one message: we are as one. It has taken me some time, personally, to understand this.

    Lyrics (with commentary in red):

    Pink has realized that he has hurt the ones he loves with his own self-centeredness. Life has taken him away from what and who he loves, enjoys, and lives for. This has cost him a great many things, which all come back to him in flashbacks before the song fades out and Pink asks "is there anybody out there?" perhaps as his last desperate plea.

    "Comfortably Numb"




    "Comfortably Numb" works brilliantly as a standalone track and is extremely well-known. Both Roger and David share vocals, and there is also a very famous guitar solo throughout the midsection of the song. It is, essentially, a deceptively beautiful and lush track, rich with emotion, peace, and an overall numbness of the senses.

    Though the lyrics are not easily interpreted, this is my personal view of what's going on in the song.

    Lyrics (with commentary in red):

    "Comfortably Numb" closes side C of "The Wall".
     

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