On the last day of November in 1979 Pink Floyd released the concept album / rock opera The Wall.
The album fits the end of the 70’s very well – it is like the death of the 70’s on quite a few levels.
The Wall is very much a Roger Waters record. Richard Wright actually left the group after the album and although exact reasons aren’t clear one can only imagine the dominance of Waters. It is quite fitting that the best song on the album is one of very, very few that is penned with Dave Gilmour (and Waters).
The Wall is self-indulgent but you can’t help but like it. It has superb artwork and spawned the most unlikely Christmas Number 1 single ever. By the time the masses of single buyers realised the dark message it was too late.
Like Wish You Were Here – The Wall gave Pink Floyd an opportunity to go out at the top and leave a near perfect musical legacy. Unfortunately history does not read this way, but whose fault is that?
The Wall finishes with the line “is this where?” and starts with the line “we came in” – so you could argue that the story the album tells goes full-circle and loops in a never ending way.
In The Flesh (Waters) introduces the album. The Wall tells the story of fictional rock star Pink (not the r n’ b songstress) and is possibly a poke at the record exec mocked on the Wish You Were Here album. Pink is a huge rock star and the album deals with his demons (I told you this was self-indulgent).
The Thin Ice (Waters) phases in after we hear a baby cry, assuming this is returning to childhood and referencing Pink / Waters.
Another Brick In The Wall (Part 1) (Waters) bleeds in with soft but definite waves. The production is fantastic and one could suggest Pink Floyd have never sounded so good (as in clarity).
The Happiest Days Of Our Lives (Waters) is a short song that underlines an unhappy, strict schooling. The soft sound of the previous song is broken with sharp, abrupt punches. Again the production and sound is spot-on.
Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) (Waters) zooms in with no break. It is both an outstanding, anti-pop song and works as a prog rock anthem in a way that no other band ever came near. The song has huge appeal, is easy to identify with and is really quite dark. It really is one of a kind.
Mother (Waters) is both soft and lengthy. It reflects an over protective single Mother. The song has a nice sound but it is the first instance where you may begin to dislike the album.
Goodbye Blue Sky (Waters) is acoustic and has a beautiful dark vibe. Dave Gilmor’s vocal allows the song to quietly soar. It works both as the conceptual piece it is for this album and it sounds fantastic after 10 pints of beer (try not to sing along).
Empty Spaces (Waters) has a menacing intro. Roger Waters delivers a bitter vocal that sets a moody tone. In essence it is a great intro to…
Young Lust (Waters / Gilmour) is both a filth rock song and still has incredibly clean production. It is a cool song but if you want to throw some criticism at it – it does sound like Dire Straits (albeit before).
One Of My Turns (Waters) has the soundscape that fits both film and album. Just like Doggstyle by Snoop Doggy Dogg yet decades before. The song is yet more mood music punctuated by spoken film excerpts. Th e song splits itself (in character with the title) and rises considerably for its second half. Gilmour lets loose whatever guitar breaks he can sneak past Waters. It works.
Don’t Leave Me Now (Waters) has slow breathing sounds and pulls off the sound of deep self manifesting depression. The self loathing goes to far but as a song it is still a winner. For its final minute again Gilmour sneaks out a fantastic slow burning guitar.
Another Brick In The Wall (Part 3) (Waters) is a fast sparse reprise of the unlikely hit single. It has a more twisted feel than Part 2 and underlines where the story / rock opera is going.
Goodbye Cruel World (Waters) reflects that Pink (from the story) is cutting himself completely off. It could be seen as a suicidal note. It is short and despite its self-indulgence it still sounds great.
Hey You (Waters) is the sound of isolation. You cut youself off and struggle to get back to normality. “And the worms ate into his brain”. We’ve all been there from time to time I guess. Musically we are getting the supergroup treatment and despite the acrimony this band can certainly play.
Is There Anybody Out There? (Waters) is the sound of alienation and paranoia. Waters again finds a superb vocal tone. It breaks into a fine piece of acoustic guitar at the end of its relatively short span.
Nobody Home (Waters) has fine lyrics that most people can recall after hearing the album three times or so. Musically it hints at orchestration and it develops into an altogether grander sound.
Vera (Waters) reminds the listener of the Second World War setting and rolls into Bring The Boys Back Home (Waters) which choral sound apes the style of a Vera Lynn song.
Comfortably Numb (Waters / Gilmour) encapsulates all that is right and wrong with later day Pink Floyd material. Again it is super-self-indulgent and you can’t help but think the band are being a tad too pompous. Then again, it is possibly one of the bands best ever songs. A deep lush sound that, if you allow yourself too, can fall deeply into its charms and dreamlike state. Dave Gilmour’s softer vocals play off very well against those of Roger Waters. In the songs final third a ludicrously deep guitar solo flies with amazing ease. It is hard to imagine anybody not really appreciating the musicianship on this track.
The Show Must Go On (Gilmour) has Beatles echoes and serves to tell how Pink will return.
In The Flesh (Waters) is a longer run through of the album opener and reflects the band the album tells the tale about (okay, Pink, it is Roger Waters’ album after all remember).
Run Like Hell (Waters) is faster than usual Pink Floyd and worryingly has chasing guitar licks the kind of which The Edge would use in U2 – but hey, Pink Floyd wipe the floor with U2 every day, every album.
Waiting For The Worms (Waters) is a boggy affair that roams a bit. It has the decaying feel of a superstar that is burnt out and disillusioned.
Stop (Waters) is piano and vocal. It sounds isolated and final.
The Trial (Waters) and the album gets a bit The War Of The Worlds on us. The rock opera turns and self-examins.
Outside The Wall (Waters) leaves the rock opera unfinished. You are left to read your own interpretation and arguably the album goes full-circle and returns to its beginning.
I like The Wall a lot. I cannot say why. It was the first Pink Floyd album I ever heard and opened up a great band for me to explore. It has its faults and I can’t help to think how much better it could have been had Roger Waters allowed greater input from the other equally able musicians within the group.
Rather like Wish You Were Here – I wish it had been the bands last album. Think about it, Pink Floyd singing off at the very end of the 70’s…