One of the albums that played a very important role during my own teenage years was a double album by Pink Floyd called The Wall. I could really relate to the overall feeling and even the content of some specific songs. A black T-shirt with the marching hammers was my first ever rock-related shirt. My girlfriend (now my wife) gave me a big poster with the same visual as a present once and at one time I even spent a whole weekend drawing bricks of 30 x 15 cm on the wallpaper of my bedroom and the round crossed-hammers logo on the back of my jacket. Yep, I was fascinated (if not obsessed) with the whole thing.
Before discovering and getting involved with IQ, Pink Floyd was definitely the band on which I spent most of my time; collecting bootlegs, fanzines, books, etc. When fellow DPRP team member Remco asked the team if somebody could take over his task of writing an article on The Wall for Counting Out Time, it only took me a split-second to volunteer.
Several evenings later the thing had already started to turn into a monster. Digging up any piece of information from the respectable Floydian collection in my attic, the piece had grown out of proportions. In the end I have decided to present it in four chapters, over the course of one week. The chapters are:
2 - The Album
3 - The Concerts
4 - The Movie & Epilogue
All chapters feature snippets of articles and interviews with relevant people. I'm sure the four chapters will reveal some secrets to even the most fanatic Floyd fans.
After the release of Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd toured and played the complete piece in '73, '74 and '75. During the '75 concerts the band played a couple of new songs which would end up on the next albums; Raving & Drooling and You Gotta Be Crazy (which became Sheep and Dogs on 'Animals') and Shine on You Crazy Diamond and Have a Cigar which ended up on 'Wish You Were Here'. During this tour Pink Floyd played in big stadiums in the US for the first time. Especially bass player/vocalist Roger Waters disliked this enormously. He felt like he was losing all the contact with the audience. Thus, the first seeds were sown for a concept which would come to full bloom 4 years later.
After the release of Wish You Were Here in September 1975 the band did not tour. It was only after the release of the Animals album in January 1977 that the band embarked on another World tour.
The immense success of the three aforementioned albums had a big influence on the Floyd's audience. Whereas people had always quietly listened to their music prior to Dark Side of the Moon, the success of this album changed the audience into a noisy bunch, screaming for their favorite song 'Money'. The popularity also resulted in the band playing much bigger venues, especially in the USA the band ended up in huge football stadiums, playing to people eating hamburgers, drinking beer and lighting fireworks (as if the band didn't bring enough themselves).
Roger: 'The only reason for doing it is money; the defense for doing really big gigs like that, where nobody can really see or hear anything is, "Oh, gosh, well we are so popular and so many people want to come and see us that we have to do these very large venues" and all this sort of common ache, which is a nice gentle outlook. Whereas the real reason we all do it is for the bucks; and don't ever let any rock and roller tell you any different, 'cause it ain't true.'
Especially Roger Waters got enormously frustrated by this change. At the last 80.000 spectators gig of the tour in Montreal, Canada on July 6th, 1977 something finally snapped. Roger had been asking the noisy audience several times to keep quiet during the quiet songs but it didn't help; they kept on yelling and screaming and letting off fireworks. He eventually focussed all of his anger on one guy in the public and at one point in the show he got so disgusted that he spit that person right in the face.
Roger: 'A very fascistic thing to do. It frightened me. But I'd known for a while during that tour - which I hated - that there was something very wrong. I didn't feel in contact with the audience. They were no longer people; they had become 'it' - a beast. I felt this enormous barrier between them and what I was trying to do. And it had become almost impossible to clamber over it.'
The show ended with session guitarist Snowy White playing a long and sad blues as an extra encore to calm the berserk crowd down. Dave Gilmour had already left the stage. Although nobody could know it back then, it would be the last real tour of Pink Floyd in this line-up.
This tour, which was titled 'Pink Floyd - In The Flesh', was one of the major inspirations for Water to write the next Floyd album. Flying back to England he was pondering for ways to 'teach the audience a lesson' when suddenly a brilliant idea came to him. 'Let's build a wall right between us and the crowd .... !'
Roger: 'The starting point for this whole project was me feeling bad about being on stage in a large stadium. There was an enormous wall between me and the audience - albeit an invisible one - but one that I felt was there on the basis of the people I could see in the first 50 or 60 rows; swaying heads - it looked to me as if they were experiencing it as well. It's like when you're singing a very quiet song on an acoustic guitar on stage and about ten thousand people are shouting and screaming and whistling, which happened a lot on the 'Animals' tour. There were at least 20 people that I could see whistling and going berserk and screaming. They were trying to 'be with me', if you like, but it doesn't help, you know; "Whooa-wow-get down", you know, and I'm trying to sing this quiet little song.
Obviously they [don't understand what I am doing] - the ones who are making the noise. The problem is that you know there are thousands of other people who do, and they want to listen to it. If they were all like that, then OK, you could say, 'Mindless pigs, let's just take the money and run', but you know that there are people out there who do want to listen to it and they do understand. The starting point of this project was me thinking, 'wouldn't it be good theatrically to do a show and to physically construct this wall between me and them during the show and just cut ourselves off, really antagonise the audience and let them find out for themselves, how they feel about that. So in the show we do that - but we don't leave it at that. In terms of structure of the piece the wall gets finished at the end of side 2 or, in terms of the show, about half way through.'
While Rick Wright (vocals and keyboards) and David Gilmour (vocals and guitars) worked on solo albums and Nick Mason (drums) produced an album for The Damned in 1978, Waters (vocals and bass) went to his tax-haven in Switzerland to work on his new idea.
The first rumours of the new project appeared in the music press at the end of 1978. In November press told its readers that the new album would be called 'Walls' (the working title had previously been 'Bricks' and would later be changed to 'The Wall') and would involve a travelling concert hall. This giant inflatable concert hall would be similar to an indoor tennis court in design. The name of this beast was 'The Slug', mainly because it resembled a giant slug shaped worm. The idea was to get the massive Wall show to as many fans as possible and at the time it seemed like a good idea. The hall would have measured 350 feet long and 82 feet high with seats for 3000 folks, inside there was more than 40.000 square feet divided between the main auditorium and backstage. The idea never got off the ground, as we will see later on.
In December 1978 Rick Wright revealed in an interview that the project would include an album, a theatrical show with a wall being build between band and audience and a movie. The title: The Wall.
Bob Ezrin (producer of The Wall) on Roger Waters
Before looking at the album, show and movie specifically, let's first have a look at what the whole thing is about. What is the story behind 'The Wall'?
The Wall is another concept album. The story is about a person called Pink who has so many traumatic experiences that he slowly starts to isolate himself from the world around him. This is symbolised by a wall he builds around himself.
The story is largely an autobiography of Roger Waters. Lots of the things which happen to Pink have happened to Roger, or early Floyd frontman Syd Barrett. 'The Wall' basically is a list of things (read: bricks) which almost drove him into isolation, just like Barrett.
Below you will find a brief synopsis of the story, as it was written by Waters and Scarfe for the story-board of the movie. Added to this summary, you'll find additional comments about the various tracks by the person who knows best what it's all about; Roger Waters himself.
Our hero is a war baby. His father was killed in action before they met. His mother devoted herself to him in a suffocating way. He attends a school that subjugates the children rather than educating them. His response to these alienating experiences is to start to build a defensive wall around his feelings to shelter them from further hurt.
The title of the opening piece, In The Flesh? refers to the World Tour during which the idea of The Wall was conceived. The track itself is sort of a prelude to what is going to happen. The songs that follow are basically a flashback, until we arrive at In The Flesh on side 4 of the album. Roger: 'The piece, on its simplest level, is about the situation of a rock concert, and feeling alienated from the audience from the point of view of being on stage; which is the point of view that the character is expressing in that song. When we get to the end of that first tune, everything else is then flashback.'
The Thin Ice. Roger: 'It's supposed to be about how I think parents start inducing - or almost injecting - their own fears into their children from a very early age. Particularly in my case where they've just been through a world war or something like that. We all go through devastating experiences and we tend to pass them onto our children when they're very young, I suspect.'
Another Brick in the Wall (part 1). Roger: 'It's not meant to be a simple story about somebody getting killed in the war and growing up and going to school, but about being left more generally. (...) It's meant to be about any family where either parent goes away for whatever reason; whether it's to go and fight someone or to go work somewhere. In a way it's about artists leaving home for a long time to go on tour - leaving their families behind - and maybe coming home dead, or more dead than alive. This has happened to some.'
The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall (part 2). Roger: 'It's obviously not all teachers, but there were a few of them at the school I was that were really very much like that. They were so fucked up that that was all they really had to offer: their own bitterness and cynicism. We actually had one guy ... I would fantasise that his wife would beat him. Certainly she treated him like shit and he was a crushed person. He handed as much of that pain onto us as he could and he did quite a good job at it. It's funny how, when you get those guys at school, they will always pick on the weakest kid. So the same kids who are susceptible to bullying by other kids are also susceptible to bullying by the teachers. It's like smelling blood. They home in on it - the fear - and start hacking away, particularly with younger children.'
'There are two schools of thought in England about education ... and of course it's always very dangerous to generalise about these things. Having said that, there is one school of thought - lead by a man called Rhodes Boyson, who is a junior minister in the Thatcher administration. He believes that children should be made to sit down and shut up and pay attention and learn and be turned into nice, docile productive members of society. He believes that is far more important than that they should be allowed to express themselves or think or anything. My secondary school days were at a boys' grammar school where the Rhodes Boyson method pertained to a very large extend; where we weren't expected to express an opinion about anything, unless it fell nicely into the areas that we discussed or were being involved in.'
Mother. Roger: 'I expect that some mothers neglect their children but I think an awful lot more overprotect their children and go on trying to mother you for too long. I think that parents tend to indoctrinate their children with their own beliefs too strongly. It's very difficult for parents to say to their children 'Well, this is what I believe but it might well be wrong', because they don't feel that they're wrong. They've sorted it out and they think they're right.
I think you can waste an awful lot of your life if you just adopt your parents' view of the world or if you reject it completely. If you use their view either positively or negatively to the exclusion of thinking it out for yourself, you can waste ten to fifteen years just like that.'
'It isn't specific to me and my mum. It's and idea that I've got from somewhere else: a general thing about mothers and education - that kind of fear of sex.
I've got a couple of kids of my own and it's so easy to get over-anxious about them and also, if you're worried about something, to transfer the fear of whatever it might be to them ... and let them live with it.'
Goodbye Blue Sky. Roger: 'I think that the best way to describe his is a recap, if you like, of side one. It's remembering one's childhood and then getting ready to set off into the rest of one's life. (...) "Okay, we've dealt with that, the roots and the War and the baby and the relationship with the mother and everything - where do we go from here ?"'
He leaves school already feeling isolated from other people and joins a rock band. being in a band gives him a feeling of power which he equates with invulnerability.
As he is a fatherless child he needs a woman to vest him with authority so he marries his childhood sweetheart because she is conveniently available. He devotes himself to rock and roll, attracted by 'the money and fame' which insulate him against his nagging feelings of separation, not only from his wife and friends, but also from himself.
This is a life of diminishing return. Like an addict with his junk, Pink needs bigger and bigger fixes of applause. As the band's success grows, the tours get longer and Pink is at home less and less.
'Empty Spaces is the first time he recognises that the wall's there - that it's already happening.'
'Everything that happens to [Pink] isolates him even more. His difficulty is constantly compounded because at no point is he able to take a side-take on himself ... It's very difficult for any of us to slide sideways and say 'Hold on, what's really happening here is ....'. Like most of us, Pink is on his particular set of tracks and can't get off because he doesn't even know he's on them.'
Young Lust. Roger: 'This is were it gets hooked into Rock n' Roll specifically. Occasionally, throughout our career, we've done tunes that are a pastiche of something and this is one of them. It's meant to be a pastiche of a 'Rock Band'.
About the phone-call scene: 'I've been in that situation, you see. My first wife got involved with another man while I was on tour several years ago. The operator says "I have a collect call from Mr. Floyd to Mrs. Floyd; will you accept the charges?" and it's a guy answering. That's the point.'
The phone-call scene on the album was real. Waters set it up in such a way that the operator would have a natural reaction, which you heard in the intro of One of My Turns'.
The shit hits the fan when, with Pink away in his zillionth tour of the USA, his wife falls in love with another man. Stripped of his authority, Pink cracks up and incarcerates himself in a hotel room with pills and a groupie. In a rage, he smashes the room and frightens the girl away.
'One of My Turns' is supposed to be his response to a lot of aggravation in his life and not really ever having got anything together. He's just splitting up with his wife and in response he takes another girl back to his hotel room ... he's a bit dippy now.'
'He's obviously upset and he takes this girl - just anybody, a groupie - back to his hotel room. The picture is that he's gone - he's just slumped. She keeps talking to him and he doesn't want to be annoyed. Then he feels one of those turns coming on and he starts getting violent about the whole thing.'
Don't Leave Me Now. 'He's talking to his 'old lady', really. 'Don't Leave Me Now' is a very general song about men and women, or some man and some women. The song of the surprised male who wonders why they finally leave, after they've been treating each other very badly for a long period of time.'
'A lot of man and women do get involved with each other for lots of wrong reasons and they do get aggressive towards each other and do each other a lot of damage. This is obviously an extremely cynical song ... (laughs) Yes, it is very depressing - I love it, I really like it.'
Alone now, drugged and with only the TV for company, he starts to see himself as an unfeeling demagogue, for whom all that is left is the exercise of power.
Another Brick in the Wall (part 3). 'Well, you can say - on the simplest level - when something bad happens, he isolates himself a little bit more, i.e. symbolically, he adds another brick to his wall. Just to protect himself from anything or everything. Not specifically that thing. But each thing isolates him a little further.'
Goodbye Cruel World. Roger: 'That's [Pink] going catatonic, if you like. He's going back, he's curling up and he's not going to move. That's it. He had enough. That's the end.' 'He's walled off symbolically but he's also shut himself in this room - in a specific room somewhere in America.'
Hey You. Roger: 'Pink's behind the wall a) symbolically and b) he's locked in a hotel room with a broken window that looks out onto a freeway. It's a cry to the rest of the world saying 'Hey, this isn't how it should be !'.' The song also includes the first reference to 'the worms'. Roger: 'Worms have a lot less to do with the piece than they did; they were my symbolic representation of decay, because the basic idea behind the wall thing is that you isolate yourself, you decay.'
'The lyrics work quite well and as a piece of narrative it works quite well because it's him from a very isolated position, pulling himself together and trying to re-establish contact, but only in his own mind really. And then the middle of the song is sung by a third person who narrates the fact that he can't actually make contact - "The Wall was too high as you can see" - he then becomes susceptible to the worms. The worms are symbols of negative forces within us, but the worms can only get at us because there isn't any light in our lives, symbolically speaking.'
Roger: 'Is there Anybody Out There ? is really just a mood piece.'
Nobody Home. Roger: 'Part of [Pink] wants help, but the part of him that's making, you know, his arms and legs and everything work doesn't want anything except to just sit there and watch TV.'
'It's really a song about him sitting alone in the room reflecting upon his life and upon the fact that he can't even make contact with his old lady.'
'['Swollen hand blues'] is a reference to another song that comes later on called 'Comfortably Numb' - it's about fever and it says in fact "my hands felt like two balloons" - it actually skips back about 10 years from the late 60's again. One line is specifically Syd Barret: the "elastic bands", that's him, he used to have elastic bands round his boots because his zips were always breaking and he couldn't get the buttons done up; and the "Hendrix perm", well, in those days - in the 60's - they all had them. I didn't of course.'
Vera. Roger: 'This is supposed to be brought on by the fact that a war movie comes on TV - which you can actually hear.'
'In the war [Vera Lynn] was the Forces' Sweetheart in England. We all have songs about the soldiers going away, in 'Nobody Home' he skips back to 1968 if you like, and now he's going all the way back to the war. The 'Vera' song finishes saying, 'Does anybody else in here feel the way I do ?", and that's the way he feels.'
By chance an old war movie comes on the TV and, in his deranged state, Pink conjures up a chorus of service man and women with whom he sings to purge himself of his guilty feelings.
Bring the Boys Back Home. 'For me, this is the central song of the whole album. It's about not letting anything become more important than friends, wives, children, other people ...'.
In this song Waters makes a symbolic comparison between soldiers and rock stars going to the front or on tour, just like he did in Another Brick in the Wall (part 1).
His manager, concerned with the forthcoming show, brings a doctor to the hotel. Pink incorporates the doctor into his hallucination. The doctor straightens him out enough to get him downstairs and into the limo which will take him to the show.
Comfortably Numb. Roger: 'The idea is that they come to get him to take him to the show, and he's in no state to go; so they get a doctor in to see if they can actually get him standing up and to wheel him out and stand him on stage.'
'Comfortably Numb is about [Pink's] confrontation with the doctor ... I mean, I've done gigs when I've been very depressed, I've done gigs when I have been extremely ill - when you wouldn't do any ordinary kind of work.'
'He is forced to go back and perform because nobody else makes money if the show doesn't go on. he's forced back on stage by a cynical doctor who injects him with an enlivening substance and from the time he leaves the hotel room and arrives on stage, he turns from Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde.'
'I had one guy once who thought I'd got food poisoning or an upset stomach. He told me I had a viral infection of the stomach or something, and he thought I had stomach cramps. He wasn't listening to me at all, I don't think. In fact, I discovered later that I had hepatitis. He gave me three tranquilisers; we were in Philadelphia, and boy, those were the longest two hours of my life, trying to do a show when you could hardly move your arm ... I thought, if he'd just left me alone, the pain I could have coped with - that was no sweat - but I could hardly lift my arms, or any of my limbs ... God knows what he gave me - but it was some very heavy muscle relaxant.'
'That's not really what it is about, though. The song is actually about the kind of living death condition that a lot of people find themselves in when live seems unreal to them and they can't work out why.
I remember having a fever when I was a child and characteristising the recurrent feeling of numbness ... it's not numbness exactly. The thing about that delerium is that you can't put your finger on it ... you cannot describe the feeling using words. It's a feeling that I think you get when you're going crazy, probably; that everything is suddenly wrong.'
The Show Must Go On. Roger:'The idea is that they're coming to get [Pink] to take him to the show because he's got to go and perform. They realise that something is wrong, but they're not interested in any of his problems. All they're interested in is the fact that there are however-many thousand people there, all the tickets have been sold and the show must go on, at any cost to anybody. You cancel a show at short notice and it's expensive.'
Pink, still hallucinating wildly, imagines himself the leader of an immense neo-fascist rally. As the rally reaches its climax, Pink suddenly realises he has become an ally to the very forces of tyranny which killed his own father. This proves too much for the core of human feeling within him and he rebels.
In The Flesh represents Pink in a concert situation, initially as a rock star who has emerged from behind The Wall and subsequently as he becomes isolated. Roger: 'The idea is that these fascist feelings develop from isolation. This is really him having a go at the audience, or the minorities in the audience. So the obnoxiousness of 'In the Flesh' - and it is meant to be obnoxious - is the end result of that isolation and decay.'
'[During the show] the idea is that we've been changed from the lovable old Pink Floyd that we all know and love and our evil alter egos take over. This is our nasty selves coming out. We've now decayed.' 'He turns into Mr Hyde and the band become fascists. It's still us but in a different frame of mind. We have turned into fascist pigs like I turned into a fascist spitting in Montreal: the surrogate band represents me spitting on people.'
Run Like Hell. Roger: 'After 'Run Like Hell' you can hear an audience shouting 'Pink Floyd !' on the left hand side of your stereo and on the right hand side or in the middle you can hear voices going 'Hammer !'. This is the Pink Floyd audience, if you like, turning into a rally'. 'It's just supposed to be this kind of crazed rock n' roll band doing another sort of 'oom-pah' number.'
'The character starts talking about putting all the Jews and coons up against a wall and sending them back where they came from. That's when we start showing the slides of the hammers marching across the screen - it's supposed to turn into a great rally. The audience loves all that kind of stuff. They are happy to fall into a fascist rally; they can be led into doing anything the group tells them to do.'
Waiting for the Worms. Roger:'You hear a voice through a loud hailer. It starts off going 'Testing, one, two' or something, then 'We will convene at one o'clock outside Brixton Town Hall'. It's describing a march towards some kind of National Front [the NF are an extreme Right Wing political party - Eds] rally in Hyde Park; the NF are what we have in England, but it could be anywhere in the world. If you listen very carefully you might hear the words 'Jew boys' or 'Somewhere we may encounter some Jew boys'. It's just me ranting on.'
'The thing that's really important about 'Waiting For The Worms' is just, as you've spotted, a kind of long rambling, ranting piece of nonsense. It's beginning to wear off, whatever it is that the doctor has given him, and he's hopping backwards and forwards here from ranting to saying, you know, he starts of sitting in a bunker and then he turns into the other persona - this kind of raving fascist persona that he's adopted. I could explain one thing and that's all that chatter with the loud hailer is actually describing a march from a place in South London that's a very heavily black populated area of London where the National Front is particularly active; and it describes a march from a place called Brixton - "Brixton Town Hall". Brixton is just an area in London and it describes the roads and things and which bridge they cross over and where they're going - towards Hyde Park Corner to have a rally in Hyde Park. And at the end of it they're saying "Hammer" in the background, so that was another thing on side four - the audience starts off singing 'The Show Must Go On', and in 'In The Flesh' you can hear them chanting 'Pink Floyd', and then slowly that gets taken over by 'Hammer'. So the idea was for a rock and roll show to turn into a rally.'
Stop. Roger: 'The rally is supposed to reach a crescendo, but he rebels. We rebel. That's when he sings 'I want to go home and take off the uniform'. But they don't let him. He is dragged of to a bunker where he waits for the worms; waits to be put on trial. The verdict is to be judged by his peers.'
The internal self-trail which follows, provides the climax to the story. The judgement is that he must 'tear down the wall' before his isolation leads him into the moral decay of his recent vision.
The Trial. Roger: 'So he decides that he has, or we have, with these big stadium gigs, that the worst thing that could happen to him is that he should expose himself and his fears and his feelings to everybody, to make himself vulnerable. And in fact its the best thing that can happen to him.'
'This is him hallucinating - this is him breaking down.'
Outside the Wall. Roger: 'The final song is saying 'Right, well, that was it. You've seen it now. that's the best we can do.' That was us performing a piece of theatre about alienation. That is us making a little bit of human contact at the end of the show: 'We do like you really'.'
If you want to know more about The Wall Project, check out the other chapters in this special:
3 - The Concerts
4 - The Movie & Epilogue
In July 1978 Waters called a meeting of the band to present both the tapes and the script for 'The Wall' and another separate project (which later became The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking). In effect he gave them an ultimatum; the band would have to do one or the other - it didn't matter which because Waters would do the other as a solo project. The band voted for 'The Wall', then started working on it in their own particular way. They didn't communicate directly or verbally at all: 'They communicate through technology.' explained Michael Kamen, who arranged all the orchestral back-ups for the album, about the sessions for The Wall. 'Roger will make a demo in his studio and send it to Gilmour who will add some tracks or overdub and send the tape on. All the members of the band have acquired separate identities.'
But after exchanging tapes for two months, Waters decided he needed help from an outside producer, and hired heavy metal heavy Bob Ezrin, who shepherded Kiss to the platinum circle. Ezrin had also worked with Alice Cooper and Lou Reed. He was 'nominated' by Roger's new wife Caroline, who had been a secretary for Ezrin for a while. Both Caroline and Ezrin had attended the Montreal concert in '77 and witnessed the spitting incident.
Roger: 'I couldn't do it all by myself. Dave and I have produced all our albums together, but I have to provide all the motivation and direction.'
Ezrin: 'One of the great things about working with Pink Floyd is the excessive nature of the individuals involved ... So when we moved to France, we didn't get hotel rooms; we bought a town (laughs) ... We didn't, they did. Each one of them went out and got these huge manors in the country and they all had the fastest cars. There were Ferraris flying all over the place and fabulous, beautiful people dropping in all the times. So it was really quite something; it was really, jet-set living.'
At Floyd's Britannia Row studio, Gilmour and Ezrin subjected Waters' demo to intensive analyses. Gilmour: 'We went through it and started with the tracks we liked best, discussed a lot of what was not so good, and kicked out a lot of stuff. Roger and Bob spent a lot of time trying to get the story line straighter, more linear conceptually. Ezrin is the sort of guy who's thinking about the angles all the time, about how to make a shorter story line that's told properly.'
Ezrin: 'In an all-night session I rewrote the record. I used all of Roger's elements, but I arranged their order and put them in a different form. I wrote 'The Wall' out in forty pages, like a book ... I acted as Roger's editor, and, believe me, his lyrics are so good they didn't need much.'
Thus, Ezrin reworked Waters' original script which the author himself described as 'childish notes'. 'Some parts were thought to be too personal, some didn't fit musically, and some song weren't good enough,' he explained. Under Ezrin's urging, Waters dropped a silly hackneyed song entitled The Death of Cisco in which a DJ harangued the audience, and cut out personal references - especially early dates in Waters' life which are meaningless to their fans who were born after World War Two. Despite these changes, Waters admitted that it's impossible to follow the convoluted plot line, particularly the garbled phone calls from Mr Floyd to Mrs Floyd at the start if One of my Turns.
Ezrin also convinced the band to aim for at least one hit single on 'The Wall'. More about that later ....
So, the album was produced by Gilmour, Waters and Bob Ezrin. Roger: 'Bob would be prepared to argue with me about things. It's no good arguing with me in the studio and saying, 'I don't like that'; you've got to explain why you don't like it and why we should do it in a different way. Bob is articulate and quite able to do that; so we had a good lively relationship making the record. He was a very good musical and intellectual sounding-board for me, 'cos he's very bright and quite tough as well. We could sit and talk about what it was about ad nauseam - which was absolutely invaluable, because I don't think anybody else in the band had any idea of what it was about, and I don't think they were very interested. In fact, I know they weren't interested.'
Sound engineer Nick Griffith: 'Ezrin was very good in 'The Wall' because he did manage to pull the whole thing together. He's a very forceful guy. There was a lot of argument about how it should sound between Roger and Dave, and he bridged the gap between them - even if both of them did have some rather rude things to say about him.'
With The Wall Waters had finally gained domination of Pink Floyd. The whole concept and most of the music on the album were his brainchild. Gilmour only participated in writing the music for the cock-rock pastiche Young Lust, Comfortably Numb and Run Like Hell, but the other two members (Nick Mason and Richard Wright) didn't contribute anything. Roger: 'Back in the early Seventies we used to pretend that we were a group. We used to pretend that we all do this and we all do that, which of course wasn't true. And at one point I started to get very resentful, because I was doing a lot more and yet we were all pretending that we were doing it. Now we don't pretend anymore. I could easily work with another drummer and keyboard player very easily, and it's likely that at some point I will.'
'We pretended it was a democracy for a long time, but this album was the era of the big own-up. It was a mildly painful experience for some of us because we have been pretending we are all jolly good chaps together. It's a load of rubbish. ten years ago it was true, but not for the last six or seven years.'
Gilmour: 'Well, you know, none of us has ever been the best of friends. I have never been a close personal friend of anyone else in the band, and neither was Rick, really. Roger and Nick have at times been fairly close. We don't not get along, but we're working partners.'
Sound engineer Nick Griffiths: 'Dave Gilmour was probably pissed off he had to go to such great lengths to get his point across. It was too much like hard work; he'd rather sit back and let it be. And a lot of resentment built up, because David's a very easygoing guy, but he also knows what he likes and doesn't like. It became very difficult for him and Roger to actually be in the same studio together, because they were at loggerheads most of the time'.
The album was recorded between April and November 1979 in France, New York and Los Angeles. Parts of the album were also done in Floyd's own Britannia Row Studio, but the band had to go into tax exile to avoid further Inland Revenue claims. In L.A. Roger befriended DJ Jim Ladd - who would often have Mr Waters in the studio for interviews about The Wall project and would later appear as the DJ on Radio KAOS - and the Beach Boys.
Britannia Row was not mentioned in the credits of the album, although sound engineer Nick Griffith did do a lot of work there, especially on the sound effects. The effects are one of the most remarkable characteristics of the album, ranging from bomber planes and helicopters to babies' cries and schoolyard voices; telephone rings and dial tones; and subliminal snatches of (movie) dialogue.
Nick: 'I was given a list of various bits and pieces to record, one of which was a big explosion. So I went around the country recording factories getting blown up, which was quite good fun. And we got a lot of crockery in the studio, set the microphones up, and got the twenty-four track going, and smashed everything in sight, threw it against the wall - which was actually used on the film, but not on the album in the end.'
Ezrin: 'When it came time to do the scenes ... like kicking the door down to get Pink out of his hotel room, we literally kicked the door in at one of the studios. We said: 'Is it OK? May we kick your door in? We'll replace it.' They said 'Sure, fine', so we kicked the door in.'
Griffiths' most memorable contribution to the album were the singing school kids in the 'sneak preview' single of the album, Another Brick in the Wall (part 2). Roger and Dave thought it would be nice to include some singing students as backing vocals to their own. Nick: 'I went to the school around the corner from Britannia Row, and asked the music teacher if the whole class of kids would like to come to the studio and do some singing. He was thrilled to bits. (..) I leapt up and down getting the kids in the right spirit, and everybody had a whale of a time. It wasn't something I'd thought about beforehand: a lot of the best things happen that way. It took just half an hour to do; then I tracked the voices about a dozen times."
Dave and Roger liked the result so much, they decided to bring the student's voices to the forefront. Dave: 'But we didn't want to lose our voices, so we wound up copying the tape and mixing it twice - one with me and Roger singing, and one with the kids; the backing is the same. And we edited them together.'
Another Brick in the Wall (part 2) might well be Pink Floyd's most famous song, featuring a chorus sung by pupils from the Islington Green School. Roger: ... and of course the children came in and they rather liked the song. They thought it was quite good and so they sang it with great gusto and I thought the result was just marvelous, and as soon as I heard it I said 'THAT is the single'.' And the single it became.
The song was released as a single on November 16th and shot right to the number one position in all charts around the world. It sold 340.000 copies in the UK in 5 days. This was the first Floyd single in 10 years and would eventually earn them a Grammy Award.
It also caused an enormous furore in the press and the song even got banned in South Africa because nonwhite protesters adopted it as the anthem of their nationwide school boycott !
Roger: 'People were really driven to frenzies of rage by it. They thought that when I said "We don't need no education," that it was a kind of crass, revolutionary standpoint - which if you listen to it in context it clearly isn't at all.
On the other hand, it got some strange reactions from people that you wouldn't expect. The Archbishop of Canterbury went on record saying that if it's very popular with schoolkids, then it must in some way be expressing some feelings that they have themselves. If one doesn't like it, or however one feels about it, one should take the opportunity of using it as a starting point for discussion - which was exactly how I felt about it. I'm sure lots of people in schools took the opportunity of saying, "Right, you've all heard the record; what do you think it's about ?".'
The press was having a field day when they found out that the Islington Green School had recently been involved in another press scandal when its 800 students only managed to get two bottom grade 'A'-level passes and 22 'O'-level passes in the General Certificate of Education. The right wing Daily Mail ran a picture of the school's headmistress, Ms Maden, pointing out that in the sixties she had been a member of the Young Communist Party and that she joined the school in 1975 she was London's youngest comprehensive headmistress. It was a wonderful chance for papers like the Mail and News of the World to attack Ms Maden, and the school all over again.
The press also found that the children had not been paid by Pink Floyd or given free copies of the album. Instead Griffiths had offered them free studio time to record the piece of electronic music 'Requiem For a Sinking Block of Flats' which they had made with their music teacher Alan Redshaw. Roger did then see to it that each child received a free copy of the album. Roger: 'In the end, the school was given an awful lot of money. Of course the kids individually didn't get any of it.' Recently the now-adults that sang on the track even tried to sue the band to get some of the royalties.
The album, which had cost $700.000.-, finally hit the shops on November 30th 1979 and even though it was a double album it became enormously successful, again reaching number one positions around the world.
The Wall double album, of which the earliest versions came with a transparant window sticker, contains 26 tracks in total. Compared to the long compositions of the previous two albums, the songs on this album are all rather short, ranging from less than one minute to nearly 7 minutes.
Besides Pink Floyd themselves, quite a lot of guest musicians can be heard during the 81 minutes of music. Toto's Jeff Porcaro played drums on Mother because his ride cymbal technique was very different from Nick Mason's. David: 'The timing follows: Mo-ther-do-you-think-they'll-drop-the-bomb? How many beats is that? Nine. It was very, very difficult to get it to work ... You've got to find a way of floating through it, which (drummer) Jeff Porcaro did immediately.'
Do you also love that acoustic guitar in Is There Anybody Out There ? Well let me tell you something; it isn't Gilmour playing. Dave could not play the piece without a pick. Also, although the track is credited to Waters, according to Gilmour it was actually composed by Bob Ezrin.
The guitar solo in One of My Turns isn't Gilmour either (he couldn't think of a good part to play) but one Lee Ritenour. On the other hand, David Gilmour played fretless bass on Hey You.
The Show Must Go One starts with a close harmony. One of the singers is Bruce Johnston from The Beach Boys. Initially the plan had been to have the whole Beach Boys band harmonize on The Show Must Go On and Waiting for the Worms, but that plan got scrapped.
Roger: 'They agreed to do it. We asked them to do it and they were going to do it but then they went off and toured Japan or something else instead. I think they were quite into doing it; mind you, they hadn't seen all the racialist stuff that comes with the song we were going to ask them to sing. I don't know what they would have thought of that because Bruce Johnson came down and did it so he's credited on it, as one of the backing singers. I really like the sound they make a lot, and it epitomises that sound.'
One verse of The Show Must Go On was deleted from the final version of the track at a very late stage (the lyrics could still be found on the album sleeve). Gilmour: 'The only problem we had was reducing it down from a triple album to a double. Towards the end we were actually cutting chunks out of songs to fit the time.'
Somebody who didn't actually play as much as you would think on the album at all was longtime Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright. During the Wall sessions he was basically forced out of Pink Floyd. There are different stories as to how and why this happened. Gilmour once said that Wright was not contributing anymore because of a cocaine addiction. Wright did play on the Wall tour, but only as a session musician.
Nick Griffiths: 'By the time of 'The Wall' Rick Wright had lost interest in the idea of Pink Floyd. He was more interested in his leisure time - sailing around the Greek islands and enjoying the life of a rich rock 'n' roll star. Consequently, Roger felt that if he wasn't going to pull his weight, he should go.'
Gilmour: 'Rick wasn't doing the job he was paid to do. He got the boot because he wasn't contributing in any way to anything.'
Rick: 'Roger and I couldn't get on. It was a personal thing. Whatever I tried to do, he would say it was wrong. It was impossible for me, really, to work with him. (...) A week before the holiday was up I got a call from Roger in America, saying come over immediately. Then there was this band meeting in which Roger told me he wanted me to leave the band. At first I refused. So Roger stood up and said that if I didn't agree to leave after the album was finished, he would walk out then and there and take the tapes with him. There would be no album, and no money to pay off our huge debts. So I agreed to go. I had two young kids to support. I was terrified. Now I think I made a mistake. It was Roger's bluff. But I really didn't want to work with this guy anymore. (...) And in some ways I was really happy to get out, because I was so fed up with the whole atmosphere.'
The people who would eventually end up playing keyboards on The Wall: Rick Wright (keyboards, synthesizers & Hammond B3 organ), Bob Ezrin (keyboards), David Gilmour (keyboards), Freddie Mandell (Hammond B3 organ) and Peter Wood (keyboards). Most of the fans would only find out four years later when Wright's name did not appear in the credits of the follow-up album The Final Cut.
Among the many sound effects, the album also contained several hidden messages. Just before Empty Spaces they included a backwards recording, saying: 'Congratulations. You have discovered the secret message. Please sent your message to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont.'
If you listen very closely at the very end of the album you can hear the words 'Isn't this where ...' being spoken. The rest of the sentence (together with some soft tones of closing tune Outside The Wall) can be heard at the very beginning of the album; '...we came in'? This made the album a full cycle.
The concept of the same beginning and ending had already been used on Dark Side of the Moon (heartbeat), Wish You Were Here (Shine On You Crazy Diamond), and Animals (Pigs on the Wing) before and Roger would use the concept again for Radio Kaos (another two part sentence) and Amused to Death (the Alf Razzel speech).
The longest track on the album, Comfortably Numb, must be one of the most popular songs among Floyd fans. It has even been released on single in the US and Japan. The strength of the song is a final result of a big disagreement between Roger and Dave. Dave had already recorded a demo version of the melody line of the chorus when he did his first solo album in 1978.
David: 'This was just something I wrote and plonked down on a high-strung guitar one afternoon ...
The only thing that changed was that the verses I put in weren't quite long enough to take the phrase 'I have become comfortably numb' and Roger said, Listen, I want to put one more phrase in. Can we lengthen the verse by these few bars?'
The version that ended up on The Wall is a consensus as negotiated by Bob Ezrin, the album's producer.
David: 'We argued over Comfortably Numb like mad. Really had a big fight; went on for ages. We recorded two versions (...) They were exactly the same tempo; one was just a little looser - I'd call it a sloppier version myself and I liked it slightly tighter.'
Roger: 'So when Ezrin and I went off to do vocal parts, Dave spent a week re-recording the track ... It came over on the 24-track tape and Ezrin and I were both really expecting it to be great ... and we put it on and looked at each other and [yawns] ... because it was just awful - it was stilted and stiff and it lost all the passion and life the original had.
Dave: 'Roger and I had a real shouting match at this little restaurant in North Hollywood. We'd gone there with Bob Ezrin to have it out over something ... probably Comfortably Numb, because the only thing I'd really argue with Roger over was my own music; with his music, I wouldn't bother to argue.'
Roger: 'That became a real fight. It's most interesting that Ezrin completely agreed with me. But Dave obviously felt very, very strongly about it, and we ended up using the intro from the old one, the first few bars from the new one. That's all we could do without somebody 'winning' and somebody 'losing' ... of course, who lost, if you like, was the band, because it was clear ... we didn't feel the same way about music.'
Ezrin: 'I fought for the introduction of the orchestra on The Wall: the expansion of the Floyd's sound to something that was more ... 'filmic' is the word. This became a big issue on Comfortably Numb, which Dave saw as a more bare-bones track, with just bass, drum and guitar. Roger sided with me. So [the song] is a true collaboration: David's music, Roger's lyric and my orchestral chart.'
The lines about the 'hands that felt like two balloons' was actually inspired by a recurring nightmare Wall cartoonist Scarfe (who also designed the cover and interior illustrations of the album) had as a child.
The track The Trial was co-written by Ezrin and Waters. Gilmour: 'I think it was written by Bob with the immediate intention to do it with an orchestra; although we did demos of it with synthesizers and stuff'.
As you can imagine, there were some songs that did not make it to the final version of the album. We already mentioned Death of Cisco. Some outtakes that didn't make it to the album either are titled Overture, Overture for Comfortably Numb and Prophet.
Originally the album was also supposed to include a song called What Shall We Do Now, coming after Goodbye Blue Sky. Empty Spaces, which basically was a reprise of the first half of What Shall We Do Now, was planned to go before Another Brick in the Wall (part 3). Unfortunately, because of time limitations this plan did not work out.
Roger: 'We discovered, when we were mastering the thing, that Side Two was just too long. We had to get rid of something and 'Empty Spaces' and another cut that used to be on there called 'What Shall We Do Now?' were the same tune. So 'Empty Spaces' was a reiteration, musically, of that tune, although it was towards the end of the side.
So we just axed 'What Shall We Do Now?' and left the lyrics because they helped to tell the story. There's a list of things to do, which I'm quite glad isn't on the album now because it's rather banal. When I heard it - when we'd finally recorded it - I didn't really like it very much but it does help to tell the story (recites the lyrics; 'Shall we buy a new guitar, shall we drive a more powerful car, shall we work straight through the night, etc'). So, in a way, it's a vivid description of modern life.'
What Shall We Do Now got cut from the album at the last moment, resulting in the lyrics still appearing on the sleeve. What Shall We Do Now did however appear in the concert and movie versions of the concept, replacing the shorter Empty Spaces.
Roger: 'It's just about the ways that one protects oneself from isolation by becoming obsessed with other people's ideas -that it's good to drive a powerful car or be a vegetarian: adopting somebody else's criteria without considering them from a position of really being yourself.
At this level the story is extremely simplistic. I hope that, on the other levels, there are less tangible, more effective things that come through. I think it's okay in a show where you only hear the words once. You probably won't hear the words at all; the way rock n' roll shows get produced.'
By 1982 the album had already sold 12 million copies and according to some sources 23 million copies had been sold by now, half of which was sold in the US alone. Although Dark Side of the Moon definitely sold more copies, The Wall made a lot more money because it was a double album. The album would eventually rank second only to Dark Side as Floyd's all-time best-seller. As a double album it actually sold more individual records.
And this was only the first part of Roger's plan ....
If you want to know more about The Wall Project, check out the other chapters in this special:
3 - The Concerts
4 - The Movie & Epilogue
Lights! Roll the sound effects! Action!
As we've seen in chapter one, the initial plan to take The Wall on the road in an inflatable slug-like concert hall was cancelled. Problem was, the staging of the show itself, as it developed, promised to take far longer to set up than the tent; the blueprints for the Slug were left in a Britannia Row file. The performance of 'The Wall' was so complex that the physical requirements made it impossible to take the show on the road. Instead the Floyd settled for multiple concerts at four arenas, rather than In the Flesh-style stadiums, which according to Waters 'makes a hell of a difference. You can cater to 15.000 people with the technology that's available now, if you take its seriously enough and get the right people in and spend enough ...'.
Roger: 'Yeah, we looked at it all, at the logistics of the thing, to see if we could approach anything like break even point. The only way was to do two large productions [in the US] and one in London.' Added to this was a series of concerts in Dortmund and a second set of concerts in London, which would be used to film the show for the planned movie version of The Wall.
The show was staged at the following places and times:
Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, New York - 24 - 28 February 1980
Earl's Court, London, England - 4 - 9 August 1980
Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, Germany - 13 - 20 February 1981
Earl's Court, London, England - 13 - 17 June 1981
After it became clear that the Floyd's 12 instantly sold-out American arena dates could accommodate a mere fraction of the fans who desperately wished to see the show, promoter Larry Maggid approached the group in New York with a two-million-dollar guarantee for a pair of performances at Philadelphia's RFK Stadium. Everyone was eager to take up the offer - except Waters, who coolly reminded his colleagues that the original point of The Wall was to register a statement against stadium rock. Reluctant to kiss two million dollars goodbye, Gilmour, Mason and O'Rourke even contemplated doing the shows without Waters and getting Andy Brown to sing his parts. But (in Roger's words) 'they didn't have the balls to go through with it'.
British caricaturist Gerald Scarfe, who had also made the artwork for the double album, created the extraordinary animation sequences for the show and was also responsible for much of the set design, as well as the caricatures of the teacher, Pink's Wife, his mother, the judge and pink himself. Scarfe: 'The most difficult character to express was Pink himself. As I saw him, Pink was the vulnerable spirit in us all; inside the wall and hurt continually by the things that happen in life. In Roger's piece, the mother hurts him, the teacher hurts him, the wife hurts him ... and each one causes a brick or many bricks in the wall to be build up.
So I started to work from Pink and eventually he ended up as a helpless little pink dummy - almost like 'the nerve center' or a bare prawn. When you've taken the shell of a prawn, it's vulnerable inside, it's helpless - so I think that he symbolises what's in us all in that way.'
Like Waters, Scarfe was haunted by memories of his wartime London childhood, such as the government-issued gas masks that would provide the visages of the 'frightened ones' in his Goodbye Blue Sky animation. And if both men were both 'megalomaniacs' (Scarfe's words), the simple fact that Waters 'deals entirely with music and I deal entirely with pictures' would keep their egos from clashing unduly.
Scarfe set up a studio for the express purpose of directing his Wall animations, which were executed by more than 40 animators and took a year to complete.
Other people involved in designing the show were Mark Fisher (who supervised the actual design) and Jonathan Park (responsible for the engineering), both of whom had worked on the In The Flesh tour.
The show involved a state-of-the-art sound system, Scarfe's gigantic and brilliant animations and puppet monsters, scores of intricate stage cues, expertly deployed lighting effects, elevator platforms and explosives, and the precisely timed construction, brick by brick, of a sixty-foot-tall wall across the stage by six black-clothed crew. The familiar circular screen was also requisitioned for the program's first half, after which Scarfe's animations could be projected, in triptych, upon the Wall itself.
The audience was surrounded with 360 degrees of sound, which made some of them jump at uncomfortably close heavy breathing or violent echoes that assaulted them first from the right, then from the left and then from the back.
It was the most ambitious presentation of live music in the history of rock.
Waters: 'Some of the central characters, like the Mother, the Wife and the Schoolmaster appear earlier in the piece as inflatable puppets. They're big - 40 or 50 feet tall - they're wonderful. The only reason for doing this live is in order to impose the discipline of making it work as a live show, because it really is a movie.'
During the half of the show, a half-built wall was slowly finished. The wall contained about 450 fireproof cardboard bricks, was 50 meter wide and 10 meter high. Each brick measured 1.5 x 0.75 x 0.45 meter and weighed about 8 Kg. The six wallbuilders laid down 340 foldable bricks every night in about 45 minutes.
The design of the show had already started before Roger had even begun writing the music and lyrics. He asked long-time special effects assistant Graham Fleming if it was possible to actually build a wall on stage between the audience and the band.
Fleming first had to design a self-supporting wall which wouldn't accidentally crush the musicians on stage, yet would come down on cue: he came up with ten metal columns which were planted inside the bricks to keep them from thumbling down prematurely. A master control board monitored the up and down movement of the columns so they don't stick out the top of the wall and give the secret away. The columns were topped off with levers that could knock the individual bricks either back or forth: when the wall was to crumble, the operator dropped the column supports row by row and flips the levers, sending the bricks crashing down. For safety, the top rows are knocked back on the stage; giant metal cages protecting the equipment and musicians. They had about a minute from the end of 'The Trial' to scamper out of the cages and off stage, but once David Gilmour didn't move fast enough and was caught in the cage as the 8 Kg bricks crashed down. The lower rows, which were less likely to bounce into the audience, were knocked down on the stage. Fleming: 'If we didn't control the collapse of the wall, we'd wipe out the first 20 rows.'
The other basic problem was how to lay all the bricks in time to the music. Fleming sent an engineer to a fork lift company in Seattle for two-and-a-half months to design a new lift system; the result was five man-lifts which rise 9 meter to transport the crew up to the top of the wall. When they were delivered in December '79, the pumps didn't work - 'At that point we didn't think we'd ever make it'.
To make sure they could get the wall up and down in time with the music, Fleming and his Brit Row Brick Company started rehearsing in December '79. They first set up the wall in the Culver City Studios in early December, assembly lasting two to three weeks. Then they rehearsed constructing the wall: the first time, it took two hours from the first to the last brick. It took them three weeks of muscle-straining work to get their timing down, but the worst night was dress rehearsal with the band. In case there are any time problems with the wall, the band have written some expandable riffs to cover the delayed brick-laying; that night the band played on and on as the crew struggled with shiny, stiff new bricks which had replaced the well-worn ones they has been practicing with for weeks - 'The band was asleep', said Fleming.
Miraculously, every night of the actual shows they have finished laying the top row before they closed the last cutout where Waters is singing Goodbye Cruel World.
Once all of the components were at hand, the Floyd rehearsed the show ten times at the Culver City movie soundstage and spent several weeks setting it up at L.A.'s Sports Arena. Roger: 'We were all working furiously up until the first night, and the first time we had the Wall up across the arena with some film on it was four days before the first show. I walked all the way around the top row of seats at the back of the arena - and my heart was beating furiously and I was getting shivers right up and down my spine. And I thought it was so fantastic that people could actually see and hear something from everywhere they were seated.'
The day before the opening show, however, the lighting effects were still in disarray, causing the band to summon an outside expert, one Mark Brickman. Gilmour was so impressed with Brickman's work that he hired him again to design the lighting for Floyd's 1987 comeback tour, as well as the 1994 Division Bell tour.
As you can imagine, the staging of this show was a pretty complex venture in which a lot depended on right timing. A bootleg with part of the rehearsals has been released under various titles. Besides some unique improvisations the recording contains lots of hilarious incidents. Imagine Roger Waters trying to give sound engineer James Guthrie instructions while the latter cannot hear (or is ignoring ?) the bass player (to Rogers ever growing frustration), not to mention a discussion between Roger and Dave about what's 'stage left' and what's 'stage right'.
Gilmour was billed as 'musical director' and served as both guitarist and conductor, cueing everyone from the musicians to the stagehands throughout the concerts, which he remembers as 'brilliant and very effective, really good fun to do. But we were bored with 'The Wall' shows as players by the time we got through the 25 we did. It was so choreographed, such a theatrical production, and I am fundamentally first a musician. It was too much following cues and listening to little things on headphones - whamming people here and stopping dead at the right moment.
The first ten shows we were terrified; there were ten to twenty dates that were fantastic; then after a while it was starting to get mechanical. I'd know when to do things, and I'd do them, with very few moments when you'd actually enjoy just singing and playing for their own sake'.
To promote the LA show, Pink Floyd had a wall-like billboard erected on Sunset Strip in Hollywood. The billboard was blank to start with but every day workmen came and removed a few 'bricks' to reveal a Gerald Scarfe illustration beneath.
Eight session musicians (not counting Richard Wright) performed with the band on stage, 4 of which were backing vocalists (John Joyce, Stan Farber, Jim Haas and Joe Chemay). Snowy White, who had also played with the Floyd on the 'In The Flesh' tour, joined the band again for the concerts in LA, New York and the first series of London gigs. He was replaced by Andy Roberts for the 1981 gigs because he had commitments with Thin Lizzy. Furthermore, the band also used Michael Kamen's pre-recorded orchestral scores.
The shows started with an 'announcer' appearing on stage to 'wind up' the crowd with an intentionally aggravating speech going through an enormous list of house rules (no photographs, no fireworks, etc), all the time checking if the band was ready to go on stage ('... no ... no ... not quite yet'). All of this created the right mood for show opener In The Flesh ?. People who acted as 'announcer' during the various performances were Cynthia Fox, Jim Ladd, Gary Yudman and Wili Tomsik.
When the band started playing In the Flesh ? it wasn't actually Pink Floyd on stage but the session musicians; the surrogate band to which the text refers. Andy Bown (bass), Snowy White (guitar), Willie Wilson (drums)and Peter Wood (keyboard) completed the impersonation with masks of their equivalent Floyds' faces. After the instrumental opening the Floyd walked on stage.
This illustrated how anonymous the members of the band actually were and also to make clear that in big shows it doesn't really matter who's on stage since nobody sees or even cares. The whole audience thought that it was actually Pink Floyd who was playing up there. Waters: 'They were meant to be what we became, i.e. at that juncture Pink was like a gestalt figure, the whole band turned into this kind of Nazi apparition from the end of the thing. That was really a kind of theatrical shock tactic, because people would assume that it was us ... and suddenly realize that it wasn't.'
During most of the rest of the show the four 'imposters' would serve to fill out Floyd's own sound, with Bown's bass freeing Waters to concentrate on his vocals and act out the part of Pink.
A near life-sized World War 2 fighting plane zoomed across the entire arena and crashed on top of the wall at the end of In The Flesh ?.
The opening section of The Thin Ice and closing section of Another Brick in the Wall (part 1) were slightly extended.
During The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall (part 2) a 7.5 meter high Schoolmaster was pranced across the stage by manipulating it like a giant marionette (the puppet can also be seen in the videoclip of the single). Another Brick in the Wall (part 2) was extended to six minutes with a longer guitar solo and an additional Hammond solo.
During Mother a grotesquely large Mother figure was inflated on top of the wall.
Goodbye Blue Sky featured one of Scarfe's marvelous animations with birds turning into bombers and the gas-mask-wearing 'frightened ones'. After this acoustic song followed a short new keyboard solo.
Instead of proceeding with Empty Spaces, like on the album, Waters had decided to use his original order for the piece and the band went into What Shall We Do Now ? which was accompanied by Scarfe's animation of mating flowers. During the second half the animation showed all of the material possessions which are listed in the song, all forming a growing wall, ripping through the country.
Young Lust was extended with a new Hammond solo.
During One of my Turns and Don't Leave Me Now an inflatable praying-mantis Wife appeared from behind the wall.
During the shows in LA and New York a medley of Floydian songs was played between Another Brick in the Wall (part 3) and Goodbye Cruel World. This medley has been titled Almost Gone because during the tracks all but one brick are placed in the closing gap of the wall. This medley started with reprises of Happiest Days of Our Lives, Don't Leave Me Now, Young Lust and an instrumental version of Empty Spaces where it initially had been planned to be before What Shall We Do Now ? got axed from the album. Seemingly, some performances of the wall also featured a snippet of Breathe from Dark Side of the Moon at this point.
During the last notes of Goodbye Cruel World Roger inserted the last missing brick into the wall. The audience was now completely cut off from the band by a huge white wall.
After a short break Hey You started with the band hidden behind the wall, with a stuffed Pink puppet on top of it. Roger: 'Suddenly there's all this music and you can see lights going on behind it, but you can't see what's happening. That was what's good about it, in the show.'
Roger reappeared in a trapdoor hotel room which opened out of the wall to perform Nobody Home whilst watching TV.
During Comfortably Numb Roger was dressed as a doctor outside the wall while Dave played the guitar solos on top of it, carried by a hydraulic lift.
The live version of The Show Must Go On featured an extra verse, which was also printed on the album sleeve but omitted from the recorded version.
The whole band reappeared for In The Flesh, together with the surrogate band.
During the end of In The Flesh and the beginning of Run Like Hell the enormous black pig that was a hold-over from the 1977 tour was pulled over the audience. In 1977 the crew used to pull it back by hand, but sometimes the audience caught it. For The Wall, a special track was designed, making the pig emerge and return on cue.
Illegal live recordings can be identified by what Roger says to the crowd at the start of Run Like Hell; it was something different at every show.
The famous Scarfe animation with the marching hammers, which had already been used in the videoclip of Another Brick in the Wall (part 2), was projected on the wall during the second half of Waiting for the Worms.
For The Trial everybody had left the stage except for Roger, who moved off just before the thing collapsed. The entire band including session musicians then came back to perform the acoustic Outside the Wall, having exchanged their 'surrogate band' uniforms for casual clothing.
The whole show lasted about 110 minutes, almost 30 minutes longer than the original album.
And that was it. No more encores or old material was played. Roger: 'Robbie Williams, our lighting guy, like others, thought the audience would insist on hearing old material. I have been under enormous pressure to do encores; so many people have said the audience will tear you into pieces - they will destroy the stage. They put the audience in the same position. But I couldn't care less what they thought: I only wanted to express how I felt. It was a big gamble which is paying off - the audience, the crew and the musicians are all enjoying it.'
Roger: 'I'm sure there were a hell of a lot of people who came to the show and went away thinking 'What the fuck was that all about ?'. And aren't interested anyway. There's no reason why everybody should be interested in the same things I am, after all'
The Wall performances were a big success. in New York, more than 33.000 tickets were sold in five hours ! In LA more than 77.000 seats were sold. Nevertheless, the band lost quite a lot of money during the tour. The show was so expensive that the number of performances was not even enough to break even. The Floyd spent over half a million dollars on props and equipment alone.
The band lost about $800.000 during the US leg of the tour. The only one who actually made any money was Richard Wright, because he had the status of a session musician and therefore received wages for his work. Waters: 'The album is selling like hot cakes so the enormous gamble is paying off.'
In total about a quarter-million people saw the show life. After the US shows the band stayed in the States until April for tax reasons, living in a Motel at Santa Monica Boulevard in LA.
Of course, the shows weren't without their problems. During the live premier of The Wall on February 7th 1980, one of the curtains caught fire during the fireworks of What Shall We Do Now ?. After dodging pieces of burning curtain for a few minutes, Waters finally stopped the show entirely to let the stage crew extinguish the flames. Despite changing the drapes to a less flammable material, the fire department wouldn't let them try the fireworks again.
After one of the 1980 concerts in London, ten original pieces of Gerald Scarfe artwork (worth 30.000 UK pounds) were stolen. They were part of an exhibition that ran during the shows.
The '81 Earls Court concerts were not without their problems either. On the eve of the opening night second drummer Willie Wilson was taken ill and Clive, a Floyd roadie who happened to be a drummer had to be given a crash course in the set's percussive niceties by Nick Mason and propelled on stage. Alas for Clive, Willie returned on the second night.
On another night things went awry with two of the hydraulic lifts meant to raise the band, their doubles and their equipment from the depths of Earls Court to in front of their cardboard 'wall' in the second half of the set, fixing a yawning chasm between Roger and Dave and their respective amplifiers.
Because of his use of headphones, Roger didn't have a big problem with that. However, Dave could not reach his mike and his pedal-board at the same time, and couldn't hear what he was playing either.
Afterwards, Waters said: 'I quite like it when things go wrong. It makes it less boring, puts more of an edge on things.' His 1990 performance of The Wall in Berlin must have been a real thrill for him then.
More about The Wall in Berlin in the next and final chapter ....
If you want to know more about The Wall Project, check out the other chapters in this special:
2 - The Album
4 - The Movie & Epilogue
Bob Geldof on Roger Waters
Scarfe, I think is a closet psychopath' - Alan Parker
The third and final scheme in Roger's concept was the visualisation of the story in a movie. When did he decide to make a movie ? Roger: 'Right from the start. 1978 ... as soon as the thing was down on tape; I knew it should be made into a film because it was something that I had been working towards for years and years. I'd been trying, if you like, to work out a way of doing a show without having to be there. I'd been through all kinds of things - "We ought to work in cinemas and use the screens there," - and what you've seen in the shows, with the circular screens and the projections and the wall and things, is actually the end result of those ideas.'
Waters and Scarfe, who had worked for years as a political cartoonist for the London Times, started plotting a movie scenario. Scarfe: '[In 1979] Roger and I began to meet and discuss the script - what parts would be designed in this or that way, and what we would say. We didn't really know how to write a film script at the time, but we learnt and we did write one. Roger, of course, did the majority of the work because it was undoubtely his piece. At a later date, Alan Parker came in and gave us 'filmic tips' on the way to handle these sequences and make them more interesting.
The great thing about the film world is that it is highly organised and there are people to do all sorts of jobs. When I was with Roger, I made a whole storyboard on a wall: little pictures of what should happen in every scene. We'd discuss these and sometimes swap them: take one from the beginning and put it at the end - we moved them around almost like a pack of cards.
I did a whole set of finished drawings, which were put in book form and passed around the Art Department on the film; and they simply translated them into technical drawings which could be built.'
The 39 page script and storyboard was the basis of a lavish, oversized full-colour book, privately printed in a very limited edition as a prospectus for potential investors.
Scarfe and Waters were soon joined by English director Alan Parker. Parker, the British director of Midnight Express and Fame and a longtime Floyd fan, had called EMI inquiring if anyone was planning to make a movie of The Wall. EMI gave him Roger's number. Initially he was only going to advise Waters and Scarfe, but the more he became involved, the more he wanted to direct. Eventually Waters agreed to this.
At first, Roger had intended (at least) part of the movie to feature live footage recorded during the last set of London concerts. This would be combined with Scarfe's animation sequences which had also been used during the concerts, plus extra narrative scenes. Parker, on the other hand didn't want to have the band or Scarfe's puppets in the movie at all. He didn't want any connection with the stage show and didn't want any dialogue either.
None of the film footage that was shot during the final Wall shows in Earl's Court ended up in the Wall movie because, according to Alan Parker, 'the rushes looked like they had been shot through soup'. However he added: 'The concert fiasco provided us with an unexpected bonus ... it proved the narrator idea to be superfluous and convinced us that any use of a live rock n' roll band would only cheapen our endeavor to make it anything but a concert movie.'
Roger eventually agreed with Parker that it would be too confusing for the movie to remain both a Scarfe cartoon and a Floyd concert film - but not before thousands of pounds had been squandered on a giant electronically controlled schoolmaster robot.
Shooting of the movie started on September 7th, 1981. The first day was spent at the residence of a retired admiral, which served as the home of young Pink. While Parker worked with his actors indoors, an exterior crew rustled up footage for the sequence which would merge into Scarfe's Goodbye Blue Sky animation, where a 'dove of peace' eludes a talking cat and takes flight. Fifty doves and twenty pigeons were lost by the time they got a few useable frames. In the movie, Goodbye Blue Sky was moved to the beginning of the movie, just before Happiest Days of Our Lives, because it made more sense shown together with Pink's childhood scenes.
Much of the subsequent filming was done at Pinewood Studios, outside London. A special set was created for the motel room, complete with penthouse, swimming pool and computerized L.A. skyline; there was also a mammoth made-to-order Wall that would ultimately be blown to bits with an air cannon previously deployed in a James Bond film.
During the production of the movie Parker told an interviewer: 'The narrative film is very different to a normal film. There is no real spoken dialogue as such; although we all have been recording some sound and dialogue which we will sprinkle through the movie. Basically the music will be the narrative of the film, which means that the job I have to do is tell a lot of the story with just pictures. That's the basic problem: from the point of view of emotions and all the other areas in which one would normally use dialogue to push the scene forward, you don't have that handy device.
On the other hand, I do have the power of the music, which is another energy you don't normally have - not as strong as this music anyway. I think that the music and the show were unique in their own ways, so it was right that the film should try a different route. So although it is a tougher route, I think that what will be made makes it different and hopefully special.
It always had more substance than a normal rock 'n' roll concert, so it deserved more. So we wanted the film to have a life of its own and be able to tell the story in cinematic terms.'
There were times when even a casual observer might have questioned whether Parker had a clue either. The director had laid out the film "on the back of his eyeballs"; there was no formal script.
The cooperation between Waters and Parker was far from friendly. Waters' personal identification with the concept and the fact that Pink Floyd financed the movie for 12 million dollars, combined with Parker's fascination with The Wall and his own very definite ideas about what the movie should be like were bound to clash.
Parker: 'I think that I always wanted it to say a little more than just a personal story. You can't get away from that man in that room; and that man in the room started out by being Roger. But I think if it was just Roger's experience, it could have been a little narrow, and what we've tried to do is broaden it at every level.'
'Roger went on vacation for six weeks. In that period, I was allowed to develop my vision, and I really made the film with a completely free hand. I had to have that. I couldn't be second-guessed by Roger, and he appreciated that. The difficulty came when I'd finished. I'd been shooting for sixty days, fourteen hours a day - that film had become mine.' And then Roger came back to it, and I had to go through the very difficult reality of having it put over to me that it actually was a collaborative effort.'
'It wasn't a totally happy experience. There were lots of egos banging into each other, each of them fighting for his bit of the film. If you put three megalomaniacs [Waters, Parker and Scarfe - Ed.] into a room together there are bound to be sparks, but at the end of it I think we got something good.'
'Just because Roger and I didn't necessarily get on, it doesn't mean to say we didn't do as good piece of work.'
Roger ('82): '[Filming The Wall] was the most unnerving, neurotic period of my life, with the possible exception of my divorce in 1975. Parker is used to sitting at the top of his pyramid, and I'm used to sitting at the top of mine. We're pretty much used to getting our own way. If I'd have directed it - which I'd never done - it would have been much quieter than it is. But that's one of the reasons I liked the idea of Parker doing it. He paints in fairly bold strokes; he is very worried about boring his audience. It suits us very well, because we did want a lot of this to be a punch in the face. I wanted to make comparisons between rock & roll and war. People at those big things seem to like being treated very badly, to have it so loud and distorted that it really hurts. But there is very little of that left in the film. For a long time, the script had this image of a rock & roll audience being blown up - bombed - and, as they were being blown to pieces, applauding, loving every minute. As an idea, it is quite pleasing, but it would look silly to actually do it on film. It would be hard for it not to be comic.'
Initially Roger had planned to play the part of Pink in the movie himself, but his screen tests soon made all too plain that he was no actor. Parker had to ease him into an offscreen role and find a suitable charismatic figure that could act out Roger's story. Parker eventually choose Bob Geldof, the Boomtown Rats vocalist (I Don't Like Mondays) who would later organize Live Aid, as the 'hero' for the movie. Although Geldof at first thought the whole story was 'a load of bullocks' he would finally relent because doing any film presented him with a new challenge; he also like Parker and admired his work - and 'the money was good'.
Geldof: 'Alan [Parker] keeps saying, 'It's an experiment. Trust me, trust me'. It could be a gigantic cock-up for all anybody knows. I haven't a fuckin' clue if I've been any use'.
Eventually, Geldof really got into his part. During the hotel-thrashing scene of One of my Turns he cut his hand on a Venetian blind, but despite his bloody injuries he refused to quit thrashing the place.
Geldof: 'From the word Go you see me going insane. When I first appear, you see me brooding and becoming insular; in my chair just watching/not watching the television - nothing's happening. I just turn myself off.
One of the girls has come back from the gig, a groupie. 'Oh my god what a fabulous room,' - you know, the bit from the album. I'm just watching her ... "You want to take a bath?" and all that crap. Then she comes out and starts to kiss the tips of my fingers because she sees there's something going on. She's very gentle then.
That's one of the strangest things that's ever happened to me. I got very depressed with the physical coldness and everything, so I sort of locked myself into it. She was kissing my fingers and she said 'Are you alright ?' ... and these tears came welling up for no reason. It's the first time I've cried in over twelve years. I don't know where they came from, but deep down I felt this terrible emptiness - I couldn't handle it at all.'
'That afternoon I got to smash up the room. I just went for it - you start to go: mirror-stereo-radio-table-foot through the table-pick up the stereo-through the mirror. Then you have to stop which is terrible ! They have to do her point of view looking at me, so I had to stand there screaming at her - and that's well embarrassing if you've never done it before; I'm not a professional and it's very difficult to just stand there. I had to think of the most horrible things to say that would make her feel nauseated - so I was thinking of things that make me feel nauseated - and it was awful. I was screaming at her and it was so over the top that I was laughing.
I've destroyed the bathroom and she's in the room outside cowering in terror. Alan said, 'You just run at the camera as if you're coming at her,' so I just thought I'd go for everything to the best of my ability. I ran at the camera, knocked the camera man flying on his arse and just kept running and stood on his stomach; if you see all of the outtakes it looks great ! But that was wonderful smashing that thing up.
We don't quite know what's happened to Jenny, the groupie. She could be dead, she may not be: it's left ambiguous. My anger has gone from external rage to this very cold, neurotic obsession. They break down my door and see me - they're freaked because I got to go onstage. [Bob] Hoskins [who plays Pink's manager - Ed] slaps me and says, 'Get him ready - do anything, just get him out there,' and the doctor shoots me up with this stuff and they drag me out of the door.'
Geldof's newfound identification with the subject matter enabled him to portray Pink all the more convincingly - not least in the Syd-inspired episodes of The Wall's third quarter.
Waters: 'There was never any pussyfooting about what he thought about Pink Floyd or the music ... cos he was extremely scathing about the whole thing and I never tried to persuade him differently. You know, those bog-Irish - you can't tell them anything; they wouldn't understand. I'm not going to my waste time on Geldof, trying to explain The Wall to him. He understands; he just doesn't realise he understands ... If there're one man in the world who understands, it's got to be Geldof ... bless him.'
A total of 60 hours of film were shot in 60 days, which included several pieces that did not survive 'the final cut'. Parker: 'A prelude, a quite remarkable piece of music which, unfortunately didn't quite work with the rather unusual, quiet beginning of the film sadly had to be left out.'
Scenes of football crowd violence turned out to be very difficult to recreate in a realistic manner. Only a snippet of all the footage that was shot at Watford Football Ground made it into the film (during Waiting for the Worms).
A scene in which Pink's head, made of minced pork, was devoured by real-life fly maggots also didn't make the final movie. Peter Parks (Oxford Scientific Films Ltd): 'We looked after a rather unpleasant fly maggot culture which smelt like nothing on earth as we primed it to produce emergent flies (to lay eggs on the head) by rearing them on fresh liver and rabbit carcass. The smell was so bad we had to completely seal the room in question. Even so the girls working at OSF kept giving us very odd looks. The smell hung in our clothes and at night even traveled home with us.
The test result was horrible ! It did however appeal to Alan and was cut into the rough edit. Over the succeeding months we then repeated the shot twice more using different angles and faster frame rates. In the final sequence the maggots caused the eyeballs (sheep's eyes) to explode out of the sockets and hang on sinews half down the cheek !
One point of interest was that the drying process, which we kept minimal by high humidities within the time lapse studio, caused the lower jaw in the test to slowly close. When the film was still alive and about to complain about his treatment !'
Another part that didn't make it was the 'institution scene' which featured Geldof being wheeled into an empty asylum. The only thing that survived was the bit in which young Pink wanders into a bunker that leads to the asylum to meet his adult self.
The film starts with the first half of a song that could not be found on the album, but which was released on single nevertheless; When the Tigers Broke Free. This song about the British invasion of Anzio, Italy during World War II basically described how Roger's father, Eric Fletcher Waters, died. The single of this song, which was released to coincide with the movie's release, had the movie version of Bring the Boys Back Home as a B side. The single also featured a triple gatefold sleeve with stills from the movie.
Tigers was not put on the album because it was too personal to Roger. Roger: 'The rest of the guys in the band criticised its inclusion on the grounds that it was too personal to me. It's very specific about the time and place and so on and so forth and therefore it would have made it clear that 'The Wall' was about me.'
After scenes showing the death of Pink's father in the war, In The Flesh ? makes a visual comparison between war and the rock concert led by fascist Pink. After shots of the dead and wounded being carried away from the battlefield and Pink floating in his penthouse pool in The Thin Ice we see young Pink looking for someone to replace his father in the local playground in Another Brick in the Wall (part 1).
After the second half of When The Tigers Broke Free in which Pink finds his father's death certificate, the viewer is treated to Scarfe's Goodbye Blue Sky animation.
Happiest Days of Our Lives features a little break in which the teacher catches Pink writing poems in class. The lyrics turn out to be the words to Money ! Another Brick in the Wall (part 2) follows.
Gerald Scarfe: 'I designed the sets on the movie; and for the 'We don't need no education' sequence I designed a sort of maze, because I found - especially in England, and I'm sure it's true the world over - that the educational system is almost like a maze. You're channeled into it and fed around in a long line.
The masks are to give them all a similar identity. There is one key scene where normal children go to a conveyor belt, which is the school, and they pass through a small tunnel, which is the school system. When they come out the other end, they're all regimented children sitting at regimented desks wearing regimented masks: all looking identical. In other words, all systems that one goes through are in some ways imperfect; they tend to turn out the same type of person over and over again.
I was trying to make the point that, certainly here in England, many of these children, having been put through the system, leave school, then face unemployment. They join another line: the dole queue. I've also got children going along another kind of conveyor belt and dropping into a huge hopper, then into a mincer. They're minced up and come out as worms - it's another way of showing the system.'
In Mother we see young Pink going through puberty and getting married. It doesn't take long though before he shuts himself off from his wife. As a result she gets into a relationship with a union leader (?) while he is on tour. When Pink calls home the guy picks up and Pink finally realises what's going on. Enter What Shall We Do Now ? accompanied by the animation of Scarfe. The first half features the mating flowers, about the second half Scarfe said: 'What I tried to show in the animation is that one of the walls which we all suffer is the wall of materialism; the fact that we hide our pain behind a wall of goods. If you are really harassed, you can buy a new washing machine, a new TV, a new camera or watch or something; a new Ferrari ... a new Lear jet in some cases ... It's not a wall about the real values in life. One builds up this huge wall of consumer goods and that changes everybody: turns them into monsters. At the end of my animation, the character is turned into a hammer.'
In Young Lust we see a couple of groupies getting into the backstage area and joining the party which Pink's managers has organized. Pink himself has withdrawn in a trailer and eventually takes her with him to his hotel room. The aforementioned scenes of One of My Turns are followed by a combination of Scarfe animation of Pink's wife and film footage of a scared Pink in Don't Leave Me Now.
After a couple of flashbacks in Another Brick in the Wall (part 3) we see Pink going catatonic in his hotel room in Goodbye Cruel World.
Strange enough, Hey You was not included in the movie version of The Wall.
Roger Waters (1990): 'But then we put all the 13 reels together and sat and watched it (...) I found it almost completely unwatchable. Which is why I think it's so successful on video; 'cause you don't have to watch the whole thing. You can watch your favorite bits or you can fast forward and you don't have to sit there and be bombarded with this unremitting assault on the senses, like you had in the cinema.
In fact when we finished works on these 13 reels I potted off to the bar and Alan [Parker] came through and we stood in the garden and both felt very depressed.'
One of the bits that were removed was reel #7 which featured the Hey You footage with lots of rioting and British Bobbies. According to Roger is was too long, although it would work on its own.
After Pink's been seen clawing at his finished wall in and arranging the rubbish in his room in an insanely intricate pattern in Is There Anybody Out There ? he goes into the bathroom and shaves off his eyebrows. Parker: 'Shaving the eyebrows at the end of Is There Anybody Out There was very unpleasant. As often happens with these kinds of special effects, although everyone on the crew knows that we're watching an illusion - it's not real blood and it isn't real flesh being nicked - it's still impossible to watch.
At it transpired, it was also impossible to watch the rushes, and eventually we played the scene by allusion as we concentrated on the drips of blood into the murky suds [in the sink]. A lot of people watching this scene often think the blood portends injuries of more serious nature ... '
During Nobody Home we see Pink watching TV and young Pink looking for his father in a desolate landscape. Soldiers are coming home by train during Vera but Pink's father is not among them. All people on the platform then sing Bring the Boys Back Home.
Kevin McKeon, who played young Pink, said: 'There was one scene where I got right embarrassed. It was in the railway station and lots of people had to sing at me. That was bad enough, but there were lots of kids in the distance laughing at us. I blushed quite a few times.
Pink's manager (Bob Hoskins) breaks into Pink's hotel room and finds the star unconscious. He gets a doctor in to give Pink a shot, after which he is dragged of to a limo. In the limo he transforms into the fascist leader.
During In the Flesh ? Geldof is shown performing to a crowd of skinheads at London's New Horticultural Hall, accompanied by a choir and brass band plus an elite, twenty-four-strong 'Hammer Guard'. Geldof: 'The sort of Praetorian guards who surround me were the Tilbury Skinners from the Dockland area of East London, and they were very proud of their status as the personal guard. Everybody knows it's pretend; but once you're given the role and singled out as something, you behave like that - which is very strange. I think that although they're loath to admit it, everybody is fascinated by the trappings of fascism.
I come in to address the assembled followers. There is an ambiguity to the whole scene for a start, because it is very powerful visually. You've got this huge marching Wagnerian band, you've got a choir, and you've got this geezer - surrounded by heavies - who comes out immaculate but very stark - I look like a sort of gay Christopher Lee, I think (laughs). I've hardly any hair, my eyebrows have gone, I'm very gaunt, I've got beautifully-tailored clothes - a uniform - and I stride out and start screaming, very cynically: 'So ya thought you'd like to see the show ?'. 'I talked to some of those skinheads who appear in the mock Nuremberg rally and they were really grand kids. You get to like them having worked with them for a while. Then one day they told me they'd shoved a Pakistani off the tube the night before and I couldn't believe it. I asked them why and they simply said they hated Pakis. I couldn't reason with them.'
Parker: 'There were a lot of loonies in the audience who didn't realise that we were actually showing it because we felt it to be evil. They really got off on it - but that's alright. We took advantage of that, but when it's put together - from a cinematic point of view - it will have a very different viewpoint. But I don't think they realised that when they were doing it.
If you get kids from almost neo-Fascist organisations and you dress them up in blackshirts and jackboots, they do start to saunter around and believe they're the part. That's kind of scary. They ask if they can take their uniforms home with them and at lunch-time you see them in the pub with all their gear on, being eyed-up by the local residents. You hide your face because you are not quite sure what you might have created.
It was to show the extremes to which rock n' roll can go if you have a mindless audience. I think a lot of it originally was Roger's attitude to his audience and the way in which a barrier was built; the alienation of being a performer in that way. What we've done, again, is - just as a metaphor - push it to extremes in all terms, in a political sense.
But it's about madness: that's the important thing. It's about madness and impending evil and the fear of what that might do. If we make that clear then the point of the whole rally is there. Our point was always that if Hitler was around today, the first thing he'd ask Albert Speer to do would be to get a really good rock n' roll group at Nuremberg - it would be part of the trimmings. We're just pointing out that danger might be there; that's all - just to think.'
Scarfe: 'I invented a skinhead militia called The Hammer Guard. Their insignia was two crossed hammers and my worst moment during production was when one of the skinheads turned up with his hair shaved into the hammer design. I have nightmares about meeting people in the street who've taken up the hammer look. Of course, we were not advocating violence, but what the film says is that by creating a wall between people it is entirely possible that violence will occur.'
The Tilbury Skins were also deployed to smash up a 'paki' cafe for a riot sequence in Run Like Hell - a task that they executed with disconcerting relish. Also, during the shooting of riot scenes at a disused gaswork in Becton - later recast as a school and destroyed for the Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) climax - the skins seemed unable to grasp that their adversaries were merely actors dressed as policemen; the fighting, said Parker: 'always seemed to continue long after I had yelled out 'Cut!'.' One band of punks enacted the lynching of a black Romeo and gang rape of his white girlfriend so convincingly that in the end the director felt obliged to leave most of the footage out of his Run Like Hell sequence.
The skins were also used for the marching scenes in Waiting for the Worms, which also featured Scarfe's famous marching hammers animation.
Interestingly, when Pink sits in the bathroom stall just before he recites Stop two snippets of songs that would later end up on The Final Cut (Your Possible Pasts) and The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking (The Moment of Clarity) are recited as well.
The noise that can be heard when the guard washes his hands is an extract from a live show of The Wall, with the announcer winding up the crowd.
As in the live show, Gerald Scarfe's animation was used for The Trial. Scarfe: 'Oh yeah, the arse. Actually, I think it was Charles Dickens who said through one of his characters that the law is an ass. So this giant bottum up in the sky seemed to me kind of symbolic of anybody who judges anybody - who has the right to do that ?'
After this track we see Pink's wall getting blown to pieces and the final scene is of children playing in the rubble of the scattered bricks in Outside The Wall.
There are several striking differences between the final version of movie and the Waters/Scrafe storyboard book. Waters originally wanted to have a wide view of the stage of the live show in The Thin Ice, the inflatable Teacher puppet in The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in The Wall (part 2) and more stage footage with the inflatable Mother during Mother. The Scarfe animation for Goodbye Blue Sky and the list half of What Shall We Do Now? were different, Young Lust would feature a combination of (different) narrative film and live footage, Is There Anybody Out There ? featured a dummy of Pink with decaying face and swelling hands, the same effect would be used in Comfortably Numb which would also feature the Mother. According to the storyboard there were indeed plans to include both Hey You and The Show Must Go On. However the intended film content of both songs have been shifted to Young Lust and In The Flesh ? in the final version. Finally, The Trial would feature some more live footage of the part where the wall comes down.
In the storyboard book it is very clear that Roger initially had the intention to play the role of Pink himself.
Some of the songs were re-recorded for the movie version of The Wall. In The Flesh ? and In The Flesh were both re-recorded with Bob Geldof on vocals, and the latter with brass and chorus orchestration. Geldof: When it came to singing the lines I had been allocated, I sang them in a highly accented Irish folk-singing manner. It was a delight to see the look of horror creep over the faces of Gilmour and James, the engineer in the control room ... I tormented them for as long as I could and then sang it properly. At the end a voice came from the control room over the studio monitors: 'You bastard !'.'
Gilmour: I had a lot to do with getting the music right for the film and trying to keep the peace between warring factions at Pinewood Studios, with directors walking out ... That was my role: begging the directors to come back.'
A new, minimalistic version of Mother was made, as well as a version of Bring The Boys Back Home with the Ponterdulais Male Voice . That choir also appears on a re-recorded orchestral version of Outside the Wall (much better than the cheesy album version if you ask me) which also features part of the melody of Southampton Dock, which would later appear on The Final Cut.
Work on the movie lasted from September 1981 to May 1982. It finally went into premiere on July 14th, at the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square, London. Several celebrities attended the gala premiere, among which Waters, Mason, Gilmour, Parker, Geldof and Scarfe. Proceeds from the sales tickets (priced at thirty and fifty pounds !) were donated to a handicapped children charity fund.
As was to be expected, the movie received very mixed reactions in the press. Many film critics found The Wall self-indulgent at best, though it broke box-office records during its initial run, and would resurface as a longtime number-one video-cassette release that would earn back for the Floyd all the money they had lost on the concerts (and then some). As a feature-length MTV-style music video, the film was surely several years ahead of its time.
Currently, Roger Waters is working on a DVD version of the movie that includes the recovered reel that holds the footage shot for Hey You !
Roger Waters himself wasn't too crazy about the end result. Waters ('84): 'No [I was not happy with the movie]. It was too busy for me. There was not enough attention paid to the feelings on it. How did that happen ? Well, as you know I got on terribly badly with Parker; the filthy little swine.'
'It was just not a happy time, unfortunately ... When you're doing something like that, there are all kinds of personal and political battles going on in a team of people who are trying to make the thing. It's inevitable that you're going to come out with a bit of a sour taste.'
Waters ('87): 'When it was finally put together, I watched the film, and I'd been dubbing it for the previous three weeks, reel by reel. Each reel on its own I thought was quite interesting, but when I saw all 13 reels together, I felt that it lacked any real dynamic. It seemed to start bashing you over the head in the first ten minutes, and it didn't stop until it was over; there was no quiet time.
But my most serious criticism was - although I thought Bob Geldof acted very well and that Alan Parker directed the film with great technical competence - at the end of the day, I felt, who gives a shit. I wasn't interested in this Pink character; I didn't feel any empathy for him at all. And if you can't care about Pink, then you can't care about his concerns about the totalitarian nature of the iconography of rock 'n' roll or even about the dead father in the war and all. And if I go to the cinema and I don't care for any of the characters, it's a bad film.'
With the release of the book with lyrics pictures from the movie in July '82, this chapter in Pink Floyd's history ended. Just imagine, 1978-1982: five years of work on one concept !
In July 1982 work started on an album which had the working title Spare Bricks. Although it was supposed to consist of unused material and the re-recorded alternative versions of the Wall material, and therefore acting as sort of a soundtrack to the movie, it eventually became The Final Cut, released in March 1983. The album was even more 'Roger Waters' than The Wall, giving his personal view on the loss of his father and the recent Falklands Conflict. Richard Wright was not present on the album and Gilmour and Mason could be considered nothing more than session musicians for something that basically was a Waters solo album, released under the name Pink Floyd.
You all probably know the story that Roger considered Pink Floyd to be disbanded after that album and was horrified when Gilmour and Mason (plus Wright as a session musician) released a new Pink Floyd album in 1987. Back in 1982, when work on The Final Cut was about to begin a reporter had asked Roger if that title would mean that it would be the last Floyd album, Roger had said: 'I would doubt that very much.'
So in a way, he was very much right ....
Pink Floyd's 1987 album A Momentary Lapse of Reason was co-produced by Bob Ezrin. Roger was so embittered by this that he included the lines 'each man has his price Bob, but yours was pretty low' on his Amused to Death solo album.
After the Wall shows in 1980 and 1981, both Pink Floyd and Roger Waters have kept on playing material from the album live. During his 1984 solo tour David Gilmour played Run Like Hell and Comfortably Numb (sometimes appearing on the set-list as 'Come On Big Bum') from the Wall album. Both songs became set closers during Floyd's Momentary Lapse and Division Bell tours. Other songs the band played during these tours were Another Brick in the Wall (part 2) and Hey You (94).
David: 'My view of [The Wall] is more jaundiced today than it was then. It appears now to be a catalogue of people Roger blames for his own failings in life; a list of 'you fucked me up this way, you fucked me up that way.'
Roger Waters played In the Flesh, Nobody Home, Hey You, Another Brick in the Wall (part 1), Happiest Days of Our Lives and Another Brick in the Wall (part 2) during his 1984/85 Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking tour. During the Radio Kaos tour Roger played In the Flesh, Mother, Another Brick in the Wall (part 1), Happiest Days of Our Lives, Another Brick in the Wall (part 2) and Outside the Wall (!).
During his current US tour, Roger has played the full first side of the album (In the Flesh ? - Mother) and Comfortably Numb.
The Wall has often been performed by cover bands or temporary collaborations like the Dutch Pink Project. One Eugene den Ouden even performed The Wall with a miniature copy of the stage and its many effects.
On Saturday July 21st 1990 Roger Waters and the Bleeding Heart Band performed The Wall once more in Berlin, with a whole bunch of celebrities as session musicians. The performance went far from perfect and contained some good performances (Bryan Adams, Paul Carrack, Snowy White on guitar) and some absolute horrors (Cindy Lauper raping Another Brick in the Wall (part 2), Van Morrision stumbling through Comfortably Numb, Jerry Hall making an ass of herself as the groupie, Roger not being able to reach the high notes anymore, etc). And where was the rest of Pink Floyd ? Wouldn't this have been a perfect moment to 'kiss and make up' ?
As with Floyd's live shows this live version of The Wall also featured the extended versions of Another Brick ... (part 2), Another Brick ... (part 3), Young Lust and What Shall We Do Now (although it appears under the title Empty Spaces). Instead of Outside The Wall, The Tide is Turning from Roger's Radio KAOS album closed the show.
The performance was broadcasted live and a patched-up version was broadcasted several weeks later. The show was also released on CD and video and he live version of Another Brick in the Wall was released as a single with a horrible house remix of Run Like Hell as a bonus track.
We would like to close this special edition of Counting Out Time with a few final words by Roger Waters: 'You make your own decisions, your own life. What 'they' do clearly impinges on your life, but in the end, the responsibility for what you do and how you feel about yourself is yours. You are an individual. You're alone, but that's all right.'
Written by Ed Sander
• The Amazing Pudding # 34 - 60
• Best of The Amazing Pudding 1-5 & 6-10
• Behind The Wall (picture book from the bootleg boxset)
• Shine On (book from the boxset with the same name)
• A Viusual Documentary by Miles
• Echoes Mailing List FAQ
• Brain Damage #25
• Pink Floyd - Set The Controls - The Slug Concept
• Timeline for the Wall
• Pink Floyd - Pictures
• And last but not least, the best Pink Floyd book ever written, which should be part of every Floyd fan's collection: Saucerful of Secrets by the late Nicholas Schaffner (ISBN 0-385-30684-9).
• Special thanks to Frans Schmidt for proofreading and advice.
Isn't this where ...