Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Wall (album)

The Wall  1:21:34
Studio recording April-November 1979 

* Released 30 November 1979 
* Re-released in the Shine On box set, 1992

Lee Ritenour: rhythm guitar, Freddie Mandell: Hammond organ, Peter Wood and Bob Ezrin: keyboards, and Jeff Porcaro: drums.
Backing vocals by Bruce Johnston, Toni Tenille, Joe Chemay, John Joyce, Stan Farber, Jim Haas, & Islington Green School fourth form music class
Orchestra arranged by Michael Kamen and Bob Ezrin

Produced by Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, and Roger Waters
Co-produced and engineered by James Guthrie
Other Engineers: Nick Griffiths, Patrice Quef, Brian Christian, Rick Hart, & John McClure
Sound Equipment: Phil Taylor
Sleeve Design by Gerald Scarfe and Roger Waters
Recorded at Brittania Row, London; Super Bear, Miravel, France; CBS, New York (orchestra only); Producer's Workshop, Los Angeles (in that order) for approximately $700,000

UK: Harvest SHDW 411  Reached #3 in the UK charts
US: Columbia PC2 36183  Reached #1 in the US charts, and virtually every other country in the world, barring Japan.

With The Wall, Roger Waters and Pink Floyd constructed their most conceptually complex piece of music ever. The levels and depths of meaning behind each lyric, each sound effect, each snatch of dialogue serve a metaphorical purpose in the overall piece. The album tells the story of fictional rock star Pink Floyd, who is essentially a synthesis of the personalities of Roger Waters and Syd Barrett, the two most important creative forces in the band up to this point. Though there is a loose-knit narrative in the progression of the music, it is merely a vehicle for the statements concerning society, politics, and personal anguish which is the true focus of the album. The Wall is not a 'rock opera' such as Tommy or Jesus Christ Superstar, but rather conceptually linked rock 'n' roll songs which express thoughts, feelings, and the pain of self-isolation against the backdrop of the story of 'Pink.'

The germination of the concept for The Wall came during the 1977 Pink Floyd World Tour, titled Pink Floyd: In the Flesh. It was the first time Pink Floyd did a 'stadium tour' — that is, playing only the largest available venues in a given city, and filling them with as many as 90,000 fans. For some time, Roger had been feeling that he was having difficulty in communicating with his audience — that they were not understanding or were misinterpreting the feelings and ideas he was trying to convey. It was on this tour that this feeling reached a climax. In such dehumanisingly non-intimate venues, it seemed impossible to get in touch with the audience at a heart level, or indeed any level. It was at the last In the Flesh concert at Montreal Stadium on 6 July 1977 that the epiphany came.

Roger Waters: "[The] notion of expressing my disgust by building a wall across the front of the stage came to me in a flash, and I was so thrilled with the theatricality of that. [The wall image suggested] the idea of each brick being a different bit of the life, and the whole autobiographical number that developed out of it." [Schaffner 225]

Roger Waters: "People con each other that there is no wall... between performer and audience, so I thought it would be good to build one out of black polystyrene or something." [Miles]

Nick Griffiths: "It was like, 'How far can I take it?' He can be very perverse. Can you imagine trying to explain to somebody – 'people are going to be coming onstage throughout the concert to build a wall totally obscuring the band'? It's a pretty extreme idea to suggest." [Schaffner 225]

By building an actual wall between himself and his audience, Roger could communicate his feelings of disconnectedness, and there would be little chance of anyone misinterpreting the meaning of a gigantic, stark, white brick wall staring them in the face.

Roger had been contemplating various ideas for a film as early as 1974, and over the next several weeks everything fell into place, and The Wall was simultaneously conceived as a stage show, an album, and a film. The metaphor of the wall itself expanded naturally to include the personal walls that people build around themselves to protect themselves from hurt, the walls society erects against freedom of expression, and many other allegorical meanings of the wall.

The concept became much more personal as Roger developed the story of the character 'Pink,' bringing many expressions of his own pain and angst into it, such as the loss of his father though WWII, a viciously oppressive school system, a cruel and unfaithful wife, and so on, each painful experience becoming a 'brick' in Pink's self-alienating wall. Though most of the experiences and other characters came from Roger's own life, the way in which Pink reacts to these experiences is patterned closely after Syd Barrett's sad mental decline.

Further details of the story and concepts involved can be gained by reading through each individual song entry. In an interview late in 1979, just after the release of the album, BBC Radio One DJ Tommy Vance interviewed Roger Waters about the inspiration and development of the ideas for The Wall.

Vance: Where did the idea come from?
Roger: Well, the idea for The Wall came from ten years of touring, rock shows, I think, particularly the last few years in '75 and in '77 we were playing to very large audiences, some of whom were our old audience who'd come to see us play, but most of whom were only there for the beer, in big stadiums, and, er, consequently it became rather an alienating experience doing the shows. I became very conscious of a wall between us and our audience and so this record started out as being an expression of those feelings.

Vance: But it goes I think a little deeper than that, because the record actually seems to start at the beginning of the character's life.
Roger: The story has been developed considerably since then, this was two years ago, I started to write it,and now it's partly about a live show situation — in fact the album starts off in a live show, and then it flashes back and traces a story of a character, if you like of Pink himself, whoever he may be. But initially it just stemmed from shows being horrible.

Vance: When you say 'horrible' do you mean that really you didn't want to be there?
Roger: Yeah, it's all, er, particularly because the people who you're most aware of at a rock show on stage are the front 20 or 30 rows of bodies. And in large situations where you're using what's euphemistically called 'festival seating' they tend to be packed together, swaying madly, and shouting and throwing things and hitting each other and crashing about and letting off fireworks and you know? I mean having a wonderful time but, it's a drag to try and play when all that's going on. But, er, I felt at the same time that it was a situation we'd created ourselves through our own greed, you know, if you play very large venues... the only real reason for playing large venues is to make money.

Vance: But surely in your case it wouldn't be economic, or feasible, to play a small venue.
Roger: Well, it's not going to be on when we do this show, because this show is going to lose money, but on those tours that I'm talking about; the '75 tour of Europe and England and the '77 tour of England and Europe and America as well, we were making money, we made a lot of money on those tours, because we were playing big venues.

Vance: What would you like the audience to do — how would you like the audience to react to your music?
Roger: I'm actually happy that they do whatever they feel is necessary because they're only expressing their response to what it's like, in a way I'm saying they're right, you know, that those shows are bad news. There is an idea, or there has been an idea for many years abroad that it's a very uplifting and wonderful experience and that there's a great contact between the audience and the performers on the stage and I think that that is not true, I think there've been very many cases, er, it's actually a rather alienating experience.

Vance: For the audience?
Roger: For everybody.

Vance: It's two and a half years since you had an album out and I think people will be interested in knowing how long it's taken you to develop this album.
Roger: Right, well we toured, we did a tour which ended I think in July or August '77 and when we finished that tour in the Autumn of that year, that's when I started writing it. It took me a year, no, until the next July, working on my own, then I had a demo, sort of 90 minutes of stuff, which I played to the rest of the guys and then we all started working on it together, in the October or November of that... October '78, we started working on it.

Vance: And you actually ceased recording, I think, in November of this year [1979]?
Roger: Yeah. We didn't start recording until the new year, well, till April this year, but we were rehearsing and fiddling about and obviously re-writing a lot. So it's been a long time but we always tend to work very slowly anyway, because, it's difficult.

After the '77 tour, while Dave and Rick began work on solo albums, Roger began working on The Wall, as he indicated above. However, during this time he also created a related song cycle based on a dream he'd had, titled The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. After completing a set of demo tapes for both albums, Roger gathered the other band members for a meeting in July of 1978. Engineer Nick Griffiths explained what happened.

Nick Griffiths: "He presented them to the band and said, 'Which one does the Floyd want to do?' They chose The Wall." [Schaffner 224]

In response to why Pros and Cons was not chosen, Dave Gilmour said: "[It was] too personal to be a Pink Floyd album. The Wall had something universal." [Schaffner 225]

Work began on the project in October of 1978. Dave immediately saw the need for the album to be fleshed out, to add a certain degree of musicality to it. However, Roger didn't want his lyrical ideas to be lost in the instrumentation, as he feels they had been before [see Wish You Were Here]. To help mediate the two of them, and also to assist in the production of the biggest project the band had attempted so far, experienced producer Bob Ezrin was brought in.

Nick Griffths: "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." [Schaffner 229]

Bob Ezrin and Dave immediately got down to work on Roger's Wall demo tape.

Dave Gilmour: "We [Gilmour and Ezrin] 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." [Schaffner 228]

Dave Gilmour: "[Roger was] sent away to write other songs... Some of the best stuff, I think, came out under the pressure of saying, 'That's not good enough to get on — do something!" [Schaffner 228]

Bob Ezrin: "In an all-night session, I rewrote the record. I used all of Roger's elements, but I rearranged 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."

One thing he did excise was "dates in the lyrics that put him at thirty-six years old. Kids don't want to know
about old rock stars. I insisted we make the record more accessible, more universal." [Schaffner 228] To this end, Ezrin persuaded the band to release a single — their first in eleven years. He assisted them in creating a slightly more mainstream sound for the single (Another Brick in the Wall part 2).

Bob Ezrin: "They just weren't really conscious of radio programming needs and formulas. So they did what they do best, and it put them in a very special class of their own. But in things like what a good tempo would be for a single, and how to get an intro and an outro — I know all those things, and they were quite open to trying them." [Miles]

Dave Gilmour: "[We wanted to make] things say what they're trying to say, quite snappily, and not waste the time. That was the mood we were in, and certainly Bob Ezrin helped." [Schaffner 234]

Ezrin also ended up writing some music for the album, as well as playing keyboards (along with session musician Peter Wood) to fill the gap left by the sporadically present Rick Wright, who Dave says "wasn't doing the job he was paid to do." Nick Mason, perturbed at the fact that he "contributed far less than on any other album in terms of having a say," nevertheless appreciated Bob's help with his drumming, including teaching him how to read drum scores.

Nick Mason: "[Bob Ezrin's supervision] benefited my drumming and my drum sound enormously." [Schaffner 236]

Dave Gilmour: "With The Wall we did most of the drums with Nick playing to a drum machine through a click track. We'd take a drum fill from one take and use the next fill from another take. We would chop things around for whatever we wanted to get. Myself, Roger and Bob Ezrin were in full attendance, but Roger used to take one day off a week to play golf. Nick's work was largely finished when we put down the drum tracks. Generally speaking, Rick came in and played keyboards when we asked him to." [Guitar for the Practicing Musician, Jan 1985]

There was a certain degree of tension among the three principal creators over the different viewpoints of how the album should sound. However, this was not entirely unproductive.

Nick Griffths: "Out of the conflict some good things occurred. Roger thrives on conflict; same with Bob Ezrin. Roger is a very competitive individual and likes a good argument — no question about it. And chances are he'll win, because he has a very good understanding of the English language. He can be very difficult to work with, but he has probably the most integrity out of anybody I know. What he believes in, he sticks by it, and feels it very strongly. His records always have a twist to them that he's absolutely adamant about. People will go, 'You can't say that' and he'll say, 'I feel it, so I should do it.' 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 attitude Dave adopted was that the best way to maintain an even keel and one's sanity was only to be in a room with Roger when they needed to do a bit of work. Their paths no longer crossed on a social level at all." [Schaffner 233]

Soon after recording began at the Floyd's Brittania Row Studios, it was moved to Miravel, France. Engineer Nick Griffiths was left at Brittania Row to supervise the recording of various sound effects, as well as recording children's voices for the Another Brick part 2 single [see entry under that name].

Nick Griffiths: "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." [Schaffner 230]

The Wall's orchestral arrangements were created and recorded by Michael Kamen at the CBS studios in New York. Kamen, then as well as now, was one of the most skilled in the blending of contemporary rock music and classical instrumentation. He is certainly the most popular choice among rock 'n' roll bands to do orchestral arrangements. Kamen overdubbed his fifty-five piece score (heard most notably in Bring the Boys Back Home) in New York with a minimum of contact with the Floyd.

Meanwhile, final recording and mixing of the album was moved to the Producers Workshop in Los Angeles, where Roger befriended the Beach Boys, one of whom (Bruce Johnston) he recruited along with Toni Tennille to do harmony on The Show Must Go On and Waiting for the Worms. The trip to L.A. also led to the meeting of Roger and DJ Jim Ladd, who would figure prominently in Roger's solo career later on.

The album was finally released, after a year of work, at the end of November 1979. It was a struggle to get it out on time, and the final running order for the music was changed after the sleeves had already gone to press, which accounts for the difference in what appears on the lyrics sheet and the actual album. What Shall We Do Now? was removed to save space, and Empty Spaces, intended as a side two reprise of that song, was put in its place. Hey You was moved from the end of side three to a far better location, the beginning of side three.

Roger: "Bob Ezrin called me up and he said 'I've just listened to side three and it doesn't work.' In fact I think I'd been feeling uncomfortable about it anyway. I thought about it and in a couple of minutes I realized that Hey You could conceptually go anywhere, and it would make a much better side if we put it at the front of the side, and sandwiched the middle theatrical scene, with the guy in the hotel room, between an attempt to re-establish contact with the outside world — which is what Hey You is — and the end of the side So that's why those lyrics are printed in the wrong place, because that decision was made very late. I should explain at this point, the reason that all these decisions were made so late was because we'd promised lots of people a long time ago that we would finish this record by the beginning of November, and we wanted to keep that promise."

Roger: "We didn't go into a great panic about trying to change all the inner bags and things [because] I think it's important that [the lyrics are] there so that people can read them. Equally I think it's important that people know why they're there, otherwise it's terribly confusing."

Most of the group had comments subsequent to the album's release about their involvement. Ezrin comments on the difficulties involved with mediating between Dave and Roger: "Under that English, left-handed, adversarial stance they take, with the smiles on their faces and soft voices... the war that existed between those two guys [Waters and Gilmour] was unbelievable." [Schaffner 233] However, he still regards producing The Wall as "...a wonderful experience." [Miles]

Bob also expressed admiration for Roger's writing ability, contrasting it to many musicians "who can't put four words together in a nice sentence."

Bob Ezrin: "He's the finest wordsmith in music right now; there's no-one to touch him. Absolutely brilliant. You may not like the subject matter that he finally decides to go with, but I've seen other things he's written and he does have a capacity to write anything, right down to simple rock 'n' roll. He has a facility with language." [Miles]

Roger: "They [the other band members] were basically lazy. Not that I'm saying I did it all. Dave was contributing as an arranger and an occasional adviser. He's a musician of note, and I don't want to belittle his input. But the others had no input." [Schaffner 236]

Dave: "Whatever anyone says, I was there. I have my money on that record, tons and tons of stuff. Myself and Ezrin. I know lots of people think of that as the first Roger Waters solo album, but it ain't. Roger wouldn't have been able to make that by himself — no way. He's had three other gos at making solo records, and you can judge for yourself the difference." [Schaffner 234]

One outcome of the whole period was the decision on Roger's part to terminate Richard Wright's involvement with the band after 14 years.

Rick Wright: "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. He said, 'Either you leave after the album is made, or I'll just scrap the whole thing.' In some ways I was really happy to get out, because I was so fed up with the whole atmosphere." [Schaffner 235]

Dave Gilmour: "He got the boot because he wasn't contributing in any way to anything." [Schaffner 235]

A couple of years later, Dave would comment on his reaction to The Wall: "[The Wall is] a very strongconcept [but] largely irrelevant [to me]. I don't feel the pressure of a wall between me and my audience; Idon't ever think there's something there that doesn't get through to them. I don't think a lot of the things thathappened to me in my early years, some of which weren't so wonderful, adversely affect my life to the extent that Roger feels some of those things affect his life." [Schaffner 232]  "[But I can] get into it as fiction." [Schaffner 232]

Disc One
In the Flesh?
Thin Ice, The
Another Brick in the Wall part 1
Happiest Days of Our Lives, The
Another Brick in the Wall part 2
Goodbye Blue Sky
Empty Spaces
Young Lust
One of My Turns
Don't Leave Me Now
Another Brick in the Wall part 3
Goodbye Cruel World
Disc Two
Hey You
Is There Anybody Out There?
Nobody Home
Bring the Boys Back Home
Comfortably Numb
Show Must Go On, The
In the Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting for the Worms
Trial, The
Outside the Wall

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