Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pink Floyd-The Wall

Originally Written and Posted at on 11/30/09 for its 30th Anniversary Release.

When the music period of the 1970s was ending, it was the end of a period that was glorious, decadent, and creative. With the decade ending, many music genres were going away while some were starting to flourish. Progressive rock had indulged itself greatly while rock music itself had become stale and polished that would give way to the corporate mainstream rock music of the 1980s. Punk rock which had attacked mainstream and helped killed progressive rock and wound heavy metal suddenly sank back into the underground. Heavy metal was facing serious problems while a new wave in Britain was emerging that would give the genre the boost it needed. Disco had over-saturated while the new wave that came from the world of punk gave rock some new energy.

With the 1970s ending, everything was happening with a lot of the top bands of the time. One of those top bands was Pink Floyd. Since their emergence in 1967 with their debut album Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd were one of the most popular bands to break through in the 1970s. From their early psychedelic-rock days with original vocalist/guitarist Syd Barrett who left in 1968 following a mental breakdown. Pink Floyd became more experimental following Barrett's departure as the line-up of vocalist/bassist Roger Waters, vocalist/keyboardist Richard Wright, drummer Nick Mason, and then-new guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour would delve into spacier rock textures. After achieving a musical breakthrough with 1971's Meddle, Floyd would achieve massive success with 1973's Dark Side of the Moon that featured Waters as the band's principle lyricist.

1975's follow-up Wish You Were Here, an album in tribute to Barrett, was released to more success as the band became popular not just as a band that sold many records but selling out venues all over the world. 1977's Animals showcased a new direction in which Roger Waters became to take more control on the band musically as he delved into more high-concept themes. While the band remained popular, they were already attracting criticism for their indulgences as Waters felt the band was lost in the world of stadiums. At a show in Montreal of July 1977, an angry Waters spat at a fan as he felt irritated by the behavior of the audience. In response to the Montreal incident, Waters went to work on two different projects. One of them would become his first solo album The Pros & Cons of Hitchhiking released in 1984 and the other would become Pink Floyd's next album.

Working with producer Bob Ezrin, the man who produced hit albums for KISS and Alice Cooper, the band recorded the album in various studios outside of the U.K. in the South of France, New York, and Los Angeles. Along with a new producer in James Guthrie to help with the project. Sessions for the album were problematic as Waters demanded full control forcing members of the band to feel like session musicians. Though David Gilmour would end up co-writing three of the songs and Ezrin co-writing one of the tracks. A lot of the material was already written forcing keyboardist Richard Wright to not contribute as much musically. Wright's problems would eventually force him out of the band though he asked to stay on for the upcoming tour. With Michael Kamen contributing orchestral arrangements to some of the tracks, the album would finally be completed in early November of 1979 as on the 30th of that month. Pink Floyd would release the last great album of the 1970s (though the Clash's London Calling came out in December of that year which would really be the first great album of the 1980s) entitled The Wall.

Produced by Bob Ezrin, James Guthrie, Roger Waters and David Gilmour with the concept and songs, with the exception of four, written by Waters. The Wall is a rock opera telling the story of a troubled rock star named Pink whose life unravels over the death of his father in World War II before he was born along with the toll of rock stardom, abuse from a schoolteacher, an overbearing mother, and his cheating wife as he descends into madness where he becomes a Fascist dictator. Featuring contributions from Michael Kamen on orchestral arrangements, Toto's Jeff Porcaro on drums on Mother, and backing vocals from the likes Toni Tennille of Captain & Tennille and the Beach Boys' Bruce Johnston. It is a dark, ambitious album that spans two discs (or two LPs in the days of vinyl) with over 80 minutes of music pieces chronicling Pink's descent, a lot of which are based on Roger Waters' own childhood having grown up without a father as well as the troubled mind of Syd Barrett in his own descent into madness. The result is definitely one of the greatest rock albums ever created.

The album opens with In The Flesh? A song that starts off with a serene flute solo in the background until it's replaced by thunderous arrangements of wailing organs, pounding drums, and thrashing guitars featuring David Gilmour's blistering, blues-laden guitar solo. With the song maintaining its thunderous presentation, Roger Waters as the character of Pink emerges singing in a snarl with lyrics that revel into the madness of the character. Sounds of flying planes and bombs going off emerge as it segues into the next track. The Thin Ice starts off as a piano ballad with Gilmour singing somberly as the character of Pink's mother singing to baby Pink as Waters sings the second half as Pink exploring the character's fragility. A wailing guitar solo from Gilmour comes in to add atmosphere to the song as it leads to the next track. Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 1 is accompanied solely by Gilmour's driving guitar as Water sings young Pink's despair over the loss of his father. Featuring a soft, droning keyboard accompaniment from Richard Wright, it's a song that has Pink creating the mental wall that would isolate him as Gilmour and Waters play off another in their respective instruments of guitar and bass.

The Happiest Days Of Our Lives opens with the sounds of a helicopter flying and the voice of the schoolmaster berating a young Pink as menacing guitar riffs, pounding mid-tempo beats, and Waters' wobbly bass line take charge. Featuring some troubling yet descriptive lyrics about the schoolmaster's abuse of kids along with the abuse he gets from his own wife in the song's second half as it picks up momentum as the song serves as an intro of sorts to the next track. Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2 that features the famous line "We don't need no education". Led by Nick Mason's smooth back beat, Gilmour's swanky guitar and Waters wobbly bass line with both Gilmour and Waters singing the song. It's a mesmerizing song that features a catchy chorus as its second half is sung by a group of school kids telling the teacher to leave them alone as they're just another brick in the wall as it features a blazing, blues-laden guitar solo by Gilmour.

The ballad Mother starts off as an acoustic track led by Waters singing lyrics of Pink clinging to his mother with moments of desperation. Gilmour then sings as the role of Pink's mother who will protect Pink from all of the bad things around him as a swooning keyboard is accompanying Gilmour's vocals as he later plays a blazing guitar solo as he and Waters would sing their respective verses of Pink's overprotective mother that became bricks in his wall. Goodbye Blue Sky opens with a young Pink pointing at a bird in the sky as it leads to a music arrangement of arpeggio acoustic guitars and droning keyboards with despaired lyrics that Gilmour sings to describe Pink's loss of innocence. Next is a shortened version of a song originally called What Shall We Do Now? that didn't make it to the final album due to the constraints of vinyl at the time. Instead, the shortened song called Empty Spaces opens with soft, hammering sounds with wailing guitar drones from Gilmour that intensifies as voices in the background are heard. Waters as Pink then sings dark lyrics asking how should he complete the wall.

Young Lust is a bouncy, upbeat track led by Gilmour's growling vocals and blazing blues-laden guitar riffs. Featuring a thumping beat and bass line with lyrics of decadence as Pink starts to unravel as the song itself is a showcase for Gilmour's talents as a guitarist as he plays a great solo while the song ends with Pink trying to call his wife as the operator hears the voice of a man. One Of My Turns opens with the voice of a groupie going into Pink's hotel room and impressed by what he has inside as she wonders if he's OK. Waters then sings to the accompaniment of Wright's soothing keyboard with lyrics of Pink's despair about his cheating wife. The song intensifies with pounding drums and Waters' wailing vocals as the character of Pink explodes smashing things in his hotel room as the groupie leaves.

Don't Leave Me Now is an eerie ballad led by Wright's warbling keyboard tracks and a low bass line with Waters singing Pink's anguish over his wife and her treatment of him while still wanting her. Mason's slow drums and Gilmour's wailing guitar starts to come in for the coda as it ends with the sound of Pink smashing objects in his hotel room. Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 3 is an intense version of the previous versions with a more menacing back beat, thrashing guitars, and Waters' wailing vocals as Pink wants to rid of everyone and everything that has brought him pain as they have now become bricks in his wall. Goodbye Cruel World is accompanied solely by a somber bass line as Water sings lyrics of Pink saying goodbye to the people that has hurt him as the wall is now complete after he sings.

The second half begins with Hey You, a ballad of sorts that opens with a flourishing, arpeggio acoustic track with Waters' soothing bass line to help create the atmosphere of the song as Gilmour sings harrowing lyrics of Pink realizing his despair of being inside his wall. With Mason's slow pounding drums and Wright's somber keyboard accompaniments, Gilmour continues to sing as he plays a guitar solo. Waters then sings later on as he delves into Pink's descent into madness. Is There Anybody Out There? is a song that is led mostly by Wright's soft, swirling keyboards as Pink asks if there's anyone outside the wall as it is later followed by Ron di Blasi's somber, classical guitar performance with melodic arpeggios. Nobody Home is a piano-led ballad with Waters singing Pink's troubled isolation with reference to Syd Barrett. Featuring Michael Kamen's somber orchestral arrangements, it's one of the most touching ballads that the band has created along with one of Waters' best vocal performances.

Vera Lynn, a reference to the famed British World War II singer, is an orchestral-driven ballad with Kamen's broad arrangements and Waters' lyrics of lost hope as Pink delves further into madness. Cadence drums then appear for the song Bring The Boys Back Home with sounds of loud brass arrangements and string flourishes as it refers to Pink's flashbacks of being a child without a father as he realizes he's alone while other boys have their fathers return from war. Next is Comfortably Numb, a mid-tempo track that reflects Pink's inability to cope as he descends further into madness with Waters voicing the role of a doctor trying to revive Pink through drugs in a cool, sneering vocal. Along with a slow, steady drum fill and eerie keyboard that swirls in a verse for the song as Gilmour sings lyrics reflecting Pink's loss of innocence. The track is followed by a blazing guitar solo from Gilmour as it returns to Waters singing and then Gilmour singing again which leads to what is probably Gilmour's greatest guitar solo.

The Show Must Go On is a smooth, mid-tempo track that is presented, in a shortened version (a longer version appears in the Is There Anybody Out There The Wall Live 1980-1981 live album with an extra verse). With slow drum fills by Nick Mason and Gilmour singing as Pink is about enter a different world as a different person as he realizes the show must go on. In The Flesh is reprise of sorts of the album's opening track with a more extended bridge of melodic guitars and different lyrics as Pink is now a Fascist dictator through his drug-induced hallucination. Featuring some racist lyrics in character, Pink hopes to rid of those undesirable over a faithful crowd. Run Like Hell is a blistering song with driving guitar riffs, pounding drums, and a blistering guitar riff that leads the track. The song's lyrics is filled with Pink's attacks on minorities with Waters singing the track as it also features some of Gilmour's best guitar work and later a wailing synthesizer solo from Richard Wright.

Waiting For The Worms is a harrowing track that has Pink taking charge of his Fascist ways as he talks through a megaphone with other vocalists joining him to help Britain become a powerful country. With a marching rhythm, droning bass and guitar riffs accompanying the song, it intensifies near the ends until the next track. Stop is a short, 30-second piano-driven song as Pink wakes up from his hallucination wanting to go home and tired of his wall. The Trial is an orchestral-driven track with Michael Kamen's sprawling arrangements of woodwinds and strings with Waters singing the lines of various characters. The character of the lawyer appears with Waters singing in a dark, comical tone about Pink displaying feelings in his wall as he would later be confronted by his abusive schoolmaster, his adulterous wife, and his overprotective mother. The track intensifies with Waters, through a distorted vocal, singing as the judge tells Pink to tear down the wall as the sounds of the wall is being torn down. The album closer Outside The Wall returns to the opening flute sounds of the first track as Waters softly sings somber lyrics about the fallout of the wall and the moral of what had just happened.

Released in November 30, 1979, the album became a massive hit for Pink Floyd going to number one in the U.S. for several weeks. The album was followed by a small tour of arenas where the band played the album in its entirety with a wall being built during the first half of the show. From 1980-1981, the band played four cities in two different legs in New York City, Los Angeles, London, and Dortmund, West Germany. While it was a massive success, the tour did lose the band money while in an ironic twist. Richard Wright became the only member of the band to gain money from the tour's profits. In 1982, a film version directed by Alan Parker starring Bob Geldolf with a script by Roger Waters released to a degree of success.

After the album, tour, and film for The Wall, Pink Floyd would unravel as Wright officially left after the tour while the band made one more album with 1983's The Final Cut. Roger Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985 announcing the band was no more as David Gilmour and Nick Mason chose to carry on as Pink Floyd which led to a lawsuit between Waters and his former bandmates. In 1987, the Gilmour-led Pink Floyd that also featured Richard Wright released A Momentary Lapse of Reason to great success while Waters would have a successful solo career. After 1994's The Division Bell and widely successful tour, Pink Floyd quietly faded away until 2005 when Waters briefly rejoined the band for a performance for Live 8 which was the highlight of the event.

Though rumors of a possible Pink Floyd reunion was emerging, the band chose not to discuss plans for a reunion as both Waters and Gilmour chose to do solo projects with Mason and Wright involved. In 2006, one of the founding members of the band Syd Barrett finally passed away after years of battling diabetes at age 60 while two years later, Richard Wright died of cancer at age 65 officially ending the band.

30 years after its release, The Wall remains a seminal album for Pink Floyd as the record influenced everyone from Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, the Smashing Pumpkins, and several other acts as it has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. While hardcore fans are still waiting for an expanded version of the album with What Shall We Do Now? and the non-LP song When The Tigers Broke Free from the film that was later placed in the Echoes best-of compilation and a 2004 reissue of The Final Cut. It is clear that The Wall remains a favorite among fans of Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd's The Wall is a must-have for anyone who loves rock music as it is definitely one of the greatest albums ever made. Anyone wanting a starting point on the band will surely find this record as one of the best albums to start with along with Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Filled with songs that are still played on rock radio, it's a record that remains timeless while it's definitely one of the best rock operas out there that could never be duplicated. In the end, The Wall is a masterpiece of epic proportions from the always revered Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd Reviews: Albums: (Piper at the Gates of Dawn) - (A Saucerful of Secrets) - (Ummagumma) - (Atom Heart Mother) - (Meddle) - (Dark Side of the Moon) - (Wish You Were Here) - (Animals) - (The Final Cut) - (A Momentary Lapse of Reason) - (The Division Bell) - (The Endless River)

Soundtracks (More) - (Obscured by Clouds)

Films: (London '66-'67) - (Live at Pompeii) - Pink Floyd: The Wall - (The Final Cut) - (A Delicate Sound of Thunder) - (Pulse)

© thevoid99 2010

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