Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pink Floyd - The Wall

Recently I have been listening to former band Pink Floyd's album The Wall.

Gerald Scarfe's amazing "Screaming Head" painting for the 1982 film Pink Floyd - The Wall

People consider Dark Side of the Moon to be Pink Floyd's magnum opus. The real star of that album is David Gilmour. The other, less favoured opinion in the debate is this, The Wall, of which Roger Waters is the real star. I must say that I am on the side of the latter. Something about Dark Side just doesn't click with me. It is good, don't get me wrong ("Money!/Get back/I'm all right Jack/Keep your hands off my stack...") but The Wall explores a much darker theme of insanity, grief, and torment/anger. For example:

"Sitting in a bunker here behind my wall/Waiting for the worms to come!/In perfect isolation here behind my wall/Waiting for the worms to come!"
[Excerpt from "Waiting for the Worms"]

I also must say that Gerald Scarfe's work on this album (he did artwork and animations for the concert and movie) is simply astounding.


The song "In the Flesh?" is more of a prologue to the show.

The story of The Wall follows Pink (a character very loosely based on Waters), who suffers much trauma after his father's death in WWII. He is traumatized by this obviously traumatic event and longs for a father throughout his life ("The Thin Ice/Another Brick in the Wall - Part One"). This builds the base of a metaphorical wall with which he shuts himself out from the world.

When Pink goes to school - hoping for a father figure from the Teacher - he instead finds an abusive villain who beats children ("The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall - Part Two"). The Teacher does have his own problems:

"But in the town it was well known/That when they got back home at night/Their fat and psychopathic wives/Would thrash them within inches of their lives..."
[Excerpt from "The Happiest Days of Our Lives"]

 - but of course that is no excuse on his part to take his suffering out on the children. This begins the (controversial) "We don't need no education" sequence. I say controversial because many critics have called this sequence obscene. But Waters made a counter argument.

"All I was saying was that in the education system when I was young there were some really bad teachers who thought they could teach children by  shaming them and being sarcastic. That was the context."
[Roger Waters. Interview excerpt from The Making of Pink Floyd - The Wall]

 Waters states that he means this FORM of education, not education in general. And the lyrics explicitly state "...there were certain [keyword CERTAIN] teachers..."

Anywho, Pink turns to his overprotective mother for help ("Mother." Apparently, she tried to make up for his father and, to say the least, overcompensates). In the middle of the triangle of his father's death, his teacher's abuse, and his mother's "help," the construction on Pink's wall speeds up. I can imagine a conversation in his head right now...

WORKMAN: Okay, we gotta new shipment of bricks from Trauma Factory.
FOREMAN: Yep. You and your workmen have to speed things up. Master Pink wants this place in tip top shape before he can live inside an unhealthy atmosphere of despair.
WORKMAN: Sometimes, that child worries me.
FOREMAN: You gonna question him?
WORKMAN: Nah. But Trauma Factory is in overload working conditions. That boy needs to go to the therapist before them worms eat his brain up.

The next song, "Goodbye Blue Sky," speaks of the Nazi bombs and the horrific-for-everyone air raids. Gerald Scarfe has this creepy drawing of the gas-masked "Frightened Ones."

"Did you see the Frightened Ones?/Did you hear the falling bombs?"

"Empty Spaces/What Shall We Do Now?" deals with...I don't know. All I know is that there are freakin' TERRIFYING flowers in Gerald Scarfe's animation, along with other horrors. It must have something to do with the Nazis because that hammer appears right at the end...Oh! In this song, I think Pink contemplates how he can finish up his wall.

Here are a few cells from the animation. Don't look at them they are scary

[Screaming face later seen in "Waiting for the Worms"]

Scary, right?

Nah, that's nothing. The animation is the thing that's terrifying. You have to see these monsters MOVE.

I don't know much about "Young Lust," because me and my dad agree that it isn't a particularly good song to listen can figure why. But I know (based on the title) that Pink finds a girlfriend/wife. "One of My Turns/Don't Leave Me Now" tells how Pink becomes increasingly disturbed and stops loving his wife (who leaves him).

"Another Brick in the Wall - Part Three/Goodbye Cruel World" is a crucial sequence. In it, Pink becomes a member of a band but finally finishes his wall. This pivotal point in the structure of Pink's life shuts him out from the rest of the world and begins a descent into slight insanity. This, in the concert, is (suitably) the end of Act One. During this concert, a wall has been slowly constructed across the stage. There is one more brick is filled in.

Well? It's Interval! Go get your Skittles!

The lights dim in the theatre. The stage is entirely hidden by the wall, and the next song - "Hey You" - is sung entirely sung behind this massive structure. In this song, Pink tries to make contact with the outside world. And yet...

"But it was only fantasy/The wall was too high,/As you can see./No matter how he tried, he could not break free./And the worms ate into his brain..."
[Excerpt from "Hey You"]

So Pink slowly goes insane.

The next song is creepy, and it is called "Is There Anybody Out There?" Nothing much happens here.

Inside the wall (his head) Pink sings "Nobody Home," which details how he is very comfortably but lonely inside his head. He contemplates trying to make contact through the wall again, but he tells himself that he cannot because nobody will answer. Pink is isolated from the rest of the world.

"Vera" has a reference to wartime singer Vera Lynn (you know, "We'll meet again/Don't know where, don't know when!"). It goes directly into what Pink has probably wanted to yell all along - "Bring the Boys Back Home!" He sings of how he doesn't want children to be left without a father. It is a wonderful message.

Pink is about to perform for a concert and kinda zones out from the stress of it all. A doctor comes in, procuring a needle with some drug in it (not the good kind of drug - like the medicine doctors are SUPPOSED to give you, the bad marijuana-esque hallucogenic). This becomes what has been labeled one of the best rock songs of all time - "Comfortably Numb." It has a kind of psychedelic feel to it, which is probably what it is supposed to feel like.

Wow. This is longer than I thought it would be.

Then comes a whole long sequence in which Pink hallucinates he is a Neo-Nazi fascist dictator. There are a lot of songs here, so I'm going to make to the point observations on them.

"The Show Must Go On:" Eh. Okay.
"In the Flesh?:" Reprise from start, with added Nazi-esque lyrics.
"Run Like Hell:" Good, but it runs on too long.

Then comes "Waiting for the Worms." It's the song you've all been waiting for (geddit? Geddit?)! Here Pink completely loses it (the worms eat up his mind) and he just sings about Nazis and worms and the big famous goose-stepping hammers.

The famous hammers logo. I suppose they couldn't use a Swastika, because people would get upset, or maybe they just did this just...because.

And then - 

"Stop!/I wanna go home!/Take off this uniform/And leave the show!/And I'm waiting in this cell/Because I have to know/Have I been guilty all this time?"

And then begins what is one of my favorite songs in the show - "The Trial," in which an imaginary Judge and Prosecuting Counsel put Pink on, well, trial, for:

"The prisoner who now stands before you/Was caught red-handed/Showing feelings/Showing feelings/Of an almost human nature! This will not do..."
[Excerpt from "The Trial," sung by the Prosecuting Counsel]

Close-up of the rag doll that represents Pink.

Yep! Pink got in trouble for trying to react with people outside the wall (what the heck?). His Teacher, his Wife, and his Mother testify against him. The Judge sentences Pink to tear down the wall, and so he does.

"Outside the Wall" is just a feel-good final song, because you can't leave people seeing monsters who hate a pink rag doll that has suffered trauma throughout his utterly depressing life.


Whew! Done. For more info on this album, you can buy the book by Gerald Scarfe called The Making of Pink Floyd - The Wall. It is very interesting and a must have for fans of art/film/music/The Wall/Pink Floyd/theatre. So a wide range. You can buy this fantastic book here. Buy the album here, and buy the movie here (25th Anniversary edition here). For the deluxe Immersion Reissue, click here. I was going to give you a link to a really awesome video of the new concert production, but apparently it was shut down for copyright infringement. Shoot!

By the by, I am making a short movie based The Tell-Tale Heart...but we'll talk of that later. For now, goodbye, and good night.

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