December 1979 lay cold over a troubled Europe.
For rock music it was already time to examine its conscience and the more or less apparent revolutions. It was in this month that 2 albums arrived from England that were capable of capturing the Zeitgeist, of representing the discomforts of different generations united, however, by ‘skating / On the thin ice of modern life’ which united opposing musical factions in a common general disorientation. The new decade would open with the Clash’s incendiary London Calling and Pink Floyd’s Faustian The Wall, which became Roger Waters’ vehicle of expression. ‘London calling’ was nothing more than the cry of ‘another brick in the wall,’ that ‘Another Brick In the Wall’ hurled by Waters against the establishment and the condition of the alienated rock star. The Wall musically reaffirmed that 15 years’ worth of a career, 11 albums and hundreds of concerts, couldn’t end without being topical, on track.
Two generations and 42 years later, The Wall is precisely that: the spirit of a contemporary age that lives, in other forms, the extension of the discomfort of that time and always skating on the thin ice of technocratic modern life.
The concept album summarises a parabola (from underground band to megastar) reached with The Dark Side Of
The Moon in 1973. The Wall expanded on the concept of the previous Animals (1977, inspired by George Orwell’s 1945 dystopian novel, Animal Farm) and the story goes that the triggering event for the Floydian Wall happened during the last date of that tour at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada, during a primal and highly symbolic act. The implosion of human relationships within the band, the pressure
of success, the estrangement, the psychic discomfort told in a collective key by The Dark Side of the Moon turned, for The Wall, into a personal hell of the individual closed in by the walls of isolation. During the concert, Roger reacted by spitting on an over-excited fan and infuriating the audience.
It happened while he was trying to sing ‘Pigs on the Wing.’ That fan had tried to climb up onto the stage and Waters shouted at him, ‘For f–k’s sake, stop [letting off fireworks and] shouting and screaming. I’m trying to sing this song!’ Then, the gob that shapes the creative clay.
After the concert, the singer reflected on the barrier between the band and the audience. He visualised this distance by imagining a large wall in front of the stage, to be destroyed during the concert for a future album. The Wall was thus conceived. When Pink Floyd reunited in the studio in London, Waters played the other 3 band members about 40 samples. Canadian Bob Ezrin produced the album. The samples already say it all (as can be heard in the 2012 immersion edition). For his narrative, Roger uses the figure of Pink, a rockstar who is now adrift – ‘Comfortably Numb’ – in the journey into the most devastating psychic abyss from childhood to
adulthood. The story spares no one, but goes straight to the hearts of multitudes of fans, old and new.
From family (‘Mother’) to school (‘Another Brick in the Wall’), from law enforcement (‘The Trial’) to the
damage of the post-war period (‘Goodbye Blue Sky’), from incommunicability (‘Hey You’) to psychosis (‘One of my Turns’), there is all the horror of human discomfort.
The Wall would become one of the longest-lasting artistic and commercial successes in rock history, and it did so by combining high artistic peaks with content. When ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ reached the top of the UK sales charts at Christmas, it was clear that Pink Floyd had struck a chord with several generations. And they would continue to do so: in 1990 in Berlin it was this music that celebrated the fall of the wall with a great
concert by Roger Waters and guests and, from 2010 to 2013, in 219 concerts, 4 million fans would find themselves between the lines of time, being healed by the music of The Wall, which has crumbled decades and generations.