The Wall is published at the end of 1979, after a decade where we saw Pink Floyd rising at the top of the global success: the album is their most complex and challenging work and will mark the end of the band, that will implode few years later.
Pink Floyd are commonly recognized as a band without a frontman that attracts the attentions of the crowd: among the natural effect of this, the band, as their success grew, needed to reluctantly change their concerts venues, forgetting those small places where silence was almost religious and playing music was a different kind of experience.
Roger Waters’ exasperation
This inability to cope with this rockstar life peaked during a concert of the tour of Animals, when Roger Waters, frustrated and no longer tolerating the screams of the public, spits at a boy on the first lines.
The genesis of The Wall comes from that act, defined “fascist” by the author himself, the first who was shocked by that. The leader of Pink Floyd began to write the basics of the album, dissecting his traumas and mixing them with the story of a rockstar disconnected from his audience, unable to communicate with the others.
The story of The Wall spins around Pink, a rockstar who locks himself inside a mental wall that isolates and protects from the outside. His suffering arose from his lost father, dead during World War II, by an overprotective mother, by the extreme severity of the English school system and by the break up with his wife.
Most of these traumas can be traced back to Waters himself, who lost his father in 1944, who had just divorced at that time and who never accepted the coercive methods of the British school; the figure of the mother recalls the story of Syd Barrett, who was always morbidly bound to his mother.
Meanwhile, forced by the label and their own financial problems, Pink Floyd are forced to return to the studio.
Recording The Wall
Having no other material to add to the one presented by Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason agree to work on what will become The Wall. The other member of the group, Rick Wright, is isolated by Waters for his continued delays and an indolence that the leader will no longer tolerate, ending up even fired from the band.
Waters’ dictatorial temperament, which remained under control so far, emerged during the recording sessions, becoming one of the reasons for the band’s implosion. Gilmour and Mason see incredulously those attitudes, accepting his decisions without oppositions and giving him, in fact, the complete control of Pink Floyd.
Bob Ezrin will collaborate to the album recording as co-producer, helping Waters in writing the lyrics (with no recognition after the release of The Wall) and setting a little order in the broken relationships between the members of the band.
A different album
The Wall was born from all these tensions, implicit and explicit, becoming Pink Floyd’s toughest and sharpest album not only in the lyricss, but also in the sounds, where certain rarefied and dreamy atmospheres present in the previous works are considerably reduced. Rick Wright’s absence is evident, his sound carpets, so decisive in Animals, are replaced by a heavier approach (In The Flesh, The Thin Ice) and by songwriting works (Goodbye Blue Sky, Mother).
In The Wall becomes finally (and painfully) clear to all that David Gilmour is no longer considered an equal by Roger Waters: the guitarist is isolated in a corner, forced to stand almost on the sidelines and just do his homeworks, even though his precious collaboration is still important in the balance of the album. We still owe him two of the gems of the album, Hey You and above all Comfortably Numb, in which his guitar touches peaks of intensity and lyricism probably never reached again.
The true manifesto of The Wall is Another Brick In the Wall pt. 2, who launched the album and made him immortal, with the boys’ choir and the guitar solos.
The Wall, despite being a great record, is not the best work of Pink Floyd (Wish You were Here and The Dark Side of the Moon are probably a step above), leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of fans for the premature end of their favourite band. The Final Cut, the following release, is almost a solo album by Waters. After that, convinced of being able to take his own direction, he will be the one ending up Pink Floyd.
David Gilmour will try afterwards to reassemble the pieces, but it won’t be the same thing: the topics and the depth of Pink Floyd were lost, and only the unique atmosphere of his magic guitar will give the appearance of a still alive adventure. But it was without Waters…