The Wall is Pink Floyd’s eleventh album.
Animals is Pink Floyd's tenth album. They had already met huge success with Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, both of them written by the band as a whole. However, Animals was written mainly by Roger Waters. This fact made the rest of the band unhappy. After that, it wasn't long until Roger would go to their live concerts by himself and leave as soon as they were over. The others were dissapointed with the situation and felt the band didn’t have much else to offer.
At the final performance of the Animals tour (namely, In The Flesh tour) at Montreal, Roger Waters felt extremely annoyed when a fan climbed up to the stage and verbally professed his love for the band. At that point, Roger decided to spit on this man’s face. This incident, ever after known as The Spitting Incident, was the basis for the Brobdingnagian-proportions magnum opus that followed.
That night, Roger, realized he had built a wall between the performers and the audience. He shared those thoughts with the band’s producer Bob Ezrin and Bob’s psychiatrist friend. He also recognized the dominance of this self-imposed isolation to himself and identified its roots in his life. This served as primary inspiration for the band’s next record, one imperatively needed as their less than ideal money management skills had just surfaced.
Roger wrote the next album by himself. His relationship with the other members kept decaying. Especially, between him and Richard Wright, the keyboardist of the band. Richard couldn’t keep up with the tight recording schedule that Roger had set up and more tension led to Richard leaving the band just before the record gets completed.
These circumstances, an utmost irony given the theme of the album, were the emotional context when The Wall was released.
The Wall is a concept album that revolves around isolation. It delves into the life of imaginary character Pink. Pink’s father—like Roger’s—was killed in a war. This is the initial brick that forms the metaphorical wall of isolation. Additional bricks include Pink’s overprotective mother (Track 6, Mother) and his abusive teachers (Track 4, Happiest Days of Our Lives).
But in the town, it was well known
When they got home at night, their fat and
Psychopathic wives would thrash them
Within inches of their lives
All 26 tracks are intensely dramatic and visual. They range greatly in music style, from hard rock to opera, while they also get deeply dark (e.g. Track 7, Goodbye Blue Sky).
As mentioned, the concept of the album is almost biographical. Except himself, Roger, also bases Pink on Syd Barrett. Syd was one of the founding members of Pink Floyd, as well as the original lead singer and principal songwriter. Syd was a heavy user of LSD and along with his seemingly schizophrenic behavior (hallucinations, memory lapses, mood swings), he was unable to fulfill his role as band member. While he was ousted after the second album, the band didn’t abandon him. Except for writing albums about him (Wish You Were Here) they also tried to help him in his solo music endeavors.
The biographical nature of this art piece is part of the reason that it portraits a life journey so humane, so broken, so messed up and run down, that makes you wonder just how good music can be.
So ya thought ya might like to go to the show
To feel the warm thrill of confusion, that space cadet glow
Tell me is something eluding you, sunshine?
Is this not what you expected to see?
If you wanna find out what's behind these cold eyes
You'll just have to claw your way through this disguise
The Wall is a double album. The first half builds the wall up, while the second half breaks it down.
After Pink hides behind his wall in the second half of the album, he becomes severely depressed. Unable to function he turns to drugs, as is poetically confessed in Comfortably Numb, a fan favorite. Finally, on the penultimate track The Trial, he puts himself on trial and gets judged by the past, evil, “brick manifestations” of his life.
The judge and fellow trial attendees order him: “Tear down the wall”. He does, and this is when, the final piece, Outside the Wall begins:
All alone, or in twos
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall
Some hand in hand
And some gathered together in bands
The bleeding hearts and the artists
Make their stand
And when they’ve given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it’s not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger’s wall
I would love to make the understatement of labeling this album as the greatest of the 20th century. But I can’t; because as I listen to Outside the Wall ending, I can only characterize it as the greatest cultural piece I have ever experienced.