Roger Waters’ The Wall, by Tony Healey
Roger Waters’ The Wall (September 29th, 2015) is an epic achievement as a live show, and made for a great cinematic experience. With a limited release, the movie acts as part live performance, part biographical road trip. But what Waters presents is not to be confused with the same album he captained Pink Floyd through in 1979.
This is, as the titles states, Roger Water’s The Wall. And it’s a different beast. You have only to listen to the soundtrack, recently released in multiple iterations, to know that it differs to the original album. From the brand new track The Ballad of Jean Charles de Menezes (included to remind audiences of the wrongful killing of Jean Charles de Menezes on the London Underground in 2005), to the reworked Bring The Boys Back Home, this is 2015 Roger Waters’ take on work he completed 30 years ago. There’s not a single track that hasn’t been tweaked slightly in its transition to a worldwide tour. And while it’s quite brilliant in its own right - many of the changes are fresh, and welcome - its worth viewers of the new film seeking out the past iterations. Of course the 1979 Pink Floyd album is an obvious port of call. But then there is Pink Floyd: The Wall Live 1980-81 (released 2000) which offers not only the album played in real time to a live audience, but the band performing at the height of their powers. This seemingly hard to find album (which I was fortunate enough to purchase on a fluke at a Borders when I was in college) captures the band just before their infamous split. Not only were they pushed to breaking point, but they pushed themselves, and the result is pure auditory nirvana.
You could go on from there and explore Roger Waters branching out on his own. Taking the album to THE Wall itself, at the fall of the Soviet Union and bringing a plethora of guest stars along for the ride with him. And you could seek out Roger Waters In The Flesh, a live double-album featuring numerous Pink Floyd staples, and some you might not have heard before. These are features between Waters own solo work, and it’s only then that you begin to realise that The Wall was always a solo album. With Waters taking artistic control over 99% of the tracks, you get the feeling later on that Pink Floyd were merely the bit players in something much more important.
While David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason were integral to classic albums like Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals - both in terms of creative input and bringing their own unique talents to bear - The Wall is a whole other beast.
Deeply personal to Waters, the album is an exploration of war, of absent fathers, overbearing mothers, the pressures and pitfalls of fame, and the loss of self.
There are, Waters tells us through the narrative of the album, many walls we construct around ourselves in life. Around our emotions, our fears, our insecurities. And our hearts. The choices we make in life either add more bricks - or take them away.
But to really understand the impetus behind much of the album, it’s important to read Inside Out: A Personal History Of Pink Floyd by Floyd drummer Nick Mason himself. Here we get a unique insight into every aspect of Pink Floyd, from its earliest beginnings, to its reformation following Waters exiting the band, concluding of course with their reunion at Live 8 in 2005. Mason does not hold back in exploring that period of their careers, the change in the band, the shift in dynamic between Waters and the others. He wrote every lyric on the album, and exerted that creative control over every other aspect of the album’s production, including the firing of Rick Wright during recording sessions.
There’s a lot to listen to, and a very fine book to read. I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan, but if you have watched Roger Waters’ The Wall and want to know how it all got started, you must focus your attention on Waters. For not only was it the pinnacle of a band’s success, but the defining moment in an artists entire career. Not since Dylan had a singer-songwriter tackled issued of the heart, and let their loud angry voice be heard with such clarity.
To understand The Wall, you’ve got to look at it all. One brick at a time.
For Your Listening Pleasure:
The Wall (Pink Floyd)
The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking
Amused To Death
The Wall Live 1980-81 (Pink Floyd)
Roger Waters In The Flesh
Roger Waters’ The Wall
And the icing on the cake:
Inside Out: A Personal History Of Pink Floyd by Nick Mason
In 2011, he found his fiction published alongside Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster. A year later, his sci-fi serial FAR FROM HOME became a best-selling sensation, followed by similarly successful sequels. Since then he has collaborated with authors Bernard Schaffer, Matthew Cox and William Vitka on various projects. He has also had work published by Curiosity Quills Press. He is married and has three daughters.