It is an on-going debate among rock n' roll fans. We are divided in factions. Beatles' fans: some are John fans, some are Paul fans. To this day, I still argue in favor of John Lennon over Paul McCartney. Some love Paul ... what can I say, I am firmly in the John camp. Always will be. Stones fans: some love Mick, some love Kieth. The Who fans: Peter or Roger. U2 fans: Bono or The Edge. Dead fans: Jerry or Bob. I have had very long heated arguments over Pink Floyd with friends, if the subject is breached, it will start up again .... "Roger Waters made Pink Floyd, his words, his concept, it is his band, man." "No way man, Floyd would be nothing without the David Gilmour sound." We continue on drinking our beer and passing the bowl of .... uhm ... bowl of chili ... and it is never resolved. We love it this way. Clearly to me, Roger is a conceptual genius and one of the greatest rock lyricist, but he needs David Gilmour and vice versa. They are a great pairing. After hearing Roger's solo work and the Floyd albums without Roger .... lets just say the world is a better place if these two artists got along.
I saw Roger Waters for the first time last night at the Bell Centre in Montreal. He performed The Wall from start to finish and it was spectacular. As a kid, I saved up for weeks to purchase my vinyl copy of The Wall. I saved my allowance to buy it and I remember biking to Zayre to purchase it so that I could get my mother's employee discount. Biking home with a record album in a bag may not have been the best move. I had listened to my 8 track copy of Wish You Were Here, my brother's album of Dark Side of the Moon and my sister's album of Animals for so long, I really needed more. It was their 11th album, a concept album and a double album.
It came in out in 1979 when I was only 14 years old. It shook my world in a way that little has. The white album cover was stolid and chaste showing only brick. This depicted the main character of the album, Pink, with his rough and generic exterior. By looking at Pink you could never tell he was dying inside. When you opened the album, you could see the nightmare of Pink's internal life. It was full of isolation, hate of authority, sexual inadequacy and pain. Pink's mother was portrayed wearing a brick bra and his teacher towered over him and carried a bull whip.
This was back when albums had sides:
Side 1 portrays Pink's childhood with songs like Mother and Another Brick in the Wall.
Side 2 portrays his sexual awakening with Young Lust and One of My Turns. His longing for his father due to his death in the war with Goodbye Blue Sky. The side ends with the wall's final brick being laid and the words "good bye cruel world its over." The album could end there as a very depressing single album. At the concert last night, the intermission came as the wall was completed. 424 bricks covered the stage extending from floor to ceiling of the Bell Centre.
Side 3 and the second half of the concert starts with Hey You. Pink inside the wall trying to contact the outside world. His isolation is complete. His suicide attempt failed perhaps. It is unclear. Roger played this entire song from behind the wall. It was very odd, but affective. The stage was empty except for the wall.
Side 4 portrays Pink's breaking down the wall to the climax of The Trial and the denouement of Outside the Wall.
Obviously as a 14 year old kid, who was attempting to read all the Stephen King novels, this blew my mind. By the end of a year, I could recite all the lyrics from start to finish without the album playing. I might be able to do it now. I'd like to attribute The Wall with introducing me to literature, but I think Alexandre Dumas did that. Perhaps it did introduce me to modern literature. The idea of a voice in a story where the first person narrative twists reality. Without The Wall I don't think I would ever understand Huckleberry Finn or The Tropic of Cancer or even Citizen Kane. Without Roger Waters, Faulkner and Joyce would be alien or even insane to me. In my listening to The Wall, a lover of literature was created. For this, I love Roger and the rest of band. I feel more connected with him than anyone in my family and most of the people in my life. Perhaps after that sentence you might understand why The Wall was poignant to me.
The Wall 's creation myth begins in 1977, Montreal. In Parc Olympique the other side of the city from the Bell Centre, Floyd was touring for their 10th album Animals. Throughout the tour Roger had become more and more irritated with the fans. They seemed more interested in getting drunk and stoned than into the music. At that show he lost it and ended up having it out with a fan at the show. After the show he vented to Bob Ezrin (their producer) in a cab and said that he felt that there was a "wall" between him and the fans. A year or so later, Roger presented the band with two ideas for an album some of the songs already written, one was called The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking and the other, The Wall. The band loved the concept of The Wall and thought it had more potential for songs than the other did. But they thought it was too personal. They all had been friends since college and saw way too much of Roger in this concept. He hated authority, had a bad relationship with his mom, lost his father in WW II etc. They weren't sure they wanted to embark on this journey with him. They might have been right because Roger's ego trips during the recording session drove the band apart. Some of them didn't even talk during the sessions and only flew in for the recordings. Perhaps it was worth it. Look what we got from it.