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
—In The Flesh?
The Wall started as a Rock Opera released as a concept double album by the English Psychedelic and Progressive Rock band Pink Floyd late in 1979. The theme of this album is similar to the one found in the band's earlier work The Dark Side of the Moon as it involved descent into insanity.The Wall follows a narrative about fictional rock star "Pink" and his rise and fall, which are caused by his deliberate isolation and his distancing himself from reality and human interaction. The character of "Pink" is based on both Roger Waters and Syd Barrett.The Wall was heavily inspired by the Real Life trials of bassist and then-frontman Roger Waters, who came up with the idea for the album after the last concert in Montreal during the 1977 tour in support of the band's album Animals. During the concert he spat in the face of an unruly fan who was climbing the fence between the crowd and the band. The fan was overjoyed to be spat on. This event caused Waters to realise that he was starting to distance himself from others and that this "wall" was turning him into a cold and destructive person.The band's tour promoting the album featured giant puppets, Deranged Animation by political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe and most notably, a giant wall of cardboard bricks that was constructed between the musicians and the audience during the course of the first half of the show. However, the stage show was so expensive, and cost so much to put together, that the tour only had 31 shows in four different cities (London, New York, Dortmund and Los Angeles); a revival tour by Roger Waters in 2010/2011 was still the most expensive concert tour of all time.The album was later adapted into a feature film, entitled Pink Floyd The Wall in 1982, directed by Alan Parker and featuring Bob Geldof as Pink. It set the music and story of Pink to horrific scenes that shifted from live-action to the aforementioned animation by Scarfe. Most memorable were the animated scenes of marching hammers and nightmarish blitz-era London, as well as the film's stunning climax. Scarfe drew upon his bedridden childhood to come up with the grotesque imagery featured prominently in the concerts and film.The album and movie share the same story. The first half of the movie and album introduce us to Pink and his insanely craptastic childhood. Events and circumstances in his childhood life—an overbearing/overprotective mom, a father who died in World War II, and insane Scottish math teachers—cause him to shun human interaction because he's afraid he'll be hurt. As an adult, he becomes a a super famous rock star and "fills the empty spaces" of his wall with the typical vices of the rich and famous: Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll.With us so far? Right.After his wife cheats on him, he finally snaps, and the album and movie take us inside the mind of Pink for the second half. After being revived from a drug coma and forcefully shot up with even more drugs by his managers to get him onstage, he imagines that he has become the very same force that started his wall—Fascists (okay, "hammer army")—and begins to order the audience to hate on various minority groups. Eventually, he retreats further into his mind during a moment of brief clarity, and puts himself on trial with a giant arse as judge and warped visions of his childhood fears as jury, and forces himself to tear down his wall as a result.Also available for your perusal, brave hunter, is this expertly-written analysis that is so in-depth it's scary.
"In The Flesh?"
"The Thin Ice"
"Another Brick In The Wall Part 1"
"The Happiest Days Of Our Lives"
"Another Brick In The Wall Part 2"
"Goodbye Blue Sky"
"Empty Spaces/What Shall We Do Now?"
"One Of My Turns"
"Don't Leave Me Now"
"Another Brick In The Wall Part 3"
"Goodbye Cruel World"
"Is There Anybody Out There?"
"Bring The Boys Back Home"
"The Show Must Go On"
"In The Flesh"
"Run Like Hell"
"Waiting For The Worms"
"Outside The Wall"
David Gilmour - guitar, backing and lead vocals, bass, synthesizer, clavinet, rototom, cymbal, mandolin
Nick Mason - drums, percussion, bass drum, cymbal, guitar
Roger Waters - lead vocals, bass, guitar, VCS3, synthesizer, clarinet
"All in all, you're just another trope in the wall."
Advancing Wall of Doom: Played horrifically straight in the movie during the animated sequence for "Empty Spaces/What Shall We Do Now?" In the sequence, a wall of personal possessions (cars, stereos, TVs, etc.) turns into a wall of buildings, which turns into the titular white brick wall. The Wall moves across the land at frightening speed, turning flowers into barbed-wire, and babies into skinhead goons. It even plows its way through a church, transforming it into a neon-lit casino that spews neon bricks.
Album Title Drop: The wall is mentioned with that exact wording in all three parts of "Another Brick In the Wall", "Mother", "Empty Spaces"/"What Shall We Do Now", "Hey You", "In The Flesh", "The Trial", and "Outside The Wall". There is also a mention of the wall without using the wording "the wall" in "Waiting For The Worms".
Aluminum Christmas Trees: If the idea of a rock star turning a concert into a neo-fascist rally sounds ridiculous, remember that Eric Clapton delivered a racist rant onstage a few years before the album was released. In another parallel with Pink, he was very drunk at the time. David Bowie had also toyed with fascist imagery in the Station To Station era with his "Thin White Duke" persona.
Animal Motif: The worms. Starting in "Hey You," they are, according to Waters, "symbols of negative forces within ourselves, [of] decay. The worms can only get at us because there isn't any light or whatever in our lives."
Pink's wife is often associated with predatory insects, especially ones that eat their mates when they're done mating with them.
The "Goodbye Blue Sky" animation features a predatory hawk morphing into a bomber plane.
Audience Participation Song: Invoked in live performances during the "Pink's concert turns into a fascist rally" portion, to go with Roger Waters' opinion of concerts as mass hysteria. One early idea was to have Pink literally bomb his audience, who'd still cheer as they were ripped apart.
Balcony Speech: Pink gives one in his Nazi uniform early on, serving as a metaphor about the band's relationship with their fans who saw them as godlike beings above and separated from them. At least one commentator has compared the scene to how gods are portrayed in theater, where they sit and watch, observant of yet detached from humanity.
Bath Suicide: The image of Pink bleeding out in his swimming pool.
"If you wanna find out what's behind these cold eyes, you'll just have to claw your way through this disguise."
Big Brother Is Watching: On Waters' 2012 The Wall tour, "Mother" features visuals such as a surveillance camera and the message "Big Brother Is Watching", with the BR in "Brother" crossed out and an M painted over it to say "Big Mother Is Watching".
Big Word Shout: Just after the chanting of the word "Hammer" drowns out Pink's megaphone amplified voice in "Waiting for The Worms" he yells out the word Stop! signaling the beginning of the song of the same name.
Birth-Death Juxtaposition: At the end of the song "In The Flesh?" we hear an airplane coming down for a bombing dive, implying on the album (and showing in the movie) the death of Pink's father, and just right after, the sound of Pink crying, announcing his birth to the world at the beginning of "The Thin Ice".
Black Comedy: Several of the lyrics show an understated, deadpan sense of humour that either provides momentary relief from or reinforces the album's depressing atmosphere, such as "Mother will they try to break my balls?" from "Mother", Pink gleefully recounting how the abusive teachers are thrashed "within inches of their lives" every night by their "fat and psychopathic wives" in "The Happiest Days of Our Lives", Pink's pathetic list of possessions in "Nobody Home", the "little pinprick" in "Comfortably Numb", Pink psychotically ranting about shooting his fans in "In the Flesh", and nearly all of "The Trial".
Black Shirt: One of the many aspects of fascist imagery used in "Waiting for The Worms."
Waiting to put on a black shirt! Waiting to weed out the weaklings! Waiting to smash in their windows and kick in their doors!
Black Widow: Pink imagines his wife as a praying mantis/dragon hybrid with flaming hair. Some fans have also noted her resemblance to Rokurokubi from Japanese mythology.
Blatant Lies: From the newer live tours of the album, we have what seems to be the Hammers' slogan: "Everything will be okay—you can trust us."
"If ye doon't eat yer meat, ye ken't have aneh puddin'! Hoo ken yeh have aneh puddin' if ye doon't eat yer meat?"
Body Horror: In the movie, Pink begins hallucinating that his body is rotting after being injecting with drugs in the "Comfortably Numb" sequence. This also marks his transformation into Fascist Pink.
Bookends: The first song starts with quiet music and someone saying "—we came in?", the last song ends with the same quiet music and someone saying "Isn't this where—".
To a lesser extent, "Comfortably Numb".
The second side of the first album starts with "Goodbye Blue Sky" and ends with "Goodbye Cruel World."
A near case of this can be found in the third quarter of the album. It was originally supposed to start with "Is There Anybody Out There?", but this was moved to the second song because "Hey You" made more musical sense at the beginning. However "Bring The Boys Back Home" still ends with Pink asking "Is there anybody out there?"
Breather Episode: "Young Lust" takes a temporary detour from the story of Pink's fucked up personality, and "Is There Anybody Out There?" is a mainly instrumental, melancholy piece that musically depicts Pink's isolation after he's completed his wall.
"Don't be surprised if a crack in the ice Appears under your feet"
Creator Breakdown: In-Universe, Pink has an epic one during "Another Brick In The Wall, Part III" after his wife leaves him followed by another one after "Comfortably Numb", where his journey of self-revelation is interrupted with drugs, and finally his Heel Realization during "Stop" coincides with one.
Creator Cameo: Roger Waters appears as one of the witnesses during the wedding scene in the film version of "Mother".
Crucified Hero Shot: In the film, after the scene for "One of My Turns" and going directly into "Don't Leave Me Now," Pink is in a pool stretched out like this with one of his arms bleeding.
Cut Song: In the film, there is no segment for "Hey You", one of the album's best known songs. One was filmed, but not included. The work print of the scene appears on the DVD. "The Show Must Go On," which appeared on the album (and was only played in its full form during the live shows), also did not appear in the film.
On the album there was "What Shall We Do Now?" While it was played in its full length at the live concerts and in the film, it was reworked into a shorter version called "Empty Spaces" on the album due to the time restraints of the vinyl format.
Darker and Edgier: The Wall is possibly Pink Floyd's overall darkest album, with a pervasive feeling of cynicism and despair permeating throughout both the lyrics and the music itself.
Dark Reprise: "Another Brick in the Wall Part 1" receives two Dark Reprises in the forms of Parts 2 and 3; whereas Part 1 is merely sad, Part 2 is angry, and Part 3 marks the point where Pink snaps and enters Heroic BSOD.
The second "In The Flesh" is darker than the first (titled "In The Flesh?"), in that Pink has gone fascist (or is hiding behind a fascist persona, as hinted by the singer) and is now ready to wage war against the world that made him that way. Also, in the first one, after the line, "So you thought you might like to go to the show," there is the sound of someone singing, "Do do do do." The second version replaces the vocal with an instrumental part, suggesting a lack of humanity.
The use of sound effects in "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3" is quite notable to show just how far-gone Pink is. He takes out the remainder of his pent-up rage and frustration on the TV, and the crashing noises get louder and louder and more intense.
Despair Event Horizon: The first half of the album ends with Pink crossing it, with "Goodbye Cruel World", right after his Heroic BSOD in "Another Brick In The Wall, Part 3" where he declares why he wants to go behind the wall. The rest of the album is about what happens while he's beyond the horizon.
Destination Defenestration: In "One Of My Turns", Pink "offers" to do this to the groupie, then himself, causing the groupie to run in terror.
Divided We Fall: Pink realizes this after he seals himself off from the world, and yells the trope name word for word at the end of "Hey You".
Hey You, don't tell me there's no hope at all! Together we stand, divided we fall!
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The charge of the audience into the concert hall at the beginning of "In The Flesh?" in the movie, at least to one annotator, seemed suggestive of procreative sperm trying to reach their way into the birth canal to unite with the egg cell.
The animation of the flowers reproducing with each other during "Empty Spaces" resembles two humans coupling. Often the shapes of the flowers turn into sex organs.
The Dog Bites Back: Pink's wife's segment in "The Trial". Her verbal beatdown of Pink is the most cheer-worthy moment of the song's first half, since Pink's teacher simply whines about his failure to properly "mould him into shape", and Pink's mother rehashes her smothering tendencies.
Pink: How could you go? / You know I need you / to beat to a pulp on a Saturday night.
He was certainly neglectful and emotionally abusive.
Double Standard: By a character, not the producers. Pink seriously considers cheating on his wife before going briefly Ax-Crazy and scaring the groupie off instead, and it's at least suggested that he has done so (and gone through with it) many times in the past. But as soon as he even suspects his wife of cheating on him, his cheese slips off his cracker completely.
The movie attempts to portray Pink as more sympathetic in this regard, by having him cheat on her after he finds out she cheated on him.
However, the film states explicitly that Pink showed no sexual interest in his wife at all, pushing her away when she wanted sex.
Dramatic Irony: Pink sings "I have seen the writing on the wall", in "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3", right before breaking off all contact with the world. A huge Analogy Backfire ensues since it doesn't occur to him that the writing on the wall involved the imminent destruction of the Babylonian kingdom and death of its king, who was defenseless against the onslaught. The analysis summarises the irony as Pink attempting to make himself look like the prophet Daniel, but instead casting himself as the doomed Belshazzar. Furthermore, his complete isolation actually leaves him defenseless against the worms and later transformation into Fascist Pink, more or less hastening the wall's destruction.
Drop the Hammer: Hammers are a motif in the lyrics ("Let me hammer him today" from "The Trial") and in the animation.
Early-Bird Cameo: At the beginning of "Stop" in the film, Pink mutters the words "Do you remember me? How we used to be?" to himself. These are lines from "Your Possible Pasts", one of the songs on Pink Floyd's subsequent album, The Final Cut. He also recites lines which would later appear in "5:11AM (The Moment of Clarity)" from Waters' solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.
Additionally, the during the version of "Outside the Wall" in the film one can briefly hear a melody that appears in the song "Southampton Dock" from The Final Cut.
"When the Tigers Broke Free", the first Floyd song heard in the movie, was released as a single, with the intention of it appearing on The Final Cut, but that didn't happen. (See What Could Have Been on the Trivia page.) It was first officially released on the 2001 compilation album Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.
The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Stop" is Pink's brief, reflective, sung soliloquy immediately preceding his climatic "trial." Not as prominent in the film, as it is sung quietly in a bathroom stall with added phase-shifting effects, but it appears at the same moment and performs the same function.
Evil Teacher: Pink's old math teacher. Somewhat sympathetic in that his hatred of his students is part of the Vicious Cycle theme of the movie/album.
In fact, Waters went on to write several songs on The Final Cut from the teacher's POV, blaming his treatment of his students on his own trauma stemming from - surprise, surprise - WWII. "When you're one of the few/To land on your feet/What do you do to make ends meet?/Teach!"
Fading into the Next Song: Most tracks. The best known is "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" > "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2", with the second place probably going to "Empty Spaces" > "Young Lust". The few tracks that don't do this are the ones at the beginning and end of the original LP sides, but some of them have symbolic value: the sudden silence at the end of "Goodbye Cruel World" represents Pink's completion of his isolation from the world, and the fade-out during the guitar solo of "Comfortably Numb" symbolises the continued war between the various parts of Pink's personality.
Feathered Fiend: The massive fighter plane-like eagle that appears in the film's "Goodbye Blue Sky" animation.
Final Solution: As if to drive home the Nazi comparisons, "Waiting For The Worms" has Pink singing about waiting for "The Final Solution to strengthen the strain", which would involve "turning on the showers and firing the ovens", and singling out "the queers and the coons and the Reds and the Jews".
Not many realize that when Pink sings, "If I had my way, I'd have all of you shot", he's not talking about just those minorities. He means all of his fans.
The "sequel" The Final Cut has Waters singing "The final solution can finally begin."
Framing Device/In Medias Res: The album itself isn't clear on whether or not this is the case with the opening song, "In The Flesh?" but the movie seems to use the song as one, having Pink sing to the crowds before showing us his life up to that point looking just like he does after his descent into neo-nazism.
Freudian Excuse: Subverted-while the first pieces of Pink's wall were the result of childhood trauma, the movie, album, and Waters himself make it very clear that it's his fault for maintaining his Wall instead of coming to terms with his world and that his unhappy marriage and cheating wife were implied to have been at least partially his fault.
Gainax Ending: Pink puts himself through a hallucinatory "trial" where the most important people from his past life berate him for causing them so much pain, the monsters from within his mind condemn him for showing human emotions, and he has his mental wall torn down as a "final sentence". In the movie, we cut to a clip of a brick wall exploding, and see a strangely tranquil scene of children playing in some rubble and pouring out (what appears to be) a Molotov cocktail as "Outside the Wall" plays. Roll credits.
Genre Roulette: Arena, acoustic, hard, and of course, progressive rock. With some shades of disco.
And bar-band balladry ("Nobody Home"), electronic (the first half of "Don't Leave Me Now"), and quasi-opera ("The Trial").
Giant Flyer: In the "Goodbye Blue Sky" clip from the movie, a massive fighter plane-like eagle makes an appearance. In "What Shall We Do Now?", the girl flower turns into a large pterodactyl-like...thing.
Gratuitous German: Waters can be heard calling out "Eins, zwei, drei, alle!" at the beginning of "Waiting for the Worms."
Gratuitous Panning: "Run Like Hell". Every new line Roger sings switches to the opposite channel. (This also occurs in the live version on Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81, except Roger and David are trading lines.)
Left Channel: You better run all day and run all night
Right Channel: and keep your dirty feelings deep inside!
The song also begins with a crowd chanting "Pink! Floyd! Pink! Floyd!" solely in the left channel, which is pointed out by a commenter in the above-mentioned analysis as a symbolic reference to the band's own left-wing beliefs, Waters being a vocal socialist. The chant is also heard in the end, but another crowd yelling "HAMMER! HAMMER!" appears in the right channel and becomes loud enough to drown out the other crowd. Considering the song that is transitioned to is "Waiting for the Worms", the panning isn't a coincidence.
Their fat and psychopathic wives would thrash them
Within inches of their lives
Subverted with Pink himself. His wife wants normal human interaction, but Pink ignores her desires.
Here We Go Again: Pink's mental problems are cyclical. Every time he goes into one of his "turns" (and "One of My Turns" makes it quite clear this is a habitual occurrence), his friends have to deal with an unreasonable, abusive Pink. Some of them "stumble and fall" (i.e. his wife), but they still try to help.
Heroic BSOD: Especially "Comfortably Numb" and, well, the rest of the album.
Hey, You!: "don't help them to bury the light/Don't give in without a fight"
How We Got Here: The album opens with "In The Flesh?", where Pink is at full "dictator" mode, and decides to tell his story. It eventually returns to that moment with "In the Flesh", where shows Pink after his psychotic break turning his concert into a fascist neo-Nazi rally.
I'm a Humanitarian: "Ya can't have any PUDDIN' if ya don't eat yer Meat!" The "Meat" is made of students, though this IS all in Pink's mind. And it's only in the movie, but still.
iProduct: Mercilessly mocked during the 2012 "The Wall" tour, where they flash people with pig heads and white headphone cords going to their ears doing various activities with phrases like iResist and iLose.
Joker Jury/Kangaroo Court: "The Trial", where Pink puts himself on trial, with only one possible conclusion. However it ultimately proves useful as the judge orders him to tear down the wall that had divided him from everyone else.
Large Ham: Bob Geldof's portrayal of Pink. Roger himself delivers some songs with extreme bombast (best example being "The Trial", where he delves into 5 different characters, each hammier than the previous).
Laser-Guided Karma: The teachers in "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" that hurt the children receive their comeuppance every night when their wives beat them "within inches of their lives."
Limey Goes to Hollywood: Part of the album was recorded in L.A., as the band were tax exiles due to a bad business deal.
List Song: "What Shall We Do Now?" where Pink lists all the things he can do with his new-found fame and fortune, and "Nobody Home", where he lists all of his worldly possessions.
And previously, a Lonely Guitar Piece with "Is There Anybody Out There?".
Loss of Identity: In the film version, whenever a group has masks on their faces, this is essentially what happened to them.
Fridge Brilliance: The Wall was born partly from Waters' Artist Disillusionment and the realization that nobody actually knew or cared who the band members were, just that there was some spectacle on stage. In live performances of The Wall, the first song wouldn't be performed by Pink Floyd themselves but by a "surrogate band" consisting of session musicians wearing masks with the likeness of the bandmembers.
Lyrical Dissonance: "Mother", "In The Flesh". "Run Like Hell" wins the prize, however - dance the night away to lyrics discussing racial violence and rape.
Maligned Mixed Marriage: In the movie, we see Pink's Hammer army attack a black man making out with a white woman in the back of his car, while one of their numbers rapes the woman.
Miniscule Rocking: "Stop" clocks in at only 30 seconds, making it the shortest song in Pink Floyd's entire library, beating out "A New Machine, Pt. 2" from A Momentary Lapse of Reason by 8 seconds. Still, it's also one of the most important songs on the album as it signals when Pink has his Heel Realization.
Alan Parker had this reaction after the extras (real skinheads, by the way) really got into the rape scene in "Run Like Hell".
Roger Waters had this reaction to his spitting on a fan at the last concert of the Animals tour, which helped to inspire this album.
Pink has a moment like this at the end of "Waiting For The Worms" leading directly to his Heel Realization.
Earlier, he has one about his decision to go behind the wall, leading to him crying out for meaningful human contact in "Hey You".
Mythology Gag: A lot of references to songs and concepts from Floyd's career are scattered throughout the album...
The scream from "Run Like Hell" and the beginning of "Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2" was used in "Pow R. Toc H." and "Careful With That Axe, Eugene".
Pink's "favorite axe" brings to mind "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" and "One Of These Days," although "axe" is a traditional rock slang term for guitar.
Floyd's use of war as a subject matter goes back as early as "Corporal Clegg", a man scarred from his experiences in World War II. Wonder if he was the one who brought the bad news about Pink's dad...
"Waiting For The Worms" also uses similar vocal techniques to "Corporal Clegg" (clear words, followed by words that sound like they're coming through a megaphone—literally in the case of the latter song), as well as sharing certain structural similarities (aggressive verses driven by heavy guitar riffs, followed by more melodic choruses employing vocal harmonies).
Roger Waters mentioned in an interview that the main riff for "Another Brick In The Wall" was based on the first half of the main riff from "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun", which, coincidentally, contains the line "Witness the man who raves at the wall".
"Hey you, won't you help me to carry the stone?". "The stone" was also mentioned in "Crying Song" (from More) and "Dogs" (from Animals).
The rambling Scotsman from "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict" was probably the inspiration for the teacher.
Pink deludedly whines "Remember the flowers I sent" in "Don't Leave Me Now". "What Shall We Do Now?" mentions "sending flowers by phone", emphasising Pink's obliviousness and social disconnection.
One of Pink's wife's complaints in "The Trial" is "You should have talked to me more often than you did, but no! You had to go your own way!". One of the lyrics of "If" (from Atom Heart Mother) is "And if I were a good man/I'd talk with you more often than I do", thus reinforcing the fact that Pink is not a good man. (The slight change in words adds to the effect, as "If" mentions "talking with you more often" but Pink's wife is furious that Pink doesn't "talk to her more often", making Pink look even more of a jerkass.)
She also sings "I hope they throw away the key", a reference to one of the more famous lines from "Brain Damage". ("You lock the door/And throw away the key/There's someone in my head/But it's not me".)
She also mocks him by asking "Broken up any homes lately?", "break up homes?" being one of the suggestions in "What Shall We Do Now?".
Sound effects from "Echoes", such as the piano "ping" and the whale calls, were used in "Hey You" and "Is There Anybody Out There?" respectively.
Waters' son Harry saying the line "Look mummy! There's an aeroplane up in the sky!" at the start of "Goodbye Blue Sky". Sometime after the release of The Dark Side of the Moon, the band incorporated an exploding spitfire plane into their stage show, as the climax of "On the Run". Harry also plays keyboards in the new touring band.
The "poems" that little Pink gets taken from him and read condescendingly to the class in school are from the lyrics to "Money".
The poems Bob Geldof mumbles in the "Stop" sequence include lyrics from "Your Possible Pasts", from The Final Cut, and "5:11 AM (Moment of Clarity)" from Waters' solo album The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking (which, as detailed in the What Could Have Been section, was originally offered to the band as a possible concept along with The Wall).
The biggest one of all comes from Wish You Were Here, and has connections in reality: the song "Have a Cigar" asks, "Oh, by the way, which one's Pink?" Which, naturally, came up in a radio interview.
Similarly, Pink shaving his eyebrows in the movie is based on an incident from the Wish You Were Here sessions, where the band was recording "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", their tribute to founding member Syd Barrett, when they were randomly visited by a fat, bald, middle-aged man with shaved eyebrows; after several uncomfortable minutes, they realised it was Syd.
The movie's Body Horror sequence in "Comfortably Numb" as Pink is carried down the hall is believed to be also a reference to Barrett's habit of crushing quaaludes and mixing them with his hair cream before going onstage, so that they would melt as the concert progressed, making him look like what Roger Waters described as "a guttered candle".
In the Special Edition DVD of The Movie, Roger Waters' DVD Commentary ends with him casually saying "Isn't this where we came in?"
The opening song and the song where Pink has descended into the depths of his insanity are both called "In The Flesh". An incident on the "In The Flesh" Tour, which was to promote their last album, Animals, inspired this album.
The two note bassline in "Goodbye Cruel World" sounds similar to the one at the end of "See Emily Play".
A Nazi by Any Other Name: Pink's Hammers -snicker- take cues from Mussolini's black shirts, SS troopers, and the KKK/skinheads. "Waiting for the Worms" doesn't really bother to try to disguise the fact that they are neo-Nazis, as the lyrics reference the Holocaust with "the final solution to strengthen the strain" and "waiting to turn on the showers and fire the ovens".
Non-Appearing Title: Both versions of "In The Flesh", "Another Brick In The Wall" parts 1 and 3, "The Happiest Days of Our Lives", "Young Lust", "Run Like Hell" (the lyrics "You better run like hell" appeared to have been dropped from the song at the last minute, judging by the liner notes), and "The Trial" all lack their titles in their lyrics. In concert, there's also the Reprise Medley of "The Last Few Bricks", which has no lyrics.
Non-Indicative Title: "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" doesn't refer to particularly happy days in Pink's life, though considering how bad his life has been, they may very well be the happiest days of his life.
Paranoia Fuel: Invoked by Roger himself. During the tour, Roger would sometimes introduce "Run Like Hell" by saying it was for "all the paranoids in the audience."
Patriotic Fervor: Yet another layer of fascist imagery in "Waiting for The Worms"
Would you like to see Brittania rule again, my friend?
Performance Anxiety: Pink suffers from this during "The Show Must Go On". Made most clear in the extended version they played in concert:
Do I have to stand up Wild-eyed in the spotlight? What a nightmare Why don't I turn and run?
Inverted: The fictitious Hammer Skins of the film inspired a real-life skinhead group.
Not-so-Inverted: Those Hammer Skins in the film were real skinheads.
Waters said that "Comfortably Numb" was inspired by when he was suffering from hepatitis before a Philadelphia show on the In the Flesh tour, but was misdiagnosed by a doctor as having stomach cramps and injected with powerful tranquilisers, describing the experience of "trying to do a show when you can hardly lift your arm" as "the longest two hours of my life".
The phone operator at the end of "Young Lust" is based on an incident in the In the Flesh tour when Waters tried to call his ex-wife Judy Trim, only to have the phone answered by a man.
"One Of My Turns" is based on a backstage incident at the band's 1975 Knebworth concert. Roy Harper, who did the vocal on "Have A Cigar", flew into a rage upon discovering his stage costume was missing, smashing up one of the band's vans. He also coincidentally cut his hand, as Pink does during the movie.
The heavy police presence at the beginning of the film is based on a real Pink Floyd show in Los Angeles from the In The Flesh tour.
Record Producer: Bob Ezrin had a heavy influence over the album, especially forcing Roger Waters to change the lyrics to make them more universal and less autobiographic (if you ever listen to the demos, it's obvious that the changes are for the better, particularly for "Another Brick in the Wall" and "Comfortably Numb"), and converting his concept into a 40-page script during the preliminary sessions that allowed the band to work on the album better. Despite being credited for "pulling the whole thing together" by engineer Nick Griffiths by "bridging the gap" between Gilmour and Waters, he and Waters did not get along very well during the album's sessions, as Waters pulled a dick move by denying him co-writing credits at first and mocked him at one point by having the band wear badges reading "NOPE" (NoPoints Ezrin), reminding him of his reduced share of royalties. Co-producer James Guthrie was similarly praised by Gilmour and others for playing a key part in crafting the album's overall sound.
Pink Floyd, to be fair, made Ezrin sign a contract forbidding him from revealing details and plot points about the stage show, which Ezrin violated via a radio interview. This incensed Waters (and to a lesser extent, the other band members) to the point that Bob was not allowed to attend any of the shows, and his credits on the album were taken off for a while. Ezrin himself admitted that he was not "in the best shape emotionally", struggling with marital problems during the recording, and he further annoyed the band with his poor punctuality despite the punishing schedule (Mason found frequent humour in mocking his elaborate and unlikely excuses for lateness), and at one point had a confrontation with Richard Wright that led him to working only at nights. They did patch things up with him to the point that Ezrin was asked to produce Roger's Radio KAOS (Ezrin declined as it was taking him away from his family) and eventually did produce Gilmour's Floyd albums (to Waters' disgust) and Gilmour's About Face solo album.
Recurring Riff: A short 4-note riff is prevalent throughout the album, being most clearly heard at the beginning of "The Trial."
Reprise Medley: During the live shows, the band would play a medley called "The Last Few Bricks" between "Another Brick In The Wall (Part 3)" and "Goodbye, Cruel World" in order to give the stagehands time to construct the titular wall. The recording of this medley found on the live album Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81 includes material based on instrumental sections from "The Happiest Days of Our Lives," "Another Brick In The Wall (Part 1)," "Don't Leave Me Now," "Young Lust" and "Empty Spaces."
Rock Star Song: More like a Rock Star Album. The whole thing is about the disillusionment and isolation fame brings, intermingled with emotional wounds from a tough childhood, post WWII, and its overall message is that isolation is immensely destructive to a person.
Roger Rabbit Effect: During the movie version of "Don't Leave Me Now." A live action Pink is being attacked by his animated perspective of his wife.
Sadist Teacher: "The Happiest Days of Our Lives," which provides the page quote for that page, is about how certain teachers would hurt the children any way they could. In the movie, it's made clear that the teacher is one of these, when he grabs Pink's book of poems, reads one of them aloud to the classnote Which is "Money," by the way., then calls it absolute rubbish.
Safety In Indifference: Pink comes to the conclusion that there is safety in indifference during "Another Brick in The Wall, Part III", angrily declaring what the world has shown him:
I don't need no arms around me, And I don't need no drugs to calm me! I have seen the writing on the wall, Don't think I need anything at all! No! Don't think I need anything at all! All In all it was all just bricks in the wall All in all, you were all just bricks in the wall!
Sanity Slippage Song. It's practically a Sanity Slippage Album. "One of My Turns" is where Pink first snaps. "The Trial" may be where it's most overt though.
Crazy! Toys in the attic, I am crazy!
Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: "Young Lust," and, according to Nicholas Schaffner's 1991 book Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey, the passage in "Nobody Home" that ends "I've got a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains," is about keyboardist Richard Wright, who was suffering from a massive cocaine problem at the time.
Vera Lynn's song "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot" plays in the background during the opening sequence of the movie.
The Another Brick in The Wall sequence is a shout out to Metropolis, with schoolchildren playing the part of the workers from said movie.
"I've got the obligatory Hendrix perm," in "Nobody Home." (NB: Syd Barrett had one, too.)
The album begins and ends in the middle of the same sentence, just like Finnegan's Wake.
The Show Must Go On: "The Show Must Go On" obviously. To be more specific, Pink's trip through his past is interrupted by drugs injected at the request of his stage manager and driven to the concert, while wondering where the feeling has gone and whether he would remember the songs.
Siamese Twin Songs: "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" > "Another Brick in The Wall, Part 2"
"Empty Spaces" > "Young Lust"
Only on the studio version - when played live, What Shall We Do Now follows Empty Spaces, and Young Lust has its own extended intro.
Smash Cut: "Waiting for the Worms" / "Stop". In the live shows, the March of the Hammers would suddenly cut to black. In the movie, it smash-cuts to Bob Geldof's screaming face.
Society Marches On: Invoked by inclusion of footage from The Dam Busters, a 1955 film in which soldiers fret about a black-furred dog they named "Nigger".
Strange Salute: The hammer sign, done by holding both clenched fists overhead with their wrists crossed.
Subliminal Seduction: The song "Empty Spaces" contains the amusingly self-referential, if kind of hard to make out since it's so buried in the mix, backwards message
Roger Waters: "Congratulations, hunters, you've just discovered the secret message! Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont..." James Guthrienote One of the album's producers: *interrupts* "Roger, Carolynenote Roger's then-wife is on the phone." Roger Waters: "Okay".
This bit can also double as Fridge Brilliance since in the context of the album, it's a bit of Foreshadowing about Pink's mental breakdown. Also, the scarily in-depth analysis mentioned above points out that Waters abandoning the message to pick up the phone reinforces the entire album's theme about the importance of communication. This interpretation's also aided by Waters' later admission that he would've ended up like Pink if it wasn't for Carolyne.
Take That: The lyrics "I've got nicotine stains on my fingers/Got a silver spoon on a chain/Got a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains" are thought to refer to band member Richard Wright, who was allegedly struggling with an addiction to cocaine and was viewed as not pulling his weight by Waters during the recording of The Wall. He ended up being kicked out of the band during the recording sessions for The Wall, but was listed as a member on copies of the album, contributed to most of the songs and played keyboards on tour with the band as a session musician, being later reinstated as a full member after Waters' departure.
Take That Me: Pink acknowledges he's fully responsible for everything he does. The Trial is him putting himself on Trial.
Textless Album Cover: In the original release. Later releases added "Pink Floyd The Wall" in a graffiti-like font on the front cover.
That Man Is Dead: After Pink's Freak Out when his wife leaves him, he is forced back on stage to perform - but emerges as a neo-Nazi, and announces his change by claiming to be a new person:
I've got some bad news for you, sunshine
Pink isn't well, he stayed back at the hotel
And they sent us along as a surrogate band
We're gonna find out where you fans really stand
This Is My Story: If you subscribe to the theory that "In The Flesh?" is a framing device for the rest of the story,note The album as a whole is mind-screwy enough that it's hard to say whether or not it is a framing device then it's an example of this.
Uncommon Time: "Mother". Nick Mason couldn't handle the different time signatures, and due to the tight schedule, had to be replaced by session drummer Jeff Porcaro.
Unreliable Narrator: Pink. The broad strokes of his life are probably true, but he may be exaggerating some of the details. Waters emphasised this aspect in interviews with Tommy Vance promoting the album, drawing attention to how it's never explicitly stated whether Pink actually did abuse his wife the way he sings in "Don't Leave Me Now" or if he's simply "wallowing in depravity" after his fit of anger in the previous song, or how Pink's mother may not be anywhere near as prissy or cruel as she's depicted in "Mother". (The analysis points out that she always refers to herself in the third person, making it more likely that it's not actually her in the chorus, but Pink.) We can't really know for sure since nearly the entire album is told from his point-of-view anyway (the only character that actually has an independent voice is the groupie in "One of My Turns").
Vicious Cycle: The album's main theme is how the cycle of lack of communication perpetuates itself.
A secondary theme seen in "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" is about the cycle of violence and unhappiness: the teacher is domestically abused at home by his wife, and reacts by lashing out in turn at the students and picking on them.
Villain Song: "In the Flesh," "Run Like Hell," and "Waiting for the Worms" can be seen as this, given they're sung from the point of view of Pink's fascist persona.
Visual Pun: The form of the Judge is a literalisation of the saying "the law is an ass".
You Answered Your Own Question: At the end of "One of My Turns", having trashed his hotel room and had a huge temper tantrum, part of it including more or less threatening to defenestrate the groupie he'd just brought along, Pink ends by asking "Why are you running away?".
All alone, or in twos the ones who really love you Walk up and down outside the wall.
You Are What You Hate: A recurring theme. Pink becomes a fascist, the very thing his father had died fighting against, as noted in the later songs "In The Flesh", "Run Like Hell", and "Waiting For The Worms". And he tries to rebel against the conformity of his school by becoming a rock star, only to realize that his teenage fans are so mindlessly devoted to him that they've forgotten how to think for themselves—making him, in his own way, just as oppressive as his teachers once were.