The Wall started as a Rock Opera released as a concept double album by the English Progressive 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 singer "Pink" and his rise and fall, which are caused by his deliberate isolation and his distancing himself from reality and human interaction.The Wall was heavily inspired by the Real Life trials of lead singer 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 realize 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 it was only performed in a handful of cities.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 exact 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. Instead, he "fills the empty spaces" of his wall as an adult super famous rock star with the typical vices of the rich and famous—drugs, cheap women, and fanatical groupies (free women).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—Nazis (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.
The Wall provides examples of:
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.
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.
"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".
Birth/Death Juxtaposition: At the end of the song "In The Flesh?" we hear an airplane coming down for a bombing dive, implying (at least on the album) 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: "Mother". There are also isolated lines every now and then that manage to provoke some nervous laughs amidst all the horror, like Mother will they come and try to break my balls?
Black Shirt: One of the many aspects of fascist imagery used in "Waiting for The Worms."
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."
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 it's 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 probably 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.
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.
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.
Early-Bird Cameo: near the end of 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".
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".
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," and singling out "the queers and the coons and the reds and the jews."
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.
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", his friends have to deal with an unreasonable, abusive pink. Some of them "stumble and fall" (ie. his wife), but they still try to help.
Heroic BSOD: Especially "Comfortably Numb" and, well, the rest of the album.
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.
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 realisation 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 but by a "surrogate band" wearing masks.
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 sometimes (clear words, followed by words that sound like they're coming through a megaphone).
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.
A line from the song "If" was mentioned by Pink's wife in "The Trial" ("You should have talked to me more often than you did, but no, you had to go your own way").
She also mentioned about her hoping that they "throw away the key", which probably was a reference to one of the more famous lines from "Brain Damage".
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 mommy! There's a plane up in the sky!" at the start of "Goodbye Blue Sky": Sometime between the release of Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall, the band incorporated an exploding spitfire plane into their stage show.
The "poems" that little Pink gets taken from him and read condescendingly to the class in school are the lyrics to Money.
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.
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.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: Pink's Hammers -snicker- take cues from Mussolini's black shirts, SS troopers, and the KKK/skinheads.
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.
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.
Patriotic Fervor: Yet another layer of fascist imagery in "Waiting for The Worms"
Would you like to see Brittania rule again, my friend?
Putting on the Reich: The uniform Pink dons in "In The Flesh" is blatantly based off of Nazi uniforms, right down the the symbol on the armband. This goes well with his descent into fascism.
Reality Subtext: The album was inspired by Roger realizing that he was becoming a cold destructive person after he spat on a fan (and reportedly made said fan's night) during their last tour. Roger himself said that, if it wasn't for his wife Carolyne, he would have become something like Pink.
Record Producer: Bob Ezrin had a heavy influence over the album, especially forcing Roger Waters to change the lyrics (if you ever listen to the demos, it's obvious that the changes are for the better), even if Waters made a dick move by refusing to give him any co-writing credits at first. 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. 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."
Rockstar Song: More like a Rockstar Album. The whole thing is about the disillusionment and isolation fame brings, intermingled with emotional wounds from a tough childhood, post WWII.
Sadist Teacher: "The Happiest Days of Our Lives," which provides the page quote for that page, is about how certain teachers would hurt the kids anyway they could. And how said teachers' wives abused them.
Sanity Slippage Song: It's practically a Sanity Slippage Album. "The Trial" may be where it's most overt though.
Crazy! Toys in the attic, I am crazy!
Sex Drugs And Rock And 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.
Shout Out: The poem Pink's math teacher mocks is Pink Floyd's earlier hit, "Money".
The lyrics that Pink recites in the bathroom just prior to "Stop" come from the then-unreleased songs "Your Possible Pasts" (from Pink Floyd's The Final Cut) and "5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)" (from Roger Waters's solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking). Additionally, a melody that would later be featured in the then-unreleased song "Southampton Dock" can be heard during the end credits.
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.
The Wall is given a reference in Stilyagi during the Komsomol meeting, which is shot the same way.
"I've got the obligatory Hendrix perm," in "Nobody Home." (NB: Syd Barrett had one, too.)
The Transformers Cybertron'' episode "Time" has one character say "All in all it's just another break in the wall," in a blatant shout out to "Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2"
Siamese Twin Songs: "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" > "Another Brick in The Wall, Part 2"
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".
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..."
One of the album's producers
: *interrupts* "Roger, Carolyne *
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, one incredibly detailed analysis of the album 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.
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.