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Is there anybody... out there?
The Wall started as a Rock Opera released as a Concept Album 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 high-octane-nightmare-fuel-loaded 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. 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.
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.
- Anti-Love Song: "Don't Leave Me Now."
- Assimilation Academy: "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" and "Another Brick in The Wall (Part II)"
- Author Avatar/Composite Character: Pink is based on Roger Waters, with a bit of Syd Barrett.
- Beneath the Mask: "In The Flesh?"
"If you wanna find out what's behind these cold eyes, you'll just have to claw your way through this disguise."
- 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 try to break my balls?
- Blood Is Squicker in Water
- Boarding School of Horrors: "Wroo-ooong! Do it again!"
- "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.
- Book Ends: 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".
- Careful with That Axe: During the transition between "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" and "Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two), as well as after the keyboard solo in "Run Like Hell."
- Celebrity Is Overrated: The overall theme of the album.
- Charge Into Combat Cut: We see the charging soldiers at the Battle of Anzio cut back and forth with a years later young Pink, whose father died in the battle.
- Cherubic Choir: "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)"
- The Cover Changes the Gender: Averted when Sinead O'Connor left the lyrics to "Mother" intact during Roger Waters's 1991 The Wall concert in Berlin.
- Creator Breakdown: Allegedly how this album came into being. Waters' father's death, drug use, and complex relations are referenced in many songs, not to mention Pink's In-Universe breakdown.
- Creator Cameo: Roger Waters appears as one of the witnesses during the wedding scene in the film version of "Mother," and plays the doctor in "Comfortably Numb,"
- Contemplating Your Hands: Appears in "Comfortably Numb" when Pink is on drugs.
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I've got that feeling once again
- A Crack in the Ice: "The Thin Ice".
- Crowd Song: "Bring The Boys Back Home".
- 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, 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.
- Deranged Animation: And this is the same guy that did Disney's Hercules...
- Disappeared Dad: Pink's father was killed in World War II, when Pink was just a child, and, thus, is absent from his life.
- Distinct Double Album
- 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.
- 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.
- Enforced Method Acting: The phone call heard at the end of "Young Lust"? Roger was actually calling Nick Mason, the drummer, who assumed he was getting crank called (the operator was asking for "Pink Floyd", after all) and promptly hung up; between that and the operator's confused reaction, it was just what Roger needed.
- Also, the groupie in the 'One Of My Turns' scene in the film ducked spontaneously at Bob Geldof throwing a wine bottle at her as part of the scene.
- 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!"
- Faux Symbolism: A relative aversion in that the mind screw imagery actually has well thought out meaning behind it. Your mileage will vary, of course.
- 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.
- Goodbye, Cruel World: Trope Namer, though Pink doesn't commit suicide.
- Gratuitous German: Waters can be heard calling out "Eins, zwei, drei, alle!" at the beginning of "Waiting for the Worms."
- Henpecked Husband: The teacher.
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
- 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.
- Joker Jury: "The Trial".
- Journey to the Center of the Mind: The "Trial" portion takes place well inside a very disturbed mind.
- Actually, the second half of the album/movie takes you into the mind of Pink. My guess, the 'Trial' portion is at the absolute center of the mind.
- Just for Pun: The form of the Judge is a literlisation of the saying "the law is an ass".
- List Song: "What Shall We Do Now?"
- Lonely Piano Piece: "Nobody Home".
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Mother", "In The Flesh".
- 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.
- Mind Screw: AND HOW!!
- Movie Bonus Song: "When The Tigers Broke Free" Parts 1 and 2.
- My Beloved Smother: Of COURSE Momma's gonna help build your wall...
- Mother, Did it need to be so...High?
- 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".
- 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.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Pink's Hammers -snicker- take cues from Mussolini's black shirts, SS troopers, and the KKK/skinheads.
- No Antagonist: The album is really about Pink's inner demons, how they got there and how they may have been overcome. There's no real antagonist for Pink.
- 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", and "The Trial" all lack their titles in their lyrics.
- No Name Given: We're never told Pink's full (or real) name. There are hints (the operator at the end of "Young Lust" tries to connect "a collect call from Mr. Floyd to Mrs. Floyd"; his father's name on the death scroll is "J. A. Pinkerton"), but not enough to put it all together.
Pink isn't well, he stayed back at the hotel...
- When he's putting the bullet on the traintrack, his friends refer to him as "Pinky".
- Precision F-Strike: According to the 2010 tour, the answer to the question "Mother, should we trust the government?" is "NO FUCKING WAY".
- Also in the new tour, at the end of "The Trial" the Judge orders Pink to "TEAR DOWN THE FUCKING WALL!"
- In at least some concerts, the song between "In The Flesh" and "Waiting For The Worms" was introduced as "Run Like Fuck".
- "You little SHIT, you're in it now...!"
- 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.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Pink's childhood is based on Roger Waters' early life, including his father dying in the war and horrible experience in school. Pink's Sanity Slippage as an adult is based on Syd Barrett's own Creator Breakdown. He really did shave his eyebrows.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "The Trial."
- 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.
- Sadist Teacher: "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" is about how certain teachers would hurt the kids anyway they could.
- Sanity Slippage Song: It's practically a Sanity Slippage Album. "The Trial" may be where it's most overt though.
- 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).
- Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn? Remember how she said that we would meet again some sunny day?
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: For being a famously depressing film/album, it's easy to forget both end with "Outside the Wall". But then...
- Technology Marches On: Pink has "thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from."
- 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
- Those Wacky Nazis
- Through the Eyes of Madness: Particularly after Pink's revival.
- Title Drop: "When the Tiger Broke Free Part 2".
It was dark all around/There was frost in the ground/When the Tigers Broke Free.
- "All in all it's just Another Brick In The Wall."
- Let's face it, apart from "In The Flesh(?)", "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives", "Young Lust", "Run Like Hell" and "The Trial", every song in the album has its Title Drop (though some of them like "The Thin Ice" or "One Of My Turns" make it more subtle).
- "All in all it's just Another Brick In The Wall."
- Troubled Fetal Position: Pink assumes this position a few times throughout the movie.
- Unreliable Narrator: Pink. The broad strokes of his life are probably true, but he may be exaggerating some of the details.
- 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.
- Write What You Know: Aside from taking Roger's inner troubles and piling on the symbolism, the operator at the end of "Young Lust" was inspired by an incident on tour when Roger randomly called his ex-wife and had a man answer the phone.
- You Are Not Alone: "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.