National Album Day 2019: The Wall By Pink Floyd

When I was a young lad starting to try and get serious about music, I had discovered Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, but could not get into Pink Floyd. I knew I should, but having listened to my friends copy of Dark Side Of The Moon, i just did not get it. Then at the end of 1979, watching Top of the Pops as you did, I saw an animated video, with sadistic teachers, marching hammers and kids like me decrying that education was overrated. Of course It was Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, it was a Christmas Number 1 and was at the top of the charts around the world. Now I got it!

I had to go out and buy The Wall, after all I had heard that Margaret Thatcher hated the single, and that was enough PR I needed. The gatefold artwork by British illustrator Gerald Scarfe, was brilliant behind the stark white cover, with nightmarish caricatures  visible in the breaches in the wall. What I was not prepared for was the story of smothering parenthood and growing isolation. It turned out that Rock N Roll was not as glamorous as Smash Hits made it seem. Each track follows the previous one as childhood, progresses to unhappy adulthood. Before The Wall albums could be dipped in and out off. The Wall cannot be skipped though, it would be like buying a novel and ripping out random chapters. In fact I do not think I have ever, randomly listened to the album.

The intro, is quiet and then the opening bars of In The Flesh? kick in with glorious guitar and dark oppressive percussion, The Thin Ice is almost a menacing lullaby, dominated by piano, and this is how the album continues. Each short piece of music is well crafted and has its place in the track listing and there are ever decreasing circles. There are three parts to Another Brick In The Wall, the sheer desperation of Part 3 being my favourite. Side four, for those of you that still love vinyl has In The Flesh, sans question mark, where Pink, hallucinates that his gig is a Nazi rally. You get the feeling you have heard it before and of course you have, its intro is pretty much the same as track 1. This was released at a time when the National Front were prevalent in society, so it was topical. At the end of the album when you hear the wall crumble and the oppression ends, the last words are the truncated phrase “Isn’t this where we came in?” and you realise that the melody is that gentle one at the beginning of track 1. So this is an album that should be played in order, and the cyclical nature suggests it should be on loop. So you plunge back into the murky depths of this semi biographical masterpiece.

The Wall is the album that made me appreciate that, good albums have structure and is still one of my favourites. What about Dark Side Of The Moon, well I now got it, and it is also one of my favourite albums, I even understood Wish You Were Here. The Wall made me appreciate Pink Floyd, and hence opened my eyes to a whole raft of music and artists. So much so that when i went to the flicks to see the longest music video I had seen, or rather the feature film of the album starring Bob Geldof I was visually and aurally engulfed in it. It led to my first experience of my musical snobbery, as a lot of film goers had gone because of the leading man, who was famous for being the frontman of The Boomtown Rats. As there was very little dialogue, the ‘philistines’ did not get the film. I did though, I had forgotten my confusion at Dark Side Of The Moon just a few years previously.

As I have been writing this, The Album has been playing throughout, and it is just as magical as the first time. With digital music it is so easy to skip a track, there is none of that cueing the tonearm shenanigans, but I would never skip a track of The Wall, no matter how easy they make it.

The Wall by Pink Floyd, 1979, chosen by writer and reviewer Tony Creek

 

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