Should I admit that I took the time to listen to Pink Floyd’s The Wall tonight? That I did it sober? Well, I did. I hadn’t listened to the whole album all the way through since law school at the latest, so that’s at least fifteen years.
Now, you’re absolutely right to roll your eyes: The Wall is narcissistic, self-absorbed, and periodically juvenile. But it’s also a brilliant piece of music. Really good orchestration and arrangements, really good use of the dubs and audio-dissolves, Roger Waters giving his all on vocals and David Gilmour giving the best guitar work of his career. And linked together in what turns out to be a coherent and viable, if not always blindingly obvious, arc of a story that rushes forward with a relentless momentum, which is how I found myself sucked in to listening to the whole thing instead of only one or two songs as I’d originally intended.
Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 is the famous song with the “We don’t need no education” lyric, but Another Brick In The Wall Parts 1 and 3 are much more scary and musically interesting. You’ll remember the other big hits, like Young Lust and Comfortably Numb. But the less famous songs — Goodbye Blue Sky, Waiting For The Worms, Mother, and Empty Spaces — are really, really good, especially in the context of the album’s overall story arc. As to that narrative, I won’t believe that life as a rock star sucks so badly that it drove Roger Waters insane, although the drugs may have played a part in that. And all the drugs may have unleashed some serious creativity, because the story arc holds together nicely from beginning to end.
By the way, did you know that Toni Tennille — yes, of Captain & Tennille — did backup vocals on The Wall?