Essential Music: Pink Floyd, The Wall

I hadn’t listened to The Wall in ages, but, this morning, I decided to spin it. I had noticed that Roger Waters is playing four shows in Paris next week, and I was trying to convince my son, who’s doing an internship in Paris, to go see it. (Even if only nosebleed seats are left.) He’s a Pink Floyd fan, but, like many fans of the band, his favorite albums are those up to and including Animals.

But listening again to The Wall I am reminded what wonderful songs this album contains. Sure, the whole “concept album” thing gets in the way, especially when you listen to the recording (as opposed to seeing it in concert). I was fortunate to be able to see the original tour in February, 1980, at the Nassau Coliseum. I recall a friend and I having spent $35 each to get tickets from a scalper, and we had decent seats at the far end of the arena, opposite the stage, about mid-level. This gave a good overall view of the stage, though it was far enough that the performers were small. (No big screens showing video back then.)

It was a memorable concert, not only for the staging, but also for the sound. When we arrived, one of the first things we noticed was a huge number of speakers at the top of the arena, just below the ceiling, all around; this provided an interesting soundstage. Also, there were props hung from the ceiling, such as the plane that crashes into the wall during In the Flesh?

But back to the songs. Comfortably Numb, In the Flesh?, Mother, Is There Anybody Out There?, Run Like Hell, and, of course, the mega-hit Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2, are all powerful songs that would have made up an excellent album on their own. Like operas, there is filler holding the songs together, and if you take out the lesser bits, you have a good hour of fine songs, and some searing guitar solos to boot.

While not Pink Floyd’s best album by a long shot – personally, my favorite is Wish You Were Here (soon to be re-re-released in an “Immersion Box Set“), followed by Dark Side of the Moon (another Immersion Box Set); I have a soft spot for Meddle, especially the 23:31 Echoes, one of the great space songs of the late 60s.

The only time I was able to see the band live was during the Wall tour, and I will long remember just how impressive the stage show was. Again, not the band’s best album, but pick out the great songs and make a playlist; you’ll have a nice hour’s listen.