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.

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4 replies
  1. Chucky says:

    “but, like many fans of the band, his favorite albums are those up to and including Animals.”

    Count me in with your son. (And I’ve got Animals ranked as their only “essential” album…)

    Though I’m happy The Wall was created, if only because The Sopranos mega-opera wouldn’t have been quite as perfect if no one had ever recorded Comfortably Numb.

  2. Jerry says:

    I was in college when The Wall came out, and I remember writing an article for the college paper asking if Pink Floyd had actually outdone themselves — because I couldn’t imagine them ever topping this album. Turns out I was right. Everything else they’ve released turned out to be a disappointment.

    I’m also one of the ones who especially likes everything from before The Wall, going all the way back into the awesomely strange Syd Barrett stuff.

    My new “Pink Floyd” is a band (or, actually, a project) called Shpongle.

  3. Jerry says:

    (To clarify what the heck I meant by that last line: Pink Floyd used to be my absolutely favorite band — but that torch has been passed to Shpongle, who are now my new “Pink Floyd.”)

  4. Vic says:

    Hey Kirk,

    I reckon The Wall comes close to being ‘up there’ with their best stuff. The album stumbles towards the very end. Back in the days of vinyl, it was the second half of side four of the double LP. Basically, from Run Like Hell onwards it all gets a bit too theatrical & the quality of the songs nosedives. Up until that song I think the album’s great. If you picked the ‘cream’ of the songs & stuck them on a CD, it would be as good as anything they’ve done.

    Dark Side is still my fave album partly for sentimental reasons. It was the 2nd album I owned after Led Zeppelin III & I was lucky enough to win the album in a contest on my local indie radio station in Sydney, Australia. I agree with you about Wish You Were Here – a classic album. I love the album Meddle too for the majestic ambient epic Echoes, but also for the adrenalin rush of One of These Days.

    I wasn’t fortunate enough to see the line-up with Roger Waters, but I did see them ‘live’ around the time of A Momentary Lapse of Reason. They were great. They used surround (or Quadraphonic for baby boomers) sound & it was awesome. The visuals & stage props were stunning as well. A memorable night.

    Jerry mentioned Shpongle as his ‘new Floyd’. If you like a bit of electronica, check out their album Tales of the Inexpressible. Amazing ‘psychedelic brew’ of electronica, world music & dub. ‘Killer’ production that sounds great on a hi-fi, or even better on a good ‘set of cans’. As far as a new generation ‘Floyd’, the one that springs to my mind is The Orb, particularly Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld.

    PS: I read your book iTunes Garage a few years ago & really enjoyed it. Not your average computer book. Thought the side-bar blogs were cool.



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