Pink Floyd The Wall: dystopia as a metaphor for self-isolation

pink floyd the wall

Pink Floyd’s album The Wall, released on November 30, 1979, is the last one with the classic group line-up.
At the end of the tour, musician Richard Wright was fired by Roger Waters and did not participate from the recordings of The Final Cut.

The Wall has reached number one on Billboard Top in the US and number three in the UK.

We can consider it one of Pink Floyd’s most complex works.
The complexity is also due to the subjects surrounding the central concept of the work.

Besides the music and the record itself, The Wall is a rock opera, where the set design, the projection, the puppets, the puppets, the inflatables, the costumes and of course, the wall itself completes every story beyond the record.
In other words, the songs are staged and performed, much more than a simple performance by the band.

In addition, the complexity also lies in the re-reading of the opera as a metaphor for a wall that isolates oneself from the other, closing us into a seemingly impenetrable but ultimately very fragile well.

The dystopian narration is divided into a double album, containing eighty-one minutes, with twenty-eight songs.

This division of the album represents precisely the emotional state of the protagonist and his journey towards self-isolation, a journey from the memories and traumas of his childhood to the final self-destruction at the height of his success.

Pink Floyd The Wall

The birth of The Wall by Pink Floyd

Probably the creative spark for The Wall took place during the performance of the tour “In the Flesh” on June 6, 1977 at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada.

At the time the band played for 80,000 people, but a small group of “noisy” fans at the front of the stage shouted and distracted the musicians so much that they exasperated the band.
At the end of the show Waters lost his patience and spat in the face of a fan who interrupted them.
The band played “Drift Away Blues”, at low volume and acoustic, like street musicians in an unpretentious jam session.
Gradually, the musicians dismantled part of the stage, and, one after the other, the members left the stage.

Gilmour, angry, refused to go on and was replaced by Snowy White.

Therefore, Waters thought in a new dynamic with the audience and an unprecedented configuration for perform live: build a wall that separates the band from your audience.

However, the relationship between the musicians and the audience had gradually thinned out, so Waters’ reaction was just the bucket that overflows to the nth drop.

The wall served to “express the idea of alienation and separation that I felt between me and them,” Waters comments.

What Pink Floyd’s The Wall says

In short The Wall is the saga of Pink, a very successful star who is facing a painful separation with his wife while on tour.
He begins to review his life and all the people who somehow made him suffer:

  • the absence of his father who died during World War II,
  • the overprotective mother,
  • the oppressive teacher – representative of an old-style education,
  • the lethal woman,
  • the stupid groupies.

Each one responsible for the isolation of the world.

pink floyd the wall

In a delirium watered down with drugs and medicines, Pink sees himself as a fascist dictator who commands a legion of obedient fans.
At its peak, the wall has fallen as a metaphor for a musician who faces his fears.
But slowly, small problems resurface, suggesting the cyclical idea of the protagonist’s life problems.

The album cover designed by Gerald Scarfe, direct and minimalist, condenses well this feeling of isolation.
And so, you have to open the wall to slowly discover and listen to Pink’s narration.

The large, pale wall is, in this sense, a counterpoint to the colourful world of caricature characters illustrating the songs.

At this link you can find a beautiful reading of the album.

Welcome behind the Wall!