Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wall - Part 1

When I was a kid, I always had a love/hate relationship with the two-parter episodes of Happy Days.  I could remember watching Fonzie about to jump across a line of buses and yet there was less than a minute left of the show.  “Oh my gosh, will this be one of those two-parters?” I would fret as Fonzie’s bike ran up the ramp and half way through his jump came the words

To be continued…

“Nooooo! I can’t wait another week, why didn’t they write a shorter version of this?"  Yet, when one would come on again, it was like a special treat (see episode #63 Fonzie Loves Pinky – Third Annual  Auto Demolition Derby).

So I am letting you know up front that this is a two-parter.  I went to see Roger Waters (former lead singer of Pink Floyd) perform the full version of The Wall at Wrigley Field.  The concert is performed more like a play and watching it had a profound effect on my mourning process. It made me question everything I’ve been doing since Lisa passed away.  It has changed the way I live my life.

I want to share this with everyone, but before I do, I want to do a cliff notes version of what The Wall is about.  Then next week, what it meant to me.  Most of you probably know about 5 songs from this album: Mother, Another Brick in the Wall, Hey You, Comfortable Numb, Young Lust.  But do you know these songs are all part of a story line?

The Wall is a concept album released in 1979 that traces the life of the fictional character, Pink Floyd, from his boyhood days in post World-War II England, to his self-imposed isolation as a rock star.

The concert itself starts with the edges of the walls already built

As the first act progresses, bricks of the wall are slowly built around him as events in his life unfolds:

Pink, at a young age, loses his father in the war
Daddy's flown across the ocean
Leaving just a memory.
Daddy, what d'ya leave behind for me?
All in all it was just a brick in the wall.

Has an abusive school master
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teacher leave them kids alone,
Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.

A dominating mother
Mamma's gonna make all your nightmares come true.
Mamma's gonna put all of her fears into you.
Mamma's gonna keep you right here under her wing.
She won't let you fly, but she might let you sing.
Of course mama's gonna help build a wall.

And a broken marriage
What shall we use to fill the empty spaces
Where we used to talk?
How should I fill the final places?
How should I complete the wall?

All of these events lead to more bricks in the wall until Pink bids farewell to the outside world and places the last brick in his mental wall.  On stage, the final brick put into place.

Goodbye cruel world,
I'm leaving you today.
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
Goodbye, all you people,
There's nothing you can say
To make me change my mind.

The second act starts with a three-story high wall built across the entire stage.  The first song of the act “Hey You” is sung entirely behind the wall.  We sit in the audience hearing Roger sing but can see nothing but the wall.  For Roger, it symbolizes the disconnect he was feeling with the outside world.

Hey you, out there in the cold.
Getting lonely, getting old, can you feel me?
The wall was too high, as you can see.
No matter how he tried, he could not break free.
And the worms ate into his brain.

Hey you, out there beyond the wall,
Breaking bottles in the hall, can you help me?
Hey you, don't tell me there's no hope at all.
Together we stand, divided we fall.

The toll of isolation starts to take its effect on Pink. In order to get through his daily life, he needs to medicate himself, so can function without feeling the pain.

Hello, is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone home?
Come on, now, I hear you're feeling down.
Well I can ease your pain
And get you on your feet again.
Relax, I'll need some information first.
Just the basic facts.
Can you show me where it hurts?

There is no pain you are receding.
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain, you would not understand
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.

Realizing he has dropped out of society and his bricks dragging him into further decay, he starts to wonder if he can perform like he was able to or is it too late.  He decides the show must go on.
There must be some mistake
I didn't mean to let them
Take away my soul.
Am I too old, is it too late?,
Will I remember the song?
The show must go on.

Pink spirals into insanity and imagines himself in concert as a fascist dictator demanding ultimate allegiance of his audience

So ya thought ya
Might like to go to the show.

We're gonna find out where you fans really stand.
There's one in the spotlight, he don't look right to me,
Get him up against the wall.
There's one smoking a joint!
And another with spots!
If I had my way,
I'd have all of you shot!

Pink’s new mind set has become so destructive that he waits for the decay to complete his isolation.

Sitting in a bunker here behind my wall
Waiting for the worms to come.
In perfect isolation here behind my wall
Waiting for the worms to come.

Pink finally has enough and puts himself on trail.  He replays all of his life’s events and questions himself on the way he acted with his family and friends.  He realizes that by isolating himself and building a wall, he has hurt the people in his life.  The judge he has created in his mind gives the final verdict.
The evidence before the court is incontrovertible
There's no need for the jury to retire.
In all my years of judging I have never heard before
Of someone more deserving of the full penalty of law.
The way you made them suffer,
Your exquisite wife and mother,
Fills me with the urge to defecate!
Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear
I sentence you to be exposed before your peers.
Tear down the wall!
Tear down the wall!

Collapsing the wall and leaving Pink exposed to re-enter life once again.

Next Sunday, I will give my thoughts on why this concert changed me significantly a few years after Lisa passed away.

If you are a person who is moved by music, I suggest downloading The Wall, turning off the lights, and give a listen.  In the 70s, kids would get high to get better meaning out of this double album.  If you’re like me, all you need is your grief brain to delve deeper beyond the words.

Is there anybody out there?

To be continued…


  1. I was in college when this came out and didn't know the whole story behind it I will take time to listen again! Can't wait till next Sunday ,you are my favorite writer!

  2. My late husband loved this movie and all of Pink Floyds music. Thanks for your wonderful insight, and I plan on watching the dvd again (I used to roll my eyes and go to the other room when he played it yet AGAIN). I never thought of it this way. . .

  3. My late husband used to play Comfortable Numb on his guitar a lot. "The Wall" resonates of transformation, I'm going to take your advice and listen to again. I appreciate that you framed the content of the music within the context of grief, it seems so perfectly appropriate. Thanks for the great writing, look forward to the second half!

  4. Thank you for this Matt, I always liked these songs but did not know album story. Look forward to next week. Not a fan of two parters.....holding my breath lol. Last night I took my kids to iron maiden and Alice Cooper concert. This 50 year old widow could of cared less about iron maiden show....very few of us there for Alice Cooper....and me just for "schools out" son said Alice went into pink Floyd "teachers leave those kids alone. " we don't need no thought control". I remembered the lyrics.....widow brain and loss of a singing partner....and I still surprised myself that I could still sing at all. My 14 year old is going crazy trying to figure out how he can get me to buy tickets to the wall but not for me and his brother to join him....after reading your post, I am going to buy tickets and GO..I get how important it is to him"lyrics " and since his dad had all albums and he heard his dad had gone to one of the concerts....way before meeting me. We will go. Thank you

  5. My Dave was always a PF fan, and I never cared for it. (Never an issue though - he didn't play it incessantly or anything.)

    We actually made the trek to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame less than 8 months before he died (so 2 months before he was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer). There was a display on about the Wall and he was really looking forward to seeing it. (We also headed down to see Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Falling Water' afterwards.)

    I never took the time to realize or understand that there was a storyline to the whole thing. (PF is just not my style of music...) So thanks for this little bit of insight! Looking forward to Part 2!

  6. Wow, Matt. I can't wait to read your post next week. The "Wall" has been my symbolic barometer of grief. I've been slowly dismantling the wall I built around myself and my husband that protected us when he was so sick. Now that wall isolates me from the world. I try to take a brick out as often as I can, when it feels right. It's a slow process but the "bricks" are powerful symbols to me! I will listen to this album with my Chardonnay in hand, this 50 year old widows way of getting stoned, before next Sunday. I'm looking forward to your interpretation of The Wall.