In July 1978 Waters called a meeting of the band to present both the tapes and the script for 'The Wall' and another separate project (which later became The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking). In effect he gave them an ultimatum; the band would have to do one or the other - it didn't matter which because Waters would do the other as a solo project. The band voted for 'The Wall', then started working on it in their own particular way. They didn't communicate directly or verbally at all: 'They communicate through technology.' explained Michael Kamen, who arranged all the orchestral back-ups for the album, about the sessions for The Wall. 'Roger will make a demo in his studio and send it to Gilmour who will add some tracks or overdub and send the tape on. All the members of the band have acquired separate identities.'
But after exchanging tapes for two months, Waters decided he needed help from an outside producer, and hired heavy metal heavy Bob Ezrin, who shepherded Kiss to the platinum circle. Ezrin had also worked with Alice Cooper and Lou Reed. He was 'nominated' by Roger's new wife Caroline, who had been a secretary for Ezrin for a while. Both Caroline and Ezrin had attended the Montreal concert in '77 and witnessed the spitting incident.
Roger: 'I couldn't do it all by myself. Dave and I have produced all our albums together, but I have to provide all the motivation and direction.'
Ezrin: 'One of the great things about working with Pink Floyd is the excessive nature of the individuals involved ... So when we moved to France, we didn't get hotel rooms; we bought a town (laughs) ... We didn't, they did. Each one of them went out and got these huge manors in the country and they all had the fastest cars. There were Ferraris flying all over the place and fabulous, beautiful people dropping in all the times. So it was really quite something; it was really, jet-set living.'
At Floyd's Britannia Row studio, Gilmour and Ezrin subjected Waters' demo to intensive analyses. Gilmour: 'We went through it and started with the tracks we liked best, discussed a lot of what was not so good, and kicked out a lot of stuff. Roger and Bob spent a lot of time trying to get the story line straighter, more linear conceptually. Ezrin is the sort of guy who's thinking about the angles all the time, about how to make a shorter story line that's told properly.'
Ezrin: 'In an all-night session I rewrote the record. I used all of Roger's elements, but I arranged their order and put them in a different form. I wrote 'The Wall' out in forty pages, like a book ... I acted as Roger's editor, and, believe me, his lyrics are so good they didn't need much.'
Thus, Ezrin reworked Waters' original script which the author himself described as 'childish notes'. 'Some parts were thought to be too personal, some didn't fit musically, and some song weren't good enough,' he explained. Under Ezrin's urging, Waters dropped a silly hackneyed song entitled The Death of Cisco in which a DJ harangued the audience, and cut out personal references - especially early dates in Waters' life which are meaningless to their fans who were born after World War Two. Despite these changes, Waters admitted that it's impossible to follow the convoluted plot line, particularly the garbled phone calls from Mr Floyd to Mrs Floyd at the start if One of my Turns.
Ezrin also convinced the band to aim for at least one hit single on 'The Wall'. More about that later ....
So, the album was produced by Gilmour, Waters and Bob Ezrin. Roger: 'Bob would be prepared to argue with me about things. It's no good arguing with me in the studio and saying, 'I don't like that'; you've got to explain why you don't like it and why we should do it in a different way. Bob is articulate and quite able to do that; so we had a good lively relationship making the record. He was a very good musical and intellectual sounding-board for me, 'cos he's very bright and quite tough as well. We could sit and talk about what it was about ad nauseam - which was absolutely invaluable, because I don't think anybody else in the band had any idea of what it was about, and I don't think they were very interested. In fact, I know they weren't interested.'
Sound engineer Nick Griffith: 'Ezrin was very good in 'The Wall' because he did manage to pull the whole thing together. He's a very forceful guy. There was a lot of argument about how it should sound between Roger and Dave, and he bridged the gap between them - even if both of them did have some rather rude things to say about him.'
With The Wall Waters had finally gained domination of Pink Floyd. The whole concept and most of the music on the album were his brainchild. Gilmour only participated in writing the music for the cock-rock pastiche Young Lust, Comfortably Numb and Run Like Hell, but the other two members (Nick Mason and Richard Wright) didn't contribute anything. Roger: 'Back in the early Seventies we used to pretend that we were a group. We used to pretend that we all do this and we all do that, which of course wasn't true. And at one point I started to get very resentful, because I was doing a lot more and yet we were all pretending that we were doing it. Now we don't pretend anymore. I could easily work with another drummer and keyboard player very easily, and it's likely that at some point I will.'
'We pretended it was a democracy for a long time, but this album was the era of the big own-up. It was a mildly painful experience for some of us because we have been pretending we are all jolly good chaps together. It's a load of rubbish. ten years ago it was true, but not for the last six or seven years.'
Gilmour: 'Well, you know, none of us has ever been the best of friends. I have never been a close personal friend of anyone else in the band, and neither was Rick, really. Roger and Nick have at times been fairly close. We don't not get along, but we're working partners.'
Sound engineer Nick Griffiths: 'Dave Gilmour was probably pissed off he had to go to such great lengths to get his point across. It was too much like hard work; he'd rather sit back and let it be. And a lot of resentment built up, because David's a very easygoing guy, but he also knows what he likes and doesn't like. It became very difficult for him and Roger to actually be in the same studio together, because they were at loggerheads most of the time'.
The album was recorded between April and November 1979 in France, New York and Los Angeles. Parts of the album were also done in Floyd's own Britannia Row Studio, but the band had to go into tax exile to avoid further Inland Revenue claims. In L.A. Roger befriended DJ Jim Ladd - who would often have Mr Waters in the studio for interviews about The Wall project and would later appear as the DJ on Radio KAOS - and the Beach Boys.
Britannia Row was not mentioned in the credits of the album, although sound engineer Nick Griffith did do a lot of work there, especially on the sound effects. The effects are one of the most remarkable characteristics of the album, ranging from bomber planes and helicopters to babies' cries and schoolyard voices; telephone rings and dial tones; and subliminal snatches of (movie) dialogue.
Nick: 'I was given a list of various bits and pieces to record, one of which was a big explosion. So I went around the country recording factories getting blown up, which was quite good fun. And we got a lot of crockery in the studio, set the microphones up, and got the twenty-four track going, and smashed everything in sight, threw it against the wall - which was actually used on the film, but not on the album in the end.'
Ezrin: 'When it came time to do the scenes ... like kicking the door down to get Pink out of his hotel room, we literally kicked the door in at one of the studios. We said: 'Is it OK? May we kick your door in? We'll replace it.' They said 'Sure, fine', so we kicked the door in.'
Griffiths' most memorable contribution to the album were the singing school kids in the 'sneak preview' single of the album, Another Brick in the Wall (part 2). Roger and Dave thought it would be nice to include some singing students as backing vocals to their own. Nick: 'I went to the school around the corner from Britannia Row, and asked the music teacher if the whole class of kids would like to come to the studio and do some singing. He was thrilled to bits. (..) I leapt up and down getting the kids in the right spirit, and everybody had a whale of a time. It wasn't something I'd thought about beforehand: a lot of the best things happen that way. It took just half an hour to do; then I tracked the voices about a dozen times."
Dave and Roger liked the result so much, they decided to bring the student's voices to the forefront. Dave: 'But we didn't want to lose our voices, so we wound up copying the tape and mixing it twice - one with me and Roger singing, and one with the kids; the backing is the same. And we edited them together.'
Another Brick in the Wall (part 2) might well be Pink Floyd's most famous song, featuring a chorus sung by pupils from the Islington Green School. Roger: ... and of course the children came in and they rather liked the song. They thought it was quite good and so they sang it with great gusto and I thought the result was just marvelous, and as soon as I heard it I said 'THAT is the single'.' And the single it became.
The song was released as a single on November 16th and shot right to the number one position in all charts around the world. It sold 340.000 copies in the UK in 5 days. This was the first Floyd single in 10 years and would eventually earn them a Grammy Award.
It also caused an enormous furore in the press and the song even got banned in South Africa because nonwhite protesters adopted it as the anthem of their nationwide school boycott !
Roger: 'People were really driven to frenzies of rage by it. They thought that when I said "We don't need no education," that it was a kind of crass, revolutionary standpoint - which if you listen to it in context it clearly isn't at all.
On the other hand, it got some strange reactions from people that you wouldn't expect. The Archbishop of Canterbury went on record saying that if it's very popular with schoolkids, then it must in some way be expressing some feelings that they have themselves. If one doesn't like it, or however one feels about it, one should take the opportunity of using it as a starting point for discussion - which was exactly how I felt about it. I'm sure lots of people in schools took the opportunity of saying, "Right, you've all heard the record; what do you think it's about ?".'
The press was having a field day when they found out that the Islington Green School had recently been involved in another press scandal when its 800 students only managed to get two bottom grade 'A'-level passes and 22 'O'-level passes in the General Certificate of Education. The right wing Daily Mail ran a picture of the school's headmistress, Ms Maden, pointing out that in the sixties she had been a member of the Young Communist Party and that she joined the school in 1975 she was London's youngest comprehensive headmistress. It was a wonderful chance for papers like the Mail and News of the World to attack Ms Maden, and the school all over again.
The press also found that the children had not been paid by Pink Floyd or given free copies of the album. Instead Griffiths had offered them free studio time to record the piece of electronic music 'Requiem For a Sinking Block of Flats' which they had made with their music teacher Alan Redshaw. Roger did then see to it that each child received a free copy of the album. Roger: 'In the end, the school was given an awful lot of money. Of course the kids individually didn't get any of it.' Recently the now-adults that sang on the track even tried to sue the band to get some of the royalties.
The album, which had cost $700.000.-, finally hit the shops on November 30th 1979 and even though it was a double album it became enormously successful, again reaching number one positions around the world.
The Wall double album, of which the earliest versions came with a transparant window sticker, contains 26 tracks in total. Compared to the long compositions of the previous two albums, the songs on this album are all rather short, ranging from less than one minute to nearly 7 minutes.
Besides Pink Floyd themselves, quite a lot of guest musicians can be heard during the 81 minutes of music. Toto's Jeff Porcaro played drums on Mother because his ride cymbal technique was very different from Nick Mason's. David: 'The timing follows: Mo-ther-do-you-think-they'll-drop-the-bomb? How many beats is that? Nine. It was very, very difficult to get it to work ... You've got to find a way of floating through it, which (drummer) Jeff Porcaro did immediately.'
Do you also love that acoustic guitar in Is There Anybody Out There ? Well let me tell you something; it isn't Gilmour playing. Dave could not play the piece without a pick. Also, although the track is credited to Waters, according to Gilmour it was actually composed by Bob Ezrin.
The guitar solo in One of My Turns isn't Gilmour either (he couldn't think of a good part to play) but one Lee Ritenour. On the other hand, David Gilmour played fretless bass on Hey You.
The Show Must Go One starts with a close harmony. One of the singers is Bruce Johnston from The Beach Boys. Initially the plan had been to have the whole Beach Boys band harmonize on The Show Must Go On and Waiting for the Worms, but that plan got scrapped.
Roger: 'They agreed to do it. We asked them to do it and they were going to do it but then they went off and toured Japan or something else instead. I think they were quite into doing it; mind you, they hadn't seen all the racialist stuff that comes with the song we were going to ask them to sing. I don't know what they would have thought of that because Bruce Johnson came down and did it so he's credited on it, as one of the backing singers. I really like the sound they make a lot, and it epitomises that sound.'
One verse of The Show Must Go On was deleted from the final version of the track at a very late stage (the lyrics could still be found on the album sleeve). Gilmour: 'The only problem we had was reducing it down from a triple album to a double. Towards the end we were actually cutting chunks out of songs to fit the time.'
Somebody who didn't actually play as much as you would think on the album at all was longtime Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright. During the Wall sessions he was basically forced out of Pink Floyd. There are different stories as to how and why this happened. Gilmour once said that Wright was not contributing anymore because of a cocaine addiction. Wright did play on the Wall tour, but only as a session musician.
Nick Griffiths: 'By the time of 'The Wall' Rick Wright had lost interest in the idea of Pink Floyd. He was more interested in his leisure time - sailing around the Greek islands and enjoying the life of a rich rock 'n' roll star. Consequently, Roger felt that if he wasn't going to pull his weight, he should go.'
Gilmour: 'Rick wasn't doing the job he was paid to do. He got the boot because he wasn't contributing in any way to anything.'
Rick: 'Roger and I couldn't get on. It was a personal thing. Whatever I tried to do, he would say it was wrong. It was impossible for me, really, to work with him. (...) A week before the holiday was up I got a call from Roger in America, saying come over immediately. Then there was this band meeting in which Roger told me he wanted me to leave the band. At first I refused. So Roger stood up and said that if I didn't agree to leave after the album was finished, he would walk out then and there and take the tapes with him. There would be no album, and no money to pay off our huge debts. So I agreed to go. I had two young kids to support. I was terrified. Now I think I made a mistake. It was Roger's bluff. But I really didn't want to work with this guy anymore. (...) And in some ways I was really happy to get out, because I was so fed up with the whole atmosphere.'
The people who would eventually end up playing keyboards on The Wall: Rick Wright (keyboards, synthesizers & Hammond B3 organ), Bob Ezrin (keyboards), David Gilmour (keyboards), Freddie Mandell (Hammond B3 organ) and Peter Wood (keyboards). Most of the fans would only find out four years later when Wright's name did not appear in the credits of the follow-up album The Final Cut.
Among the many sound effects, the album also contained several hidden messages. Just before Empty Spaces they included a backwards recording, saying: 'Congratulations. You have discovered the secret message. Please sent your message to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont.'
If you listen very closely at the very end of the album you can hear the words 'Isn't this where ...' being spoken. The rest of the sentence (together with some soft tones of closing tune Outside The Wall) can be heard at the very beginning of the album; '...we came in'? This made the album a full cycle.
The concept of the same beginning and ending had already been used on Dark Side of the Moon (heartbeat), Wish You Were Here (Shine On You Crazy Diamond), and Animals (Pigs on the Wing) before and Roger would use the concept again for Radio Kaos (another two part sentence) and Amused to Death (the Alf Razzel speech).
The longest track on the album, Comfortably Numb, must be one of the most popular songs among Floyd fans. It has even been released on single in the US and Japan. The strength of the song is a final result of a big disagreement between Roger and Dave. Dave had already recorded a demo version of the melody line of the chorus when he did his first solo album in 1978.
David: 'This was just something I wrote and plonked down on a high-strung guitar one afternoon ...
The only thing that changed was that the verses I put in weren't quite long enough to take the phrase 'I have become comfortably numb' and Roger said, Listen, I want to put one more phrase in. Can we lengthen the verse by these few bars?'
The version that ended up on The Wall is a consensus as negotiated by Bob Ezrin, the album's producer.
David: 'We argued over Comfortably Numb like mad. Really had a big fight; went on for ages. We recorded two versions (...) They were exactly the same tempo; one was just a little looser - I'd call it a sloppier version myself and I liked it slightly tighter.'
Roger: 'So when Ezrin and I went off to do vocal parts, Dave spent a week re-recording the track ... It came over on the 24-track tape and Ezrin and I were both really expecting it to be great ... and we put it on and looked at each other and [yawns] ... because it was just awful - it was stilted and stiff and it lost all the passion and life the original had.
Dave: 'Roger and I had a real shouting match at this little restaurant in North Hollywood. We'd gone there with Bob Ezrin to have it out over something ... probably Comfortably Numb, because the only thing I'd really argue with Roger over was my own music; with his music, I wouldn't bother to argue.'
Roger: 'That became a real fight. It's most interesting that Ezrin completely agreed with me. But Dave obviously felt very, very strongly about it, and we ended up using the intro from the old one, the first few bars from the new one. That's all we could do without somebody 'winning' and somebody 'losing' ... of course, who lost, if you like, was the band, because it was clear ... we didn't feel the same way about music.'
Ezrin: 'I fought for the introduction of the orchestra on The Wall: the expansion of the Floyd's sound to something that was more ... 'filmic' is the word. This became a big issue on Comfortably Numb, which Dave saw as a more bare-bones track, with just bass, drum and guitar. Roger sided with me. So [the song] is a true collaboration: David's music, Roger's lyric and my orchestral chart.'
The lines about the 'hands that felt like two balloons' was actually inspired by a recurring nightmare Wall cartoonist Scarfe (who also designed the cover and interior illustrations of the album) had as a child.
The track The Trial was co-written by Ezrin and Waters. Gilmour: 'I think it was written by Bob with the immediate intention to do it with an orchestra; although we did demos of it with synthesizers and stuff'.
As you can imagine, there were some songs that did not make it to the final version of the album. We already mentioned Death of Cisco. Some outtakes that didn't make it to the album either are titled Overture, Overture for Comfortably Numb and Prophet.
Originally the album was also supposed to include a song called What Shall We Do Now, coming after Goodbye Blue Sky. Empty Spaces, which basically was a reprise of the first half of What Shall We Do Now, was planned to go before Another Brick in the Wall (part 3). Unfortunately, because of time limitations this plan did not work out.
Roger: 'We discovered, when we were mastering the thing, that Side Two was just too long. We had to get rid of something and 'Empty Spaces' and another cut that used to be on there called 'What Shall We Do Now?' were the same tune. So 'Empty Spaces' was a reiteration, musically, of that tune, although it was towards the end of the side.
So we just axed 'What Shall We Do Now?' and left the lyrics because they helped to tell the story. There's a list of things to do, which I'm quite glad isn't on the album now because it's rather banal. When I heard it - when we'd finally recorded it - I didn't really like it very much but it does help to tell the story (recites the lyrics; 'Shall we buy a new guitar, shall we drive a more powerful car, shall we work straight through the night, etc'). So, in a way, it's a vivid description of modern life.'
What Shall We Do Now got cut from the album at the last moment, resulting in the lyrics still appearing on the sleeve. What Shall We Do Now did however appear in the concert and movie versions of the concept, replacing the shorter Empty Spaces.
Roger: 'It's just about the ways that one protects oneself from isolation by becoming obsessed with other people's ideas -that it's good to drive a powerful car or be a vegetarian: adopting somebody else's criteria without considering them from a position of really being yourself.
At this level the story is extremely simplistic. I hope that, on the other levels, there are less tangible, more effective things that come through. I think it's okay in a show where you only hear the words once. You probably won't hear the words at all; the way rock n' roll shows get produced.'
By 1982 the album had already sold 12 million copies and according to some sources 23 million copies had been sold by now, half of which was sold in the US alone. Although Dark Side of the Moon definitely sold more copies, The Wall made a lot more money because it was a double album. The album would eventually rank second only to Dark Side as Floyd's all-time best-seller. As a double album it actually sold more individual records.
And this was only the first part of Roger's plan ....
If you want to know more about The Wall Project, check out the other chapters in this special:
1 - The Origin of the Concept & The Story
3 - The Concerts
4 - The Movie & Epilogue
Written by Ed Sander
Sources for the articles will be published at the end of chapter 4.