Number 8 – A Floydian Slip
BIG NEWS: The first of the new tunes is now up and ready for your patient ears. Please take a listen to “Deep”, which you can hear here. Also, we’re trying to get some gigs out in eastern MA soon.
Now, on to number 8 in my list of my top 10 most influential albums:
#8 – The Wall (Pink Floyd, 1979)
So, as it turns out, Pink Floyd had more or less ceased to exist as a “band” sometime after 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon. Floyd had pretty much been the legendary Syd Barrett’s band before a psychotic break tragically cut his career short. Roger Waters had assumed the primary songwriting duties in 1968 after the departure of the ailing and erratic Barrett and had progressively imparted his own voice to the Floyd sound. David Gilmour added a new blues virtuosity to the sound and progressively added his own songwriting talents to the mix, but Waters really drove the bus.
Still, Barrett’s shadow loomed large over the band and over Waters in particular. His childhood friend’s debilitating mental illness caused Waters to ponder the nature of fame, and humanity, and sanity. These explorations gave us Wish you Were Here, Animals, and – eventually – The Wall.
I first encountered The Wall as a 10-year-old kid at my friend Jeff’s house. It is worth noting in passing that Jeff was my gateway not only to Floyd but also to Queen and Styx. Over school vacations we would stay up late into the night, listening to records (yes, records – by which I mean vinyl) late into the night and trying to pick out both great sounds and dirty words as we went from track to track.
To this day, I believe the solo to Comfortably Numb might be the greatest guitar performance, ever – not necessarily in terms of technical virtuosity, but because of Gilmour’s ability to convey raw human emotion and voice through guitar. It is not fast, it is not particularly difficult, but it is perfect.
The Wall was also my first experience of an album that told a complete story over four record sides. Yes, there were songs, but they all came together to do something larger. It’s one of the reasons that today I value albums much more than songs. With my own music, I try to group ideas in such a way that they can each build on the others over the course of an album, should I be privileged enough to hold onto my listeners’ attention.
The album artwork is also a thing of beauty – disturbing, raw, emotional, but a perfect representation of what Waters et al were looking to accomplish. Gerald Scarfe is the artist behind the drawings, and I have run into his work many times since. His caricatures are particularly wonderful, and I recommend the opening credits to Yes Minister. (In fact, I just recommend Yes Minister as a show, if you’re in the market for a laugh at the expense of British politics.)
These reflections might end up being novels if I don’t stop myself, so I’ll call this installment a wrap and leave The Wall here for your consideration. I have to get on to writing more music.