Over the 30 years since its release, Pink Floyd’s The Wall has taken many forms — and it’s continued to evolve for principal author Roger Waters, as well.
Headlining now in a sweepingly ambitious touring production of the album, which began in September of 2010, Waters has also overseen the original album production with co-producer Bob Ezrin, a subsequent tour with the rest of his bandmates in Pink Floyd, the 1982 theatrical release directed by Alan Parker and featuring Bob Geldof, and then a celebrated, guest star-packed 1990 performance at the Berlin Wall. Waters played his last North American tour date of The Wall on Saturday at The Plains of Abraham in Quebec City to 75,000 fans.
Along the way, Pink Floyd’s 11th album has sold millions and millions of copies, while being placed at No. 87 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Key tracks include “Hey You,” “Run Like Hell,” “Mother,” “Comfortably Numb” and “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” — the last of which became the band’s lone No. 1 hit in America, the UK, Germany and several other countries.
Still, the project remains a turbulent ride through some very nasty emotions — many of which Waters, after three decades of living with The Wall and the loss of his father which sparked the two-album creative outburst, says he has moved on from.
In fact, Waters says he’s never been more at peace.
“I feel much less of a victim now,” Waters tells Billboard, in a cover story featuring a new caricature by longtime Floyd illustrator Gerald Scarfe. “I’ve taken control of my life. I’m capable now, 30 years older and a little bit wiser, of resolving a lot of the issues that I wasn’t capable of resolving at the time.”
Even the central theme of the work, that of a barrier between Waters himself and his intended audience, has crumbled — very much like the ending of his epic concerts.
“I’ve transcended the problems of the wall between me and the audience,” Waters told Billboard, “so the piece is rock ‘n’ roll theater at the highest level, and it expresses the existence of all the other walls that I’ve talked about: the walls of media, the walls of government, the walls of religion, the walls of all kinds of extremism, and all those walls that exist between human beings. It very powerfully tells the message.”
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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Roger Waters and Pink Floyd. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
HAVE A CIGAR!: CELEBRATING PINK FLOYD’S MASSIVE REISSUE PROJECT: Psych-rockers Pink Floyd and EMI are launching an exhaustive re-release campaign. You could say that tickled us … pink. Released under the banner “Why Pink Floyd?,” the band started by issuing remastered editions of all 14 of its albums, with a staggered schedule of unreleased material from its archives for super-deluxe box sets. The remastered studio albums are available either separately or as a box set. To celebrate, we reminisced about a few key cuts from throughout their career.
ROGER WATERS – AMUSED TO DEATH (1992): Waters, the primary creative force in Pink Floyd for a decade starting in the early 1970s, has seen his solo career suffer from inconsistency. The same can’t be said for this album — since, like the great Floyd albums released so many years before it, Waters finally succeeds through a collaborative bond with a forceful and equally artful guitarist … this time, Jeff Beck. Here, Waters again focuses on the problems of modern life — capitalism, war, mindless entertainment consumption. Might sound familiar … but on Amused to Death we find far and away the best output of any of the Dark Side-era members from the period. It works in enjoyable contrast with what came before — the transitional, on-balance unsatisfying Floyd release Momentary Lapse of Reason. And it stands as the most coherent reiteration of Waters’ mindset — in particular after his own confusing, too-wordy and too-synthy Radio KAOS.
GIMME FIVE: SONGS WHERE PINK FLOYD, WELL, SUCKED: Everybody went through a Pink Floyd phase, right? But, the child is grown; the dream is gone. Let’s face it, some of this stuff, well, sucked. So while we still have a deep respect — and I mean that most sincerely — for, say, Dark Side of the Moon, careful adult inspection reveals that even that psych-masterpiece boasts at least one awful clunker. So, have a cigar, as we count down the stuff that didn’t quite make their hall-of-fame resume — the ones where they were tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit … well, you get the idea.
FORGOTTEN SERIES: PINK FLOYD CO-FOUNDER SYD BARRETT: For fans of the group’s early, more whimsical side, these CDs are simply astounding. Gone is the punky pyschedlia of the early Floyd singles that Syd wrote — like, say, the breakthrough, “Arnold Layne” or “Apples and Oranges.” While it seems deeply influenced by the Beatles, Barrett’s new music was much heavier. His wild-eyed whimsy had evolved into pop songcraft of the highest order. In no way was this morose flower-power stuff, though, even though it has a vague elegiac tone. In fact, believe it or not, Syd sounds tough — and incredibly modern.
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