About the Wall - Roger Waters


A good deal of the creative impulse for The Wall derived from my disillusionment with rock shows in vast open-air football stadiums. In the days prior to Dark Side of the Moon the excitement of a Pink Floyd performance lay in a certain intimacy of connection between the audience and the band. It was magical. By the late Seventies that magic and that opportunity had vanished, crushed, as I saw it, by the dead weight of numbers -- the sheer incoherent scale of those stadium events.

It's something of an old chestnut now, but perhaps it bears repeating: there was a moment on stage at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal during the Animals tour when I was forced to confront all the negative aspects of these circumstances and of my connivance in them.

Some crazed teenaged fan, screaming his devotion, began clawing his way up the storm netting that seperated the band from the human cattle in front of the stage, and the boil of my frustration finally burst. I spat in his face. Immediately afterwards I was shocked by my behaviour. I realised that what had once been a worthwhile and manageable exchange between us (the band) and them (the audience) had been utterly peverted by scale, corporate avarice and ego. All that remained was an arrangement that was essentially sado-masochistic. I had a very vivid image of an audience being bombed -- of bombs being lobbed from the stage -- and a sense that those people getting blown to bits would go absolutely wild with glee at being at the centre of all the action.

It was quite soon after this that I came up with the idea of building a wall during a show. The idea gripped me at once. Quite apart from it's personal significance, I thought it would be a great piece of rock theatre.

The Wall is part of my narrative, my story, but I think the basic themes resonate in other people. The idea that we, as individuals, generally find it necessary to avoid or deny the painful aspects of our experience, and in fact often use them as bricks in a wall behind which we may sometimes find shelter, but behind which we may just as easily become emotionally immured, is relatively simply stated and easy to grasp. It's one a lot of people grapple with themselves. They recognise it in their own lives.

In my life this grappling took place behind the walls of a hugely successful rock 'n' roll band. In a rock band you find yourself in a much envied and privileged position. It's apparently the stuff that dreams are made of. You have a lot of power, you earn lots of money and there's all the spurious glamour. You get easily addicted to these things and when you do you choose to forget all the concomitant negative elements. You become comfortably numb. In order to remain in the dream that's the required condition. But when it finally dawns on you, as it did me, you're faced with a decision. Do you hold onto the dream because, having dreamt it, it would be too uncomfortable to let it go? Or do you embrace the realisation that it isn't that great and move on from there?

I came to see that the dream was no longer worth pursuing, or at least that the reality of the situation was no longer as enticing as the dream would have it. In fact, I'd already come to the conclusion in Wish You Were Here. Even then, I was no longer willing to exchange 'a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage'. And being in one of those big rock 'n' roll bands is a cage. It's a big cage with lots of seductive toys, but it's a cage nonetheless.

There was a kind of discovery and an exorcism involved in the writing of The Wall. I had to get all that stuff out or spend the rest of my life as that man in black off to the side at the party, apparently aloof behind dark glasses and a cigarette, but in reality scared to death of any ordinary human encounter.

As to the actual recording and shows, I think they were the best we did together as Pink Floyd. I'm inordinately proud of the work. It has great musical and narrative shape, good tunes and it's a well-crafted piece of rock 'n' roll theatre. Who knows, I'm only 56, but it may well turn out to be the best thing I ever did.

It gives me immense pleasure that succeeding generations go on appreciating it. I get requests all the time for my permission to allow people to mount shows, but the only ones I ever agree to are the amateur productions, put on by schools and colleges.

That so many schools mount productions is especially rewarding. It's also very ironic because the favourite anthem from the piece, 'We Don't Need No Education', caused an uproar when it first came out. Politicians and educationalists lined up to denouce it as the death-knell of all schooling. In fact, the piece has turned out to be a great help to a large number of people trying to teach music and English to kids because the kids get interested in all the ideas it attempts to express. It has almost become a set book. This makes me happy.


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