Pink Floyd The Wall: 5 things you never knew

From hidden messages to 40-page scripts, here are some things you might not know about Pink Floyd's The Wall.

From hidden messages to 40-page scripts, here are some things you might not know about Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Pink Floyd’s The Wall could go down as the greatest concept album of all time. It spawned Pink Floyd’s only chart-topper with “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2,” and its shipped more than 13 million units since it came out on Nov. 30, 1979. Here are 5 things you might not have known about Pink Floyd’s The Wall:

1) Spitting on a fan. In one of rock’s most infamous incidents, Pink Floyd bassist and songwriter spat on a fan at a show in Montreal. At the show, Rogers was kicking off Pigs On The Wing, Part 2, when a rowdy group of fans started setting off fireworks. Rogers re-started the song several times before blowing up.

“Aww, for fuck’s sake, stop lettin’ off fireworks and shouting and screaming, I’m trying to sing the song!” This outburst was met with an approving roar from the audience, but he wasn’t finished. You can tell from his tone that he had simply grown tired of the whole experience, as if he was a weary mother speaking to his spoiled, ill-mannered kids. “I mean I don’t care…if you don’t want to hear it, you know. Fuck you. I’m sure there’s a lot of people here who do want to hear it.” The audience cheered in agreement as Waters continued. “So why don’t you just be quiet. If you want to let your fireworks off go outside and let them off there, and if you want to shout and holler, go and do it out there…I’m trying to sing a song that some people want to listen to. I want to listen to it” (via AngelFire).

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Rogers was so confused, angry and disheartened by the experience that he found himself at a crossroads. He literally wanted to build a wall between himself and the crowds Pink Floyd played for. That desire was the spark that would eventually lead to The Wall. Rogers wrote about the spitting experience at an exhibit for The Wall at the Rock Hall:

“In the Old Days, pre-Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd played to audiences which, by virtue of their size, allowed an intimacy of connection that was magical. However, success overtook us and by 1977 we were playing in football stadiums. The magic was crushed beneath the weight of numbers. We were becoming addicted to the trappings of popularity. I found myself increasingly alienated in that atmosphere of avarice and ego until one night in the Olympic Stadium, Montreal, the boil of my frustrations burst. Some crazed teenage fan was clawing his way up the storm netting that separated us from the human cattle pen in front of the stage screaming his devotion to the demi-gods beyond his reach. Incensed by his misunderstanding and my own connivance, I spat my frustration in his face. Later that night, back at the hotel, shocked by my behavior, I was faced with a choice. To deny my addiction and embrace that comfortably numb but magic-less existence or accept the burden of insight, take the road less traveled and embark on the often painful journey to discover who I was and where I fit. The wall was the picture I drew for myself to help me make that choice.”

2) Eat your pudding. Rolling Stone got to ask Waters about some of the strange narration in Another Brick in the Wall – things like “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding.”

I don’t remember anything in my family being forced to eat meat before you could have any pudding. But the character that I slip into, at that point, the mad Scotsman, that would be something that he would espouse, that he’d be firmly behind. This Calvinistic idea that you have to suffer before you can enjoy. And meat was so gristly, or it certainly was where I came from, you only got crap, really. Because it was rationed, and this that and the other. “If you don’t eat your meat…” People often ask me, “Who is that?” And I go, “It’s me, dummy, obviously.”

“How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat? You — yes you behind the bike sheds. Stand still, laddy.” Bike sheds were a big motif always at school. Because that’s where you went to talk about masturbation or girls or to smoke cigarettes. Those were the absolute no-no’s when I was a kid: cigarette smoking and sex.

3) A personal tale. Roger Waters lost his father in World War II. Originally a contentious objector who served as an ambulance driver during the blitz, Eric Fletcher Waters eventually changed his stance and joined the British Army. He was killed during fighting in Italy on Feb. 18, 1944. Roger was just five months old at the time. The Wall traces a fictional character named “Pink Floyd” “from his boyhood days in post-World-War-II England to his self-imposed isolation as a world-renowned rock star, leading to a climax that is as cathartic as it is destructive” (via The Wall Analysis). The parallels between the lives of Pink and Waters show an artist grappling with his past, his present and society to such an extent, it almost reads like Waters’ autobiography:

“Pink begins to build a mental wall between himself and the rest of the world so that he can live in a constant, alienated equilibrium free from life’s emotional troubles. Every incident that causes Pink pain is yet another brick in his ever-growing wall: a fatherless childhood, a domineering mother, an out-of-touch education system bent on producing compliant cogs in the societal wheel, a government that treats its citizens like chess pieces, the superficiality of stardom, an estranged marriage, even the very drugs he turns to in order to find release.”

4) Following the script. A lot of bands write new music by getting together to jam. The sounds and lyrics spring forth from a feeling evoked by the music. That’s not how The Wall came together.

Rogers flew producer Bob Ezrin to his country home to help him with his early Wall demos. “‘The demo he played me needed a lot of work,'” Ezrin says (via Mark Blake’s book, Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd), “‘but it was obvious that there was something very exciting there.’ Ezrin agreed to take on the role of co-producer.

“In an all-night session in London – ‘not chemically unassisted’ – Ezrin wrote a script for what he then believed to be an imaginary movie, plotting out Waters’ story, working out where the music would fit, what was working, what wasn’t work, and what else was needed. ‘So I ended up producing like a forty-page book that night … The next day at the studio, we had a table read, like you would with a play, but with the whole of the band, and their eyes all twinkled, because then they could see the album.'”

5) The secret message. The band embedded at least one secret message on the album. Just before the lyrics start in ‘Empty Spaces,’ there’s a bit of gibberish. Play it backwards, and you’ll hear: “Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont…”

“At the time, people were always looking for messages in albums,” drummer Nick Mason said. “So we thought: ‘Oh, well. We better do one.’ And although ‘The Wall’ isn’t exactly known for being a laugh a minute, this is one moment that offers a bit of comic relief; when played in reverse, the backward-masked bit says ‘Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message.’ Asked whether there was any sort of deeper meaning behind it, Mason offered the obvious answer, chuckling, ‘It’s complete nonsense.'”

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