Friday, June 30, 2017

Pink Floyd - In The Flesh(?) and The Trial



“The Wall” is about many things.

In many ways “The Wall” is a sensation, dramatization of Roger Waters life. Many of the struggles facing the narrative character Pink Floyd are real struggles that Waters faced himself. The loss of a father due to war, an over bearing mother, soul crushing educational experiences, failed marriage, drug addiction, and mixed feelings about a successful music career. How some of these I do not know if they happened to Water’s personally, like I do not know what his mother or early schooling was like, but some of these things do fit, like the untimely death of his father and his multiple divorces.

In many ways, the character Pink Floyd in “The Wall” is a personification of all the members of Pink Floyd. The drug abuse of Syd Barret, and the general unhappiness of the musician’s life from all. It is only fitting that Waters’ has the most in common with this fictional manifestation, since he was the driving force of creativity in the band.

If there is one thing “The Wall” is about, it must be madness.

For many years I have pondered the true overarching theme of the story within “The Wall” and this is the conclusion I must draw, insanity is the deepest message of Roger Water’s Magnum Opus. All the suffering discussed in the last two reviews, that is the driving force, the plot, but not the point, the end result is the madness.

Like any good musical there is a continuity in “The Wall,” a return there to, with similar styles and sounds. If “The Wall” has an overture it must be “In The Flesh(?)”

The first track on “The Wall” is “In The Flesh?” Initially the song may appear to be little more than a meta introduction to the album. A singer is addressing an audience, provoking them with assumptions and questions. To the uninitiated this introduction could be a little jarring. In the movie edition, Bob Geldof portraying Pink is dressed an awful lot like a Nazi as he greets a crowd of spectators. It is a very short song, and quickly the short unnerving speech ends with a dark invitation:

“If you want to find our what’s behind these cold eyes,
You’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise.”


How could we refuse? We must see past the disguise and learn more about Pink Floyd, both the band and the fictional avatar representing them. What we learn is summarized in the two earlier reviews, we see a man tortured by loss, disappointment and isolation. The climax of the album hits with “Comfortably Numb” and what follows is madness.

In the movie “The Wall” the dual elements of drugs abuse and disillusionment ruin and wreck the protagonist to the point where the other within begins to emerge. This is visuall represented with Geldof’s Pink’s skin melting and the character frantically tearing away at his own flesh until he rips the flesh open and is revealed underneath to be the fascist we saw in the opening track.

We are then greeted with a return to continuity, and “In The Flesh” plays. There is no longer a question mark, as the mystery is solved, we now see what was behind those cold eyes, a tortured man, now a ruined soul, a Nazi allegory. 

In The Flesh:

During the second version of “In The Flesh,” Pink exposes his more disgusting intentions and feelings and unleashes segregation and racism upon his audience:

“I've got some bad news for you, sunshine,
Pink isn't well, he stayed back at the hotel,
And they sent us along as a surrogate band,
We're going to find out where you fans really stand.

Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get 'em up against the wall,
Now, there's one in the spotlight,
He don't look right to me,
Then get him up against the wall (get them)

Now, that one looks Jewish,
And that one's a coon,
Who let all this riffraff into the room?
There's one smoking a joint,
And another with spots.


If I had my way, I'd have all of them shot.”

This, combined with the use of Nazi imagery in “The Wall” caused a lot of concern for some. Simple minded fools with no appreciation for context jumped to the ridiculous conclusion that Pink Floyd were supportive of Nazism. The first fundamental flaw in this thinking is failing to see that this dark transformation is used as a metaphor for insanity. After years of abuse the Pink Floyd character devolves into an evil tyrant, and possibly only a tyrant within his own mind, since the primary theme of “The Wall” is madness, and madness is a prerequisite for acceptance of something as vile as Nazism. The second enormous flaw is this simple-minded interpretation is the rather obvious fact that the visuals are brutality is equally influenced by Stalin’s Soviet Union. The marching hammers is one of the most memorable visuals in “The Wall” and this is clearly a direct refence to the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union. However, missing the first point is poetically disastrous.

The entire Wall album is about losing one’s self. Note the line “Pink isn’t well he stayed back at the hotel,” suggesting that the character who once was, is no longer present. Another mind has taken over and with it segregation and possibly genocide. This works symbolically for two major reasons, one it shows the duality of man, good and evil. The truth is, there are no monsters, just other humans. It is easy to label horrible people as monsters because it is a simple explanation that requires no depth of thought, also it is more comfortable because it aids in the separation of the reality that we share a lot in common with our fellow humans, including the one’s who disgust and horrify us. Secondly, insanity is the theme, and Pink Floyd, the character has lost his mind and become the worst thing imaginable, a Communist/Nazi allegory, the modern day demons and boogiemen of the world.

This made perfect sense to me when I was young. It takes something complicated and horrible for someone to become quantifiably evil, and insanity and losing control, the worst outcome would be to become that very evil thing.

All that is left is a rampage and a lamentation.

Then after much beautiful musical ugliness we reach the end, we reach “The Trial.”

The Trial:

The events of Nazi rampage in “The Wall” can still be interpreted as taking place within the mind of the narrative character. In his mind he has become so self hating that he sees himself equivalent as the great evil of modern history. It is also unclear if “The Trial” is taking place is reality or the mind. All the demons of Pink’s past come together to torture him one last time, bombarding him with harsh judgements most of which seem incredibly unfair. Pink reaffirms his insanity by stating:

“Crazy,
Toys in the attic, I am crazy,
Truly gone fishing.
They must have taken my marbles away.
Crazy, toys in the attic he is crazy.”


And then:

“Crazy,
Over the rainbow, I am crazy,
Bars in the window.
There must have been a door there in the wall,
When I came in.
Crazy, over the rainbow, he is crazy.”


And these two versions of “The Trial’s” chorus sum up the end nicely. Pink has lost his mind and been trapped within the wall for so long he has lost himself.

It is a powerful ending. It haunted my dreams for years. What if I lost my mind and all my deepest fears were revealed? Would my peers be sympathetic or would they castigate me, banish me behind a wall, separating me from everyone else, leaving me as some mad bugger beating heart against the wall? It is a natural concern, not the hyperbolic doom that is the conclusion of “The Wall” but the feelings of isolation, distrust and even fear of those around you, and having it stem entirely from self-doubt and self-loathing. Everyone, in theory can marginally at least relate to this, but “The Wall” is a such a extreme showcase of such emotions that it can frighten and intimidate and even confuse many listeners. It is an ugly truth, that underneath melting skin something ugly lays in wait, and it is inside all of us. All of us are a composition of positives and negatives, and it is a combination of strength and condition that keeps us from slipping into madness, but everyone is capable of falling into it.

There is a lot to ponder, but of course there is, there is so much emotion and phycology captured within “The Wall.” “The Wall” is all in all a very sad album, but that is par for the course with Pink Floyd. The saddest thing is the greatest rock album ever needed to be so sad. Pink Floyd, all of them, had so much sadness within them, yet they took that and made something so beautiful. That was the great inspiration for me when listening to “The Wall” so much when I was young, taking something negative and making it a positive. So much so, that when I listen to “The Wall” now, I rarely feel sad, all I feel, is inspired. Maybe that is why I consider it to be the greatest album of all time.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pink Floyd - Vera, Bring the Boys Back Home and Comfortably Numb



I have always enjoyed the second half of “The Wall” more than the first. The first half focuses a lot on the narrative character, named symbolically “Pink Floyd,” and his troubled youth. Many injuries are inflicted upon young Pink, he loses his father to the war, his mother is overbearing, school sucks, marriage falls about, and drugs happen. It is a good musical tale of hardship, and a fine collection of struggles many of us can relate too, but what was always more interesting to me was the aftermath of so much hurt. The disillusionment and the numbness that consumes the adult Pink. That is more interesting I believe.

For a lot of people, myself included, “Comfortably Numb” is the greatest Pink Floyd song, and the focal point of “The Wall.” In a great many ways “Comfortably Numb” is a perfect Pink Floyd song, it is dark and atmospheric, it has a great guitar solo, it is part of a bigger story, the lyrics are deep and complex, did I mention it was dark and atmospheric, well it is that twice over and that is key to being a perfect Pink Floyd song.

A reoccurring theme in Pink Floyd music is drug use. Many, if not most, if not all, of Pink Floyd’s music is or has psychedelic elements through out. “Comfortably Numb” is balance of things, the literal and the metaphorical. It is literally about slipping deeper and deeper into your mind because of excessive drug use. In the movie “The Wall” the character Pink is dying of a drug overdose during “Comfortably Numb.” It is likely a safe bet that Roger Waters and the rest of Pink Floyd experimented with drugs a lot. But a major reason we see this return, over and over again, to the dark side of drug use, and self destruction, is because of founding member Syd Barret doing just that. It is highly appropriate that a fictional character named after the band would suffer, severely, from over use of drugs.

Another reoccurring theme in Pink Floyd’s music is the metaphorical side of “Comfortably Numb.” We do not need drugs as a conduit to the dissidence described in “Comfortably Numb,” no, delusion would perhaps better serve us in understanding this song. There is a lot of disillusionment in the music of Pink Floyd as there was in their lives. Things never went as planned for Waters and the team, and with that a lot of misery made up their music. “The Wall” is about a lot of things, but suffering is a major element within. “Comfortably Numb” is the breaking point.

“Comfortably Numb” maybe, and in fact is, the best song off of “The Wall.” However, it’s presence on the second half of the album is not the sole reason I love that half so much, I love every song surrounding “Comfortably Numb” starting from “Hey You” right to the end with “Outside the Wall.”

That is the thing about the wall, it is twenty-six songs ranging from very good to the greatest music ever; as a consequence, any song, or combination there of, would be a fine choice for one of my amateur reviews. The obvious attack points were the two most famous songs “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” which I discussed last time, and now “Comfortable Numb,” but to some extent this review is a vehicle to discuss two lesser know songs that come just before “Comfortably Numb.” A pair of songs that flow together as seamlessly as “The Happiest Days of our Lives” and “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” that is “Vera” and “Bring the Boys Back Home.”

Vera:


“Does anybody remember Vera Lynn?”

As a matter of fact, I do not Mr. Waters. Thankfully I live in the age where all human knowledge is at my finger tips.

Vera Lynn was a popular singer in the 1940s. She had a popular song at that time called “We’ll Meet Again.” Waters invokes this reference for a few reasons. First it is a deliberate attempt to draw the listener to the feelings of hope many shared regarding their loved ones combating in the second world war, the exact message Vera Lynn expresses in “We’ll Meet Again.” Does anyone remember that feeling of hope? Meanwhile the narrative of “The Wall’s” story is bleaker, the character Pink’s father does not come home, and he will not meet him again. Just like the real-life Roger Waters whose father went off and died, never to come home again fighting in that same war.

The second angle of approach for “Vera” is symbolic, and metaphoric, because of course it is, this is a Pink Floyd song.

Does anyone remember Vera Lynn? Most of the listeners of Pink Floyd and “The Wall” likely have no clue who that is. I had forgotten altogether until about a month ago when I was refreshing my memory about this album and song. It is insanely easy for modern listeners to relate to Wates and his fictional avatar Pink Floyd, most of us cannot recall who Vera Lynn is, or what that dark hope wishing and waiting for loved ones to return home feels like. We cannot relate to the common mood, so we too feel isolated and singled out for unique, and in this case cruel, treatment.

“Does anybody else in here feel the way I do?”

The story, as it unfolds, is meant to be taken that few, if any, do feel the way Pink Floyd, the character, does. This is particularly ironic because everyone who listens to “Vera” does feel the way Roger Waters does. We all feel the way he does because he has so perfectly captured this sad emotion of loss that no one can escape feeling the way he does.

It is perfect art really.

Which leads us to “Bring the Boys Back Home.”

Bring the Boys Back Home:

“Bring the Boys Back Home” is something of an epic little song. It only runs for eighty-eight seconds. It opens gradually with a marching drum beat but swiftly picks up pace and unleashes the excited group proclamation that simply decries:

“Bring the boys back home.
Bring the boys back home.
Don't leave the children on their own, no, no.
Bring the boys back home.”


That’s it. That’s all the words we get. Waters comes from the school of thought of less is more, which may sound strange since we are discussing a double album with twenty-six songs, but Waters knows to hit us with small but powerful pieces through out, not over explaining or rambling on with repetitive choruses or wasteful filler. “Bring the Boys Back Home” enters the stage and exists after unleashing a devastative message, the joy of others is additional pain to the self.

In “The Wall” the movie “Bring the Boys Back Home” presents the young version of the character Pink Floyd as being bombarded by the mirthful celebration of a mob all of whom are reunited with loved ones returning from the war, while the boy, Pink, stares helpless at them lost in his loss, arrested by his grief, unable to do anything but watch in uncomfortable contempt while all the happy people unintentionally, but unavoidably, mock his pain.

It is another short but perfect song, that strikes the heart strings and leaves us numb.

Which perfectly leads us to “Comfortably Numb.”

Of all the many reasons discussed above we can safely conclude that “Comfortably Numb” is akin to perfection to songs like “Stairway to Heaven” or “Lady in Black,” but in addition to these many powerful points, “Comfortably Numb” has the benefit of being introduced at the perfect time, in the perfect place, in a perfect album. It is almost unreal how amazing “Comfortably Numb” is when taken into it’s full context. After battering the listener with dark tales and numerous cruel misgivings of plain ordinary human suffering, Waters gives us a song that breaks the mood and the story. He gives us a song about absorbing all that pain and no longer being meaningfully effected by it. Waters sings about letting go and transforming into something else, a duel identity puzzling whether or not there is anybody out there, both in the real world but also in the inner self.

In the story “The Wall” what is birthed from “Comfortably Numb” is a twisted reflection of the worst of human nature. The dark side takes control and the character Pink Floyd takes a very dark turn. This of course leads us to our terrible climax of the tale, but that must be address next time where we take a big picture analysis of “The Wall.”

“Comfortably Numb” on its own is majestic, but when grouped with it’s sister songs we see something so much more. A perfect song, placed perfectly, in a perfectly album. It is a workmanship of songcraft the world has ever rarely seen, and even fewer have ever dared to dream of such an fantastic artistic creation.

King of Braves

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall



I think a lot of people have the same experience as I had with my early discovery of Pink Floyd. It all began with “The Wall.” “The Wall” was one of the first and only albums I ever owned on cassette tape and it was listened to hundreds of times. To this day I hold “The Wall” as the single greatest rock album ever, barely edging out Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti.”

I guess really like double albums.

Before my mother got me my “The Wall” cassette for as a Christmas gift so long ago now, my only exposure to Pink Floyd was through the radio and in turn it was songs like “Comfortable Numb” and “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” that brought me to listen to Pink Floyd and their magnum opus “The Wall.”

A powerful drawing emotion of rock and roll is the spirit of rebellion and affectively all youths go through a period of rebellion. “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” has this as a chorus:

“We don’t need no education.
We don’t need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teacher leave them kids alone.”


The message of “we don’t need no education” naturally resonates with young people, all of whom want to find themselves and develop their own identities which can only be done outside the confines of conformity. Like I said I think a lot of people have a similar experience to my own.

“Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” is a perfect song to garner a new young audience, and has been a contributing factor to Pink Floyd’s extreme trans generational appeal. Unsurprisingly a prudish culture was fearful of the message rejecting education, and apparently being incapable of listening a song’s lyrics in full failed to grasp the deeper and truer meaning of the song’s intent, which was a rejection of thought control. I mean it’s says it right there in the chorus, it is literally the second line.

Nonetheless “The Wall” and it’s highest ranking song “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” were considered very controversial.

A lot of people fail to realize that most versions of the song they hear is actual two songs, “The Happiest Days of our Lives” and the afore mentioned “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.” These two songs are meant to be heard together, but then again, the entire album “The Wall” is designed in such a way that every song leads into the next. However, in the case of “The Happiest Days of our Lives” and “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” the two songs are truly linked as one. “The Happiest Days of our Lives” details the lives of the brutal teachers, and then Pink Floyd proclaims the lack of necessity that education offers.

A lot of people also fail to realize the song title is in fact “Another Brick in the Wall Park 2,” assuming a title like “We Don’t Need no Education” instead. A very specific title like “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” should raise some questions to the casual Pink Floyd fan, like what is part 1 like? Or is this song a part of a larger whole? Anyone with any meaningful knowledge of Pink Floyd already knows the answers to these questions but we shall go over them anyway.

There are three parts to “Another Brick in the Wall” to properly appreciate what make them special one must understand “The Wall” the album, but more so the metaphor. Roger Water’s “The Wall” is a very real barrier separating the narrator from the rest of the world. The bricks, within this wall, at painful moments and events that damage the narrator, and create the divide between himself and the rest of the world. In the famous part 2, we see the abuses of overly determined disciplinary teachers and a soul crushing education system lasts with him forever.

Another Brick in The Wall Part 1:

The first brick in the wall is altogether different. “Another Brick in the Wall Part 1” is three minutes in length and is primarily a guitar song using a lot of long lasting notes creating a lot of atmosphere. The only lyrics is a single verse:

“Daddy's flown across the ocean,
Leaving just a memory,
Snapshot in the family album,
Daddy what else did you leave for me?
Daddy, what did ya leave behind for me?
All in all it was just a brick in the wall.
All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.”


The second world war has a lot of visual influence over Water’s creation, and anyone who has watched “The Wall” the movie will concur that the father’s departure is due to him leaving to fight in the war.

Another Brick in The Wall Part 3:

The third part of the “Another Brick in the Wall” set is sort of a conclusion to the brick laying as it were. Appropriately similar to the previous two parts of this trilogy the third part is a short song with very little actually being vocalized and once again we are left with a single chorus to develop this story:

“I don't need no arms around me,
I don't need no drugs to calm me,
I have seen the writing on the wall,
Don't think I need anything at all.
No don't think I'll need anything at all.
All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.
All in all you were just bricks in the wall.”


The rejection of everyone and everything finally comes. Enough bricks have been laid and the wall is now high enough for the narrator to hide himself away, socially and emotionally from the world. This is a fitting end to the first half of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” the only song to follow “Another Brick in the Wall Part 3” on side two is “Goodbye Cruel World” a lamenting song about letting go of everything and everyone. This is the true metaphor Roger Waters has created, a wall of misery standing too tall to climb, or ever look over. All that is left for the narrator to do is turn his back on the world and say goodbye.

And everything was just bricks in the wall.

I have often pondered over how to begin a conversation about my favorite album. “The Wall” has twenty-six songs in total; inarguably there are multiple launching points. At last I thought, what is a wall, metaphorical or otherwise, but a collection of bricks? Why not begin with those?

- King of Braves