Asking what the Wall means is like asking for a brief explanation of what makes Hamlet a brilliant play. It's possible to summarize the work in one sentence, but the true meaning lies in the depth of the work.
The short answer: sit back, relax and listen to the album.
The shorter longer answer: the Wall is about the golden mean and realizing that what you do affects others just as much as the things that are done to you; it's about being an individual but not to the point of personal and social alienation; it's about how a person can be so consumed with hatred that he becomes the very thing he hates; it's about the danger of making gods of men; it's about the importance of communication, the void of excess, the fullness of the little moments; and above all, it's about personal, communal and social responsibility.
There are a lot of recurrent images and themes throughout the album and movie, and a lot of people out there who simply want to know what one bit or piece means without having to wade through the entire analysis. Below you'll find a short list of the images and themes most commonly asked about, each a link to the song/part of my analysis that discusses that specific topic.
|bricks / the wall|
|white / red color scheme|
Feel free to use my analysis as a resource as long as you cite my web site as a reference.
A Complete Analysis of Pink Floyd's The Wall
Original analysis written in May of 1997.
Revised analyses 2002 and 2010.
Chances are Shakespeare didn't put nearly as much thought into his works as our English teachers have led us to believe, yet there are libraries of books and scholarly journals solely dedicated to bard's work.
What I'm trying to say is that, yes, I am probably reading a lot into Pink Floyd's work, moreso than even the band intended. But art is subjective. Just because a symbol, nuance or theme wasn't intentional doesn't mean that it's not there. What an artist puts into a piece is only 50% of the artistic process; it is up to the audience to contribute the other 50%, bringing in their own unique experiences, interpretations and feelings and applying it to the work. After all, when we talk about a piece of art (book, CD, painting, whatever) we generally don't discuss what this work means to the artist, but what this work means to us. Artistic intention (or lack thereof) is neither full validation or dismissal. If a person can back up his or her interpretations with logical, well thought arguments based on the context of the work, that only makes the art richer and more complex.
We must always remember that even though the medium of art is inflexible (once a CD is recorded, a book printed, or a painting painted, it is unchanging) art itself is a living thing, and derives a great deal of its meaning from the audience and not the artist alone.
No. "Another Brick in the Wall, part 2" speaks out against certain kinds of education, namely those that try to stifle creativity and individuality through rote learning, producing nameless, faceless drones. For more on this topic, read this part of my "Brick in the Wall, 2" analysis.
The beginning of the album says "...we came in?" and the ending says "Isn't this where..." For more info on this circular tidbit, click here.
Simply put: No.
Pink's dictator self and the intentional racism of "In the Flesh" / "Run Like Hell" / "Waiting for the Worms" are all satirical. Waters' point is that miscommunication, misunderstanding and building up walls around ourselves eventually lead to a myopic existence, a kind of xenophobic hatred. He is arguing that wars are waged and people are killed because of the personal and social walls we construct, to keep ourselves in and to keep all others out. Click here for more on this topic.
I haven't written any other album analyses, nor do I plan on doing so at the moment.
There are two other web sites out there (that I know of) dedicated to specific Pink Floyd albums. Vince Amendolare's interpretation of "Dark Side of the Moon" and The Battersea Power Station: an Entire Web Site Dedicated to Pink Floyd's "Animals" Album.
There are rumors that certain members of the band like to surf the net for Pink Floyd sites. Who knows if those rumors are really true or not. All I can say is that no one from Pink Floyd has ever contacted me concerning my site...that I am aware of. David Gilmour could have easily written me under the guise of John Q. Public and I would have been none the wiser. I would absolutely love to get any feedback from the legendary Floyd themselves, but to my knowledge, it hasn't happened.
If you're e-mailing me for the latest in Pink Floyd news or info, you'll be sorely disappointed with my absolute lack of band knowledge. I might have written a lenghty interpretation of the Wall but I am by no means a Pink Floyd expert. If you want to know specifics about the band, the latest happenings / concerts / album news / whatever, you'd be better off writing some other Floyd web guy.
Even if you think the album version of the Wall is far superior, I still believe the movie has some merit. Yes, the movie is a bit heavy-handed at times, a bit self-indulgent at others, but it also adds nuances and complexities that the music alone cannot acheive (the very image of the facless masks are icons in themselves). Truth be told, the Wall has always been a visual album, even before the movie was made. Why else would the band have put on such elaborate concerts complete with Gerald Scarfe animation, inflatable characters and a giant wall that was built across the stage? It is also important to keep in mind that Roger Waters was very involved in the making of the movie, though he did have major differences of opinion with director Alan Parker (the unflattering song "Not Now John" from the Final Cut is said to be about their working relationship with Waters wanting to create an artistic film to compliment the album, and Parker wanting to party with a legendary rock band, not caring what the movie was about "as long as the kids go"). Though Roger is said to have been disappointed with the final product, it is interesting to note that it is Waters and art director Gerald Scarfe who provide the feature length commentary for the DVD edition, and not Alan Parker.
So whether the movie is inferior to the album or not, I still argue that it is a commendable effort that adds to the overall Wall experience.
Session singer Jimmy Haas, who is credited with backup vocals on the Wall, e-mailed me to set the record straight. He says that while Toni Tennille, the Beach Boys and others originally provided backup vocals on the Wall, their parts were ultimately scrapped and re-recorded using Haas and three other backup vocalists. Haas asserts that "We [the four session singers] re-did everything that was on tape up to that point. Some of it was just bare ideas that Roger had, but the intonation and flow just wasn't there, at least on the Beach Boy parts. The only thing I recall Toni on was a bit of 'Goodbye Blue Sky.' She may well have done more, but once Roger and David got our first tune in the can after about an hour's work, they erased everything [the previously recorded Beach Boys and Tennille vocals] and started over."
One thing is certain, though: Toni Tennille is not the voice of the groupie on the album version of "Empty Spaces." Floyd fan Brian Magnuson e-mailed Tennille's official web site, the reply stating that Toni did sing backup on the album, but did not voice "the Groupie."