Most walls are built with brick and mortar. Pink Floyd's The Wall was built with spit.
In July 1977, performing in front of tens of thousands of fans at the Montreal Olympic Stadium, bassist Roger Waters became so irritated by the throngs of noisy fans in the front row that he actually spat at them.
As the popular myth goes, Waters felt alienated when performing at large venues and began to imagine what it would be like to have a barrier, specifically a wall, built between the band and audience.
So was born the concept behind 1979's epic album The Wall. Immediately a success, The Wall would become one of the top 5 selling albums of all time in the United States.
On Tuesday, Waters (who wrote all the lyrics and most of the music) will re-create his rock opera at the St. Pete Times Forum, which will be home to the monstrous inflatable puppets, theatrical lighting and piped-in sound effects that are as much a part of The Wall as the songs themselves.
"The ambition is really simple," Waters said during an interview with radio producer-writer Jim Ladd earlier this year. "It's just to try and move people a little bit."
If you're new to Pink Floyd and the grandeur of The Wall, here's a primer for beginners.
While the idea of a concept album wasn't new in 1979 — roughly one decade earlier, the Beatles saluted Sgt. Pepper and the Who gave birth to Tommy — Pink Floyd's double album is considered a masterpiece of the genre, albeit a dark and dismal one. It follows the life of a British boy named Pink from his childhood in war-ravaged England to his crippling isolation as a rock star. Along the way, Pink's story — the overprotective mother, the death of a father, the drugs he uses to find release — plays out in song.
While the overall theme of the album may be foreign, a few of the song titles shouldn't be. The menacing Hey You and spiraling Comfortably Numb still get regular FM radio play. And Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2), much like Alice Cooper's School's Out, remains the obligatory anthem of the last day of class for millions of disaffected youths with its Cockney chorus of "We don't need no education."
Further adding to the momentum of the album, a live-action/animated film version of The Wall was released in 1982, starring Bob Geldof (later of Live Aid fame) as Pink. Presented as a musical, the film offered very little dialogue outside the original music. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert raved about it both in 1982 and again when he re-reviewed it earlier this year. "This isn't the most fun to listen to and some viewers don't find it too much fun to watch, but the 1982 film is without question the best of all serious fiction films devoted to rock."
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
Like other great works of art, the culmination of Pink's life is largely open to interpretation. While some may detect hope and rebirth inside the soot-laden language, critics more often point to the message of life's ultimate futility. "As Roger Waters sees it, even the most glittering success later in life — in his case, international rock stardom — is a mockery because of mortality," Rolling Stone magazine said in its review.
THE NEW MESSAGE
Waters cautions, however, that his message has evolved and broadened over the years, something he hopes concertgoers will notice in this tour. "There are a lot of walls surrounding the world today. There's a wall between rich and poor, between the first and second world — the new world and the old world. There are walls that divide people because of their different religious affiliations," he said to Ladd. "We live in a world where we're separated one from another by these differences, not necessarily in good ways."