When rock fans debate the best concept album, the best rock opera, or the best live tour, Pink Floyd's The Wall always rises to the top. One of Pink Floyd's greatest albums, The Wall tells the story of a traumatized rockstar falling apart at the seams and attempting to protect his fragile psyche with a metaphorical wall. It's a horrifying tale full of disturbing characters, told through memorable rock songs and carefully chosen sound effects. Behind the scenes, the great success of the album came despite members of the band being fired and the feud that arose between Roger Waters and David Gilmour.
Even after the album made it onto store shelves, a massive stage show and a big-studio movie based on The Wall proved challenging - and sometimes even treacherous - to the band. These stories about recording The Wall and bringing it to life in an audiovisual spectacular depict the kind of ambitious rock band that doesn't appear to exist anymore.
During a 1977 Pink Floyd concert in Montreal, Canada, a loud and rowdy group of audience members managed to take front-row seats. Over the course of the show, this group became so obnoxious and intrusive to bassist Roger Waters that he shouted and then spit at one of them.
Waters immediately felt disgusted, wondering what happened to divide him so much from his audience. This division was the starting point for the concept of The Wall.
Roger Waters conceptualized the album based on his personal experiences. The songs cover heavy topics, including the loss of a father during WWII and the son who never met him, as well as an overprotective mother and difficult divorce.
These were all experiences Waters endured, which remain vital parts of the story. Waters told The New York Times:
When it was first done, I was bemoaning the fact I was a child of [WWII] and I had lost my father, and that has a severe fracturing nature on the family, and it made me very angry about a lot of things.
The Wall's protagonist, called "Pink," was played by Waters on stage during live performances.
Pink Floyd recruited respected producer Bob Ezrin to help them develop The Wall, along with engineer James Guthrie. Faced with the conceptualized but unorganized material that "was enough for three albums," Guthrie suggested that the "most complete" songs be recorded first and the rest of the album could be built around them.
Ezrin told Tammy La Gorce of the Grammys that he began writing an outline for the album that came together quickly once he started thinking of it as a script. He presented the band with his "script," including places where current songs and "to be written" songs would fit in later.
Though the exact reasons and timing are debated, Pink Floyd's longtime keyboardist Richard Wright was fired from the band during the recording of The Wall. He was hired as a contract player for the subsequent tours, but his feud with Roger Waters ended his full-time status in Pink Floyd.
Waters also says that guitarist David Gilmour suggested that the band fire drummer Nick Mason for his subpar drumming skills, a claim that Gilmour disputes. However, some complex drum parts on The Wall were played by another drummer, Jeff Porcaro of Toto.