Test of the Boomerang: Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” at 30

The double album turns 30 this year. In upcoming installments of Test of the Boomerang, ‘ll be taking a look at the album’s creation, live spectacle, aftermath and legacy. In this first installment we’ll be looking at the long-storied origins of the album and sharing the band’s original demo recordings.

I. Origins

It’s one of the most repugnant tales in rock history: The final show of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh” tour, July 6th, 1977 in Montreal. Roger Waters had had quite enough. Floyd was performing in a stadium, fans were setting off fireworks during the quiet numbers, the sound was lousy, and finally, out of the roiling sea of people, a fan, imploring the band to play “Careful With That Axe Eugene,” clambered onto the stage, only to have Waters spit in his face.

Pink Floyd had come a long way from the spirited whimsy of “See Emily Play” just 10 years prior. 1977 saw the release of Animals – a visceral and venomous five-song diatribe on class and culture. After the worldwide success of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, the grislier Animals showed Roger Waters exerting himself more and more as band leader and the weightier themes on their new album suggested a pretension that was very unlike the zen parable simplicity of Dark Side’s best moments or Wish You Were Here’s built-in nostalgia.

Of course, after that summer day in Montreal, Roger Waters went home, horrified by his own behavior, picked up a guitar and began to write. He envisioned the alienation that he felt onstage as a wall separating the audience from the performers. Along with his burned-out rock star neuroses, Waters also added in a laundry list of other angst – his father’s death in World War II, his lonely childhood, his divorce from his wife, and some themes recalling Syd Barrett, again the missing muse.

Madness in all its forms has always been lyrical fodder for Pink Floyd. Even before it became the chief undercurrent of Dark Side of the Moon, Syd Barrett mused on his own dualism (and his leaving the band) on “Jugband Blues” back in 1968 (“…I’m wondering who could be writing this song…”), and Waters’ mournful “If” from 1970’s Atom Heart Mother featured the awkward confession, “If I go insane, please don’t put your wires in my brain.”

He brought two projects to the band – one would later become his 1984 solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, and the other would become The Wall. The band more or less agreed on The Wall and set about expanding on the project. This is The Wall in its infantile stages. Enjoy.

Pink Floyd – “The Wall” 1978 Demos

Disc One

In the Flesh, The Thin Ice, Another Brick in the Wall Part I, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, Another Brick in the Wall Part II, Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Empty Spaces Part I, Young Lust, One of My Turns. Don’t Leave Me Now, Empty Spaces Part II/What Shall We Do Now?, Another Brick in the Wall Part III

Disc Two

Is There Anybody Out There? Part I, Vera, Bring the Boys Back Home, Is There Anybody Out There? Part II, Is There Anybody Out There? Part III, Comfortably Numb, Hey You, The Show Must Go On, In the Flesh, Run Like Hell, Waiting for the Worms, Stop, The Trial, Outside the Wall

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Ben Wiser
Test of the Boomerang is an in-depth exploration of some of the best material found on the Live Music Archive.