The Summer of 1982 may be over (give or take Blade Runner being shown) but Alamo Drafthouse threw in an additional 12 movies which also made their debut 30 years ago. Not all are particularly good (Class of 1984, The Sword and the Sorcerer), they mostly served the purposes of special-feature nights such as Music Monday, Terror Tuesday, Weird Wednesday and Kid’s Camp. I decided to take in the only feature for Music Monday with my friend Jeff who’s a bigger Pink Floyd fan.
The Wall isn’t going to receive the same treatment because it didn’t break any new ground or have any long-term influence. A big factor on the latter dilemma can be attributed to MTV. The cable network may have been just a year old when the movie hit theaters but younger people (like myself) were drawn to the shorter, frenetic video styles newer bands from the UK made. Besides, Pink Floyd’s 1979 double album proved to be their last truly musical hurrah. After The Wall, the quartet was creatively exhausted and the ego issues became too much; does anyone listen to 1983′s The Final Cut? Looking back, this musical is the definitive, final farewell to the Seventies®…until the Classic Rock backlash by the mid-Eighties.
For those who aren’t familiar with the loose story the 26 songs tie together, The Wall is about Pink’s descent into madness. Despite being a huge rock star, he is emotionally crippled by his mommy and daddy issues. His father died in WWII thus creating abandonment problems; his mother never re-married and focused on raising him, ergo smothering him. The film covers the madness all coming to a head while Pink is on tour in America. The Wall is a tad biographical as Pink is a composite character of then band leader Roger Waters (the issues) and former founder Syd Barrett (he really went insane). This is the generally accepted mythos everybody practically knows like The Who’s Tommy or Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime.
The original album isn’t quite so coherent. David Gilmour’s songs were wedged or retrofitted into the overall plot since his major contributions tended to be their hit singles: “Young Lust,” “Comfortably Numb” and “Run Like Hell.” These memorable tracks are a relief from Roger Waters’ navel-gazing/pseudo therapy.
When given the opportunity to turn The Wall into a movie on par with Tommy, I’m confident Waters thought he could redo it as a screenplay closer to his original vision before producer Bob Ezrin got involved. There are a couple additional tunes to bridge some gaps, none are worth remembering. It’s too bad director Alan Parker didn’t wrestle more control to tighten up the narrative.
There are a couple silver linings I want to point out:
- It was Bob Hoskins’ first or second major US appearance, depends if more people saw Zulu Dawn.
- Pink was played by Bob Geldof two years before he co-founded Live Aid with Midge Ure. In another 15 years, he was on the short list of suspects in Michael Hutchence’s murder, later ruled a suicide.
1982 (14-year old me): C. I wasn’t much of a Pink Floyd fan at this age. When I was becoming more musically aware, they were usually a favorite of stoners and burnouts. This wouldn’t interest me much beyond the naked women scenes. I did finally see The Wall four years later in college to see what the fuss was about. By then it had become a midnight staple which meant the majority in attendance were drunk, high or both. This became pretty apparent during “Goodbye Blue Sky,” as a bird gets turned inside out and the screen is covered in blood. I heard screams from some who forgot it was just a movie.
2012: B-. Again, Waters’ controlling personality prevented The Wall from living up to its potential. Maybe a few more years of writing and re-writing could’ve helped. When I stopped listening to the radio I did regain my appreciation for Pink Floyd’s material and The Wall (musical version) has an academic home in my brain as a piece of history. I enjoy the hits, especially after Scissor Sisters did a great cover of “Comfortably Numb” as a dance song. Purists cringe but I disagree. A successful re-interpretation by another genre proves Waters and Gilmour’s skill as songwriters. As for the movie, this remains an exclusive for the band’s diehard following.
Could someone explain to me what the significance of the hammers?