Pink Floyd: Goodbye Blue Sky
Originally published in Guitar World, October 2009
Stressed out by power struggles and creative differences, Pink Floyd were near the breaking point when they created the greatest album of their career, The Wall. In this extraordinary oral history, the members tell how it all came crashing down.
The Wall is the concept album of concept albums. If the majority of Pink Floyd fans consider Dark Side of the Moon the best album to listen to while having sex or consuming drugs, then one can only speculate on the practical use The Wall serves for the millions who made it a No. 1 record for five weeks in Britain and 15 in the U.S. Bleak, claustrophobic and punctuated by moments of flesh-tingling beauty, The Wall is built upon the themes of paranoia, megalomania, betrayal, breakdown and collapse, any of which may have described the mood of its myriad fans. What is certain is that The Wall reflected the state of mind at that time of the people who made it: bassist Roger Waters, guitarist Dave Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason and the late keyboardist Rick Wright.
Rewind to July 1977: increasingly disillusioned by playing what he later described as “oppressive” stadiums, Roger Waters set his sights on writing a concept album that would address the separation that these venues created between bands and their audiences. Certainly, fame was one aspect of the problem: the more popular the band, the larger the venue and the greater distance between the performer and fan. And in 1977, Pink Floyd were among the biggest bands in the world. But Waters experienced the division personally when, while performing that year on tour for the Animals album, he spit in the face of a fan that attempted to climb onstage. His response shocked and dismayed him, not only for its callousness but also because it demonstrated to him how fame and egocentricity had affected his regard for others.
But from this episode, Waters would conceive his greatest creative achievement. In the aftermath of the incident, he developed the theme for The Wall and over the following year began to shape it into an album. In the course of that time, Waters made the acquaintance of the man who would play an important role in creating The Wall: producer Bob Ezrin. He had met the former Alice Cooper producer while in Toronto during the Animals tour. Ezrin says, “Eighteen months later I got a call from Roger asking me to come to his home and talk about the possibility of working together on a project called The Wall.”
The story centers on Pink, a youngster whose father dies in World War II while Pink is still young (an episode that mirrors the death of Waters’ father). Smothered by his overly protective mother and beaten down at school by abusive teachers, Pink responds by building a psychological wall to isolate himself from social contact. He eventually becomes a rock star, living a life fueled by drugs and violence. With his marriage destroyed by his infidelities, Pink finds himself alone, cut off from humanity. His personal crises lead to hallucinations, including the delusion that he is a fascist Hitler-like dictator whose concerts become hate rallies. As Pink’s conscience begins to assert itself against the violence, it places him on trial for his actions, and his internal judge orders him to tear down the wall, freeing Pink from his seclusion and initiating his return to the outside world.
The ambitious story made for a demanding and grueling production. Given the already fractious nature of Pink Floyd, the sessions for The Wall were marred by arguments, creative battles and psychological walls of its own, and led to the dismissal of founding member Rick Wright. Out of the emotional wreckage came one of rock’s greatest milestones, but the damage to Pink Floyd was irrevocable.
Thirty years after The Wall’s release, the making of this monumental album and its subsequent tour are recalled in the following oral history. Although their recollections on the subject frequently disagree, the words of the band members—as well as those of Ezrin, engineer and co-producer James Guthrie and album designer Gerald Scarfe—deliver a provocative behind-the-scenes look at how Pink Floyd created their most ambitious record.
BOB EZRIN Roger invited me down [to England] for the weekend. He sat me in a room and proceeded to play a tape of music all strung together—almost like one song 90 minutes long—called The Wall, then some other bits and bobs of ideas that resurfaced later on some of his solo work. It wasn’t in anything like the final form, but that “We don’t need no education” verse [from “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II”] stayed with me for months after just hearing it once. And “Mother” just blew me away. I knew after listening to the music that this was going to be an important work and that it was going to take a lot to pull it into something cohesive.
ROGER WATERS I could see it was going to be a complex process, and I needed a collaborator who I could talk to. I needed someone like Ezrin who was musically and intellectually in a similar place to where I was.
DAVID GILMOUR We never made plans immediately after finishing a project to get together and start the next thing. We always took a little bit of time off. When we did meet up again in a studio in London [after the Animals tour], Roger had the idea that he wanted to make one of the two projects that he had been working on at his own studio. He came in with two fairly well formed ideas: one was The Wall and one was what eventually became his first solo album. Between us, we decided that The Wall would be the one that we would start working on when we reconvened.
NICK MASON Roger’s demo tapes were very poor quality, but it was immediately clear that it was an interesting idea that could be developed musically.
RICK WRIGHT There were always things about it where I thought, Oh no, here we go again: it’s all about the war, about his mother, about his father being lost. I’d hoped he could get through all this and eventually he could deal with other stuff. Every song was written in the same tempo, same key, same everything.
At that time we were, in theory, bankrupt. Our accountants had lost our money, we owed huge amounts of tax, and we were told we must go away for a year and make an album to try to repay the tax we owed. Possibly, if we were not in this financial situation we might have said, We don’t like these songs. But Roger had this material, Dave and I didn’t have any, so [we figured] we’ll do it.
GILMOUR I thought it was a very good concept at the time. I don’t like it quite as much now. With the benefit of hindsight I found it a bit [whiney]. But I was willing to let Roger have full reign of his vision.
In an all-night session, Ezrin plowed through Roger Waters’ tapes to get a rough idea of how the songs could be composed into a complete concept.
EZRIN What I did that night was write a script for an imaginary Wall movie. I organized all the pieces of music we had, and some we didn’t, plus sound effects and cross-fades [fading out one song while simultaneously fading another], into a cohesive tale. I felt who the central character was and I came to the conclusion that we needed to take it out of the literal first person and put it into the figurative [via the character Pink]. I came in the next day with a script, handed it out to everybody, and we did a table read. It was a whole other way of doing things when you’re making music, but it really helped to crystallize the work. From that point on we were no longer fishing but building to a plan.
WATERS The basic shape of it didn’t change. Some songs changed a lot, others—“Don’t Leave Me Now,” “Is There Anybody Out There?” “Mother”—are almost exactly as they were.
EZRIN Once we got out of Roger’s house and into the studio, it was very much a collaborative effort. Often we’d have these bash-’em-ups that would go on for weeks. As they’re English and I’m Canadian we were very gentlemanly about it, but no one would budge.
GILMOUR Someone would say, “I don’t like that one very much,” someone else might agree, and then Roger would look all sulky, and the next day he’d come back in with something brilliant. He was very good about that during The Wall. Some of the songs—I remember “Nobody Home”—came along when we were well into the thing and he’d gone off in a sulk the night before and came in the next day with something fantastic.
WATERS They would like to believe that the making of The Wall was a group collaboration—well, okay, they collaborated on it, but we were not collaborators. This was not a co-operative; it was in no sense a democratic process. If somebody had a good idea I would accept it and maybe use it. Rick didn’t have any input at all, apart from playing the odd keyboard part, and Nick played the drums, with a little help from his friends. And Dave played the guitar and wrote music for a couple of songs, but he didn’t have any input into anything else really. The collaboration with Ezrin was a fertile one; his input was big. And Dave got a production credit—I’m sure he had something to do with the record production. But there was really only one chief, and that was me.
GILMOUR Roger was one of the main producers because it was his idea, and he was very, very good about many aspects of production, like dynamics. I’ve always been one of the producers on Pink Floyd records, and while I might not argue with Roger much over lyrics, I think I know as much as anybody in or around the band about music and would certainly give my opinions quite forcibly. Bob Ezrin was there partly as a man in the middle to help smooth the flow between Roger and I. Our arguments were numerous and heated.
MASON We were looking at the way we worked to see if we could improve it, and everybody thought it would be helpful to have an outside infl uence. Roger had met Bob Ezrin, and it seemed a good idea to have this hot young engineer, James Guthrie, to complement him.
JAMES GUTHRIE At the time I got the call from the manager, Steve O’Rourke, summoning me to his office. I saw myself as a hot young producer. He told me the band was looking for some new blood, and they sent me to meet Roger. Basically, I wasn’t told about Bob [Ezrin], and Bob wasn’t told about me. When we arrived, I think we felt we’d been booked to do the same job.
WRIGHT I was concerned that an outside producer might lose what the four of us would do together. But on the other hand I thought, God, do we need a referee.
WATERS We were working shoulder to shoulder up to and including Dark Side… From that point forward we weren’t. We’d achieved what we’d set out to achieve together, and the only reason we stayed together after that was through fear and avarice.
GILMOUR There are three sections to making The Wall. First in Britannia Row in London, having ideas, demo-ing it all up; then in France, where we made the bulk of the album; and Los Angeles, where we went to finish and mix it. In France, particularly, we worked very well, very hard.
MASON The pace was fast and furious. We were actually running two studios in France at once.
GILMOUR Superbear, the studio we were mostly at, was high in the mountains, and it’s notorious for being difficult to sing there [due to reduced oxygen levels at high altitudes], and Roger had a lot of difficulty singing in tune—he always did. [laughs] So we found another studio, Miraval, and Roger would go there with Bob to do vocals.
EZRIN We were working to a deadline, which was a declared vacation. I once added it up and I think the whole process probably came out to four or five months of real studio time, but spread over a year because we did short hours and took a lot of vacations. They were all family guys, and Roger decided we were working 10 to 6. We worked gentleman’s hours, wore gentleman’s clothes, ate gentleman’s food, even had tea and biscuits brought in every day at the appropriate time. It was all very civilized. And considering we were doing at the same time fairly countercultural stuff, it created almost a schizophrenic feeling of surreality about the project, especially in France.
GUTHRIE Everyone, including Roger, was encouraging Dave to come up with some ideas, and the day that he turned up with “Comfortably Numb,” sang a “la-la” melody over the top of these chords, was fantastic.
EZRIN “Comfortably Numb” started off as a demo of Dave’s. At first Roger had not planned to include any of Dave’s material [on the album], but we had things that needed filling in. I fought for this song and insisted that Roger work on it. My recollection is that he did so grudgingly. He came back with this spoken-word verse and a lyric in the chorus that to me still stands out as one of the greatest ever written. The marriage of that lyric and Dave’s melodies and emotionally spectacular solo—every time I hear that song I get goose bumps.
WATERS What happened is Dave gave me a chord sequence, so if you wanted to fight about it I could say that I wrote the melody and the lyrics, obviously. I think in the choruses he actually hummed a bit of the melody, but in the verses he certainly didn’t. That’s never been a problem for me; I think it’s a great chord sequence. Why are we talking about this? Arguing about who did what at this point is kind of futile.
GILMOUR Roger and I had a good working relationship. We argued a lot, sometimes heatedly—artistic disagreements, not an ego thing. But overall we were still achieving things that were valid. Things like “Comfortably Numb” are really the last embers of Roger and my ability to work collaboratively together—my music, his words. I gave Roger the bits of music, he wrote some words, he came in and said, “I want to sing this line here. Can we extend this by so many bars so I can do that?” So I said, “Okay, I’ll put something in there.”
We went to L.A. with two versions. We recorded one backing track, just the drums basically, which Roger and Bob liked a lot, but I felt was a bit loose in places, so we did another take which I liked better. And we had quite a large row about which of these two versions we should use. In the end we used bits of both, and I’m not at all sure if you played me one of those backing tracks and then the other one I’d know the difference now. But it seemed incredibly important at the time.
“Comfortably Numb” became a central song within The Wall and proved to be one of the band’s greatest hits. “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” was yet another masterpiece, and remains to this day, like “Comfortably Numb,” a staple of rock radio. At the time of its creation, however, the band members weren’t enamored of Ezrin’s request to give the song a “disco” dance vibe.
WATERS On the demo I made [of “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)”] it was just me singing to an acoustic guitar.
GILMOUR It wasn’t my idea to do disco music, it was Bob’s. He said to me, “Go to a couple of clubs and listen to what’s happening with disco music,” so I forced myself out and listened to loud, four-to-the-bar bass drums and stuff and thought, Gawd, awful! Then we went back and tried to turn one of the “Another Brick in the Wall” parts into one of those so it would be catchy. We did the same exercise on “Run Like Hell.”
EZRIN The most important thing I did for the song was to insist that it be more than just one verse and one chorus long, which it was when Roger wrote it. When we played it with the disco drumbeat I said, “Man, this is a hit! But it’s one minute 20. We need two verses and two choruses.” And they said, “Well, you’re not bloody getting them. We don’t do singles, so fuck you.” So I said, “Okay fine,” and they left. And because of our two-[tape recorder] setup, while they weren’t around we were able to copy the first verse and chorus, take one of the drum fills, put them in between and extend the chorus.
Then the question is what do you do with the second verse, which is the same? And having been the guy who made [Alice Cooper’s] “School’s Out,” I’ve got this thing about kids on record, and it is about kids after all. [“School’s Out” also features a children’s chorus.] So while we were in America, we sent [engineer] Nick Griffi ths to a school near the Floyd studios [in Islington, North London]. I said, “Give me 24 tracks of kids singing this thing. I want Cockney, I want posh, fill ’em up,” and I put them on the song. I called Roger into the room, and when the kids came in on the second verse there was a total softening of his face, and you just knew that he knew it was going to be an important record.
WATERS It was great—exactly the thing I expected from a collaborator.
GILMOUR And it doesn’t, in the end, not sound like Pink Floyd.
The atmosphere during the recording ranged from mildly tense to brutally confrontational. The breaking point came when Rick Wright was fired.
EZRIN There was tension between the band members, even tension between the wives of the band members. There was a period in France where it was very hostile, that passive-aggressive English-style conflict.
MASON Bob probably sees it as war because he was under attack. He was going through what can only be described as an “unreliable” phase of his life. He was staying down in Nice, we were all up in the hills, and he’d drive down there when he finished work—and I suspect have a wild time—and then be astonished when we were pissed off when he’d arrive back the next morning late.
EZRIN During that period I went a little bit mad and really dreaded going in, so I would find any excuse to come in late the next morning. I preferred not to be there while Roger was there. A lot of the time it was so tense. And a lot of it was directed at me. I had gone to a private school in Toronto where I was one of two Jews and I was regularly beaten up—I was the scapegoat. We went to France and the atmosphere turned that way, at first playfully. But what was playful to Roger was painful to me because it took me back to that time in Toronto when I was a gangly kid and I wanted to hang myself. Roger didn’t know about that; I’ve never mentioned it before now. God forbid you show a weak spot. But I did. I should have fought back, but I didn’t.
GILMOUR It wasn’t total war, though there were bad vibes, certainly toward Rick, because he didn’t seem to be pulling his weight.
WRIGHT I wanted to work, but Roger was making it difficult for that to happen. I think he was already thinking of trying to get rid of me.
EZRIN I saw it happening, and it really made me quite ill. I felt that so much pressure was being put on Rick that it was impossible for him to live up to expectations. It was almost as though he was being set up to fail.
WATERS Why did I fire Rick? Because he was not prepared to cooperate in the making of the record. What actually happened was The Wall was the first album where we didn’t divide the production credit between everybody in the band. At the beginning of the process, when I said I was going to bring Bob Ezrin in and he was going to get paid, I said, “I’m going to produce the record as well, so is Dave, so we’re going to get paid as well, but Nick, you don’t actually do any record production, and Rick neither do you. So you’re not going to get paid.” Nick said, “Fair enough,” but Rick said, “No, I produce the records just as much as you do.” So we agreed we would start making the record and we would see. But who would be the arbiter? We all agreed on Ezrin.
So Rick sat in the studio. He would arrive exactly on time, which was very unusual, and stay to the bitter end every night. Ezrin was slightly irked by this brooding presence very occasionally saying, “I don’t like that.” He asked me, “Why’s Rick here again?” So I said, “Don’t you get it? He’s putting in the time to prove he’s a record producer. You talk to him about it.” So he did. After that Rick never came to another session, unless he was asked to do keyboard tracks. And he became almost incapable of playing any keyboards anyway. It was a nightmare. I think that was the beginning of the end.
We had agreed to deliver the album at the beginning of October and we took a break in August to go on holiday. I sat down with a bunch of sheet music and paper and wrote out all the songs and what was needed and made up a schedule. It became clear to me that we couldn’t get it finished in the time available. So I called Ezrin, “Would you be prepared to start a week earlier on the keyboard parts with Rick in Los Angeles?” Eventually he went, “All right, thanks pal”—because of the idea of doing the keyboard tracks with Rick. I said, “Look, you can get another keyboard player in as well in case it’s stuff he can’t handle, but if you get all that keyboard overdubbing done before the rest of us arrive we can just about make the end of the schedule.”
A couple of days later I got a call from Steve O’Rourke. I said, “Did you speak to Rick?” “Yeah. He said, ‘Tell Roger to fuck off.’ ” Right that’s it. Here I was doing all this work and Rick had been doing nothing for months, and I got, “Fuck off.” I spoke to Dave and Nick and said, “I can’t work with this guy, he’s impossible,” and they both went, “Yeah, he is.”
Anyway, it was agreed by everybody. I made the suggestion that O’Rourke gave to Rick: either you can have a long battle or you can agree to this, and “this” was “You finish making the album, keep your full share of the album, but at the end of it you leave quietly.” Rick agreed. So the idea of big bad Roger suddenly getting rid of Rick for no reason at all on his own is nonsense.
GILMOUR [sighs] I did not go along with it. I went out to dinner with Rick after Roger had said this to him and said if he wanted to stay in the band I would support him. I did point out to Rick that he hadn’t contributed anything of any value whatsoever to the album and that I was not overly happy with him myself. An awful lot of the keyboard parts are done by me, Roger, Bob Ezrin, [orchestra arranger] Michael Kamen and [keyboardist] Freddie Mandell, but his position in the band to me was sacrosanct. If people didn’t like the way it was going, it was their option to leave. I didn’t consider that it was their option to throw people out.
MASON I think in real terms it would have been highly likely that I would have been next. And then after that I think it would have been Dave. I think it’s just that Roger was feeling more and more that this was his idea, and he wanted total control. Roger and I have been friends since we were students, before the band even existed, so I suppose in that way my position was stronger.
But what I think had always been the case is there had always been this philosophical division within the band: Roger and I were seen as the ones who liked the special effects, the show, the technology, whereas Dave and Rick took a more musically pure position. There’s a very broad generalization, but since this was conceived from the beginning as a big theatrical production, I think that’s where the conflict started, because Rick is absolutely not someone who you would have a fight with. He’s extremely mild. He was his own worst enemy in that he could have perhaps given a little bit more and perhaps diffused the situation, but I think Roger maneuvered brilliantly. [laughs] Made Stalin look like an old muddle-head. We all felt fairly helpless at the time to change it or do anything. Roger made it fairly clear that if Rick stayed, he and the album would not, and I think the threat of what was hanging over us in terms of actual bankruptcy was pretty alarming. We were under a lot of pressure. I felt guilty. Still do really. In retrospect one likes to think that one would have behaved better and done things differently. But probably we would have done completely the same thing.
WRIGHT It would have been quite easy to say, “Oh, he had a cocaine problem or a drink problem.” I can honestly say that it really was not a drug problem. [Cocaine] was taken without a doubt by him, me, Dave, Nick, Bob Ezrin, but purely socially. It wasn’t lying around in the studio.
WATERS There were people who were doing a lot. Some of us had big, big problems. I certainly wasn’t doing drugs at that point.
WRIGHT When I think about it, Roger and I were never the best of friends, but we weren’t enemies either until we went into his ego trip. Once he decided he wanted to control everything, his first thought was, I’ll get rid of Rick; I never liked him anyway. It was part of his big plan to become the leader, the writer, the producer and have people play for him. I think the next step of his plan, though they were buddies, was to get rid of Nick. That’s what I’ve heard. And then Dave would become the guitarist and Roger would use session musicians.
At the time I was going through a divorce. I wasn’t that keen on The Wall anyway, and I didn’t have any material. He might have seen my situation as not having contributed everything, but he wouldn’t allow me to contribute anything. We had a break after we finished recording in France, and I went to Greece to see my family. I get a call from Steve O’Rourke saying, “Come to L.A. immediately. Roger wants you to start recording keyboard tracks.” I said, “I haven’t seen my young kids for months and months. I’ll come on the agreed date.” He said, “Fair enough, I understand. Come on the agreed day.” Steve met me and said, “Roger wants you out of the band.”
MASON He took it and left. There must have been an element of him that just thought, Well I’ve had enough anyway if it’s going to be like this.
WRIGHT I fought my corner. Dave and Nick would say, “This is not right, we think it’s unfair.” When we had the meeting, Roger said, “Look, either you leave or I’m not going to let you record my material for The Wall.” It was maybe a game of bluff, but that’s what he said to me. Remember, we were in a terrible financial situation, and he said to me, “You can get your full royalties for the album, but you basically have to leave now and we’ll get a keyboard player to finish it.”
So I made the decision, rightly or wrongly, to leave. But I also made the decision I’m going to finish recording this album and I want to be in the live shows, and then we’ll say goodbye.
GUTHRIE Rick did some great playing on that album, whether or not people remember it. Some fantastic Hammond parts.
WRIGHT My therapist is still convinced I’m extremely angry about the whole thing. I think it was nasty. This is my band as much as it’s his. But the fact that Dave and Nick and Roger fell out immediately afterward kind of helped me deal with the fact that I’d left the band. But I don’t like the way it was done. I still feel it was wrong. Hopefully one day I’ll sit down with Roger and he might say, “Yes, it was unfair.”
WATERS No, it was absolutely the right thing to do.
The Wall was completed in Los Angeles. Evidence of Waters’ contributions are all over its packaging, including in the cover credits, which list both Waters and Gerald Scarfe as the designers. Music credits on the original release include three producers (including Waters), one co-producer, four engineers, three writers, two orchestra arrangers, six backing vocalists, a sound equipment man and the fourth form music class of Islington Green School. The names of Rick Wright and Nick Mason are nowhere to be seen.
WRIGHT I’d forgotten about that. Nick was left off as well? I wonder why. But by that time I’d left the band and sort of given up.
MASON I wasn’t too happy. It was rectified on later pressings, I think.
GERALD SCARFE I think Roger had a strong idea of what the Wall cover should look like— completely white with bricks on it. I did a little drawing while we were staying together in France that had all the little characters from [the song] “The Trial” poking out of the wall.
MASON There were a number of playbacks [for the record label]. One of the executives from CBS was absolutely appalled. He went back to the company and said, “This is terrible rubbish. What are we going to do?” Of course, it all turned out fine.
GUTHRIE The official playback was at CBS Records in Central City. I went in a couple hours early with a quarter-inch tape to set up the sound system in their conference room. By the time we got to the bit where the Stukas [dive bombers] swooped down, it was so loud that it blew the right speaker. So we hunted the entire building for an office that was big enough and that had a sound system that was even halfway decent. We eventually found one and took all the furniture out, threw in a load of cushions, turned the lights off and just played the album.
WRIGHT The playback was a very difficult, strange time. I think I was emotionally numb.
GILMOUR It was a magic moment, I thought, Yep, we’ve pretty well nailed it.
The Wall tour was Pink Floyd’s biggest spectacular yet, requiring 45 tons of equipment, 106 decibels of quadraphonic sound, a bomber plane, infl atable props, monstrous puppets designed by Gerald Scarfe, a fake Pink Floyd band in masks and 340 large bricks that were erected (via concealed hydraulic lifts) into a 160-by-35-foot wall.
EZRIN We had rough-mixed everything in France and pulled it together in sequence. We had a model of the stage and teeny rubber men and mock inflatables, and we played the record while “playing” the show on the tabletop. So the first time the band heard The Wall was a complete audio-visual experience. We were not just making an album—we were also building the stage show from the script. Roger and I would start the day at Gerald Scarfe’s house looking at animation, and then we would talk to Mark Fisher, architect-designer extraordinaire, about the stage design. We spent a lot of time weighing the bricks and making sure if they fell over no one would get killed.
SCARFE When Roger had written The Wall, he came to me and played the raw tapes and said he wanted to make an album, a show and a film. First of all, I had to decide what Pink would look like. I saw him as this embryonic little prawn-like figure who was completely vulnerable, because a lot of The Wall is about how we hide behind a wall because we don’t want people to hurt us. The wife I made like a serpent that would strike and sting. The teacher was based vaguely on a teacher I’d known myself. The mother was an old-fashioned Fifties comforting type with these very strong arms that turned into walls. The hammer characters came from me looking for a very cruel, unthinking image—something intractable that couldn’t be stopped. And then the idea of them goose-stepping came from that. It had humor to it in some parts, but it was pretty bleak.
WRIGHT As I saw it, Roger’s original concept for the show was literally to build a wall, go home and leave the audience pissed off. But once the wall was built and the visual stuff was put on it and the holes opened up so that the band members could be seen, it became a very good theatrical device.
GILMOUR The shows were terrific. As they went along, I became more aware of the restrictions of something that was so choreographed—there was not really much room for letting the music go away into its own thing. But you have to look at it as a different thing. It’s as much a theatrical piece as it is a musical piece.
MASON The drums were in an armored cage, so when the wall collapsed it wouldn’t destroy them. It was a curious, rather nice environment. Not much spontaneity, but we’re not well known for our duck walking and gyrating about onstage.
WRIGHT Why did I agree to play? Maybe I couldn’t actually handle the idea of just standing in the room and saying, “Right, that’s it, bye-bye.” I thought, If I’m going to leave at least I know I’ve got another month or so to carry on working, even possibly with the hope in the back of my mind that things might change. On the live performances Roger was being reasonably friendly. It was difficult, but I tried to forget all my grudges, and I enjoyed playing The Wall. I put everything I could into the performances. It wasn’t too bad at all.
MASON Of course it was. But the British are bloody good at that, just getting on with something in spite of the fact that they’re absolutely seething.
WATERS It was fait accompli. Rick was being paid a wage, he seemed happy with that, we were happy with that, and that was the end of it. Or maybe he wasn’t happy… Backstage it was all pretty separatist: separate trailers, none facing each other. The atmosphere was awful.
WRIGHT Bands can go onstage and perform even if they hate each other. It was a band that I felt was falling to pieces Which of course it did.
EZRIN I was asked to be involved with the show and I couldn’t—I was going through a divorce. That and another incident—where in my naïvety I took a phone call from a friend who happened to be a journalist and broke my nondisclosure with the band when he teased information out of me—so upset Roger. That was it. I was banned from backstage. I went anyway. New York was my territory, all the security at the venue knew me from Kiss and Alice Cooper. When Pink Floyd security said, “He can’t come in,” they said, “Like hell he can’t!” I had to buy my ticket, but I saw the show. It was flawless and utterly overwhelming. In “Comfortably Numb,” when Dave played his solo from the top of the wall, I broke down in tears. It was the embodiment of the entire experience. In the final analysis it produced what is arguably the best work of that decade. Maybe one of the most important rock albums ever.