Pink Floyd: Goodbye Blue Sky
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.
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