Loved by some and hated by others, The Wall will always be remembered as one of Pink Floydâ€™s greatest musical achievements. Although mainly a Waters/Ezrin project, David Gilmour played an important role in shaping the music and not least providing some of the best guitar work heâ€™s ever produced.
My relationship with The Wall is mixed. I must confess that the album can be quite a challenge at times. Still, thereâ€™s something about it that amaze me every time I listen to it. The sheer power of the production, Rogerâ€™s semi-autobiographical, no frills lyrics, the beautiful arrangements by Kamen and of course Davidâ€™s guitar. Some of the songs on the album will always stand out as some of Floydâ€™s finest. I can find inspiration and strength from listening it but itâ€™s also one of the most depressing albums ever made. Its honesty and gloom can really mess up your head.
I remember very well when I first heard the album â€“ an experience that truly had a great impact on a young mind. I was in 6th grade, barely 13 years old, and our teacher played this handful of songs and she wanted us to draw what came natural. I remember distinctly that we listened to Another Brick in the Wall 1 and 2 and The Trial as well as a couple of other songs that I now have forgotten. Iâ€™d never heard these songs before â€“ not even Brick 2 â€“ but it totally blew me away. I drew helicopters, marching soldiers and cruel teachers. I was totally freaked out when I saw the album cover and realized that Iâ€™d drawn many of the same images while the other students had bored them selves to death or drawn flowers and cats. The music had touched me and Iâ€™ve been a devoted fan ever since.
Iâ€™ve always been a huge fan of Davidâ€™s Animals tones and Wall comes as a close second. Itâ€™s hard to tell where Animals begins and Wall starts… or ends. Iâ€™ve always considered 1976-1983 to be a period where David experimented and found his tone but at the same time repeated himself quite a lot. Animals was, to some extent, very similar to WYWH. Now David had his first Cornish pedal board which featured a Big Muff and his tones got heavier along with the albumâ€™s darker, more aggressive sound but his playing was very similar to whatâ€™s on WYWH. If you listen to recordings from the Animals tour, youâ€™ll recognise much of the same stuff on his â€™78 solo album. Songs like Thereâ€™s No Way Out of Here is Pigs all over and itâ€™s very interesting to hear how he used more or less the same setup on the album as on the prior tour.
When recording Wall, David went again back to basics and produced tones very similar to Animals. Gone were much of the liquidy, swirly sounds from his solo album and his guitar was more in line with the pristine super clean production… although songs like Thin Ice sure sounds like a washing machine! Itâ€™s actually interesting to go back and listen to the Wall demos and hear how David used a MXR Phase 90 on almost all the songs. This effect was never picked up on the final recording sessions apart from the barely audioable use on Another Brick 2 and Donâ€™t Leave Me Now.
Back on the road, David once again employed the Yamaha rotating speakers, which now were even more dominating than on the Animals tour. Together with the Electric Mistress flanger, they put a soft blanket over his tones, all liquidy and swirly. As if this wasnâ€™t enough, his signal was also split in two from the Cornish board via two Boss CE2 chorus pedals for a wide stereo effect!
– A complete list of David’s guitars, amps and effects on The Wall album and tour.
– A detailed look at the Pete Cornish pedal board.
– The historty of David’s Black Strat.
– A close look at the Yamaha RA200 rotating speaker cabinet.
– Create your own killer Comfortably Numb tone!
Like Davidâ€™s first solo album, Final Cut is also a testimony of the tone he used on the prior tour. For the sessions he used more or less an identical setup to what heâ€™d been using on the Wall tour and you can really hear that swirly, liquidy tone from the Is There Anybody Out There live album on songs like Possible Pasts and the title track.
The Wall tour also marks the last time David used his classic Hiwatt/WEM/rotating speakers/Cornish board setup until the 2006 tour. 1984â€™s About Face saw a complete transition to a more modern setup, which evolved on the Momentary tour in 1987-90. Although David slowly incorporated more and more of his 70â€™s rigs, he never really went all the way until On an Island.
The funny thing about Davidâ€™s playing on the Wall is that when you listen to the album it sounds fresh and quite innovative. Thereâ€™s some guitar stuff on it thatâ€™s just amazing and parts thatâ€™s defined David as a guitarist. However, if you start analyzing everything itâ€™s perhaps one of the more repetitive albums heâ€™s ever recorded. The echo guitars on another Brick is based on the build up from the mid section on Echoes. Young Lust is a clone of The Nile Song and Have a Cigar. Run Like Hell is more or less the same as the outtro on Sheep and Is There Anybody Out There even features the â€seagull screamsâ€ from Echoes…. and thatâ€™s just Davidâ€™s parts. Still, the magic lies in how it was recorded and produced using guitars much more as an effect rather than the usual rhythm or lead instrument. David used a lot of time experimenting with ways of recording his guitars from traditional micing of the cabinets, blending amps and rotating speakers and recording straight into the mixing desk.
1978-1981 was also an interesting period in terms of the Black Strat. In late summer 1978 David installed the mini pickup switch and replaced the old 1963 rosewood neck with a custom birds eye Grover Jackson/Charvel maple neck. In late 1979 the Black Strat was fitted with a custom Seymour Duncan SSL1 bridge pickup, replacing the DiMarzio FS-1.
Every band has a youthful â€I donâ€™t give a shitâ€ period. Beatles had theirâ€™s around the White Album, where they grew beards and pretty much strayed as far away from the musical formula as they could. The album stands out as perhaps their best. Pink Floyd had their White Album period with Animals. This was a time where they looked like hell and played music like madmen. Animals is definitely one of their best album (if not THE best album). When Wall came out, Pink Floyd had grown up. They cut their hair and wore ironed, white shirts on stage. Theyâ€™d become professionals and way too big to act like they belonged in a riot, rather than a band. Wall was big business and Waters was the captain of the new enterprise. It turned out to split the band and crash land into bankruptcy but what the hell. Comfortably Numb earns more money per year from airplay that what it cost to produce the album anyway.
The Wall will always be Rogerâ€™s. Davidâ€™s no big fan and he had little input on the writing process. Still, Wall will always remain as one of the biggest achievements in music history and I think it will continue to inspire future generations, just like it inspired Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, Dream Theatre, Queensryche and the whole idea of making concept albums. Itâ€™s not just the music but the genius way of blending music, lyrics and art into a story thatâ€™s universal. The Wall is as much a classical suite or an opera as a rock album – you can hear Mozart and Wagner looming in the background. Waters and Floyd managed to give the listener an experience that went way beyond the normal way of making music. A lot of this mentality inspired Radioheadâ€™s OK Computer and Porcupine Treeâ€™s Fear of a Blank Planet (to name a few) where music, lyrics and artwork goes hand in hand to give the listener a complete experience. This is an art form and way of making music thatâ€™s almost forgotten in todayâ€™s music industry but still sustained by bands that has a close relationship with their fans and a genuine sense of making the music they believe in.
Join me in celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Wall and feel free to share your experience and thoughts.