Albums That Shaped My Life, Part Two
Last week, in Albums That Shaped My Life Part One, I talked about how the album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs by Marty Robbins influenced my life, starting from about 5 or 6 years old, when I first heard it. The cowboy life--hard work, isolation, ethics--portrayed on that album was the first step in me becoming who I am.
This one's going to be a bit more personal--partially because this week's album was released in November 1979, so I remember more of "me" back then. For me to remember me at 5 years old is a stretch. So here we go....Albums That Shaped My Life, Part Two: The Wall, by Pink Floyd.
The Wall was the eleventh studio album by Pink Floyd, and was released in late November 1979. The album, a rock opera, didn't really make critics happy, but did very well commercially, topping the Billboard 200 chart in the US for 15 weeks. It became the band's second-best selling album, one of the best-selling albums of all time, and one of the most well-known concept albums.
In November 1979, I was 18 years old, and in my final year of High School (where I grew up, there was a Grade 13) and after 5 years of high school, I was fed up and ready to move on.
For me, someone who seemed to have been born an outsider, The Wall was the final element needed to create the perfect storm in my life. The bigger that my world was becoming was resulting in greater isolation (often of my own doing)--one of the major themes of the album.
For those of you who have never listened to the album, here's a synopsis: The Wall explores abandonment and isolation, symbolized, of course, by a wall. The songs create an approximate storyline of events in the life of the "hero," Pink, who begins to build a metaphorical "wall" around himself. Pink is oppressed by his overprotective mother, and tormented at school by tyrannical, abusive teachers. All of these traumas become metaphorical "bricks in the wall." Pink eventually becomes a rock star, his relationships marred by infidelity, drug use, and outbursts of violence. He finally becomes married and is about to complete his "wall." Hidden behind his wall, Pink becomes severely depressed and starts to lose all faith. Pink becomes overwhelmed and wishes for everything around him to just stop. Showing human emotion, he is tormented with guilt and places himself on trial, his inner judge ordering him to "tear down the wall", opening Pink to the outside world. The album turns full circle with its closing words "Isn't this where ...", the first words of the phrase that begins the album, "... we came in?", with a continuation of the melody of the last song hinting at the cyclical nature of the theme. That, in essence, is the album. Of course there were all sort of things going on in the band at the time, and plenty of other themes that you can explore on your own.
I drew many parallels from that album to my life at the time: an oppressive and vindictive mother, betrayal by friends, being an outsider in a public school system that catered to the lowest common denominator. I had great teachers, though, and the other themes of the album were nothing that I could really identify with. But the main themes were. I had started building my wall at an early age--and along came an album that talked about all of the reasons for my wall.
The Wall explained where my behaviors came from, how control them, when to remove bricks from the wall, and when to put those bricks back in and continue building. The cool thing is that this is still one of my most-listened-to albums. I still relate to so much of the emotion of this music.
Now, you might have read all this and thought, "me too" or "that explains why he never smiles in pictures." Whatever you may think. is just fine with me. And you may wonder if there's a country connection with Pink Floyd--one of the biggest is the band's David Gilmour who, in addition to being a great guitarist, is no slouch at steel guitar. Oh yeah, and Cody Jinks does a great cover of Wish You Were Here.
The two albums I've talked about, released roughly 20 years apart, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs by Marty Robbins, and The Wall by Pink Floyd are the two albums which shaped--and continue to shape my life. If you want to know me, know those albums.
Thanks for reading!