Pink Floyd: The Wall (1979)

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when those of us of the Jewish faith fast for the day and reflect on those we have wronged over the past year, our sins against our values and against others, and what we can do to be better to our fellow humans and the world around us in the year ahead.

And The Wall?  It's a form of atonement for me, something I pull out about once a year out of a sense of obligation, something difficult to get through, but always a cause for personal reflection.

Do I enjoy listening to The Wall?  Not so much.  But when I was a kid, it was absolutely huge, in every sense.

I was 13 when this came out back at the end of 1979.  My friend Scott down the block was my first friend to own a copy, and I'd go to his house after school, listening to it from start to finish, absorbing the lyric sheets, trying to follow the convoluted "plot" of the album.  For a 13-year-old boy just getting into classic rock and thinking himself increasingly musically aware, The Wall was pure catnip, "deep" and intense and serious and sprawling.  And it sounded fucking great with a pair big speakers or headphones, the band filling every one of the 128 tracks at their disposal with overdubs and sound effects and sonic atmospherics.

And of course, all those great songs, "Comfortably Numb" and "Run Like Hell," "One Of My Turns" and "Mother" and of course the multiple sections of "Another Brick In The Wall."

Over time, of course, I came to be more put off by its deficiencies, the pretentiousness, the misogyny, the dull slog by the time you got to the middle of side 2 of the bloated double-LP set.  And as I waded back through the Floyd back catalogue, I became far more enchanted by their earlier work, the initial Syd Barrett stuff and the folkier/spacier work that pre-dated their monstrous success with Dark Side of the Moon.  These days, I'm far more like to listen to Meddle or Animals or Piper at the Gates of Dawn or Obscured by Clouds (and of course DSOTM, which I still spin with some regularity), having little time for the depressing, immersive experience of The Wall.

But I still feel obligated to play it on occasion, as I do to reflect on my sins.  As with many of my double albums, I found it helpful to burn my own mix, whittling it down to a single CD, eliminating some of the weaker tracks and subbing in a few leftovers that ended up on the movie soundtrack or elsewhere, reconfiguring it more to my liking.  I still think the album is, for all its faults, a monumental achievement, and I don't buy in to the revisionist aspersions cast by some, even if it's not something I can make my way through very often.

Here's "Comfortably Numb" from the film:
And here's a live "Run Like Hell" (from the post-Roger Waters band):