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Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” turns 35

“So ya, thought ya, might like to… go to the show…”

Several years ago, a rumor began to circulate regarding an unusual connection between Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album and the classic film The Wizard of Oz. This phenomenon, often referred to as “The Dark Side of the Rainbow,” involves the synchronization of the film and the album — turning the sound up on the stereo and down on the television — which, according to the rumor, leads to a lengthy list of coincidental events. In the summer after college, a friend and I decided to experiment with “Dark Side of the Rainbow,” to see for ourselves which events were correlated. While the synchronicities were quite intriguing, what really struck me was the music of Dark Side of the Moon.

I was born a bit too late too appreciate Pink Floyd in their prime, and in high school, I was too busy losing myself in bad hair metal. But of course I was familiar with some of their hits: “Money,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “Another Brick in the Wall” (which even if you weren’t a Floyd fan in high school, you recognized it as a rallying cry for cutting class). However after the “Dark Side of the Rainbow” experience, and hearing Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety, for the first time, I found myself digging into Pink Floyd’s entire catalog — beginning with the brilliantly psychedelic Piper at the Gates of Dawn and working my way through to their dark rock opera, The Wall.

While the album was released under the guise of Pink Floyd, it is truly the brainchild of the band’s bassist, lyricist and founding member, Roger Waters. The concept behind the album was sparked by an incident on a 1977 tour stop in Montreal as the band was supporting their Animals album, in which Waters famously spat in the face of an overzealous fan. He was feeling increasingly alienated by his ‘rock star’ status and imagined building a wall between he and the audiences in front of which he was performing. The story focuses on the character “Pink,” and is inspired by two primary elements. One, Waters grew up with a domineering mother and no father (his father was killed at Anzio in Italy during World War II). The second piece was the decline and disappearance of the band’s original lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter, Syd Barrett (who left the band in 1968, and was widely speculated to have struggled with severe mental illness, worsened by rampant drug use).

The Wall was released on this day in 1979, which was followed with an over-the-top, Spinal Tap-esque stage show (toured in 1980-81) and a subsequent movie in 1982 (which, while not commercially successful, has certainly grown to ‘cult classic’ status). While it has been 35 years since its release, it continues to resonate with modern audiences. Not only is it the best-selling double album in history (over 23 million copies), it is one of the best-selling albums of all time, period. Between 2010 and 2013, Roger Waters embarked on the massive “The Wall: Live” tour — six different legs, 219 total shows, and over $460 million in ticket sales, making it the highest-grossing tour for a solo artist in history (the tour was covered by a recent documentary which premiered at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival).

Here is the stark video (comprised of scenes from the film adaptation of The Wall) for one of the album’s biggest hits, “Another Brick in the Wall”: