Book: The Making of Pink Floyd the Wall
By Gerald Scarfe
(Da Capo Press)
While most would agree that Dark Side of the Moon is the quintessential Pink Floyd album (largely due to the fact that it was the record that propelled the group from darlings of the underground to the heights of chart achievement), it could also be argued that The Wall is the more essential Pink Floyd effort, given that it was the band's first actual opus.
Oversized and outrageous, it plucked themes from Roger Waters' disturbed psyche and positioned them front and center, via the chilling songs, elaborate props, and remarkable stage sets that populated the band's live shows. Indeed, it was the first rock epic on a grand scale, as much about imagery and theater as it was about actual musical presentation. Even now, revived in the wake of Waters' current tour (stopping Saturday and Sunday at BankAtlantic Center), it remains perhaps the most sumptuous and extravagant concept ever imagined. The Who may have probed the same themes in Tommy, but Waters and Pink Floyd took the idea far further and created a spectacle that's yet to be rivaled. Timing is everything, so it's no surprise that with Waters' decision to revive The Wall some 30 years on, Gerald Scarfe, the man who created the imagery that accompanied the album, the stage production, and the film that elevated the concept to its cinematic heights, has chosen to write and illustrate an equally oversized book that expands on his role in the process. Scarfe, a respected newspaper illustrator, was commissioned by the band to bring Waters' nightmarish vision to life by graphically rendering a world inhabited by the tortured souls born from the composer's imagination, a populace held in check by an authoritarian presence that dominated through mind control and absolute authority.
Consequently, he's able to give an insider's view on the evolution of this remarkable epoch, describing both the complicated inner workings of an often fractious quartet whose creative prowess often seemed too ambitious to bottle. Indeed, at one point, Scarfe describes Waters' vision for the original production as being encased in a giant inflatable tent that would house an audience in the thousands as well as the stage and the wall itself. "The tent would be shaped like a worm that would be easy to inflate, and then deflate, ready to be moved to the next venue." While he actually worked on some preliminary drawings to advance the idea, not surprisingly, the concept proved too unwieldy even for the heady brain trust that labored to bring it to fruition.
Likewise, there are some inexplicable consequences that dogged their grand schemes. A few paragraphs later, Scarfe describes an early performance in Los Angeles where a curtain caught fire and the band actually had to convince its well-tuned road crew that it was a real emergency and not a part of the proceedings. Mostly, though, The Making of Pink Floyd the Wall describes in stunning detail the step-by-tenuous-step evolution of the visual concepts in all its taxing glory. Interviews with the participants -- the surviving members of Pink Floyd, director Alan Parker, and musician Bob Geldof (the film's star) chief among them -- are mandatory, of course, and especially enlightening, but it's the sumptuous drawings, storyboards, sketches, and archival photos that fill its 250-plus pages that make the book a crown jewel for any Floyd fanatic. A pithy introduction written by Waters himself offers all the credence needed. All in all, the book provides the essential brick in the wall when it comes to describing how this decadent, defiant, and elaborate extravaganza went from concept to creation.
Roger Waters, 8 p.m. Saturday, November 13, and Sunday, November 14, at BankAtlantic Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $60.50 to $219.25. Call 800-745-3000, or click here.