So you thought you might like to go to the show
To feel the warm thrill of confusion, that space cadet glow
Tell me, is something eluding you, Sunshine?
Is this not what you expected to see?
If you want to find out what’s behind these cold eyes
You’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise
I had planned to include Youtube clips from the album versions of each song, but they have been pulled from Youtube because of copyright. Instead, video footage from the Earl’s Court concert from 8/9/80 is available on Youtube, so I’ll include that instead. In some ways, that’s fortunate as I tend to prefer the live performance, as this piece was conceived as and always intended to be (it appears to me, anyway) a rock opera performed live.
One quick note on the concert footage- it’s hard to tell with the grainy footage, but careful inspection will reveal that in this video it is not the members of Pink Floyd performing this song! It is the backing band wearing rubber masks made up to look like the band. The man singing this song is not Roger Waters- if you look closely you can see he is wearing a mask- but it it Waters’ voice. The real band was raised on a platform onto the stage after the first song. The use of the “surrogate band” is foreshadowing, as we’ll see later.
The album begins very quietly with a minor-key accordion melody, and Waters’ voice is heard saying “I came in?” Later we’ll see the significance of this. The Earl’s Court concert begins with a fake announcement interrupted by the beginning of the song- an effect that is quite startling on the album as well.
The song is in 12/8 time in the key of A minor, and begins with a doubling of lead guitar and bass introducing the first of several key motifs in the piece, which starts in the tonic, jumps up a fifth, then progresses downward in a scalar pattern, repeating and modulating a few times until it arrives at the dominant chord (E), leading into the beginning of the song itself.
Two bars before the lyrics begin, we are introduced to the “Wall” motif, here presented as a doubling of guitar and bass playing E-F#-G-F in dotted half notes. This motif is woven throughout the album, transpised into a number of keys and with variations of rhythm, serving to tie the work together. It’s a subtle introduction to the motif but it is clearly present.
The lyrics are accompanied by a simple I-IV-I-IV-I-iii-IV-V7 rock progression. The rhyme scheme is AAXXBB. Each line takes two measures of music, and the rhythm of each line is mostly simple even eighth notes with occasional syncopation. The melody is simple and repetitive, except for a leap spotlighting the word “feel” and a quick E-F#-G#-A cadence to end the song (the same cadence used after the Wall motif was introduced, and note that the cadence itself is a small variation of the Wall motif).
As I said in the previous post, the idea for The Wall came from the frustration the band felt during the 1977 “In The Flesh” tour- the title of the song being an obvious reference. Waters had the fantasy of the band playing behind a wall to separate the band from the audience. I see this song, beginning the show, as a reenactment of those 1977 concerts. This time Waters startles the audience and grabs their attention. “Hey!” he seems to be saying. “Is this not what you expected to see? You want to hear our usual psychedelic stuff, pharmaceutically enhanced [a space-cadet glow]? Not this time. Wake up! I want to show you who I am. If you want to find out what’s behind these cold eyes [they certainly do look cold behind the masks], you’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise.”
The piece ends with a repeat of the “In The Flesh” motif, as Waters begins the show, shouting “Lights! Roll the sound effects! Camera! Action!!”, thus formally beginning the show, and we hear (and see) a plane diving and possibly crashing. It’s not explicitly stated, but the plane evokes to me World War II, particularly the Battle of Britain and Waters’s father’s combat, important themes to be explored later.
This song functions as a prelude. Pink, the fictional character whose story this is, has not yet been introduced. To me this is Waters playing emcee and inviting us into the story.