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#1
Old 05-14-2004, 01:09 AM
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Why Was Pink FLoyd's "The Wall" So Popular?

I have often pondered this question: I am curious why people liked "The Wall". Was it just because of Pink Floyd's popularity and the music, or the mysterious-kinda plot? Of course, I loved it, but it does not seem like the kind of storyline that would draw so many to it. If anything, it's kinda depressing, and I wonder why it didn't turn people off? So, what made it so popular? And, if your answer is that it's a cult film, is that to say it was only popular because of Pink Floyd, rather than on its own merits as a story?

Dying to know why the SDMasses think this film was so well received?
- Jinx
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#2
Old 05-14-2004, 03:31 AM
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1. The music is fan-damn-tastic.
2. 'Concept' albums were very big at the time.
3. The story in the song of alienation and despair resonates with teens.
4. "We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control..." The kids dig that.
#3
Old 05-14-2004, 03:40 AM
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Loved it when I used to take acid. Music is still pretty good today. And being depressing? Titanic did pretty well among others.
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#4
Old 05-14-2004, 03:43 AM
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Yeah, I Forgot To Exclude...

I should have excluded the druggies and why they liked this film. That goes without saying. Still, many non-dope Dopers enjoyed this film, just the same. Very interesting observations posted so far, though... - Jinx
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#5
Old 05-14-2004, 04:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinx
I should have excluded the druggies and why they liked this film. That goes without saying. Still, many non-dope Dopers enjoyed this film, just the same. Very interesting observations posted so far, though... - Jinx
Not a druggie, just letting you know why I used to watch it
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#6
Old 05-14-2004, 07:23 AM
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Are we talking about the album or the film?

The album had several radio friendly hits and that monster anthem (we don't need no education......you can't help but sing along). It's not the story, it's the cool tunes.

As for the film, take 3 hits of acid and watch it again. Then you'll see why it was popular!
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#7
Old 05-14-2004, 08:02 AM
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Well, we did used to enjoy getting into heated debates over what such-and-such a scene meant. Then you have the excellent animation ("fucking flowers!").
Quote:
I should have excluded the druggies and why they liked this film.
Oops. Never mind.
#8
Old 05-14-2004, 09:16 AM
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I was just going to mention the fucking flowers! Love the fucking flowers! The music and the whole concept were just so fucking great at that time. And the nice thing is, Pink Floyd holds up so well over time. Although I do have some trouble with their very early esoteric stuff, I can still listen to most of their catalog nearly 40 years later.
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#9
Old 05-14-2004, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spooje
The album had several radio friendly hits and that monster anthem (we don't need no education......you can't help but sing along). It's not the story, it's the cool tunes.
HAve to agree -- the album/live show first made The Wall a huge hit, then the movie built upon that. But just to tprovide my own anecdotal example, I have repeatedly replayed both the studio and live (Is There Anybody Out There) albums, and even rented Waters' Live-at-the-Berlin-Wall show video, but haven't sat through a full show of the film in years. Found that it could have been made "leaner".
#10
Old 05-14-2004, 10:02 AM
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Hell, The Wall is still finding new fans.

I was just out of high school when it was first released, and I bought the album immediately. I listened to it so much that when I heard one of the tracks on the radio it felt funny not to have it segue into the next one.

Fast-forward to now. I found The Wall on CD at a tag sale for three bucks and brought it home. My 15-year-old daughter found it, played it...and immediately appropriated the two-disc set to her collection.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone
The story in the song of alienation and despair resonates with teens.
I'm sure that's a big part of it.
#11
Old 05-14-2004, 10:06 AM
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I think Sam Stone pretty much nailed the reasons why The Wall (the album) was so popular.

Personally, I liked it solely because of the music. I like Pink Floyd generally, but IMHO, both Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall are pure genius. Hell, I rarely listen to lyrics at all when I listen to albums. For me, it's all about the music-making.
#12
Old 05-14-2004, 01:24 PM
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Every kid in England at the time loved 'We don't need no Education' even if they were far too cool to like Pink Floyd.
And the album as a whole resonates with the angst of the cold war period, and imminent atomic death that I susspect everyone expected in those days.
#13
Old 05-14-2004, 01:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bippy the Beardless
And the album as a whole resonates with the angst of the cold war period, and imminent atomic death that I susspect everyone expected in those days.
Well, The Wall was released in 1982, and President Reagan was certainly alarmist with his "evil empire" attributions, but the fears of an atomic attack was nowhere near the levels that it was during the last 1950s and 1960s.

I'm not saying you're completely wrong. I'm just saying that I don't think that particular theme was a major reason for the album's popularity. And... I can't speak for the English view of the Cold War in the early 1980s of course.
#14
Old 05-14-2004, 02:02 PM
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There's so much good music on it and it's all so different. It's not one of those albums where every song sounds exactly the same. Think of, say, Goodbye Blue Sky, Another Brick in the Wall Part II, Comfortably Numb, and Run Like Hell.

Since I bought Is There Anybody Out There? (The live one) when it came out...well, it's like listening to The Wall for the first time.

'sides, just about every teenager has to go through a Floyd phase.
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#15
Old 05-14-2004, 02:59 PM
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Why Was Pink FLoyd's "The Wall" So Popular?

Because it had a childrens' choir in it, of course.

Everybody loves childrens' choirs.
#16
Old 05-14-2004, 03:09 PM
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It sure beat the hell out of listening to Journey.
#17
Old 05-14-2004, 03:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Algernon
Well, The Wall was released in 1982, and President Reagan was certainly alarmist with his "evil empire" attributions, but the fears of an atomic attack was nowhere near the levels that it was during the last 1950s and 1960s.
The movie came out in 1982, but the album (I'm dating myself) came out in 1979.
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#18
Old 05-14-2004, 03:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zebra
It sure beat the hell out of listening to Journey.
Well, that certainly sets the bar low enough.
#19
Old 05-14-2004, 03:42 PM
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About where the kids sing "We don't need no...etc.," I notice that the kids are singing with a very non-BBC, non-received standard English pronunciation. To this American, they sound like they could be Cockneys, or maybe from Northern England.

Was the line an intentional jab at schools that try to impose standard pronunciation on those who speak different dialects? I know that's a big issue over there even now; I even remember hearing that somebody wanted to redo the Wallace and Gromit videos changing the Yorkshire (?) pronunciation to standard BBC style.
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#20
Old 05-14-2004, 04:21 PM
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Sam Stone nailed it early on, so little need to explain further.

Having said that, one thing does come to mind: Have you listened to the record? Obviously you have and you already state that you like it; my point is - it is really good, as you have already indicated. Maybe that is enough sometimes.

I think your question gets more to the "wow, the subject matter is really heavy and morose - I am surprised that a record with that much heaviness did so well." To that extent, I guess I am not surprised. Just check out the threads that have been on the SDMB about popular songs with creepy topics. One trick to writing hit songs is to combine heavy, downer lyrics with catchy upbeat melodies - the contrast provides richness and depth if done well - see "Help" and "I'm a Loser" by the Beatles as data points. Then also see Mr. Pretentiousness himself, Der Stinglehoffer, with his crap like "King of Pain." Some of his Police material does really well, like "Can't Stand Losing You" "Walking on the Moon" and "Message in a Bottle," but the bulk of his material represents someone working to a formula without embracing its spirit....

so - that's why: the difficult subject matter is wrapped in brilliant music.
#21
Old 05-14-2004, 05:14 PM
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Also, consider that during the '70s, Pink Floyd already mastered the art of mixing fear, angst, despair, etc. with powerful and moving chords in their 3 previous concept albums (Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals). This album was expected to do great by their fans and they were not disappointed. They also picked up a new generation of fans in the process (I fall in this category) with this album.

Good thing that the album came out before the movie. Otherwise, I think the album would have been a cult album instead of a popular progressive mainstream album. Another factor was their extravagant stadium tour that also bolstered the anticipated film which shared the same animation, concepts and other nuances for the film.

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#22
Old 05-14-2004, 11:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
About where the kids sing "We don't need no...etc.," I notice that the kids are singing with a very non-BBC, non-received standard English pronunciation. To this American, they sound like they could be Cockneys, or maybe from Northern England.

Was the line an intentional jab at schools that try to impose standard pronunciation on those who speak different dialects? I know that's a big issue over there even now; I even remember hearing that somebody wanted to redo the Wallace and Gromit videos changing the Yorkshire (?) pronunciation to standard BBC style.
As far as I know, it wasn't intentional from Pink Floyd's side. The kids were producer Bob Ezrin's idea:
Quote:
Then the question is, what do you do with the second verse, which is the same? And, having been the guy who made 'School"s Out,' I"ve got this thing about kids on a record and it "is" about kids after all. So while we were in America, we sent Nick Griffiths to a school near to the Floyd studios [in Islington]. I said, I want Cockney, I want posh, fill "em up" -- and I put them on the song. I called Roger into the room, and when the kids came in on the second verse there was a total softening of his face and you just knew that he knew it was going to be an important record.
http://pinkfloydhyperbase.dk/scraps/mojo1299.htm

Islington, part of North London, is not a cockney region, and Ezrin clearly implies the children were instructed to sing in a mix of dialects.
#23
Old 05-15-2004, 09:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone
1. The music is fan-damn-tastic.
I'm glad to see Sam Stone and I agree about something.

I just need to chime in that the expert execution of the music makes it fan-damn-tastic despite the fact that before you hear it, the very idea of the potential sound ought to curl your toes. Listen objectively to "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2", and several other tracks: It's Disco Pink Floyd!!!
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#24
Old 05-15-2004, 09:24 PM
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It helped that "Dark Side of the Moon" was a MONSTER album in terms of sales.

The Pink Floyd Hyperbase notes:

Quote:
'Dark Side Of The Moon' was on the American TOP-200 in 724 weeks. April 23rd 1988 the album finally left the chart after almost 14 years. In United States the album has been sold in more than 10 millions.
"The Wall" worked for a number of reasons:

* a huge PF fan base waiting for it

* "radio-friendly" hits

* a coherent storyline that ends on a hopeful note after all that angst.

* tapped into anger and alienation of teens (and in my case, severe depression, and I was in my early 20s at the time).

The movie was equally unconventional, with its mix of music, animation, live-action and starring Bob Geldorf (lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, loved their "Tonic for the Troops" album with songs like "I Never Loved (Eva Braun)".
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#25
Old 05-15-2004, 09:31 PM
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Two words:

"Comfortably Numb"
#26
Old 05-16-2004, 10:52 AM
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OK, admittedly I was never terribly mainstream in the music department, and my friends and I spent the 80s listening mostly to the music of the 60s, 70s, and 1400s - 1800s. (Forgive us; we were choir geeks.)

But I loved that album, and in fact all later Pink Floyd. As other have said, it has aged quite well. (Plus I'm generally a fan of concept albums anyway.) Don't mess with the classics! In fact, one of my admissions essays for the University of Chicago was on The Wall: the topic was "choose a work of art and explain why it has meaning for you." I don't have a copy anymore, but essentially I wrote that art needs to have emotional resonance with the experiencer, and The Wall got me in the gut like few albums/movies ever had. (Of course, it helped to see it on a normal big theater screen rather than on some of the dinky multiplex screens that are around now.) It worked; they accepted me. Maybe that's why I still have...maybe warm fuzzies isn't the right word in this case, but you know what I mean.

That movie was just chock-full of seventeen flavors of angst, and a lot of stuff that I was barely on the verge of comprehending (hey, I was 13 for most of 1982 - I might have seen the movie a coupe of years later, but still pretty darn young in any case, and too sheltered to be able to comprehend all the stuff about the breakup, violoence, and even most of the Cold War imagery). Plus the visual imagery was unlike anything I'd ever seen before; I was more of a reader than a moviegoer. It was just so damn intense.

For the record, I've never used drugs. Not even once. (Except secondhand smoke, but well, that doesn't really count.)
#27
Old 05-17-2004, 02:23 AM
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I am always surprised to hear that Pink Floyd is regarded as music for the teenage-coming-of-age phase. Doesn't it resonate well with adults as well? The feeling of isolation is ageless and universal.
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Old 05-17-2004, 09:10 AM
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I think it's more that the teenage years are when you are first discovering these emotions. When adults experience them it's a bit "old hat".

Yes it is ageless but it trully resonates when you are a little younger. I think older people like it for different reasons or for nostalgia.
#29
Old 05-17-2004, 09:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gobear
The movie came out in 1982, but the album (I'm dating myself) came out in 1979.
Thanks for the correction. I should have read the results of my Google search a little closer.

I hadn't listened to the album in quite a while so, prompted by this thread, I popped it into my car CD player on my drive to Chicago this past weekend. I know I'm being repetitive and redundant (heh, heh), but this album is sheer genious.
#30
Old 05-17-2004, 11:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by litost
I am always surprised to hear that Pink Floyd is regarded as music for the teenage-coming-of-age phase. Doesn't it resonate well with adults as well? The feeling of isolation is ageless and universal.
Yes, but its expression in the music of Pink Floyd resonates best with a certain age group.

e.g., several years ago, a co-worker and broke into a spontaneous rendition of "Time" from Dark Side of the Moon, only to find that every single lyric was no longer on the tip of our tongues. When I expressed my mortification, he replied, nonchalantly "Well, I don't have a lot of teen angst anymore..."
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#31
Old 05-17-2004, 12:04 PM
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Could be that you're just getting senile..........
#32
Old 05-17-2004, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
One trick to writing hit songs is to combine heavy, downer lyrics with catchy upbeat melodies - the contrast provides richness and depth if done well
'Weird Al' Yankovic is the Master of this technique!

Anyway, Pink Floyd was hugely popular when I was a teenager, and I was an alienated, isolated lonely kid. And I couldn't stand Pink Floyd because the music was always so depressing to me. I could be in a great mood, and listening to Floyd would bring me right down. Don't know why - the music was good. I just always felt really bummed when I listened to more than a couple songs.

Well, except for "Money". I really like that song.
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#33
Old 05-17-2004, 08:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phase42
'Weird Al' Yankovic is the Master of this technique!
As are They Might Be Giants.

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#34
Old 05-18-2004, 08:57 AM
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If y'all just can't get enough of that album, may I humbly recommend another concept album? Luther Wright and the Wrong's "Rebuild the Wall". (This is a link to an MP3 file; here's their main site.

Daniel
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#35
Old 05-18-2004, 09:17 AM
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Yes, I've heard some of their stuff. Gives new life to Run Like Hell that's for sure.
#36
Old 05-18-2004, 10:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doomtrain
'sides, just about every teenager has to go through a Floyd phase.
I guess some of us take a bit longer to grow out of it than others
#37
Old 05-19-2004, 04:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doomtrain
'sides, just about every teenager has to go through a Floyd phase.

Some of us never grow out of it

I love the album--one of my all time favorite albums ever.
I love the movie. It's nifty.
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