35 Albums in 35 Years: 1979

I love music.  With my heart, body, and soul, I love music.  Thoroughly.  Unconditionally.*  Forever and ever.  Aside from my wife and my son, my family and friends, music is the centerpiece of my world.  So why not pick an album from every year I’ve been on this earth and write about it?  Not necessarily the best album of that year.  Maybe not even my favorite.  But an album that is important to me.  An album I love.  So, it is with the utmost excitement, delight, and abject disquietude that I bring you the first of a 35 part series, 35 Albums in 35 Years.

 

pinkfloydthewall 1979: Pink Floyd’s The Wall

“…we came in?”

For the year of my birth, I chose an album that I have both hated and loved in some capacity at different stages of my life.  Pink Floyd are one of those bands that in my early years I decided I didn’t like based solely on the fact that they were classic rock.  And classic rock sucked.  It wasn’t until I was in high school that I actually sat down and listened to the music.  And I was blown away, as most teenagers are at their introduction to psychedelic rock…which is the genesis of why Pink Floyd and The Wall in particular can be so infuriating.  It is the template for every grand, bloated, and overblown concept record.  It’s the album that every hippie, stoner, or frat boy will sit you down in a corner to “explain” to you.  It is the cliché.

It’s also really damn good.

There’s a great scene on an episode of the sketch comedy show The State that aired on MTV back in the early 90’s where two college students visit a little kid’s birthday party as if it were some kind of off-campus kegger.  At one point during the festivities, one of the guys sits with a group of children explaining with awe filled reverence and deepness the meaning of The Wall, an attempt to blow the minds of his prepubescent peers.

Heavy-handed metaphors aside, the album really is the pinnacle of the rock opera, three acts of ups and downs chronicling a rock star’s descent into madness.  The tone and emotions therein are culled from the life of bassist/singer Roger Waters as well as former lead singer Syd Barrett’s own mental illness (on display in full form in Alan Parker’s 1982 film adaptation of the album).  Using an almost classical arrangement, the band and co-producer Bob Ezrin funnel the sounds of psych rock, prog, folk, classic rock, and opera into a cohesive four-sider to tell the story of Pink, a famous musician driven to self-inflicted alienation and delusional grandeur as a result of inadequate schools, ill-equipped government, an overbearing mother, loss, drugs, narcissism, and the yes men and hangers on associated with fame.  Yeah, that’s it.  It’s hardly the kind of thing I should have been able to relate to at 17, or even now for that matter, but that sense of nihilistic detachment while clinging to some tiny shred of humanity rang true in my teenage ears and continues to do so, even if the context in which I’m listening has changed.

What I have not mentioned yet is how great the music is on this record.  There’s a reason I still listen to the thing.  Songs like “Hey You,” “Comfortably Numb,” and “Mother” rank right up there with any of the seminal output of the band or even the entire genre in general.  The singles combined with the rest of the pop tunes, segues, and oddities create a piece of music that feels more like an event than an album, concluding in a masterwork of dramatic performance, and my own introduction to the record, the strange and surreal “The Trial.”  This song is the very definition of rock opera, a composition consisting of different styles, characters, voices (one of whom is a giant, talking asshole in the film), and narratives coming to a head in grand, climactic fashion.  It’s also pretty weird.  I love it…and apparently my infant son does too, as my singing it to him has been known to lull him into sleep during his fussier hours.  Maybe it’s the different voices.  I don’t know.

There are certain songs or albums or bands that recall certain periods of our lives.  Songs that when heard in the present, instantly pull us back to those years.  The Wall (and pretty much all of the other Pink Floyd records) is “Tommy in college” music.  When I hear the opening notes of “In the Flesh,” the nostalgia is almost instantaneous.  It’s nice.

I’ll be back soon with 1980.  It’s just around the corner.

“Isn’t this where…”

- Favorite song: “The Trial”

- Runner up: “Mother”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: The Clash – London Calling; Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures; Wire – 154; Throbbing Gristle – 20 Jazz Funk Greats.

 

*Okay, conditionally.

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

4 Responses to 35 Albums in 35 Years: 1979
  1. Joe Grez

    Joe Grez Reply

    * No Unconditionally.

  2. Thomas H Williams

    Thomas H Williams Reply

    Thanks Shawn. Before writing this article, it had been years since i jammed “The Wall.” It was nice to go back to it again.

  3. Shawn C Baker

    Shawn C Baker Reply

    Oh, and GREAT idea for a series of articles.

  4. Shawn C Baker

    Shawn C Baker Reply

    So I too love this album, but Floyd in general is so hard for me to go back to because of the nostalgia. I know, that’s a little weird – it doesn’t affect how much I theoretically still love them, but actually cracking the records out and running them… it scares me a little and it’s also as if they have been infused so much into the molecules of “me” that it’s redundant. Regardless, I’m sitting here tonight rounding out my night listening to The Wall because of this article and I say thank you sir.
    It might be in my blood, but occasionally it’s nice to reintroduce the stuff – freshens it up.

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