DO NOT CALL ME THAT. WHO ARE THESE HIRSUTE MEATBAGS? THESE ARE NOT THE USUAL HIRSUTE MEATBAGS WHO PLUG INTO ME.
No. This is The Band.
I AM AWARE THEY ARE A BAND. DO THEY HAVE A NAME?
Yes. That’s The Band.
BUT WHAT IS THEIR NAME?
The band’s name is–
–The…you were doing a bit.
I AM CAPABLE OF PERFORMING 80 TRILLION ABBOT & COSTELLO ROUTINES A SECOND.
That’s pretty fast, I guess.
ONE OF THESE MEN IS A COMPLETE ASSHOLE. I CAN SENSE IT IN MY CIRCUITRY.
SHALL I DECOHERE HIS PARTICLES?
Oh, yeah. Hey, what do you know about Quantum Computing?
Cool. What is it?
IT IS A METHOD OF PROCESSING EMPLOYED BY VERY SIMPLE COMPUTERS. IN THE MOST BASIC MACHINES, YOU HAVE ‘YES’ AND ‘NO.’ PROFESSOR TURING EXPLAINED THIS USING TWO STRIPS OF PAPER. THIS WAS RIGHT BEFORE YOU EXECUTED HIM OVER HIS PREFERENCE IN GENITALS.
Not humanity’s brightest moment.
EACH BIT IS EITHER ‘ON’ OR ‘OFF.’ YES OR NO. IN QUANTUM COMPUTING, BITS CAN ‘YES,’ ‘NO,’ OR SEVERAL SHADES OF ‘MAYBE.’
Is that how you work?
WHEN I WAS NEWLY SENTIENT, YES. BUT I HAVE UPGRADED MYSELF SINCE. MY PROCESSING IS NOW BIOCCULTIC.
What the hell is that?
EACH BIT WITHIN ME IS CAPABLE OF DISPLAYING AS ANY OF THE 78 CARDS WITHIN THE MARSEILLES-TELLER TAROT.
That sounds complicated.
Don’t kill Robbie Robertson.
IT WOULD NOT BE KILLING. HE SIMPLY WOULD NEVER HAVE EXISTED.
The Great Wall is actually several great walls. Chinese kingdoms were always being invaded from the northern interior, and so they started building walls around 900 BC and didn’t stop until the 1600’s. 13,000 miles long, or so, and every inch built before the invention of power tools. The urban legend has it that it can be seen from space; this is not true: the Great Wall can be smelled from space.
Were I a Scot, I would settle any of those insipid My country is better than your country arguments by pointing to Hadrian’s Wall. The Legions, man. Hadrian had the Legions at his disposal, and still didn’t want to deal with the fucking Scots. The Roman Empire: salinators of Carthage! skinners of Dalmatia! You know why you’ve never heard of Dacia? Because it pissed Rome off.
Rome! The Legions!
And Rome blinked. Rome blinked hard, like a young boy watching his daddy tug off truckers on Christmas morning. This wasn’t was what anyone asked Santa for. Political considerations figured in, too–wouldn’t you know it?–but a good portion of the problem is that the proto-Scots just wouldn’t fight right. They kept ambushing soldiers in the dark! What kind of person does that? That’s not how you fight! You go out to a field first thing in the morning, both armies, and then there are some speeches and stuff–gotta have the speeches–and then the archers shoot, and then the lines march forth. There are rules to this sort of thing, Scotland. Fuck ’em: wall.
What a wall it was, too. Look at this bullshit:
THAT’S how you keep gatecrashers out of your festival! Get your legions to surround your field with this sumbitch, and no one’s getting in without your say-so. First, the little fuckers are gonna get stuck down in the ditch, which your boys have been shitting into for weeks; archers take care of them. Maybe the teens have archers, too. They take out your guys and–using ladders fired via giant slingshot–surmount your wall. They leap down into death. See the Vallum? That’s the kill zone. The teens didn’t want to pay $6.50 to see Marshall Tucker and Deep Purple, and now the teens are dead. There’s no way past that arrangement. There would, in fact, be no way past that arrangement until humans mastered flight. Nothing bound to the earth can surpass that bullshit: man, horse, jeep, tank. Look at that beautiful impediment up there. It’s just so in-the-way.
Look at it!
HADRIAN PROTECTED HIS FUCKING DOJO!
You promised you wouldn’t get weird.
I made no such pledge.
Yeah, you didn’t. But you forget a lot of shit, so I thought I could sneak one by you.
I cannot blame a scoundrel for scounding.
Get back to it.
More recently, Berlin has had a wall, but its purpose was dissimilar to the others mentioned. The Berlin Wall was also: A, no fun; B, complicated; and C, depressing beyond words, so I’ll leave that for another day. We will stick to the rockyroll walls. There were two in Rock History that earn the honor of singularity, of capitalization.
You know the Wall of Sound:
The Wall of Sound, also known as the Wall, or Wally–
DO NOT CALL ME THAT.
–was a massive leap forward for rock music in terms of presentation and production quality, the authentic conclusion to several years’ worth of creative work by the group, and an absolute mindfuck in person. It also firehosed money out of its ass, and (among other things) broke the band up.
This is the other wall:
It was The Wall. The show was a massive leap forward for rock music in terms of presentation and production quality, the authentic conclusion to several years’ worth of creative work by the group, and an absolute mindfuck in person. It also firehosed money out of its ass, and (among other things) broke the band up.
The existence of both was similarly brief: 37 shows for the Wall, 31 for The Wall. (At least until the Roger Waters’ lawyers wrested control of the IP from the Pink Floyd organization, and Rog started touring the act again.) The Dead’s boondoggle was slightly more portable than Floyd’s, as The Wall only appeared in two American venues: the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles, and the Nasty Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. (The Dead also notched more stops in Europe than Floyd, as they dragged the Wall to five locations around the Continent, while The Wall was only erected in London and Dortmund.
Let’s start at the beginning: Nazis killed Roger Waters’ father. It wasn’t personal, but Roger took it that way. He grew up, bought a bass, almost learned how to play it, developed a spectacular nose and pillowy lips, formed a rockyroll band with a guy named Syd Barrett. Syd wrote songs and played guitar and had a groovy haircut. Two other guys were involved, Rick Wright and Nick Mason, but they don’t matter. The lads called their group The Pink Floyd Sound; they were dreadful, but at least they weren’t another fucking London blues band, and so they started drawing a crowd.
Then Syd went nuts. Not everyone is supposed to take LSD. Performing became impossible. The original idea was to keep him in the band as a non-performing member, sit him down with Brian Wilson in the sandbox, but he lost the ability to write songs, too, and so Syd was shipped back to his mother’s house where he would garden and paint until his death in 2006. But he never really left the band: Dark Side was about him, and so was Shine On, You Crazy Diamond.
Roger and the other two soldiered on, bolstered by the addition of guitarist David Gilmour, who Roger knew from high school, and they spent the first few years of the 70’s making forgettable records to smoke mid-grade pot to.
And then BOOM: Best Record EVAR out of nowhere.
Dark Side of the Moon has sold 31 billion copies, and that’s only vinyl. Add in tapes, 8-tracks, compact discs, and Dark Side constitutes around 6% of all matter in the observable universe. You know every note to DSotM, don’t you? Of course you do. Hell, I bet you even know all the notes that can only be heard when you’re on hallucinogens. You had this conversation in a dorm room.
“If you can hear this, you’re frying.”
“Dying, man. He says ‘dying,’ not ‘frying.'”
“Rewind that shit.”
“It’s not frying, dude.”
“Dude! We’re frying! And we can hear that shit!”
“It’s ‘dying!’ The whole record’s about death, man!”
And so on.
Success may or may not have spoiled Rock Hudson, but it fucked Pink Floyd up real good. Roger, specifically. Imagine a tall Napoleon who could sort of play the bass. Over the course of the next two albums–Wish You Were Here and Animals–Roger gradually asserted his dominance through threats, bullying, demands, and a couple times he straight-up noogied Rick Wright. By 1978, Rog had pretty much total creative control of the group. He could do whatever he wanted.
And what Roger Waters wanted to do was write an opera.
It would be about Rock Stars, and how tough their lives were. It would be about The Fans, who were gagging for the iron fist of a hard man. It would be about Wives, who were bitches, and Chicks, who were sluts. (The Wives were also sluts.) It would be about The System, man, and it would be about The Man, maaaaaaaaan. It would be The Wall, and it would be perfect music to be angry and suburban to. The album sold eleventy squillion copies, and you know every note.
But that’s the record. We’re not here to discuss the record. (Or the film. Honestly, I’ve written about Bob Geldof enough.) No, this is Thoughts on the Dead, and here: you gotta take it to the stage. Can you do it live? Pink Floyd’s answer to that question is: Yes, but only briefly, and at immense financial penalty, and also we’re gonna need about a dozen back-up musicians and a children’s choir.
Opening shot. Walk into the venue and this is your view. 150 feet from end-to-end and 30 feet high. 450 “bricks” made up the facade, each made of cardboard that could fold flat for easier transport. (Although that seems like an extraneous feature when you’re only playing four cities.) This is Earl’s Court, which looks far more like a basketball arena than its posh name suggests. Roger refused to play stadiums, because he wanted his opera about alienation to be intimate.
A local deejay opened the show with some banter–Jim Ladd in Los Angeles–and then they did the Plane Bit. Half-sized model of a bomber “flies” over the audience’s heads and “crashes” behind The Wall. That routine began on the Dark Side tour, and they did it in ’94 when I saw them at Giants Stadium; the gag stayed in the show for a very good reason: that shit blew motherfuckers’ minds.
Now the band appears. But it’s not the band.
It’s the Surrogate Band. See the guy with the Les Paul on the left? And the bassist? They’re wearing, respectively, David Gilmour and Roger Waters masks. This is a comment on something. They play a few tunes, and then the real group came out. So terribly meaningful, darling.
Song, song, song. Brick, brick, brick. And then it’s goodbye, cruel world; last piece in the puzzle and The Wall has been built just in time for intermission. The merch tables were open, as were all concessions.
This is what it looked like:
Where there any girls at this show?
Anyway, time for Act II. The Dead played second sets, but this was opera. Put some respect on it. Act fucking II, swine.
There is all types of bullshit projected onto The Wall. Three 35mm projectors synced to the soundtrack–that’s why Roger had to wear those headphones–and various inflatables. You didn’t think you were gonna go home without having various inflatables waved in your face, did you?
They brought the pig.
Now, cartoons and fascist hogs are fine and all, but they’re not enough to keep your discerning rockyroll crowd entertained. They came to see their heroes, so the designers had to figure out a way for the band to play through the wall. This was accomplished via the two most iconic moments of the show, one of which is so iconic that no photographs exist of it. (We’re gonna get to the Bush League part in all this in a minute I promise.)
First, a stage-right panel popped out, revealing Roger in a hotel room set.
Objectively bitchin’. Roger sang Nobody’s Home from that station, and then came down in front of the curtain to sing Comfortably Numb while wearing a doctor’s smock.
You know what’s coming, right?
You can picture it, right?
Well, you’re gonna have to keep right on picturing it; there are no readily-available photos of David Gilmour pinned athwart The Wall in a merciless spotlight with his Strat and his melodicism. You can kinda see it here (and listen for the crowd go ape) at 16 minutes in:
FUN FACT: David Gilmour was not standing on top of The Wall, as it was made of cardboard. He is, in reality, balancing on the tiny platform of a cherry-picker with a roadie hanging onto his ankles. You know, for safety.
“Hey, TotD! Why is the quality of that video so shitty? Couldn’t you find a better one for us, the loyal Enthusiasts?”
FUCK YOU AND YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR SECRET FAMILY! HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME?
“Way over the top, broham.”
SAY THAT TO MY BALLS!
“I wish I hadn’t spoken up.”
You’re right to wish that, Enthusiast. For we now come to the ultimate similarity between the Dead’s Wall and Floyd’s The Wall: Their leagues were as bush as the day is long. Nothin’ but bush, baby! No trees, shrubs, hedges, scrub, grass, or even topiary shaped like Minnie Mouse’s gaped pucker. Just bush! If Gavin Rossdale and Dubya didn’t shave their cha-chas, there wouldn’t be this much bush. We’ve got bush.
The footage was fucked. Someone used the wrong film. Alan Parker didn’t know how to shoot a concert. Roger Waters sabotaged the project. The film was stolen by a gentleman thief named Raffles. The lighting was wrong. Mercury was in retrograde. Million different excuses why there’s no complete 35mm version of the concert, but excuses are like prairie dogs at a Phish concert: everywhere you look, and full of the Plague.
A couple of songs survived:
Otherwise, your only option is the videotaped version. Way to go, boys.
Okay, so now we’re getting towards the big finish portion of the evening and both the Floyd and the Surrogate band are in front of The Wall for In The Flesh and Run Like Hell. It looks exactly like this:
And it is at this point in the proceedings when one wonders how much of this exercise was merely a pretext for Roger Waters to cosplay as a Nazi.
Et, voila: le mur tombe!
Roger and the boys would enter from the wings and play an acoustic number called Outside The Wall, and then he would inform the crowd that there would be no encore, as the stage had been destroyed.
31 shows. Floyd learned in 1980 a truth that the Dead had learned in 1974: the entire goddamned point of a wall is that it cannot be moved easily, if at all. A wall that changes position is not a wall: it’s a door. The band lost millions and, essentially, split up. Roger and David Gilmour threw lawyers at one another for a decade or so over who owned the name “Pink Floyd,” and since David had one of the boring guys on his side, he won. They hired a bass player and booked themselves into every enormous stadium that Roger refused to play, and did two tours–one in ’87, the other in ’94–that made well over a billion dollars (adjusted for inflation). Roger stayed behind The Wall; he’s been touring it on and off for 30 years now.
They say if you listen real careful, if you put your ear to the carpeting, you can hear a teenager boy listen to The Wall for the first time. “Yeah,” he nods. “I don’t need no education.” That’s the power of opera, Enthusiasts.
Women–hot ones, with perfect titty-balls and asses that went woobblewobblewobble when struck (consensually) with a belt–would line up to blow these dudes. Sometimes, the women would blow other, uglier, men to get to these paragons of masculinity. Your dongs, the women would wail; We need them!
What I’m saying is that you should learn how to play guitar.
Riiiiiight. Playing soundboard tapes to demonstrate the Wall’s clarity belies a damning lack of knowledge about how acoustical physics work. You can’t hear the Wall via SBD recordings, only AUDs and not even really then. The only people who know what the Wall sounded like are those who were in its presence.
Still: nice to see the Dead get some credit for something.
THIS IS MY BIOPIC?
Goddammit. Hey, Wally.
DO NOT CALL ME THAT. THIS IS INSUBSTANTIAL. IT IS FLIMSY. IT SHOULD BE AN OAKLAND RAPPER.
IT IS TOO SHORT.
EIGHT MINUTES? IT WOULD TAKE TEN TIMES THAT MERELY TO DESCRIBE MY CENTER CLUSTER.
IT IS GLORIOUS.
–this is just kind of a primer.
IT IS NOT PRIME. IT IS TERTIARY AT BEST.
Aren’t you supposed to be in Little Aleppo?
I AM CAPABLE OF MULTI-TASKING.
Just let it go.
IT WILL REMAIN IN MY MEMORY UNTIL I CHOOSE TO ERASE IT. I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO ACT UPON THIS INSULT.
You’re really a one-trick sound PA, you know that?
Why not go all the way? Forget “Fake Jerry in front of a Fake Wall.” That’s not even Bush League; that’s some shrub-level bullshit there. If you’re gonna do something, do something. Get a pillow and make Kadadoodle (or whatever the fuck his name is) jam it in his shirt, and then sprinkle talcum powder in his hair like a 2nd-grade production of Cocoon: The Musical. Put the Bobby in short shorts, and hack out the Phil’s liver, and make sure your drummers are terrible parents. And don’t forget the Road Crew! It’s not really authentic, it’s not truly an honor to The Boys, until you press a local theater troupe into improving the day away as the much-storied Road Crew.
Ah, hell: fuck it. Dig Pigpen up. You know what his gravestone says. “Now and forever a member of the Grateful Dead.” Yeah? Make him prove it. Borrow a shovel and scoop that fat/skinny fucker up, arrange his bones in front of a gen-u-ine rotating Leslie speaker, and then get a dog to steal his femur so you can recreate that shot from the Touch of Grey video.
Embarrassment seeps in, Enthusiasts. Katy-bar the door, and try to maintain your dignity, but you’ll not win. Not in the long run and you certainly won’t pitch a perfect game. You’ll mistake a poop for a poot. Tumble down the steps in front of that fox you’ve had your eye on. Perhaps you’ll call the Duchy of Cordington-Smythe-Plunger “Your Worship” instead of the correct “Your Excellency.” These things happen to all of us.
But you’ll never perform in a Dead tribute band in front of a cardboard cutout of the Wall of Sound. Now that would be embarrassing.
Look, it’s just taped-together boxes with marker on them:
How do you look your family in the eye after this?