[Today: Tear down the wall…]
It was officially known as “Stützwandelement UL 12.11” (retaining wall element UL 12.11) and construction on it began in June of 1961. It was 12 feet high and four feet wide, and it ran for 87 miles down the middle of Berlin, separating East from West and providing a symbolic divide between the Communist and Democratic spheres of the world. Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For decades that wall stood implacable and unfeeling, and there were no signs at the time that it wouldn’t stand for 100 years more. But with the dull thud of sledgehammers and ecstatic cries of joy, the Cold War came to a sudden and surprising halt on November 9, 1989, when the world was treated to the astonishing sight of people partying atop the the Berlin Wall and breaking chunks of it away while crowds cheered them on. For just a moment, it seemed that soggy cliches like One Love, One World, One People might actually be coming true.
Pink Floyd released The Wall in November of 1979 – 10 years to the month before the fall of the Berlin Wall. But unlike Stützwandelement UL 12.11, the wall referred to in the title is no physical structure of concrete, barbed wire, and watchtowers. This double LP recounts the unhappy life and times of a fictional rock star named Pink, who has enclosed himself within an impenetrable emotional wall. A dead father, overbearing mother, psychotic schoolteacher, and cheating wife have driven him to the brink, and through song he recounts the circumstances that brought him to emotional paralysis. It isn’t a pretty picture, it’s often heavy handed, and it doesn’t forecast much hope. But like the Cold War, The Wall ends with spirited chants of “Tear down the wall!” and just a flicker of hope.
Listen: Goodbye Blue Sky
Listen: Comfortably Numb
Listen: The Trial