[Today: The Wall comes to life…]
From at least 1980 on, it would be nearly impossible to get the members of Pink Floyd to agree on anything this side of Syd Barrett’s one time brilliance. But agree they did on at least one other item: Dark Side Of The Moon had absolutely nothing to do with The Wizard Of Oz, and any synchronicity between sound and picture was purely coincidence. Each denied it in his own way. Drummer Nick Mason said that “It’s absolute nonsense. It has nothing to do with The Wizard Of Oz. It was all based on The Sound Of Music.” Guitarist David Gilmour sounded more bitter: “Some guy with too much time on his hands had this idea of combining Wizard Of Oz with Dark Side Of The Moon.”
But urban legend is a fierce beast, and the idea that Dark Side is a hidden soundtrack to Wizard Of Oz persists to this day. Which is even more absurd because Pink Floyd actually hid an amazing soundtrack right in plain sight. Their album The Wall was released in 1979, while the movie didn’t hit the big screen until 1982. In that time, Roger Waters evolved the songs, and included a few more that didn’t make the album. The double-LP bootleg The Film compiles all of the music as it was used in the movie, complete with television dialogue, glass breaking (often) and Bob Geldof. With strings and Tom & Jerry cartoons and groupie dialogue, Waters added additional textures to these songs, making this feel like a more in-the-flesh experience than the studio album.
Because it’s the true soundtrack to the movie The Wall, this bootleg is ideally sequenced to tell the story of the jaded rock star Pink – a human wave of destruction who was formed by the loss of his father to WWII, an overbearing mother, soul-crushing school system and cheating wife. This version includes the critical song ‘When The Tigers Broke Free’, which recounts Pink’s father’s death at the Anzio Bridgehead and the correspondence informing the family of his death, a letter that was “signed in his majesty’s own rubber stamp.”
Nearly every song here is different from, and superior to, its studio version (‘Goodbye Cruel World’ is nearly identical, with the vocals perhaps mixed higher). ‘In The Flesh’ features Geldof’s vocals, the screaming and jostling of the crowd, and ends with a plane crashing into Pink’s dad (which forms the scream on the cover art above). ‘Another Brick In The Wall, Part 1’ has a honking bicycle horn, and the exchange between young Pink and the wrong dad in the park. ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’ is both more acoustic and more menacing, with the sound of bombs dropping all around. ‘The Happiest Days Of Our Lives’ includes the sequence with Pink getting ridiculed by his teacher for writing poetry, along with the teacher’s scolding “WROOOOOOOOONG – DOITAGIN!” And so on…
In the completely different department, ‘What Shall We Do Now?’ is an extended, nastier version that dips into VD, broken homes, S&M and packing the attic full of money. Bob Geldof’s versions of ‘In The Flesh?’ and ‘In The Flesh’ are startling, while elevator music-like vignettes like ‘The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot’ are surreal companions to the soul-baring screams and breaking glass that lurk all around them.
Roger Waters was many things, including a perfectionist about his music. The chaotic sound effects used in the movie The Wall mesh surprisingly perfectly with these versions of the songs from the 1978 album of the same name. While it’s the true soundtrack to the movie, The Film is also a totally different, and in every way more spine-tingling, album than the The Wall. Who knows what happens if you sync it up with The Wizard Of Oz?
Listen: What Shall We Do Now?