In my humble opinion, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” (1982) could be one of the most intellectually provocative rock ‘n’ roll films I’ve ever seen. The album as a soundtrack to a film was deep in meaning and introduced the world Bob Geldof, of the Boomtown Rats, who plays a young boy, Pink, whose father died in the WW II. The film is similar to Tommy, who is channeling the British reconstruction postwar imagination. The Wall’s Composer/Director Roger Waters (a founding Pink Floyd band member) following in Townsends logic of some type of rock opera or rock animated film, is where the story of Pink and his search for A connection, some emotion or recognition.
The Wall is the story of a boy who becomes a famous rock ‘n’ roll star who then finds himself depressed, his girlfriend cheating on him and the only way out is becoming the leader of Third Reich type neo-Nazi organization.
Pink finds himself as the leader of the children, who use music for power and that’s Roger Water’s story of The Wall. It’s all a provocative fantasy in Pink and Water’s head. Again with great rock ‘n’ roll soundtracks comes the mixture of teen angst, raw sexuality sexual expression. In The Wall, teens are bullied by British strict professors that don’t allow them to have any creative freedom or any artistic freedom because their mother-like wives pressure those same educators.
The kids have to fight to have their freedom of expression and part of the musical expression is expressing themselves sexually. That sexual context is mostly brought forth through animation and a nod to 1970’s Monty Python like Basque women who are pollinated by roving flowers which could be the young men of the 1980s generation who are looking for love/mother because they didn’t get any love from their mother. Again we see Waters expressing what him and the band grapple with and want to articulate onscreen. Their music is choreographed to animation, live-action and futuristic expression of a world driven by hammers, barbed wire and broken glass under their feet with intention towards changing society’s rules and norms. The Wall is mesmerizing as it is mysterious and it allows audiences to make up their own mind on how to use the music and lyrics in their lives.
There are some sneaking comparisons to 24 Hour Party People (2002, like the neo-Nazi movement in the UK that flares us every time the Labor party makes strides or the labor unions strike to try improve their economic situation. They obscure Joy Division’s fame and create a poor image of the young adults wanting artistic expression. But opposite of The Wall who looks back, 24 Hour Party People looked forward at how society had to move on from the post war industrial society that was impacted by the early 1989 financial crash in the UK and the Eastern European move towards openness. 24 Hour Party People is the story about Tony Wilson, who created the Manchester tech-rock music scene and wanted to be a rock imprassario no matter what it took. With his influence Manchester went to “Madchester”, it was the early 1980s to early 1990s, which was a very hedonistic time in British music because of the impact of the recession on English manufacturing.
The recession impacted cities like Manchester and rural UK cites, that began to lose manufacturing business. This gave young people angst combined with a music show that was produced by Grenada TV in Manchester and Hosted by Wilson that drove musicians to try to develop their careers in the punk genre. Artist like Joy Divison, who went on to become New Order, A Certain Ration, The Durutti Column and the Happy Mondays were connected to society by the amount of fear and the punk movement, so their music had meaning.
The malaise of not having jobs engaged their fans and we’re looking for an escape, which came through ecstasy and marijuana. That drug pull created a decadent club scene. Joy Division, The Happy Mondays spawned bands like The Farm, EMF and 808 State who expressed feeling of anxious and oppression against society, that they were being left out left behind. 24 Hour Party People music represented rock ‘n’ roll music as the escapism of the rave party lifestyle. The film placed little values on relationships between, husband & wives, artists & managers, even bands and their fans.
What was unique about 24 hour Party People, is while the music scenes, the music artists and the bands were all real people – it was a story of the life and times of a journalist who largely builds his career off the music scene he instills. He is played by Steve Coogan, a very successful actor in England and all historical people a played by actors, even a few cameos by the real participants where in the film. While more straightforward, Pink Floyd’s The Wall has Geldof inhabit Water’s musical personality and with the help of Bob Hoskins in a cameo and other actors they convey The Wall’s attitude of depression. But similar to A Hard Days Night, and Purple Rain, music as art and the ironic comedic style in a film help portray a story that revolves around a real music scene.