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The Making Of Pink Floyd's The Wall
(Since its inception in 1973, the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame has enshrined nearly 1,000 recordings across all genres. The Making Of … series presents firsthand accounts of the creative process behind some of the essential recordings of the 20th century. You can read more Making Of … accounts, and in-depth insight into the recordings and artists represented in the Hall, in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition book.)
(As told to Tammy La Gorce)
It was Roger [Waters'] wife, Carolyne [Christie], who approached me about doing The Wall. She had actually worked with me on an Alice Cooper project years before in London. The idea was, because this was so much Roger's own project and not a group effort, he needed a kind of referee between him and the rest of the band — someone who could help him realize his vision and deal with the rest of the band without creating problems between him and them.
In the beginning we had a very long demo that Roger had written. We started to separate out the pieces, and when we looked at the storyline we realized what we needed was a through line, something to get us from start to finish.
I started writing, and in the process of doing that I began to realize, "I'm writing a script." It took one night in my flat in London. I closed my eyes and wrote out the movie that would become The Wall.
The next day in the studio, we made copies of the script and handed them out, and we all sat down for a table read.
We laid down the bits of music we had from the demo, and obviously there were songs missing, bits of the script where we didn't yet have a song. We'd mark those "TBW" — "to be written." "Comfortably Numb" was a TBW song. With the screenplay, we had a real framework for how things would go, and it proved crucial.
I think it was remarkable how fast we finished it. When you add it all up, we spent maybe seven or eight months in the studio. We started in England, then we went to the South of France, and we finished up in Los Angeles. Think about it: You can read stories about some of the more indulgent albums, like [Guns N' Roses'] Chinese Democracy, where 10 or 12 years were spent on something that ends up with a whimper and not a bang. When you think about that, we worked pretty quick.
Overall, [The Wall] was a fantastic experience. An amazing accomplishment.
(Tammy La Gorce is a freelance writer whose work appears regularly in The New York Times.)