The idea of the album was created by Roger Waters during their In The Flesh tour. His ideas became an album with the help of producer Bob Ezrin, who introduced the idea of Pink. The whole album, which consists of 26 songs, tells the life of Pink and the negative events that happened throughout his life, pushing himself to slowly build a wall - to create a barricade - between him and society, hence the name The Wall.
His story is introduced with the songs In The Flesh?, The Thin Ice and Another Brick In The Wall, Pt.1, giving us an idea of Pink’s childhood setting: “Daddy’s flown across the sea, Leaving just a memory” (Another Brick In The Wall, Pt.1) World War II, living without a father. Both of them show early childhood trauma and as we listen to the next two songs (The Happiest Days Of Our Lives, Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2), we’re brought into the school atmosphere that Pink grew up in: where the teachers let off steam by picking at the students, by telling them off and by stopping them from standing out (the teachers stopped them from having a difference in their personality, they didn’t want other people being happy while they were going home every night being thrashed by their fat and psychopathic wives). It shows how fed-up Pink was with the attitude of the teachers and how this part of his life was the foundation of his wall.
The song Mother starts with a phone call beeping. It’s a calm song, showing the supposedly heart-warming relationship Pink has with his mum. But in reality, it’s not that heart-warming at all – it shows the toxicity and obsessiveness the mother has towards her child: she wants her ‘child’ to grow up and be independent but never leave her side and to have the same views as her, to tell her everything and to even ask her for permission to date people. It’s like Pink is a fly in his mother’s spiderweb and he most definitely can’t escape.
We’re then taken back to his childhood, back to World War II. Goodbye Blue Sky represents a really dark time in his life by making the song start off quite pleasant but as it proceeds, the song gets creepier. It’s followed by Empty Spaces, a song that finally shows how Pink is completing his wall to protect himself and his fragile, traumatised personality. The flow of Empty Spaces flows smoothly into Young Lust. Young Lust talks about how he changed his personality to fit this new image of himself that he wants to show to the world: a sexy stranger in a town who needs a dirty woman, even though he has a wife. The relationship between him and his wife is expanded on in the next song, One of My Turns. It talks about how frustrating and boring his wife has become, about how uninteresting she is now. This song is quite upbeat, showing the anger that he feels in his relationship, the singer (Roger Waters) is almost shouting the lyrics, which is the complete opposite to the song after this one. Don’t leave me now is a ‘melancholy’ song that shows his egoistic regret that Pink has towards his wife. His wife doesn’t want him anymore (it’s not like he wanted her either) but Pink wants to keep her because he’s used to having someone there for him when he gets home, he’s used to taking out his anger on his wife, to have someone else in the house other than himself: “How could you go? When you know how I need you, To beat to pulp on a Saturday night.”
Another Brick In the Wall, Pt. 3 and Goodbye Cruel World talk about how Pink is fed up with everything in his life now. He doesn’t need anything now and doesn’t want to be part of such a cruel world. But as his wall begins to be too high for him to escape, he tries to seek help (Hey You, Is There Anybody Out There) only to have nobody home to greet him, so he starts to have flashbacks of WWII (Vera) and think about soldiers at war (Bring The Boys Back Home). He has these thoughts because of his father, who went to war and never returned. That’s why we hear a song pitying the men lost at war.
While Pink ‘reminisces’ these depressing memories that has, he realises that he’s actually used to this sick and numb feeling. He’s used to being let down and not reaching what he wanted, because he’s Comfortably Numb. But just because he’s numb doesn’t mean he wants to die or stop doing things. He still has something inside of him, even if it’s really faint. Pink contemplates whether or not these emotions are too late.
The next song (In The Flesh) is kind of outside of the story, tying in aspects of the In The Flesh tour instead of the story of Pink. The song talks about Roger’s feelings during the tour and his dissatisfaction with the group’s fans. To some, it might be weird listening to the origin of Pink right before the climax, but that could be the whole point. We need to be reminded of what Roger Waters was feeling to really understand the wall that Pink built to separate himself. It talks about the struggle Roger had and the disgust he felt towards the fans acting so out of hand during Pink Floyd’s performance.
We start to realise how sad and depressed Pink became, how much he despises the world and yet still misses parts of it. He still ‘misses’ his wife. But in reality, just like the last time, it’s her presence that he misses, not her as a person (Run Like Hell).
His emotions have started to go all over the place (Waiting for the Worms), he can’t seem to pull himself together; his wall isn’t working like it was supposed to; his perfect isolation is somehow letting in worms – thoughts and feelings that are opposing to what he wanted. They’re too much for him, he feels as though they’re attacking him, like he’s put on a black shirt (this is a reference to the BUF - the British Union of Fascists, created by a former Labour party minister Sir Oswald Mosley, in 1932). But Pink doesn’t want any of these emotions and he starts to feel emotionally weak. Pink felt as though he was a victim, but now he is starting to question if he was ever the victim in the first place (Stop). Has he been guilty all this time?
The second to final song, The Trial, shows exactly how vulnerable Pink becomes. Nobody is singing in this song, it’s more like a dramatic soundtrack. It shows how upset Pink became, because he showed feelings “of an almost human nature”. The reason he feels this way is quite obvious, all of his life he was taught to be one way but he disagreed with that way. Once he finally decided how he wanted to present himself to the world, it all came crashing down. His mind subconsciously comes back to the time when he was controlled the most: back to school, where the teachers would beat and punish children for being wrong and doing things that the teachers didn’t like. Pink doesn’t like how vulnerable he is – all of his hard work didn’t pay off! He feels like a disappointment - that he wronged himself, his mother, his wife and his beautiful wall... His massive, sturdy wall that he couldn’t keep up with. The jury decides to tear down the wall. Everyone will finally be able to see him exposed, naked. It’s Pink’s punishment for hurting the people around him: his mother, who cared about him a lot and his wife, who stayed with him even though he was abusive and indifferent to her.
With the wall teared down, Pink realises something: the people that he hurt were waiting for him. They never left him after he built the wall - the wall was too big for him to see the other side. Pink understands that it will be a long journey before he will be happy and he’s willing to try to make it work with the people around him.
As the album ends, Pink’s life keeps on going. The first and last song are tied together by one question: “Isn’t this where we came in?”. The album has a lot of loopholes and repetition, never showing a distinct part of his life because he kept having flashbacks to traumatic events, blurring everything out. So, because of these repetitions, it’s bound to happen again, proving that all good things come to an end, just like this album.