vineri, 21 noiembrie 2008

Young Lust

Bounding behind "Goodbye Blue Sky" on the album and "What Shall We Do Now?" in the movie, "Young Lust" bursts into life as "a pastiche of any young rock and roll band out on the road" (Waters, 1979 interview). The music is so vibrantly cliché and the vocals so infectious that the song, while lampooning the sexually driven, big-guitar-rock songs and bands of the time, transcends its mold and becomes a lively entity unto itself. Although Waters' original song recounted the singer's cautious sexual exploits after school, "hanging around outside porno movies and dirty bookshops," the collaboration of Waters, Gilmour, and Ezrin quickly turned the song into a rollicking melody recounting Pink's entrance into rock and roll super stardom. And what better way to show celebrity excesses than through the eyes of yet another sex-driven star. Yet there's little wonder as to why Pink explodes into his new personage: in terms of album chronology, he has just left his overprotective mother, his school, and the life he knew, all of which oppressed the development of Pink's individuality. In the total absence of any boundaries whatsoever and with his newfound power as a celebrity (we never really do find out HOW Pink became a star…but that might be besides the point), Pink bursts through the rules placed on him throughout his life and recklessly embraces all that he was never allowed to experience. As the cliché says (which is appropriate for this purposefully stereotypical song), he simply immerses himself with sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Though the song is relatively simple in terms of narrative (it's mainly used to detail the sexual exploits of rock star Pink whose every sexual fantasy is explored in every town that his tour stops in), the very style that Floyd uses to convey the message contributes to the deeper undertones of the album. It's interesting that Waters described the song as a pastiche, a literary imitation usually for the sake of satire. In one way, the pastiche technique is used to criticize a certain type of music or lifestyle without blatantly attacking it. To use a literary example, many of the chapters of James Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses parody other writers, books, and cultural trends of the time in an attack on what Joyce arguably saw as the degeneration of intellectual thought and literature. Although Joyce never mentions a specific writer or book in these parodic sections, his views are loudly proclaimed and his aim is nearly unmistakable. So too is the aim of Pink Floyd's "Young Lust," a parody of every rocker whose used his celebrity for sex and drugs, whose ego is as large as his image, and whose only care is the pursuit of carnal pleasure.

Going beyond sheer parody, Floyd interestingly uses this technique to further define Pink's character. The very fact that the song is an imitation of popular rock music of the 70's reinforces Pink's lack of individuality at this time in his life. Up until now, he has been molded by his mother, his school, and life itself into a model civilian void of nearly all traces of distinctiveness. In the movie Pink is punished by his teacher for writing poetry, restrained sexually by his ever-watchful mother, alienated from much of society because he has no father; all of the above have only contributed to the flimsy mask of personality, each incident painting a feature onto the mask rather than adding depth to his character. Fittingly, the first song of his new independence is one that is so full of rock clichés (the gruff, sexual voice; the catchy, melodic hook; the polished guitar solo) that it's hard to grant just one person credit for writing the song. It not only recalls popular musical trends at the time but the vocals are also reminiscent of an earlier Floyd tune called "the Nile Song", according to a Waters interview. Pink is not just a mere shadow of 70's rock and roll but he's also a shadow of his creators' earlier music. But it's only after he fully erupts that Pink finally comprehends the hollow shell that he is and the void of individual nothingness underneath, a realization that further contributes to the completion of the wall and the destruction of whatever self there once was.

While the song's position on the album denotes a more natural sense of newfound sexual freedom, one might argue that its position in the movie is much more dubious, casting the song in a retaliatory light. By this argument, Pink turns to the sexually willing groupies in order to get even with his unfaithful wife whose infidelity he has just discovered in "What Shall We Do Now?" Pink stays in his trailer for most of the song, only emerging momentarily when he sees a pretty female fan that catches his eye. Although he is obviously annoyed with her when she tries to get his autograph, he nevertheless takes her back to his hotel room, insinuating that he originally intended to do something with her, that is until he has another one of his "turns" in the next song.

One might also argue that the movie sequence is little more than an extension of the album version, "serious[ly] romanticizing" the life of a rock star (Waters, DVD). The majority of the song's scenes do little to advance the plot, mostly showing the excesses of celebrity life in the numerous women, abundant food, and flowing champagne before concluding the song with the groupie following Pink back into his trailer. Despite the scenes' apparent frivolity, there are a few subtleties that rescue the video from being nothing more than justification for sex jokes and female nudity. It's interesting to note that despite this being Pink's sexual anthem (at least on the album), he is probably the character with the least amount of screen time during the song. His absence from the majority of the footage creates a physical separation between the viewer and the character, one that quite possibly parallels Pink's feelings of abandonment and detachment after having discovered his wife's unfaithfulness. This sense of disconnection is further emphasized by the few times Pink is on screen. When the viewer is offered a glimpse of Pink, it is usually through the window of Pink's trailer, producing yet another wall of separation between the viewer and Pink as well as Pink and the rest of the world. Rather than joining his own backstage party, he sits by the window and indifferently watches the festivities outside of this trailer through a dark pair of sunglasses, yet another wall of separation between the external world and himself. Even when he does emerge from his trailer at the end of the song, he quickly retreats back into it when he finds that the female groupie is just another faceless fan in search of an autograph and a wild story. Interestingly, the fan is more persistent than one might expect, trying to take off his glasses to "find out what's behind [his] cold eyes" and following him into his trailer and eventually back to his hotel room, even after Pink has blatantly expressed his exasperation with her. Coupled with the groupie's resemblance to his wife (at least in my opinion…which is perhaps why Pink was drawn to her in the first place), the fan acts as yet another extension of the wife's insistent attempts to try to break through Pink's wall and truly connect with him. But just as Pink eventually drove his wife to having an affair, he will also drive the female fan away from him before she even glimpses what's behind his disguise in "One of My Turns."

duminică, 2 noiembrie 2008

What Shall We Do Now?

Although "What Shall We Do Now?" was originally recorded at the same time as the rest of "the Wall" it was replaced on the album with "Empty Spaces" because according to Waters' 1979 interview "it's quite long, and this side was too long, and there was too much of it." Thankfully he liked the song a great deal and reinstated it in the movie immediately following "Mother." Even though "What Shall We Do Now?" is in all actuality an extended version of "Empty Spaces," it differs from "Spaces" in that it really expands on the theme of transition and examines the various ways to fill the missing gaps in the wall. Since I've already discussed the song's music in "Empty Spaces" (relatively the same in "What Shall We Do Now?"), I'll go straight into the lyrics.

As Waters said in an interview, "this level of the story is extremely simplistic." Don't get me wrong, the fact that it might be simplistic does not make it simple by any means. If anything, "What Shall We Do Now?" contributes to the multiple themes of "the Wall" while adding a few of its own. But as a song in itself, the lyrics are fairly and caustically straightforward. Put simply, it is a list of things that people use to fill "the waves of hunger," that void in their lives and the missing gaps in their walls. Arguably, people are trained by society to "search for more and more applause" in a "sea of faces," or in other words, they are trained to become someone else so as to be socially acceptable, thereby garnering more acceptance (social "applause"). It's the reason why corporate stores such as the Gap are successful; we are told that in order to fit in, we must adjust to the social norm even if that norm seems to deviate from the status quo. For an example of this, look at the success and profitability of punk music (a genre notoriously known for going against the grain of society) in the early 90's sparked by radio-friendly bands like Green Day. In our ever-growing materialistic society, you must become someone else before you are someone; you must wear a fashionable brand of clothes, drive a stylish car, keep trendy friends, eat at chic restaurants. Namely, you must adapt yourself to the latest social trends in order to become your social self. Accordingly, these things start to become social fetishes. We become obsessed with the latest trends, defining ourselves by what we see in the media, what is marketed towards us, and what our peers are doing. In the most ironic social twist, individuality is supposedly achieved by conformity to commercialized social norms. We fill our lives and define ourselves with designer jeans and fancy cars; with how much money is in our bank accounts and how many sexual partners we've had; with what we eat and where we sleep. This is the very core of the attack in "What Shall We Do Now?" a polemic against the foundation of the world's increasing capitalistic society. It's an attack against conformity, the loss of individuality, and mostly against the idea that these material things will complete our lives and make us truly happy.

Yet all of the things listed in the song aren't necessarily evil. Many people feel that vegetarianism is the healthiest way to eat and sending flowers by phone is certainly a far cry from the evils of Hitler and his Nazi regime. Why are such things attacked, then? As Roger Waters perfectly states in his 1979 interview, it's about being "obsessed with the idea of being a vegetarian...adopting somebody else's criteria for yourself without considering them from a position of really being yourself." These things are not inherently evil; rather, it's the obsession with these things, with defining one's self by someone else's standards, that is the moral decay of modern society. "More, more more!" becomes the global motto with every passing day and with the accumulation of it all, walls are being erected higher and more impenetrable. While the song veers away a bit from the actual story line of "the Wall," Pink's applicability to the materialistic obsession perfectly reflects the walls of many people across the globe. As Pink's fame and fortune increase, he further buries himself behind a wall of possessions, becoming more detached from the rest of the world as a result of his personal accumulation. As one conforms to the current trends, true and personal communication becomes more and more difficult. After all, how can one communicate individually if one defines himself or herself as a collection of commercialized goods? But as the wall of possessions grows, so too does the obsession to obtain more until finally one is the beast of his fetish, living each day at the will of his delusion. Even after we are consumed, we live "with our backs to the wall," insinuating that rather than looking for a way out from our self-imposed isolation (which would require us to face the wall), we ignore the growing ramparts and continually search for the next trend in the hopes of being accepted, of getting "more and more applause."

The movie sequence for "What Shall We Do Now?" is arguably the most beautiful and haunting animation of the film. The screaming face image, the sexualized flowers, the wall of possessions, all spring from Gerald Scarfe's brilliant interpretation of the song and, at least in my opinion, fully captures the essence of Waters' social sermon. The sheer artistry of the animation in the beginning of the song with the male and female flowers flowing and morphing into lovers before attacking each other is almost beyond words. Despite its beauty, many people might have a problem with the apparent misogyny of the introductory piece. The male and female flowers sensually dance around each other before performing intercourse, morphing into free-flowing humanistic figures before changing into monstrous beings with the male attacking the female. However the female changes back into a flower and releases all of her glory, shining brightly before viciously snapping up the male in her lips and flying off as some sort of bestial dragon. It could be easy for one to view this sequence as a misogynist attack against dominant females, revealing them to be nothing more than man-hating beasts. However, I think such a reading is grossly inaccurate in that it is viewing the sequence out of context. It must be remembered that this is Pink's story and that, for the most part, the viewer has been viewing the movie from Pink's point of view. This animation sequence is no different. Not only was Pink raised by a dominant, overprotective mother, he has just found out that his wife is cheating on him. Therefore it shouldn't be a surprise that Pink would feel a great amount of aggression towards women. He selfishly feels that he has been abused by them and is continually the victim of their beastly appetites for male emasculation (although we have seen quite the opposite in "Mother" in which Pink drives his wife to infidelity by his own lack of emotion and communication). Furthermore, it was a woman (Mother) who caused Pink (at least in his mind) to become mentally isolated and distrust women. Because we view it all through Pink's eyes, we are getting a very skewed view of relationships between men in women.

As if spawned by this latest personal injury of infidelity, a wall of materialistic desires bursts onto the screen in the form of high-rise buildings, televisions, radios, Harley Davidson motorcycles, Mercedes, Cadillacs, and BMWs. A "sea of faces" greets the wall of possessions (forming a wall of conformity with their faces), each one a clone of his or her neighbor similar to the masks worn by the schoolchildren in "Brick in the wall 2." The wall plunges onward, breaking the peace of the countryside with the screams of the "the people caught up in the wall" (Scarfe, DVD). Everything the wall passes is corrupted. Gerald Scarfe states in the DVD commentary that "in the shadow of the wall, flowers turn into barbed wire; men turn into monsters." As the wall passes, an innocent infant grows into a beast and then into a man in uniform (the Nazi-esque uniform of Pink's fascist regime later in the movie) who bludgeons another man to death, the innocent's blood splashing onto the wall. As a result of the lack of communication fostered by the barriers between people, the wall begets social decay, personal degradation, and violence. Religion is destroyed as the wall continues its course straight through a church and "a new god is set up" as the pieces reform into a casino-like neon building that spews mass-produced neon bricks (Scarfe, DVD).

The next sequence running through a list of Pink's personal bricks is another example of Scarfe's amazing artistry. The Pink doll screams and morphs into a curvaceous female shape (the sexual promiscuity of "Young Lust" as well as the feminine "betrayal" in "Mother"). The woman changes into large, feminine dollops of ice cream suggesting the sensual excesses of Pink's lifestyle. The ice cream then reverts back to the female shape, next morphing into a submachine gun (foreshadowing Pink's violent outbursts later in the film) before changing into a syringe and needle (drugs), a guitar (his musical fame), and finally rounds out the list of personal bricks by turning into a black BMW (expensive possessions). The song ends with an ambiguous sequence depicting a red fist rising from the ground and turning into a hammer. After seeing how the wall perverts everything in its path, one might view the fist rising from the ground as another perversion of nature similar to the flowers turning into barbed wire. In the presence of the wall, even the earth rises up and forms itself into an implement of creation (the wall is created) and destruction (personal individuality is destroyed). A much more optimistic reading of this scene might see the fist rising from the ground as a good omen rather than one of social and personal decay. By this reading, nature will ultimately reclaim the earth from the tyranny of humanity's reign. Just as grass eventually grows through the asphalt of a parking lot or just as the weather erodes and destroys even the largest of mankind's creations, so to will nature rise up and destroy the personal and social walls of humankind. Though the fist is red (conjuring thoughts of bloody strife), it turns into a powerful tool of reform.

The final scene after the music is over merely reemphasizes (almost needlessly) what has just been said in the song. The hammer is used as a tool of destruction to smash a display window through which looters pilfer a range of consumer products. The fact that these items (televisions, radios, vacuum cleaners) are luxuries rather than necessities simply stresses the idea that the capitalistic wall leads to crime and violence. Society has taught us that we are nothing without personal possessions and so those who are unable to afford them are willing to steal in order to be socially acceptable. Interestingly, as the crooks are hustled into the police wagon, two old women steal out of the broken display window, insinuating that commercialism turns everyone into a criminal, even the most unsuspecting. No one is safe nor truly innocent in a society in which a baby grows into a violent monster and elderly women pilfer merchandise behind the backs of policemen.

Empty Spaces

Coming on the heels of "Goodbye Blue Sky" on the album, "Empty Spaces" acts as a transition between the young-adult Pink setting out into the world on his own (at least in terms of the album's placement of "Goodbye Blue Sky") and his entry into full-blown adulthood in "Young Lust."

In terms of the album's placement of "Empty Spaces," it's difficult to pinpoint just who is being spoken to. Had this version of the song made it in the movie directly after "Mother," one would automatically assume that Pink is talking to his adulterous wife, asking how he should fill the void that their marriage has now become. Yet by this reading, Pink's inquiry concerning the empty spaces "where we used to talk" is more ironical than truly sincere for Pink is depicted as being highly uncommunicative in the preceding scenes of the movie. If anything, this shows how blind to the truth Pink really is. Believing that their marriage was healthy before this latest incident, Pink places all the blame of his wife's infidelity on his wife, blind to the fact that his callous behavior was the major cause behind her finding a new lover, someone who would actually listen to her and love her. In this light, the last two questions concerning the remaining gaps in the wall are almost rhetorical, readily answering themselves: Pink will fill the "final places" and "complete the wall" with his wife's infidelity.

However, the song's position on the album might lead one to believe that he is addressing his mother. Having ventured out from his mother's protective wing, Pink is finally experiencing the real world and discovers it to be more desolate and unfriendly than he was expecting. By this reading, he is asking his mother how he should fill the void of her protection, of her companionship. Oddly enough, he finds a temporary filler in the sexual frenzy of "Young Lust," adding yet another Freudian spin to Pink's relationship with his mother and the influence she's had on his sexuality. If he really is addressing his mother (at least in his mind) then the last two questions act almost as a continuation of his earlier inquiry when he asks his mother if he "should build a wall," as if he's saying, "Okay, my wall is built. I'm almost completely shut off from the rest of the world. Now, how shall I finish it?" With as much damage as Mother has done to Pink's persona, he should have no problem at all filling in the remaining gaps.

Remembering that Pink acts as an Everyman of sorts, one whose life journey reflects the walls and lives of nearly all of humanity, yields a third interpretation of the lyrics. The "we" becomes more of a generalized first person pronoun rather than referencing anyone or anything specifically. In other words, Pink is speaking for the human race when he says "we," for everyone has a metaphorical wall similar to his (although most people's walls aren't as high).

As if reflecting this transitional theme, the song's music is a bit chaotic in my opinion. "Empty Spaces" picks up on the main musical riff from "In the Flesh?" but makes it far more unstable, most notably with the high vibrato of the synthesizers and the jumbled music and mumbling in the intro. However, there's more to the strange, backward sounding mumbling than sheer atmosphere. Click here to play the musical intro in reverse. Yup, a secret message in which Roger Waters says the following: "Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message. Send your answer to Old Pink in care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont..." At this point, a second person says: "Roger, Carolyne is on the phone." Leave it to Waters to throw the listener on another loop (or maybe cycle). I know, I know. It's almost too much to try and interpret what is obviously Waters' attempt at humor. But I think there's a bit more to the backwards message than just a good laugh. Firstly and as previously mentioned, "Empty Spaces" (on the album) is chronologically set before Pink's adulthood in "Young Lust" and after his adolescence in "Mother," making him roughly 18 - 20, give or take a few years on both sides. While we could quibble as to his exact age, what's most important is that the song does NOT take place in the true present time (during the concert, after Pink has finished his wall). Yet judging by clues such as "Old Pink in care of the Funny Farm", the hidden message is most likely from the present time for it's only after Pink finishes his wall that he truly becomes "crazy, over the rainbow." Therefore, what is presented here is a sort of foreshadowing from the present, if such a thing is possible. In the middle of telling his story, Pink indirectly inserts his present state. Interestingly, it's this transition that is one of the most critical in Pink's development. As an adult, he could easily cope with the injustices he has been dealt by life and thereby alleviate his repressed emotions. As we see, though, (or have already seen in the movie), Pink refuses to take responsibility for what has happened to him and so he signs his own metaphorical death sentence when he continues to build his wall at an increasing pace. Thus, the transition is emphasized by the hidden foreshadowing alluding to Pink's current mental state caused by his irresponsibility at the "Empty Spaces" point in his life. In other words, it's as if Pink is saying, "I am here now (in the "Funny Farm"...the metaphorical insane asylum in my head) because of what happened then (in "Empty Spaces."

Secondly, the song delves into self-reflexivity when the second voice comes in telling Roger that "Carolyne [Roger Waters' wife] is on the phone." The mentioning of Waters' real wife reminds the audience that this story is NOT real, that it is merely art. Such self-reflexivity is a major characteristic of modernist and postmodernist literature in which the authors intentionally draw the reader out of the story to remind them (among other motives) that what they are reading is art and should be read on more levels than just the narrative plane. One of the most classic examples of this can be found in James Joyce's Ulysses in which the character Molly Bloom seemingly addresses the author directly when she exclaims something to the effect of, "Oh Jamesy. Won't you take me out of this poo." Since there is no "James" or "Jamsey" in the story, most readers are inclined to believe that Molly is addressing Joyce himself, comically asking why he has written her into such a situation. As you can imagine, the effect is jolting. At first the reader is inclined to ask how a character would know that she is just a character in novel? Well, mainly because she IS just a character and so she says exactly what she is written to say. This forces the reader to step back from the narrative and realize that there is more than story going on here; there is the sheer artistry of the author as well as the multiple levels he or she has instilled in the piece of art. The hidden message in "Empty Spaces" has the very same effect, forcing the listener away from the narrative for a moment and reminding him or her that this is just a piece of art, not a slice of life. However, the fact that the second voice calls him Roger while Roger is speaking in the guise of "Pink" reminds the audience that, in a way, this IS real. Roger IS Pink because he has infused his own persona and much of his life into his character. So while the self-reflexive message draws the listener out of the story, the blurring of reality and fiction validates the actuality of the story. The backward message simultaneously shows that while Pink's specific story is fictional, his metaphorical journey and the wall he creates are universally real.

One last tidbit of information: Water has been quoted as saying that if it had not been for his wife Carolyne and her insistence on communication, he would have ended up as insane as Pink. As we see in the movie, Pink drives his wife away as a result of a lack of communication. But according to Waters, no matter how stubborn he got or how hard he tried to push his wife away, Carolyn would force him to open up to her and talk. So perhaps the backward message is above all a personal "thank you" from Roger to Carolyne. After all, Waters / Old Pink is interrupted from continuing with his "secret message" by Carolyne who is on the phone and wanting to talk (communicate) with Roger.

duminică, 6 iulie 2008


Had Sigmund Freud lived 40 more years (to the overripe old age of 123), he would have been delighted to hear such a wonderful example of his life's psychoanlytic work embodied in the haunting lyrics of "Mother." Or had Oedipus lived a few millennium longer than his fictional death he would have found an adversary in the youthful Pink, a young boy whose desire for maternal acceptance and love is arguably equal to the greatest mother-centered protagonists in the history of literature. Contrary to the eye-gouging antics of Oedipus or even the grandiose melodrama later in Floyd's album, "Mother" is relatively low-key and emotionally subtle. The music itself is interestingly split, though with few if any seams to show for it, between the gloomy and simple verse chords and the effervescent, nursery rhyme-like chorus. Coupled with these seemingly disjointed yet oddly congruent styles are the blistering guitar solo and unsettling lyrics, all of which culminate in a perfect example of Floydian schizophrenia. The simple chord progression and uncomplicated lyrical delivery reflect Pink's childhood innocence at the time the song takes place. The very inquisitiveness emulates those youthful stages when the world is one big mystery. Why is the sky blue? Why does the ocean have waves? Where do babies come from? While the steady stream of inquiries seems to imply that Pink is rather young, with most children going through the "question" phase of development around 3 or 4 years of age, the level of seriousness shrouded behind the questions characterize Pink as being fairly older. The implications of governmental conspiracy and public ridicule indicate Pink's age as being around 12 to 14, that age when one learns that many of the world's most time-honored institutions are nothing more than hollow shells of public hope and dictatorial vanity. Santa Claus isn't real and there are many major religions that worship other deities than Christ. It's an age of discovery and self-recreation, when one must adapt and reinvent himself or herself in light of new knowledge. By this reading, the song's question (Pink) and answer (Mother) technique fits perfectly with this stage of budding self and global awareness. From the great Greek philosophers who used questions and answers to illustrate and promote self-realization and their own philosophical ideas, the dialogue form is often the favored method for encouraging mental and philosophical progression. So why would the band choose to illustrate such a serious stage of personal development with the nursery rhyme-like style of the song's chorus? Before we get to that, the song's emotional and psychological message must first be examined.

Similar to the music, the lyrics are as subtle as they are unsettling. Although the song takes a seemingly forthright form of question and answer, the psychological implications behind the lyrics are far from being simple and straightforward. Although the battling was over, the effects of World War II were still extent in the years following the atrocious fight. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atomic bomb as well as the deaths of millions of Holocaust victims and soldiers were all too fresh in the global consciousness. Fears of nuclear warfare and continued fighting ran rampant through the post-war world, instilling a sense of uncertainty in the generations of and following the war. Such fears are blatantly reflected by the first line of the song in which Pink asks his mother if "they'll drop the bomb," referring to the apprehension of enemy retaliation. However, this line, as well as the majority of the lyrics, is open to a wide range of interpretation. Because of the psychological tendency to group people into two main categories (those like "us" and those apart from "us," or the Other) coupled with the recent divisions of global powers in the war, one automatically assumes that the "they" Pink refers to is the enemy of the Allied forces. Reading the lyrics in this light illustrates Pink's burgeoning global awareness, thereby exhibiting his maturing persona. Yet taking into account that the "they" in the rest of the lyrical stanza oppose Pink in some personal manner casts a different light on the first line. In the succeeding lines, Pink wonders if "they'll like this song" or "try to break my balls," metaphorically referring to emasculation through personal attack, implying that his fears are much more personal rather than global. Therefore, "the bomb" becomes a symbol of any kind of destructive power in life, especially when considering that a bomb killed Pink's dad in the war. Accordingly, the "they" becomes as faceless and unrecognizable as the molded children in "Brick in the Wall, 2." No longer is there a discernible enemy. "They" could be anything from a collective appellation for Life in general to one's closest friend; "they" becomes anything that has potential destructive powers. The war, Pink's teacher, and, as we learn in this song, Pink's mother are all "they"s in the life of Pink. Because he realizes that this Other could be any situation, person, or thing and that they could "drop the bomb" (i.e. cause destruction in his life) at any time, he is consumed with an overwhelming fear, or paranoia rather, of the external world. Being that there is so much potential danger in the world, Pink asks his mother if he should "build a wall." For Pink who is already growing more and more paranoid at such an early age, the internal is his only safe haven from the dangers of the injurious world.

Yet Pink's youthful imaginings shine through even amidst his budding paranoia when he asks if he should "run for president." To clear up a few misconceptions, I seriously doubt that this is a realistic dream of running for United States president considering that Pink is, after all, British. Rather, I believe that the unspecified presidency is used to show that despite his hardening world and personal views, Pink is still young and thus full of childlike expectations and dreams. All dream of being great and important figures at some time or another, Pink is no exception. Still, his momentary dreams of great political power are quashed when his overpowering apprehension takes over when he questions the trustworthiness of the government, wondering if "they'll put me in the firing line." Once again, the "they" is unspecified and can refer to either the actual government or anyone who assails and criticizes those with power. As Pink realizes, power and greatness merely emphasize the vulnerability of a person; when one is in the spotlight, he or she is that much more susceptible to public criticism and attack.

Now it's time for you as a Floyd fan to pick your favorite next line because the band has given us a few choices. The album version ends the verse with "is it just a waste of time," with the "it" arguably referring to Life in general. In light of all of life's hardships, Pink is wondering if it's even worth living. In the movie, Pink sings "am I really dying," referencing his childhood sickness that is further recounted in "Comfortably Numb" as well as the idea that life is nothing more than a gradual death which also reemphasizes Pink's reluctance to continue remaining vulnerable by living in the external world. In concert, Waters sang "what a crazy time," perhaps in reference to the chaotic, post-war and postmodern world Pink grew up in as well as the often-tumultuous phase of adolescence and personal discovery. Whichever line you choose, each contributes a different yet cohesive view of Pink's fragmenting and confused personality.

In true dialogue form, Pink's mother takes over at this part of the song to expand on everything Pink has discussed thus far. What's most interesting about the mother's voice is that it isn't so much a true-to-life recreation of her thoughts and sayings as it is a loose representation of her actions and what those actions are doing and have done to Pink. While the point of view is partly through the mother's eyes, there's a hint of something else behind her words, an omniscience that is beyond her or young Pink's view. It's as if the mother's actions rather than her thoughts and words are speaking, referring to herself in the third person ("she") rather than the first ("I"). No reasonably sane mother would knowingly hurt her own child yet millions of mother's in the world physically and psychologically harm their children through their actions. What one mother might think is best for her child could very well be the thing that causes the most detriment, as in the case of Pink. I personally don't think the mother is directly speaking but the effects of her actions certainly are. The problem with Pink's mother isn't that she is inherently evil or psychotic but rather that she is overprotective. As Waters said in a 1979 interview, "if you can level one accusation at mothers it is that they tend to protect their children too much. Too much and for too long. That's all." Having lost her husband to the war and seeing her son as the only remaining extension of the man she loved, the mother tries every imaginable way to keep her son "under her wing." Unfortunately, such overprotection results in the psychological projection of her own fears onto her son, overcompensating for the loss of her husband by keeping Pink safe from any harm that might arise. In this light, the earlier scenes of Pink dressing in his father's uniform ("Tigers, 2") take on an even stranger tone considering that Pink, in a sense, becomes his father in the watchful eye of his mother in that he is the last remnant of his father. By trying to make up for the past (the mother "failed" at protecting her husband from death and so is determined to keep Pink safe), Mother ultimately stifles what Pink might have been. As if in response to his dreams of greatness at being "president" (symbolically), the mother proclaims that "she won't let you fly but she might let you sing," insinuating that Pink is only allowed brief and fleeting moments of individuality and personal discovery. Instead of the risk of greatness, the mother keeps him "cozy and warm" before finally, and eerily, answering his earlier question by offering to "help build the wall." Whether she is cognizant of it or not (most likely not), the mother's actions largely contribute to Pink's later isolationism. In trying to keep him as safe as can be she inadvertently produces the most harm.

In response to Pink's mother, the ensuing guitar solo blazes into life out of nowhere almost as if musically representing one of Pink's few outbursts of individuality. The reaching voice of the ascending arpeggios gives way to the descending notes that lead back into Pink's paranoid musings. However, more has elapsed between the mother's chorus and Pink's last verse than a guitar solo. "Do you think she's good enough for me," Pink intones in the first line with the general implication that time has elapsed since the adolescent musings of the song's first half. Although it is unknown whether the "she" is just a girlfriend, his wife, or women in general, Pink is apparently in a relationship implying that he is at least a few years older than he was earlier in the song. In that time, Pink's paranoia has seemingly shifted, now including his mother in the list of "they"s in that he now addresses her cynically, asking if the girl he's chosen is "dangerous for him" and sarcastically wondering whether she'll "tear your little boy apart." It seems that Pink has become aware of the damage caused by his mother's overprotection and in response is using her maternal fears against her, mocking her motherly defense with every line and caustic tone of voice.

While Pink's attitude has changed, his mother's has not. Her unwavering protection continues with the last chorus in which she vows to "not let anyone dirty get through." Declaring that she'll "wait up until you get in" and "always find out where you've been," her overprotective resolve to keep Pink "healthy and clean" is merely strengthened. Out of all of her lyrics, the last line is perhaps the most telling and the most damning in which Mother says that Pink will "always be baby to me," emphasizing her personal bond with her child by finally referring to herself in the first person ("me"). For her, Pink will always remain "Baby Blue" and so need her protection, an idea of vigilant guardianship that comes full swing later in "the Trial." The viewer finds that while Pink is physically and mentally older, his mother still holds him captive, restraining him "under [her maternal] wing." Even though Pink is frothing at the bit to discover the world outside of his house, his town, and his country, his mother projects onto him eternal infancy where he'll "always be baby to me." Thus the song is schizophrenically split between two conflicting frames of mind, both musically and lyrically: between Pink's blooming self in the somber verses and the mother's overprotection of her child's innocence in the nursery rhyme-style chorus. We finally see that the mother's chorus is so much like a nursery-rhyme because she continually views her child as nothing more than a helpless infant.

The song ends with Pink forlornly asking if "it need[ed] to be so high?" The point in time is either that of Pink's last verse (when he cynically asks about his relationship with a girl) or possibly later in life (Pink's present state fully enshrined behind his wall). Being that the line is as ambiguous as the rest of the song's lyrics, there is much debate as to what "it" refers to. One theory is that Pink is looking over his childhood and reflecting on his mother's overprotection, wondering if she really had to set her expectations for him at such an overwhelming height. Another view is that "it" refers to Life in general as it has in previous songs. By this reading, Pink questions whether life really had to be so hard and whether pleasure in life had to be so unattainable. But perhaps the most widely accepted reading has "it" referring to the Wall itself with Pink asking if his wall had to be so daunting, so unavoidable, and so insurmountable. Although everyone has a wall, Pink possibly victimizes himself by believing that his is greater and higher than the rest. As Raven so adequately put it in an e-mail: "'Mother, I know I needed a wall, but did it have to be so high that I can't get back out if I need to?'" As we will see later, there is a way out yet Pink is so full of self-pity and contempt for the world that he is blind to any means of escape.

The music is the first noticeable difference between the album and movie versions of "Mother." The simple and gloomy acoustic guitar is replace in the movie with what sounds like a xylophone or some similar instrument picking the individual notes of the song. The resulting sound is very childish and very much like a nursery rhyme, along the same lines as the chorus on the album version. It's almost as if the music is playing from a toddler's hanging mobile, further emphasizing the childlike state that Pink's mother tries to contain her child within. Yet as we see later in the song, the Young Pink is much older than the toddler image that the music evokes. What is odder than this, though, is that the song begins not with images of Pink's mother but with remembrances of his wife. The viewer first sees a Polaroid photograph of Pink and his wife sitting on the bedside table as Pink vainly tries to reach someone on the phone. A quick flashback of Pink and his wife kissing follows, insinuating that it is she that Pink is trying to call. As he hugs his pillow to himself after placing the phone receiver in the cradle, there is a quick shot of Young Pink in a similar position resting his head on his mother's chest. Had Pink been a young toddler, the scene would be relatively unremarkable, yet there is certainly something peculiar at seeing an obviously adolescent boy lying on his mother's bosom in such an infantile posture. Even before the song's lyrics start, Waters is already setting up the framework for the song, showing the overprotective, maternal hold of the mother and Pink's perpetual infancy. In perfectly Freudian fashion, it's these very musings about his mother that trigger thoughts about his wife and vice versa. Many psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud purported that most people form relationships with people who remind them of their parents, whether similar in physical appearance or personal demeanor. Freud saw this phenomenon as an extension of the Oedipal / Electra complex (depending on the person's gender) in that the parent of the opposite sex is usually the first person a child loves and seeks love from. Therefore, finding a spouse who is similar to that parent is simply an offshoot of those original puerile feelings. It's hard to say at this time if there are any similar qualities between Pink's wife and mother considering that "Mother" is the first time the viewer is introduced to the wife (in the movie) and one of the first descriptions of Pink's mother.

In the following scene we find the white / red color scheme first depicted in "Happiest Days of Our Lives" in the hall that young Pink sits in. A punished young child walks out of the office Pink sits by, insinuating that it is Pink's turn to be chastised for some offense (perhaps he has been writing more poetry). As I mentioned before, the white and red were shown in the school to subtly show part of the cause of Pink's later outburst in the second "In the Flesh." While the colors are once again shown in the school, they are also depicted in the context of the song "Mother," thereby alluding to the mother's own culpability for adding bricks to Pink's wall and for ultimately creating the Nazi-esque Pink later in the album. As the song unfolds, the viewer begins to see how the mother contributed so many bricks to Pink's wall and how it affected him as an adult (before his final breakdown). Case in point: the following scenes alternate between young Pink watching a neighbor girl undress and adult Pink watching television as his wife undresses. [A side note on Pink's wife: we mainly see her undressing through her shadow, something that will come up later in "Don't Leave Me Now." Additionally, the fact that she is largely viewed by her shadow suggests that she is almost always outside of Pink's periphery, hardly ever getting his full attention.] As we see, young Pink gets thoroughly into the role of voyeur, turning off the light, smoking a cigarette, and watching the girl through binoculars, all to enhance the euphoria of adolescent sexual discovery. Oddly, the adult Pink couldn't care less that his wife undresses before him while trying to entice him out of his TV induced daze. As she sits bare-chested in front of him on the bed, Pink maneuvers himself so that he can see the television. The contrast between the normal sexuality of young Pink and the near-sterility of adult Pink is obvious albeit a bit confusing. But as the scene plays on, we see why adult Pink has become what he is; just as young Pink immerses himself into his voyeuristic strip-show, his mother opens the door to his room, prompting him to quickly put out the cigarette and feign studying. The composition of this scene is beautiful and telling with the face of the mother obscured from sight, making her more of a generalized force of motherhood rather than a specific mother. Moreover, the shot of Pink shamefully looking back at his mom is set up so that the camera looks down on him from above, evoking feelings of the ominous and ever-watchful eye of the god-like Mother.

In the succeeding scenes and as mentioned above in the lyric analysis, Pink asks his mother if he's "really dying" accompanying images of Pink lying in bed (in all actuality looking more worried than sick) with a doctor and his mother beside him. The doctor then points a finger at the mother (perhaps accusingly? As if the mother has worried Pink into illness) and the two walk into the hall to discuss the sickness, closing the door behind them. There are many interesting portions to the scene as a whole, all of which contribute to the sense of mounting anxiety. Firstly, when the mother closes the door to Pink's room, the room is thrown into a cold, blue light implicating Pink's continual existence as "Baby Blue" to the mother. Corresponding to the lyrics of nightmares and fears, fantastical shadows appear on the ceiling resembling the masks worn by the children in "Another Brick in the Wall 2." Just as those certain teachers seek to shape the children into model citizens, the "nightmares" and "fears" of Pink's mother mold Pink into a copy of her own worrisome mind. Simply put, Pink loses his individuality with every passing day under Mother's watchful eye, putting on another mask when he takes on his mom's fears as a part of his own persona. Psychoanalytically speaking, the mother projects her personality onto her son and thereby forms him into what she desires, fears, or both. Because she fears so much for Pink's health and well being, Pink unknowingly takes in those fears and becomes sick. A simpler theory might claim that Pink has a mild fever and the mother, true to her overprotective nature, calls in a doctor, worried that the fever will lead to something fatal. Whatever theory one might take, the overprotection of Mother is still emphasized above all else. Yet it's not just the mom who is contributing to this cycle of perpetual infancy for the next scene shows Pink sneaking into his mother's room and climbing into bed with her, seeking her maternal protection. Interestingly, this moment of action in which Pink pursues maternal guardianship is juxtaposed with a shot of adult Pink touching his sleeping wife's shoulder. Note the same blue light in the scene in adult Pink's bedroom, further equating the mother with the wife and, as Gerald Scarfe says on the DVD commentary, "muddling up his mother with his girlfriend [wife]" in Pink's mind. Like the mother who hardly wakes when Pink climbs into her bed, the wife simply rolls over in her sleep, facing away from Pink. I can't help but be reminded of a line from "The Hero's Return" on Floyd's album "the Final Cut" which reads: "Sweet heart, sweet heart, are you fast asleep? Good, cause that's the only time when I can really speak to you. There is something that I've locked away. A memory that is too painful to withstand the light of day." Considering the fact that "the Final Cut" is a sort of sequel to "the Wall" in the loosest way imaginable (a few of the songs are "Wall" leftovers or continuations), I'd like to think that this line was spoken by Pink to his sleeping wife regarding his wall. It's only when his wife is asleep that he can truly speak his mind without feeling like he's putting himself out there to be torn down and ridiculed. If this line was written with no Pink or Wall intentions, I'd like to think that Waters and Parker were inspired by it so much that they shot this scene. But that could very well be my wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the tones of both this scene and the line from "the Hero's Return" are similar. Both characters (Pink and "Final Cut" narrator) simply cannot communicate for fear of revealing too much of their inner selves for fear of baring their souls and being met with destructive criticism. Pink seeks his mother's protection and his wife's companionship only when they are asleep and unable to disparage him.

The next scene is similarly intricate and full of meaning (what in this album ISN'T?!?). Once again, Young Pink runs down the stairs but when he opens the door, he sees (at least in his mind) a skeleton lying next to his mother in bed. One is immediately reminded of Pink's dead father, an idea that lends itself to an interpretation of the Mother rather than Pink. The mother is unable to continue with her life because she holds so fast to the memory of her dead husband and because she refuses to let him die by keeping him alive, in a sense, by projecting her feelings concerning the husband onto Pink. This reading implies that continual grieving leads to decay rather than the preservation of memory of the deceased. The mother decays because she is unable to move on in her life and Pink decays because he is restricted from growing mentally and emotionally by her unyielding protection. Another interpretation of this scene fits more closely with the actual music of the album. Right as Pink discovers the skeleton, Gilmour's guitar solo roars into electric life. As I previously stated, the guitar solo can be heard as an outburst of individuality and self-discovery for Pink. If such is true, then Pink's discovery of the skeleton corresponds with his own self-discovery. Metaphorically speaking, Pink sees himself as the skeleton in the bed and realizes the damaging effects of his mother's overprotection, thus accounting for his change in tone between his first and last verses. He finally comprehends the stifling death of individuality that he is being put through and lashes out against his mother's refuge. This idea is further emphasized with the flash-forward to Pink's wedding, showing that Pink has moved beyond the grasp of his mother by marrying. Or has he? As Freud would believe, perhaps he is further entrenching himself in the idea of maternal protection by marrying someone whom he believes to be like his mother. It's difficult to say at this time being that we have little character background for the wife. From all indications, the wife's personality is certainly different from Mother's. The scene after the solo in which Pink's wife tries to get his attention at the piano is far from the ominous feelings evoked by scenes containing the mother. The wife appears to be loving, jovial, and most of all hurt by Pink's lack of communication, all of which are qualities that can't be applied to the mother. The wife eventually leaves the room feeling neglected and Pink continues in his daze, having "taken too many drugs at this point, in my view" as Roger Waters states on the DVD. Despite the apparent incongruities between Freud's theories and Pink's choice of a non-Mother-like wife, another interpretation is born. As the second verse implies, Pink tries to find a girlfriend / wife who is nothing like his mother, who is the antithesis of everything that his mother wanted him to have. However he is not happy with his choice. Instead, he longs for the maternal protection and affection that he has forsaken and not finding it in the non-Mother-like wife he's chosen, Pink turns to other things to fill the void (see "What Shall We Do Now?").
At this point in the movie, the song has really become less about the actual Mother of the title and more about the effects she's had on Pink's adult life. She's affected his sexuality, his inability to communicate freely, his attitude towards women. And because of these effects, Pink's wife eventually finds solace and love in another man.

In my opinion, the shots of Pink in a ballroom dancing class are mainly used to emphasize his adolescent humiliation caused by his mother. It is obvious that Pink does not wish to be in the class; he has no dance partner and when he finally does ask a girl to dance, she is twice his height and seemingly reluctant to dance with him. On the DVD, Waters claims that this scene was inspired by a true childhood event. Though his real mother, he claims, wasn't as overprotective as Pink's, she did make him attend ballroom dancing lessons in knee-high pants against his wishes, humiliating the young Waters so much that the memory is indelibly etched into his memory. While Pink is wearing full pants instead of knee-highs, the humiliation is still present in the awkwardness of Pink's pairing with a taller girl.

After this brief digression into Pink's past, the arc returns to the relative-present in which Pink, unable to contact his wife, curls into the fetal position on his bed, once again emphasizing his inability to leave his infancy…another effect of his mother's overprotection. The viewer finally, but not surprisingly, gets to see why Pink is unable to contact his wife as the final line is sung. Referencing his growing wall, the line is sung over the metaphorical placement of yet another brick: the wife's infidelity. Similar to the earlier shot in which the mother's head is obscured, making her less personal and more of a universal force, the final shot in the song merely shows the entangled legs of two lovers, their faces unseen but their actions overwhelmingly felt.
After the song is over, Pink continues to try to get in touch with his wife. Instead, the lover's voice comes over the phone instead of his wife's and Pink finally realizes what she's done (still not fully realizing what he's done to make her behave that way, though). Pink slides down the wall in a daze and his hand slips from the receiver in a visual that parallels the earlier image of his dead father's hand falling from the receiver after his bunker was bombed. In both instances, Life dealt both the father and Pink unexpected blows. While the father physically dies while calling for reinforcements, Pink's metaphorical death is merely accelerated with this latest "bombshell."

An interesting side note about this scene is that the phone call used at this part in the movie (also found after "Young Lust" on the album) is said to have really taken place, though not fully in the same context. Roger Waters once stated that he made this phone call while on stage, I believe, during a concert. Although the person on the other end of the line was in on the gag, the unsuspecting operator simply thought that this was a real call and so tried her best to patch Waters through to his "wife" only to have another man answer. It's hard to say if this is a true story, though, because Waters semi-refutes it on the DVD commentary, saying that it is either a false story or that he just doesn't remember doing it; both accounts are possible. Here's what Waters had to say back in 1979 concerning the operator, leading me to believe that the gag really did take place and that Waters' memory has become a victim of age: "I think [Young Lust] is great; I love that operator on it, I think she's wonderful. She didn't know what was happening at all, the way she picks up on…I mean it's been edited a bit, but the way she picks up, all that stuff about 'is there supposed to be someone else there beside your wife' you know I think is amazing, she really clicked into it straight away. She's terrific!"

Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2

This second and most famous part of the "Brick in the Wall" trilogy continues with the narrative line and themes begun in "Happiest Days of Our Lives." In Part 2, the school children create an anthem of youthful unrest in response to the harsh treatment of the cynical teachers. Since its release, countless children and adults have adopted "ABITW 2" as an anarchistic hymn using it to strike back against years of educational oppression. While some apply the song's biting lyrics to specific kinds of schooling, others use it as a rallying cry against any government mandated form of education. Largely as a result of this latter utilization, many countries around the world have banned the song from being played on their radio stations, a few even going so far as to place a national ban on both the album and Pink Floyd. However, counter to these extremist views of total educational anarchy, the song was written as an attack against a specific type of learning, that which Waters and countless others endured as children. The lyrics are quite specific in this effect, rebuking those teachers first described in "Happiest Days" who use "thought control" and "dark sarcasm" to mold the school children into mindless drones of society. While there seems to be no specific allusion to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, there are certainly parallels between Huxley's vision of future "education" and the rote learning of Pink's teachers. As previously mentioned, Huxley's novel presents children learning largely through hypnopedia, a process of repeating fundamental lessons to each child as he or she sleeps. Although the specific lessons depend upon the child's social status, there are certain governing "truths" that are taught which all must abide by. The outcome is a loss of individuality and the molding of each child into identical cells in the body of society. Though the educational system Waters is speaking out against is not as subliminal as Huxley's vision, the effects are the same, producing social clones who know the definition of an acre yet who cannot produce an original, imaginative thought throughout the majority of their lives. The opening lyrics illustrate this in the fact that "we don't need no education," is both a double negative (We Need Education, in the sense that certain types of education are good…they keep people from using double negatives! :-) ) and it's a specific cry stating "we don't need THIS TYPE OF education." In this sense, "ABITW 2" is not so much a song about complete revolution as it as an anthem about reclaiming stifled individuality; it's a criticism regarding the types of teachers and systems that ridicule an imaginative child for writing poetry, as in Pink's case.

Ironically, despite being a song about individuality, the lyrics are full of apparent conformity. Gone is any first person singular pronoun. If you scan the lyrics, you won't see any mention of "I." Instead, the lyrics boast "WE don't need," a collective boast alluding to the conformity of ideas. Brad Kaye sent me an e-mail concerning the dichotomy of the song that I felt needed to be repeated here. "When the school children are all chanting 'We don't need no education' together in unison, this act, in a way, is MORE conforming than the education they have grown to hate. If you think about it, Roger Waters was saying that even in a revolt against conformity there will still be the presence of conformists, or uniformed followers. The use of the helpless school children is magnificent and proves my point even more. These kids do what they are told! I mean, I read somewhere that Roger got the idea to use a group of kids one day and then BANG, the next day he asked a school if he could come in and BANG, they all agreed and within a short period of time, the entire chorus of children was recorded. No questions asked. Nobody raised a fuss or anything, even the teachers in the school were excited and caught up in the moment without fully understanding what was going on. My point is this: Roger Waters wanted to show how conformity is ever-present, even when we're little, and even when we are rebelling. His point is definitely powerful." I couldn't agree more. (Side note: it was actually Floyd producer Bob Ezrin who originally came up with the idea to record schoolchildren singing the anthem. Seeing the potential for a radio hit, Ezrin recorded the children and mixed the song before approaching the band with the final product. Needless to say, Waters liked the reworked version and kept it on the album.)

Musically speaking, "ABITW 2" is much more varied and vibrant than the trilogy's first installment. As I mentioned before, the musical styles of the "Brick in the Wall" trilogy reflect the development of Pink. Whereas the music in Part 1 is much more subdued and repetitive reflecting Pink's budding self-awareness, Part 2 is much more energetic, musically echoing Pink's lively adolescence, his developing artistic imagination, as well as his conformity to the conventions of building a wall as seen in the repetitive verse and chorus. Every personal injury repeatedly becomes "just another brick in the wall," linking the ideas of conformity with those of cycles. The animated guitar solo breaks the monotony for a few moments but ultimately the song fades back to the sounds of the school yard and, above all else, the shouting teacher who continues to lord over the children's lives yelling "wrong, guess again!" while reinforcing the lesson previously mentioned that "if you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding." Interestingly, the repetitive sounds (guitar chord / verse / chorus) and narrative cycle (teacher / mental revolution / conformity / teacher) rolls perfectly into the dull drone of the phone ringing, briefly foreshadowing the events that take place in the transition between "Young Lust" and "One of My Turns." This later transition in turn reinforces the ideas of cyclical conformity and repetition while hinting at the failures of many fundamental social institutions such as school and marriage.

Like the popularity of the song "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2," the movie representation of the song is one of the most distinctive and well-known pieces in the Pink Floyd video collection. The darkness and cynicism of the set design is due in large part to Gerald Scarfe who based the factory-like school in the video on some of his previous artwork inspired by his own education. The children march in unison to the same beat, rolling through a machine only to emerge as putty-faced clones void of individual distinction who ultimately falling blindly into an oversized meat grinder, metaphorically pulverized and minced into the same ground beef-like form as the preceding victim. It's interesting to note that many of the machines pictured are made up with parts that resemble hammers. Hammers are a major dichotomous symbol in "the Wall" possessing both creative and destructive powers, simultaneously beneficial and oppressive. The same hammer that constructs a house has the power to tear it down. Similarly, the hammers in the machines metaphorically create ideal members of society while destroying each child's individuality. Both natures of the symbolic hammer are explored in greater detail later in the movie and album as Pink slips further into his dementia.

The ideas of conformity in revolution inherent in the song are further solidified in the accompanying film footage. Although the children in the second verse sing lyrics of personal rebellion, their unified singing coupled with their symmetrical seating in the film are as eerie and standardized as when they marched down the hall in oppressive unison. Despite their rebellious intentions, they have become just as homogeneous as when they were school clones. Furthermore, like the dual nature of the hammers, what begins as a productive revolution (the regaining of individuality) turns into destructive violence as the children destroy their school and create a bonfire with the instruments of their past educational repression that serves as a funeral pyre for their teacher whom they drag out of the school kicking and screaming. This scene of absolute anarchy spawned by the overthrow / absence of an authoritarian figure is evocative of William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies in which a group of school children revert to being savages when their plane crash lands on a deserted island. Similar to almost every theme in "the Wall," Waters alludes to both the creative and destructive forces of any one idea. While overly-domineering figures are destructive to personal development, the absence of any authority figure is just as caustic. The dictatorial teacher represses each individual child but the lack of any education whatsoever is just as harmful. In this sense, living life is like walking a thin wire between two polar but equally destructive forces; to live, one must either skate over the thin ice carrying the personal burdens of the past or break through the ice and drown in self-destruction.

One last interesting matter concerns the aforementioned blurring of reality with imagination. While the scenes of the children marching through the factory-like school are undoubtedly fantastical, the rebellion that takes place during the guitar is much more realistic, thus causing a bit of confusion as to whether these events are truly taking place. For a while, the viewer is completely submerged within Pink's mind wondering about the authenticity of what they are seeing. There are no fantastical elements to the set and the violence portrayed is certainly feasible albeit horrific. In the end, the viewer is instantaneously thrust out of these dark imaginings as the camera cuts to Pink rubbing his ruler-struck hand. It is at this point that we are fairly certain that what has just taken place was completely in Pink's mind, once again reminding us as the viewer to keep on our toes lest we fall for Pink's illusions. As the album and movie progress and Pink becomes further shut off behind his wall, his imaginative visions become much grander and much more dangerous, increasingly distorting the line between reality and fantasy.

The Happiest Days Of Our Lives

From the pain of birth to the acceptance of life's burdens, the grief of personal loss to alienation from society as a result of being deprived of a father, Pink proceeds to grade school, a period in life in which most, if not everyone, can sympathize with the downtrodden protagonist. Nearly everyone has had a bad experience at school and Pink is no exception. "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" is a truly acrimonious song with an equally ironic title recalling Pink's Grammar School days that were anything but happy. The brooding bass guitar and Waters taciturn vocals only add to the sinister effect created by the lyrics, as if he is schoolboy whispering in the school yard to his friends concerning what he sees to be the evils of the system. The lyrics are straightforward, telling about those "certain teachers" who would stop at nothing in order to break the children of their individuality, thus forcing them into a voiceless, faceless mold of "productive citizens" (Waters, DVD commentary). However, one must be careful not to take the song as a blanket statement of all educational systems. As with any institution there are "good" and "bad" members, those who truly care about what they are doing and those who take out their aggressions on the innocent. Waters commented in an interview that this song refers to those bad teachers who continually put their students down, never encourage or motivate them, and simply try to "crush them into the right shape, so that they would go to university and 'do well'" (Waters, DVD commentary). Yet for all the injustice delivered upon these unsuspecting children, the second half of the song finds the narrator in a sort of karmic bliss as he recounts the abuse these very same teachers face in their personal lives. While this is a perfect example of karma, of reaping what you sow, it is also another prime illustration of the theme of cycles in "the Wall." The teacher punishes the children because he is unfulfilled personally and punished by his wife in one way or another. Although it is great to see the teacher getting what he deserves, this uninterrupted cycle is just as disastrous as any other encountered in the album. One must keep in mind that the teacher is not inherently evil but that he is merely redirecting the pain and emptiness of his own life. Moreover, the torment that he doles out will undoubtedly influence one of the children who will mete that same pain in turn onto the next generation. So while the teacher is responsible for his actions, he is not completely at fault for he is just distributing to the rest of the world the suffering and the burdens that the past and present generations have transferred to him. Like Pink later in life, the teacher has the power to exterminate this vicious and violent cycle yet he is so entrenched behind his own wall that he chooses to defend his position and redirect the pain of life back into the world. Unfortunately, while he is defending his own wall, the teacher inadvertently provides some of the bricks for the walls of his students.

The accompanying movie scenes for this song perfectly highlight Pink Floyd's (and the filmmakers') ability to meld the every-day with a heightened sense of reality, both mentally and emotionally. A perfect example is the sequence of film before the song actually starts when Pink and his two cronies go down to the railroad track to lay bullets on the rails and watch them explode as the passing engine rolls over and ignites the ammunition. First Pink lays a bullet on the rail in a tunnel as a train approaches and then backs himself against the tunnel wall as the locomotive and train cars explode the bullet and pass him by. Whether sparked by the exploding bullet (a leftover from the violence of World War II) or his day at school, Pink imagines both the train cars as being packed with faceless people and his school teacher at the other end of the tunnel yelling for him to "stand still, laddie!" The transition between external reality and Pink's imaginings is so seamless and void of any transitional clues that the viewer (and perhaps Pink himself) is a bit perplexed as to the reality of the horrific train procession. The effect of such blurring between fantasy and reality creates a bond between the viewer and Pink (we experience firsthand what Pink alone has seen and so can feel his confusion) but it also reminds us to stay on our toes, to be wary of accepting the story as an undeviating narrative. What appears to be "real" on the screen may be the most fantastical conjuring of Pink's splintering mind. While the hallucinatory aspect of this example is fairly obvious, other instances further in the film are far less discernible and if taken as reality will no doubt throw the viewer into a state of confusion similar to Pink's own mind. This film segment is merely a stepping stone, in a sense; it is something that reminds us as the viewer that not everything we will see is real and that in order to make sense of the story, we must be able to separate the elements accordingly.

Another interesting aspect about this pre-song scene is the blatant parallel between the faceless passengers in the train (presumably school children as evidenced in the next song as well as the brief mask seen on Pink between the passing train cars) and the millions of "faceless" Jews transported to concentration camps during WWII. While I seriously doubt that Waters is suggesting that the plight of school children is just as ominous and grave as the deaths of millions of Jews, I think that he is suggesting that both institutions (certain schools / concentration camps) were machines that sought to repress all "participants" and rob them of their human rights and individuality. With just roughly cut out eyes and mouths, the mask-people are rendered into things rather than people with recognizable human qualities. Fear and hate-based systems operate largely in this way, robbing people of their identities in order to break that people's spirit as well as to turn others against them. By this reading, the school master at the end of the tunnel takes on a greater weight as a Nazi-esque type dictator whose sole intent is to force the teeming masses of youth into a unified mold void of personal identity. And just as the soldiers march into the consuming fog of self-erasure in "the Thin Ice," Pink begins to walk out of the tunnel into the smoke left by the train as the song begins, paralleling his loss of identity with that of the soldiers earlier in the movie. Nor do the war/dictator allusions end there. Directly following the tunnel scene, the viewer is privy to the faculty lounge of the school where the teachers are preparing for class when the school bell rings. As they stand, each teacher adjusts his or her garments as if straightening a military uniform in preparation for war. They then march out of the room in single file and, in military style, march down the hallway in two columns with Pink's teacher in lead as the "commanding officer," so to speak. A little interesting and often overlooked subtlety is the color scheme of the walls in the hall that the teachers march down. The half white (on top) and red (on bottom) parallel the color scheme of the insignia in Pink's later dictatorial dementia. The symbol, found both on the flags and Pink's armband, depict two hammers set against a backdrop of white (on top) and red (bottom). For those of you with the most recent release of the DVD and VHS versions, check out the spine of the covers to see what I mean or simply fast-forward to "In the Flesh." While the colors of the hall and Pink's insignia later in the movie may simply be coincidence, I think that this occurrence of the white and red subtly foreshadow what is to come by showing part of the cause of Pink's later breakdown. It's also interesting to note that white is generally the symbolic color of innocence and red the color of blood and sin. Mixing the two together, red and white / sin and innocence, the resulting color is none other than Pink.

In the next scene, the teacher discovers Pink writing poems and disciplines him by public ridicule (reading the poem aloud for the class to laugh at) and a quick slap on the hand with a ruler. (Note: the poem the teacher reads is part of a lyric from the song "Money" off of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," possibly foreshadowing Pink's future success as a rock star.) Little time is wasted by Pink's display of individuality and the teacher automatically resumes the rote Geometry lesson, pounding the definitions into the heads of the children by means of constant repetition. This "learning" is very similar to the "hypnopedia" of Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World in which lessons are repeated to sleeping infants by a machine so that, after hearing the lesson countless times in their sleep, the young children will accept the formulas as fact. Such subtle brainwashing, much like the techniques used by Pink's teacher to mold the children into "proper members of society," results in a strictly enforced caste system and shapes the bio-engineered children into the "model" citizens.

The exultant joy of Waters voice as he imaginatively recalls the punishments meted on the teachers is reflected in the following scenes showing the teacher eating with his wife who, while not being physically overweight as the lyrics suggest, is certainly a very domineering presence in the teacher's personal life. The room cluttered with pictures and other minutiae of home life, the larger-than-life shadows on the wall, the vibrant blue wall paper and purple light in the window behind the wife; all contribute to the surrealistic, slightly-skewed atmosphere of the scene which causes the viewer to wonder, once again, if we are seeing reality, the imagination of young Pink, or a mixture of both. Whatever conclusion one comes to, the reality or fantasy of the scene is not as important as the previously mentioned idea of the karmic cycle. The punishments the teacher issues to the schoolchildren are equally issued back onto him by his wife (and vice versa) as evidenced by the alternating shots of the teacher swallowing down a piece of hard meat at his wife's command and shots of him spanking a child with a belt.

At the risk of sounding flippant, the teacher is not allowed to continue with his meal without first eating the parts of the meat that he doesn't wish to eat; and so he bellows at the end of "Brick, Part 2" that "[i]f you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding." Because he can't have his metaphorical dessert without first enduring the hardships of life, then he will make sure that the same applies to the next generation. The result is that the vicious cycle of pain and frustration perseveres.

sâmbătă, 5 iulie 2008

Goodbye Blue Sky

Aside from the extra songs such as "When the Tigers Broke Free" and alternate versions of tunes like "In the Flesh?," "Goodbye Blue Sky" marks the first prominent variation between the album and the film. While the song acts as a continuation of sorts for "Tigers" in the movie, it immediately follows "Mother" on the album. Although many have argued about the best possible position for the song, whether after "Tigers" or "Mother," I think the order for each respective project is perfectly suited for the song's multifaceted implications.

On the original vinyl version of the album, "Goodbye Blue Sky" occupied the last slot on the first side of album one (remember that it was a double album). In an interview around the album's release, Waters described the song as being a recap of the first side of album one summing up Pink's life to that point. As Waters says, in it's most simplistic form "it's remembering one's childhood and then getting ready to set off into the rest of one's life." In this position, the song acts as the transition between "Mother" and the more grown up, more world-weary "Empty Spaces." The music is still very peaceful and beautiful, a reflection of the youth Pink is leaving behind, while the lyrics are more of a lament and arguably slightly paranoid. The very vocal stutter on the "Di' di' di' did" part of the verse belies any sort of composed identity Pink might have created for himself, revealing, if anything, his apprehension at bidding farewell to his own innocence by stepping into the sinful world where he will become an adult. By this interpretation and remembering the symbolism of the color blue as discussed in "the Thin Ice," Pink is saying "goodbye" to the "blue sky" of his childhood innocence and the protection of his mother. Also keeping in mind that Pink was once called "baby blue," his departure from his simplistic and inexperienced infancy is further underscored, specifically marking the transition between his appellation of "Baby Blue" to the more emotionally experienced and sexually charged color (and name) "Pink." As is true until now and for the rest of Pink's life, "the flames are all long gone but the pain lingers on." In other words, while those things which hurt Pink physically, mentally, and emotionally are no longer present in his life (the death of his father is a memory, his schooling days are over [at least in the song's position in the album], he is finally moving away from his mother's protective arms), the scars caused by these wounds are still present and just as painful; each of these pains are more bricks in his wall.

The problem with placing "Goodbye Blue Sky" after "Mother" is that the lyrically charged war images aren't especially applicable. The "frightened ones," "falling bombs," and running "for shelter" just don't carry across that overwhelming sense of war-time immediacy and forced transition when placed directly after "Mother." While the song works on the level of Pink's transition, the war lyrics seem out of place and drawing the usual parallels between Pink and World War II seems strained. Personally speaking, the song works best following "Tigers" in that it acts as both a continuation of the themes of war and loss dealt with in the previous song as well as Pink's own realization of the burdens placed on him by his father, mother, and society as a whole. Directly following the highly emotional account of the father's death, the fear of war is palpable in the lyrics of "Goodbye Blue Sky." Just as England and the rest of the world bid farewell to whatever innocence remained before World War II, Pink, although still a child, bids farewell to his childhood ignorance. Similar to its meaning after "Mother," the song is another transition in Pink's life, between that of youthful unawareness and the self-consciousness of young adulthood. Although Pink is not bidding farewell to everything in his childhood (he still lives with his mother during this positioning of the song), he is saying "goodbye" to what he was once while apprehensively stepping into what he will become.

As with most Pink Floyd songs, "Goodbye Blue Sky" is musically and lyrically deceptive in its seeming simplicity. The quiet music and vocals and the seemingly forthright lyrics can be viewed as the components of a simple transitional song…but narrow interpretation would rob the song and its artistic movie representation of its complex beauty. For me, the most interesting complexity lies in the duality of the lyric "promise of a brave, new world." The most commonly accepted reading of this line equates the "brave, new world" with the positive effects of World War II. Hitler and his fascist regime will be obliterated, thus allowing for the world to technologically progress and mature, becoming a safe haven for all peoples. Yet no matter how intentional, there is a sinister ring to the very same line recalling Aldous Huxley's 1931 novel "Brave New World" that tells of a futuristic utopia in which babies are born from test tubes, trained for their future jobs at birth, and pushed into a homogenized, capitalistic world that has all but destroyed individuality. Such an allusion offers a plethora of interpretations. The "brave, new world" could be a reference to the standardized, Aryan nation that Hitler sought to introduce with his Third Reich. Simultaneously, the very same words could reference what our world has become after World War II, referring to the over-abundance of technology in a worldwide capitalist community as predicted by Huxley in 1931. Every computerized sale at global corporations such as McDonald's, GAP, and Starbucks brings the world one step closer to Huxley's vision of a false utopia. As a result, the individuality of the world's inhabitants is made uniform through technology and the media. The very same technology that produced the atomic bomb that took the lives of millions of Japanese people (and continues to show effects on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) is the same technology that allows us to microwave a burrito and watch the latest episode of our favorite television show. I don't mean to launch into a diatribe but rather demonstrate the fear behind our technological world as illustrated in both Huxley's novel and "Goodbye Blue Sky." So when the narrator innocently asks why "we had to run for shelter when the promise of a brave, new world unfurled beneath the clear, blue sky," the answer is that because that "brave, new world" has the potential for being just as flawed and narrow-sighted as the corrupt power we were fighting against. Arguably, the slaughter of millions of Jews by Hitler is nearly equivalent to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the sterile world being produced by the very same technology that helped the Allied forces triumph. Such ideas of "mixed blessings" (Huxley - the world is a utopia only in that it erases personal identity; WWII - the atomic bomb ended the war but created moral discord) tie in perfectly with Pink's personal situation. While focusing on constructing his wall, adding each brick as a protection from the outside world, Pink fails to recognize the long-term effects of his self-imposed isolation and his eventual destruction from within his erected barrier.

The movie's depiction of this song is an example of just how powerful animation can be as a medium, allowing for scenes and events that could not be depicted by regular photography. The beginning shots of baby Pink and his Mother both set the time for the war-imagery of the song (the war is still being waged) as well as offer a contradiction between the innocence of England and the world as it was and the destruction that war has brought to the land as illustrated in the animation. As a dove flies into the air, the scene switches to animation and the bird of peace is symbolically torn apart by the German war eagle which gouges a bloody wound in the land and leaves a sulfurous trail in its wake. The eagle gives way to a domineering war-lord that morphs into a metallic factory churning out legions of bombers flying over London and scaring the gasmask-wearing "frightened ones" (portrayed as naked perhaps to illustrate their innocence) into shelters. The bombers turn into crosses just as the Union Jack (the British Flag) sheds its stripes to reveal a crucifix, both suggesting the needless sacrifices made on both sides in the name of war. The brainwashed, mob mentality of the Germans created by the warlord (Hitler and the "higher-ups") sent German youths to their deaths in the name of moral right just as the leaders of the Allies sacrificed the young men of their countries. This is in no way a justification of the actions taken by both sides. Instead, it is a vehement anti-war argument. It's only when the dove of peace reemerges from the shattered ruins of the metal factory / warlord that the dead soldiers are able to find peace in death. Like the blood from the cross running down the hill into the drain, the sacrifices of all the men involved are in vain. Gerald Scarfe's animation adds another dimension to the song portraying his strongly anti-war sentiments. For Scarfe and Waters (as illustrated in "the Wall" and the follow-up album, "the Final Cut"), war is little more than glorified chess between two enemies, a battle between political giants displaying the "might" and "power" of one leader over his people; it is a narcissistic fight for "moral right, superiority," and property. The only hope one can have is that in the end, as the dove's rebirth suggests, peace will prevail.