A Personal Documentary
Berlin 1990 and Roger was about to stage The Wall live! Finally after being devoted fans for almost ten years here was Andreas & Thomas Christiansen’s first chance to get to see Roger Waters in the flesh. So, to make the best of it they arrived five days before the show. However Thomas and a friend didn’t want things to come easy, so they decided to ride their bicycles from Copenhagen to Berlin! Andreas decided to train in from Strassbourg, and join up with them on the Monday evening.
They duly arrived safely and as they Approached Potsdamer Platz from Brandenburger Tor they couldn’t help feeling excitement at this first sight from behind the wall.
It was only Tuesday and they could already hear the music from the backstage area. However it proved to be a bunch of locals rehearsing the choreography for ‘Run Like Hell’ but still it was a truly great welcome. Closer to the wall they saw that a brick from the wall had ‘jumped the fence’ that separated them from the backstage area. It wasn’t heavy so they couldn’t resist the temptation to ‘lift’ the symbolic brick.
They decided to attend some rehearsals and arrived only to find that as hundreds of people were working on and off stage it was pretty hard to spot Roger was there. However, they knew he definitely was there, as they could hear the arranging and directing through the “Wall” speakers. Our heros could hear Roger’s easily recognizable soft voice, not just a rock star, but a hard working man as well, they thought to themselves.
The next couple of days they found it was damn hard to leave “The Wall”. Just passing by the site on their way to explore the new Berlin, new rehearsals forced them to stay on the site. The Scorpions and the Bleeding Heart Band went through ‘In The Flesh’ over and over again, and the ‘Trial’ sequence was rehearsed with Roger singing all parts. In spite of the time pressure there was a relaxed atmosphere. They still recall that at one rehersal during ‘Stop’ Roger went “…But I’m waiting in this celleerrrrrrrgghhh (laughing) because the truck won’t move!!!” – singing and directing at the same time!
On Wednesday night, whilst watching a Zimbabwian band opposite the “Reichstags”- building, where Pink Floyd played in ’88, “The Wall” once again stole everybody’s attention. The “Goodbye Blue Sky” search lights filled the Berlin sky, and people couldn’t help looking up. They went back to “The Wall” where all kinds of lights, slides as well as the Scarfe cartoons were projected onto the wall, accompanied by total silence.
On Thursday more music was rehearsed – Cindy Lauper and Joni Mitchell now filled their places. The bricklayers were also busy, practicing building up the bottom part of the wall. In the afternoon our trio rode around East-Berlin, but hurried back to Potzdamer Platz when the sound of helicopters got more intense. It was so much more powerful and frightening than during the actual show; The helicopters rose from behind the wall and kept hovering very low over the empty audience area.
The Military Orchestra of the Soviet Army arrived in buses, fully uniformed with their instruments. Our guys thought it was just great so they gave them all the applause possible – they waved back at them with happy ‘Glasnost’ smiles.
Roger seemed like a real friend when at seven o’clock he announced the next rehearsal to be at 9.30 pm. – just enough time for a pizza!
That night, both parts of the show got a run through, in a very simple form, with only a few special guests participating. For the first time the sound was at a low volume. It was interesting that Roger did much more of the singing, supported by the three “The Band” members. Those American guys had a very hard time finding the right key, without Sinead ‘Mother’ sounded pretty terrible.
Outside the fence Roger/Floyd-freaks told stories. A whole family of Dead-Heads told about several nights of “The Wall” in London and L.A.
At one rehersal it was rumoured that they would tear down the wall at the end but when it came to the conclusion of ‘The Trial’ nothing happened. So people started shouting “tear down the wall”, and finally they did – or tried to. However, only about half of the center part came down. What an anti climax – poor bricklaying maybe?
According to a local paper there was an exhibition of original drawings from the Wall Movie at the Hotel Intercontinentel Berlin. Early Friday morning Thomas went there, realizing that journalists, stars, musicians as well as Polygram and the official press staff were all staying at that hotel. When Thomas arrived the guys decided that Thomas would play the part of a journalist. By so doing he managed to get hold of the press material ‘strictly reserved for gentlemen of the press’.
It seemed that nobody knew about the exhibition (later to be sold at Christies). They were all alone, so the watchman didn’t mind them tap dancing with the original man- sized “Pink” puppet. (See right)
In the Lobby was Leonard Cheshire. They introduced themselves and talked about a Cheshire Home in Botswana (The guys spent ’87/’88 in Botswana while Roger and Floyd got ready to tour). Thomas asked the old man about his role in the concert and very thrilled he replied: “Oh, I’m going to introduce the whole show for sixty seconds” – a very kind and gentle character. They got his autograph and a snapshot for the family album.
Outside it was a beautiful, balmy, middle Berlin summer day. They decided to spend the whole day as close to The Wall as possible. Many songs were rehearsed several times including several guest stars for the first time. It couldn’t be much better as Roger ,topless, rehearsed ‘Mother’ with Sinead O’Connor (not so topless). Next came Bryan Adams, who in their opinion proved a good choice for the part. On stage Roger was working, outside the guys were drinking beer, buying an unofficial T-shirt and talking to East Germans about this happy and crazy situation which still seemed very unreal to most of them.
In the course of Thursday and Friday a vast area surrounding the Potzdamer Platz had been sealed off, leaving gates open. A dress rehearsal had been announced to take place Friday evening. When they came back they found all gates closed. They hurried to the East German side of the Platz and somehow managed to talk their way through two fences. After all that trouble they were no closer than on previous days!
In front of the stage people were gathering (300-500). Excited, and perhaps out of his mind, Thomas jumped the fence and ran like hell into the dark, towards the stage. Cheshire took the stage and Andreas followed Thomas, only to hear guards shouting at them from behind. It was unbelievable! They were there, and the show was about to begin! What followed was a perfect run-through of the total show, without any of the fatal mistakes of the Saturday show.
Only a few of the people present seemed to be real fans so when a photographer noticed Thomas screaming and shouting in the front row, he started shooting at him. (With a camera that is).
After the show a photographer approached them. He was leaving the next morning and wanted to buy Thomas’ T-shirt. The price: 20 D-marks, and a backstage photo pass, which Thomas took immediate advantage of.
As nobody was watching the stage area, Thomas went on stage carrying only his pocket camera. From the main stage he took the stairs all the way to the top (Rick Difonzo’s spot in ‘Comfortably Numb’). According to Thomas (who is still alive) the view over the empty Potzdamer Platz was amazing. Back on the ground he found, though, that his photo pass wasn’t enough to enter a backstage party in a Hard Rock Cafe tent. But he did manage to get hold of a thirty-page script on the show, including lyrics, technical details and camera positions!
On Saturday the photo pass proved even more valuable. While everybody else lined up among thousands of others, Thomas, with his pass, got in through a special entrance. Andreas met him inside and walked, or pushed, their way to the front. Once again Thomas went backstage, to check things out. He found himself in the middle of a huge party similar to the situation in the Wall-Movie. Was this real?
He came back, stuffed with food and drink, having met two members of The Scorpions, Mike Rutherford and Bryan Adams, with autographs to prove it. Then Andreas borrowed the pass and went backstage and into the photo area in front of the stage. What a view over “them” – the audience.
Once the show was over, it was really over. But Thomas hadn’t had enough. He went backstage to get that feeling for the last time. Things were chaotic. He got on stage, to see that behind the heap of tumbled bricks the action wasn’t over. Guitars were brought back on stage and musicians gathered again. He searched desperately for a pen – just in case………………………………..
Out of the blue, center stage, in a black and red shirt and no sun glasses, there he was – Roger. No time to waste. Thomas approached the Man of the Day and congratulated him on the show. Roger noticed the photo pass and said, “thank you, but you are not actually allowed on stage”. Still, Thomas got his autograph, stammering, “this means a lot to me”. But why leave at a time like this ? He withdrew to the side of the stage. Shortly after Roger came back in his black show dress. Due to the technical mistakes he had decided to go through certain songs once more. ‘Mother’ was performed twice (without Sinead O’Connor), once instrumental with chorus by The Band and once with Roger doing the lead. Then Ute Lemper came back to do ‘The Thin Ice’ followed by ‘Another Brick'(part one), ‘Happiest Days..’ and ‘Another Brick'(part two). Roger did the vocal on ‘Another Brick’, leaving Cindy Lauper and Thomas Dolby off stage.
The atmosphere on stage was happy. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, drinking Beck’s Beer. They missed most of the backstage party, but probably couldn’t care less. With a piece of brick from The Wall, Thomas eventually left the empty Potzdamer Platz.
Looking back, they both feel very happy that they spent several days before the concert in Berlin, instead of going on a 24- hour packed tour, bus and ticket included.
Thomas flew on his bicycle back to Copenhagen.