Classic Rock Magazine September 2006.
(Transcript thanks to Natalie Lyons)
BACK AGAINST THE WALL
Or ‘How Pink Floyd’s The Wall ruined my childhood’. BP Perry reveals the teenage infatuation that made him the (bitter, twisted, tortured) man he is today.
When I was young and a bit daft, I used to believe Roger Waters was a real-life Phantom Of The Opera. I thought the morose lead singer of Pink Floyd lived in an underground cave somewhere, bitterly composing his upsetting music on a giant organ built in the living rock. I thought he wore a cape and a mask. I thought he only came out at night to kidnap virgins and take them back to his lair where he would sit them down and terrify them to death with four-hour-long songs about how his dad died in the war. I thought Roger Waters was the most sinister man in rock’n’roll history.
Now that I’m older, I understand that Roger doesn’t live in a cave, doesn’t wear a cape and a mask, and doesn’t (as far as I’m aware) kidnap virgins. So why did I think all that? Two words: The Wall.
Fuck me, that’s the album you should listen to when you’re a teenager. I first encountered it when my mate Mark put it on in his bedroom after we’d spent the afternoon smoking cheap Eurohash. Stoned out of my tiny mind and suffering from an acute case of teenage misery, The Wall hit me like a train. For at least a year I’d been convinced that I was ‘different’ from everyone else, and that everyone else’s failure to realise this just showed how clever and unique an individual I was compared to them. Why couldn’t they see how ‘special’ I was? And then, on that day, in that bedroom, under the influence of really shit drugs, I had an epiphany: they might not understand me… but Roger Waters does.
Before The Wall, ‘music’ was something my mum and step-dad listened to, and it was shit because all they listened to was Elton fucking John and Bread. I associated music with the boring bastard I met on a PGL adventure holiday who talked non-stop about Kylie and Jason and Rick and Sonia. In short, music played second fiddle to… art.
But on the day I first heard The Wall, all that shit went out of the window. Who needed Picasso when you had Roger and his miserable existence?
I can’t begin to emphasise what a seismic shif it was to hear The Wall. Suddenly, on that sunny day in July, it was as if I’d dug up an ancient tome that appeared to tell the story of my entire life. I’d lost my dad at an early age, just like Roger had. I had an over-bearing mother, just like Roger. My school days were miserable because of a bullying, fuckwit teacher, just like Roger’s were. And because of my artistic persuasions and inflated sense of my own importance, I could easily see my adult life being one long hell of fame, drugs, divorce and insanity.
From that day and for two years afterwards I listened to nothing but The Wall. While my school friends were out doing stupid kids’ stuff like forming lifelong friendships and shagging girls, I stayed shuttered in my room listening to the album on my crappy old tape recorder. Eventually I wasn’t so much listening to The Wall as consuming it. I went out and spent my paper-round money on a gigantic poster, that covered an entire wall of my bedroom, showing Gerald Scarfe’s illustration of a screaming Pink (oh, how ironic and clever I thought it was to put up a poster of a wall on a real wall). I bought a second-hand vinyl copy of The Wall at a jumble sale even though I didn’t own a record player. I even spent my hard-earned money on a The Wall leather jacket patch, despite not owning a leather jacket (it took pride of place on my wall next to my collection of The Wall postcards).
And at the centre of my obsession sat the shadowy figure of Roger Waters. Not having much interest in researching any actual facts about the man, I invented a sort of back-story of my own for him instead. I couldn’t begin to believe that someone who had clearly lived with so much pain could lead a normal life. Instead he became that Phantom Of The Opera character, alone in his cave with his demons and his nightmares, haunted by cartoon judges and balloon-headed teachers. That there were three other members of Pink Floyd meant nothing to me; as far as I was concerned it was Roger who was the puppet master and the other band members were his minions, involuntarily dancing at the end of the great man’s strings.
Of course, all this had to end somehow. I’m not sure, but I imagine if I’d continued listening to that damned album repeatedly, ad infinitum, I’d have lost my marbles and ended up locked behind the walls of an actual asylum instead of a musical one. And wouldn’t that have just been bloody ironic, eh?
I’d love to report that that was how it ended for me and that years of expensive therapy followed. Or that the end of the tale sees me in my bed at night, screaming because Roger’s personal hell has transferred to me, trapping me behind that wall forever while he bounds around with a spring in his step and a new-found optimism for life. Sadly, the truth is far more mundane. Like all of my obsessive interests as a child (Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, torturing insects), I simply grew out of it. I belatedly realised that girls were far more interesting than 70s concept albums – as was acid, as was sunlight.
Today I cannot actually listen to the album – it’s just far too painful a reminder of days long gone. Perhaps one day I might take it out and give it a spin, who knows? If I do, will it fill me with the same sense of wonder, fear, amazement and dread as it did when I was a boy? Maybe it will. Who’s to say? And pigs might fly.