Feb 18, 2018

The Wall That Could Have Changed The World

"So ya
Thought ya
Might like to go to the show.
To feel the warm thrill of confusion
That space cadet glow.
Tell me is something eluding you, sunshine?
Is this not what you expected to see?"

I wasn't supposed to be in Los Angeles in 1980 but the trucking company I worked for couldn't find their preference (an older driver) to take the trip so I guess you could say I got lucky-- so lucky, in fact, that a friend who was living in LA at the time had an extra ticket and a willing young woman to accompany me to the concert.

I wonder what ever happened to her.

We didn't know then that The Wall, later released as a movie in 1982, contained everything our generation-- the Boomers-- needed to be warned of to change the world for the better. And every warning we would chose to ignore:

"If you should go skating
On the thin ice of modern life
Dragging behind you the silent reproach
Of a million tear-stained eyes
Don't be surprised when a crack in the ice
Appears under your feet.
You slip out of your depth and out of your mind..." -Waters
Yes, the ice was thin and we Boomers were still lamenting decades of war, lost fathers, and lost friends:
"Daddy's flown across the ocean
Leaving just a memory
Snapshot in the family album
Daddy what else did you leave for me?
Daddy, what'd'ja leave behind for me?!?" 

But were we to remember the lessons told? Roger Waters remembered the lessons. Rogers had lost his father to war when Roger was only 5 months old. He would go on to build monuments to his father and others who died with him. Sadly, there were others who only wished us pain and suffering.

"When we grew up and went to school
There were certain teachers who would
Hurt the children in any way they could...
...By pouring their derision
Upon anything we did
And exposing every weakness
However carefully hidden by the kids..."

And to think, those were to be the happiest days of our lives. Millions of us learned the chorus of Another Brick In The Wall as it played on radio stations everywhere but did we ever figure out what it was really all about or were a few lines taken out of context all we ever knew?

"We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall."

Could it be Roger Waters was yet another prophet too long ignored for his greatest contributions to society, recognized only for him minor achievements? Generations of jaded individuals rejecting decades of mind control are without a doubt going to find everything suspect just as we do today.

And was Roger Waters writing solely about what many believe to be his over protective mother or a society afraid to face its greatest fears when he wrote Mother:

"Hush now baby, baby, don't you cry.
Mother's gonna make all your nightmares come true.
Mother's gonna put all her fears into you.
Mother's gonna keep you right here under her wing.
She wont let you fly, but she might let you sing.
Mama will keep baby cozy and warm.
Ooooh baby ooooh baby oooooh baby,
Of course mama'll help to build the wall."

That's right, Roger Waters was not writing about the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. He was writing of the walls in the making-- our walls, society's walls, some yet to be built. In an interview with Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke, he was quoted as saying,

"The loss of a father is the central prop on which [The Wall] stands. As the years go by, children lose their fathers again and again, for nothing. You see it now with all these fathers, good men and true, who lost their lives and limbs in Iraq for no reason at all. I've done "Bring The Boys Back Home" in my encore on recent tours. It feels more relevant and poignant to be singing that song now than it did in 1979."

In Goodbye Blue Sky, Waters predicted how our perverted society would run from everything that is good for us:
"Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter when the
promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath a clear blue sky?"
That's exactly what we Baby Boomers have spent our lives doing, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, wasting our entire lifetimes and the world in which we lived. If you are not ashamed you are too stupid to understand.

Don't believe me? Really? How is this for proof? From the next song on the album, backwards lyrics spoken by Roger Waters himself:

"Congratulations, You have just discovered the secret message.
Please send your answer to 'Old Pink',
Care of the funny farm, Chalfont..."

That's right, the song is Empty Spaces, I'm right again. I'm laughing my ass off at all you non believers now as I'm actually reading the lyrics for the first time as I write this piece.

When David Gilmour joins Roger Waters in writing Young Lust we begin to see how the stresses of society play upon marriage.

"Oh, He hung up! That's your residence, right? I wonder why he hung up?
Is there supposed to be someone else there besides your wife there to answer?"

Sad, I know. And to think, religion hasn't managed to change a thing in the almost 40 years since. Ask any right leaning, religious person and they'll tell you the world is only getting worse. Of course he or she will also try to place at least part of the blame on Rock musicians whose lyrics they never read. You know, like Rogers and Gilmour.

In One Of My Turns, Rogers alludes to the predators we all fear:

"In the suitcase on the left
You'll find my favorite axe.
Don't look so frightened
This is just a passing phase,
One of my bad days."

But we don't remember that part. Instead we might remember Don't Leave Me Now:

"How could you go?
When you know how I need you
To beat to a pulp on a Saturday night
Ooooh Babe.
How could you treat me this way?
Running away.
I need you, Babe.
Why are you running away?
Oooooh Babe!"

Or could it be that most of us simply never paid attention until the Me Too movement started not long ago? Have no doubt, we were warned. And it doesn't end when Roger Waters says Goodbye Cruel World:

"Goodbye, all you people,
There's nothing you can say
To make me change my mind.

No, it didn't end. As Waters shows us in Hey You, everything was about to get worse and we never paid attention:

"But it was only fantasy.
The wall was too high,
As you can see.
No matter how he tried,
He could not break free.
And the worms ate into his brain.

Hey you, standing in the road
always doing what you're told,
Can you help me?
Hey you, out there beyond the wall,
Breaking bottles in the hall,
Can you help me?
Hey you, don't tell me there's no hope at all
Together we stand, divided we fall."

And fall we did-- an entire generation and those who follow in our footsteps. Waters cried,

"Is there anybody out there?"

But there was Nobody Home.

"I've got the obligatory Hendrix perm.
And the inevitable pinhole burns
All down the front of my favorite satin shirt.
I've got nicotine stains on my fingers.
I've got a silver spoon on a chain.
I've got a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains."
In Vera he wrote in angst of those we've since forgotten

"What has become of you?
Does anybody else here
Feel the way I do?"

You know, like the girl who watched the concert with me-- the girl whose name I can't remember but whose touch I'll never forget. She knew what she was getting into. I was only in Los Angeles for one night. I was single, she was single, I guess it was okay. Rogers continues:

"Bring the boys back home.
Bring the boys back home.
Don't leave the children on their own, no, no.
Bring the boys back home."

He knew first hand what was happening to society. He'd grown up without his father just 13 years before me.

We tend to look at prophets as those who can predict the future but I like to think that most prophets don't so much predict the future as they correctly interpret the current events of their times and draw out the logical conclusions to which those events will lead. This is made quite apparent in Comfortably Numb where Waters writes:

"There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown,
The dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb."
So it was, as a generation we Baby Boomers turned to drugs, alcohol, money, religion, and power as the means to numb ourselves to what was happening right in front of our noses. And when something came along we simply couldn't ignore-- like a school shooting or another senseless war we had no business being involved in-- we did exactly as we had been taught-- blame it on someone else. Always someone else.

But the show must go on, and despite the failings of generations, Waters and Pink Floyd knew we'd all soon forget everything we'd been told

"Ooooh, Ma, Ooooh Pa,
Where has the feeling gone?
Ooooh, Ma, Ooooh Pa,
Will I remember the songs?
The show must go on."

those who were different would be called out in the flesh,

"Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
There's one in the spotlight, he don't look right to me,
Get him up against the wall!
That one looks Jewish!
And that one's a coon!
Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
There's one smoking a joint,
And another with spots!
If I had my way,
I'd have all of you shot!"

forcing even the heterosexual white kids to run like hell:

"And if you're taking your girlfriend
Out tonight
You'd better park the car
Well out of sight.
Cause if they catch you in the back seat
Trying to pick her locks,
They're gonna send you back to mother
In a cardboard box.
You better run."

because soon we'd all be waiting for worms, the result of the actions of the black shirted Fascists who rule our world today just as Roger Waters knew was happening in Britannia and the rest of the west all those years ago.

"Waiting to cut out the deadwood.
Waiting to clean up the city.
Waiting to follow the worms.
Waiting to put on a black shirt.
Waiting to weed out the weaklings.
Waiting to smash in their windows
And kick in their doors.
Waiting for the final solution
To strengthen the strain.
Waiting to follow the worms.
Waiting to turn on the showers
And fire the ovens.
Waiting for the queens and the coons
and the reds and the jews.
Waiting to follow the worms.

Would you like to see Britannia
Rule again, my friend?
All you have to do is follow the worms.
Would you like to send our colored cousins
Home again, my friend?

All you need to do is follow the worms"

And those who tried to stop would be found guilty,

"But I'm waiting in this cell
Because I have to know.
Have I been guilty all this time?"

leading Roger Waters and Bob Ezrin to to write The Trial in which they point out how once again the blame is always shifted to someone else,

"The prisoner who now stands before you
Was caught red-handed showing feelings
Showing feelings of an almost human nature;
This will not do.
Call the schoolmaster!

I always said he'd come to no good
In the end your honor.
If they'd let me have my way I could
Have flayed him into shape.
But my hands were tied,
The bleeding hearts and artists
Let him get away with murder.
Let me hammer him today?"

In the end there were a few of us who knew right from wrong, who still cared, who bravely tried to do what we could. But as Roger Waters knew almost forty years ago when he concluded with Outside The Wall:
"And when they've given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it's not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall.

"Isn't this where...."