Cinemusic: The Rock Opera, Scene Three

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Chris Morley don't need no thought control.


The final act of our look at the rock opera takes us into the at-the-time evidently troubled mind of Roger Waters, whose growing alienation from both fame & those around him spawned Pink Floyd's magnum opus The Wall.



Roger's estrangement from audiences even included the odd instance of spitting on them! Tensions within the group were running high alongside this, with keyboard player Rick Wright sacked from the main line up but humiliatingly retained as a session musician. Within three years of the album's release it would be adapted for the screen, with Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof starring as Pink - a character based on both Waters himself & Floyd's departed former leader Syd Barrett, whose struggle with drug addiction & mental illness forced his sacking from the band & eventual replacement by David Gilmour.



Famed critic Roger Ebert said of the film that
"It combines wickedly powerful animation with a surrealistic trip through the memory and hallucinations of an overdosing rock star.

It touches on sex, nuclear disarmament, the agony of warfare, childhood feelings of abandonment, the hero's deep unease about women, and the life style of a rock star at the end of his rope.

What it doesn't depict is rock performance. There are no actual concert scenes, although there are groupies and limousines and a personal manager."
All of which have been running themes throughout Waters' work, informed by the wartime loss of father Eric. As the Telegraph reported of the unveiling of a memorial to Waters senior...
"Seventy years to the day after his father was killed in a desperate battle with German troops in Italy, Roger Waters unveiled a memorial in which he paid moving tribute to the man he never knew.The founder of Pink Floyd was just a baby when his father, Lt Eric Waters, died during the bitter, close-quarters fighting that took place after British and American troops landed at Anzio in Jan 1944 in order to outflank the Germans and liberate Rome.


His unit, Z Company of the 8th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, was all but wiped out in an aggressive German counter-attack on Feb 18, 1944. His remains were never found.

The death of his father has haunted the British rock star all his life and inspired many of Pink Floyd's best known songs, including some off the album The Wall."
Director Alan Parker also won praise for his handling of the project.
"Above all, Parker’s visual synthesis with the music, much aided by (Gerald) Scarfe’s rip-roaring visions of doom and destruction which turn light into darkness at the flick of a pen rather than a switch, is almost perfect. He has got rhythm all right, and if you want to know how to cut a film to it, watch this one. It is a very carefully constructed shambles, as it was intended to be – a chaotic pointer to chaotic times, hyped up beyond the point of no return, so that you finally accept almost every enormity as possible."
Artist Scarfe remembers the time fondly.
"“From my point of view, it was a happy arrangement,” Scarfe says of working on The Wall sleeve, “because Roger in no way tried to impose himself on my work. He had the philosophy that if you employ an artist, you don’t try to change what he does. We were working in separate fields – music and art – and yet the two helped one another. He saw the whole sleeve as being designed by me, but it was Roger’s idea from the beginning that it should be a blank wall."

Three constituent parts make up the Wall suite itself - Part 2 the best known, railing against the British education system!



Gilmour would tell the BBC's Andrew Marr that...
"Roger would say that it’s all in the context; I suspect now... I’m not sure how good an idea it was to put something like that out as a single. Roger was talking about the type of teachers and teaching that was fairly common in schools when we were growing up. But I think I wouldn’t put that out as a song right now."
Producer Bob Ezrin can take the credit for the school choir, though, having first deployed such on Alice Cooper's School's Out. As he remembered telling the man born Vincent Furnier.
"’You know what would be great? That’s so kid-like. We should have little kids singing on it.’ Where do you get little kids? You call Central Casting, and they sent over a bunch of stage brats, and you get stage parents with them too. Into the Record Plant comes five sets of prima donna brat kids with their stage parents, and I have to explain to the parents why it’s okay for this group of kids to sing with this group of completely twisted individuals. They walked into the hallway, saw this group, and they were ready to turn around, get back in their taxis, and go home! The kids were scared to death, but I got them all to relax, and we all had a really good time. By the end of it, the kids were all giggling and laughing, and they loved Alice. It ended up being very effective, and I think one of the best moments in rock history is when those kids sing on that record."
Later came the Floyd, and although The Wall was very much a Waters concept, the producer would recall...
"I really lobbied to fill it with Gilmour material, because my feeling was, at that point, we were one-sided musically. We were really missing the Gilmour influence and his heart. We had a lot of Roger’s angst and intellect, but we were missing the visceral Gilmour heart and swing. So then we started filling in the holes with Gilmour’s stuff. When there were certain holes left in the script, it would say, ‘To be written.’"
And so it was, going on to become the record Billy Corgan held up as an inspiration for his Wall for Generation X - Smashing Pumpkins' Melon Collie & The Infinite Sadness. Not a Trump in sight, either!

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