In his first piece of music writing of any kind, Gavin Davison recounts his first experiences with Pink Floyd's seminal The Wall album and how it changed his view on music forever.
It was in 1987 that my friend Lee’s parents (who were original hippies back in the day) introduced me into music in general; bands such as Camel, Yes, Led Zepplin, Cream and Jimi Hendrix – a baptism of fire by anyone’s standards! This seemed like an initiation of sorts though, and it was almost like they were holding back for what was yet to come, and what came blew my mind. When they played me The Wall by Pink Floyd, I was immediately hooked and needed more of what had entered my ears and ended up tattooed on my brain. It became a passion to discover more and get into the crazy mind of Roger Waters.
I found out that they were going to play in Manchester, Maine Road, on August 8th 1988, and I exploded with enthusiasm at the thought of seeing this band that I was so invested in at a stadium. Having months to prepare for this, just after finishing my exams whilst looking forward to the summer made every second count. My ticket had been up on my bedroom wall for months now, and was beginning to fade away with the intense stares I gave it every day. When the day finally came, I was a mess because of such a build up! On entry, I had no idea of what was to come from one of the most progressive and experimental bands my ears had ever heard. I was expecting the classics in a setlist, and what I got instead was completely different and did not disappoint.
From the get go, Rick Wright’s keyboards had me straight away and took me to a place I’d never been before musically – destination unknown; and I was willing to go wherever it would take me. From the minute the colours dripped down the giant screen in front of me, Rick’s subtle keys melted into Nick Mason’s drums and David Gilmore’s dulcet tones came on with the then slight familiarity of ‘Comfortably Numb’.
This was me, this was my paradise, this was the one thing in my world that meant absolutely everything to me at the time. The moment that David broke away to play the second of two guitar solos on this track, I went blind with emotion for the next seven minutes and nothing else would ever be the same again. After the show, it was impossible for anyone to talk to me, as I was literally speechless.
When I got home, for the next couple of days, I went through everything that was Floyd that my ears could wrap themselves around. From Pipers at the Gates of Dawn onwards, that was all I wanted to pass through my consciousness. But I always came back to one album, and that for me was The Wall – the one introduction to what I had never experienced before and will stay with me forever. From the very first time I heard ‘In the Flesh’, the pounding drums and soul searching keyboards just took me apart and reconstructed me as a musical Frankenstein. “Hey You’, one of the most simplistic songs you could ever hear, cleared the way with apocalyptic sounds – a contradiction in terms, yet this the genius of what could be done with minimal resonance.
The second half of the album was more of a struggle for me, as this is when the tone became a lot darker in depth and the environment more involved than I was ready for as a fifteen year old. Contrary to popular belief, ‘When the Tigers Broke Free: Part One’ was not on the original album, but was on the movie. This track holds a very special place in my heart, and not only did I feel a personal connection to the song itself – but to Roger Walters as well, having both lost fathers to war. With it’s regimented trumpets, Welsh choir and military drummers, it built up to memories long forgotten. As short as this track is, it still remains to this day one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard - Not just for the connection I had with it, but for the therapeutic properties held within its lyrics.
For a lot of fans, ‘Comfortably Numb’ was the quintessential Floyd song, with it’s massive musical arrangement and it’s haunting lyrics, and synths that only Rick Wright could put together. From the very first time I heard the first few lines of this song, I thought it was talking directly to me as a personal message, and by now the synths were flowing through my mind with the intensity of a first kiss. Enter Dave Gilmore with the guitar solo that would turn my world upside-down forever! With my eyes firmly closed, and my mind open in a way like never before, the first notes sent a wave of emotion through my body like no drug could ever achieve. The more he played, the more powerful it became – with every hair on my body stood firmly to attention.
Gilmore was hitting every note as if they were his last, and these six minutes felt like the longest time in the world. By the time he’d finished, I was in a state of suspended animation. No longer would I have to look for that perfect song or special album, I found what I’d been looking for, and it was The Wall. Twenty five years and a million songs later, there has been nothing that has touched me the way this album has – and probably never will……..