I go back and forth between naming The Wall the best album ever, or Genesis’ Selling
England by the Pound. They are both worthy of the title for different reasons. Selling England moves beyond the mere genre of rock and grounds itself in the western tradition. The Wall, though, tugs and pulls on our emotions while telling a timeless story. Does this make The Wall the better album?
Today, I say it does. If you ask me tomorrow, I may tell you that Selling England by the Pound is the best ever. I’m annoying like that. The Wall has so much going on, and it all fits together so perfectly. In a way, it really is just one very long song, like Thick as a Brick. It tells a story beginning with Pink, a rock star, as a young man. It continues with his story as a rock star, living a life of debauchery and drugs, and it ends with his trial. Throughout the whole story, he gradually builds a wall around his emotions to protect himself from his pain.
We can’t all relate to having a crappy, oppressive childhood, but some can. We don’t all live like rock stars, surrounded by drugs and sex, but some do. We don’t all find ourselves standing before a judge after our wall has collapsed, but some do. We don’t all build a wall inside of us to hide from the rest of the world, but a lot of us do.
Even if we can’t relate to all or any of those things specifically, in some way, we either understand them or we have experienced something similar. That is the brilliance of The Wall. Every time we listen to it, it connects with us in some new and exciting way. Some days, we throw our fists in the air to “Another Brick in the Wall Pt.2” as a way of sticking it to the man. Other days, we close our eyes and sing along to “Comfortably Numb,” as we enjoy those fleeting moments of carefree protection within our walls.
From undertones of anti-progressive governments to emotional despair, this album has it all. Furthermore, what it means to me is likely much different than what it means to you, and it is probably different than what inspired Waters to write it in the first place (the death of his father and grandfather in the two World Wars).
That is why, today, I say The Wall is the best album ever made. It defies time and genre. It makes us ponder our own existence and whether or not we too are building emotional walls to protect ourselves. Were Pink Floyd the best musicians in the world? No, not by a longshot, but they managed to compose their music in such a way that it conveyed the emotions they were getting across in the lyrics. This album will persist long after we are gone, in part, because it connects with people at a deeper level than most music. That is why The Wall truly is the best.