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The Making of Pink Floyd The Wall

Gerald Scarfe

(DaCapo Press; US: Sep 2010)

There are people who purchase glossy art books and never read the text, content to gorge themselves on the visuals.  For fans of cartoonist/animator/artist Gerald Scarfe, The Making of Pink Floyd The Wall is a glorious opportunity for such visual gluttony.  While the artwork—most of it related to the making of Pink Floyd’s pièce de résistance, The Wall, it oft too depressing or gruesome to be called beautiful, it is exquisitely reproduced and remains as stunning as it was 30 (!) years ago.


Stuffed with sketches, storyboards, maquettes, and photographs, The Making of Pink Floyd The Wall wall is a trove of information not only for the most diehard Pink Floyd fans, but also for serious design connoisseurs.  Reading Scarfe’s descriptions of the work while following it visually allows us to enter the mind of an artist who created some of rock music’s most indelible imagery.


We also learn about the members of Pink Floyd and what went into the making the record, stage show, and film. Scarfe’s genial, blunt account bears witness to a band imploding, including backstage excesses, women, and drugs.  Scarfe admits to being a control freak and megalomaniac, but compared to Roger Waters, he’s a milquetoast.  Though Waters gave Scarfe relatively free reign over The Wall’s designs, he was often rude and demanding. “You’ll probably find Roger will take over now,” Nick Mason said to Scarfe one afternoon.  “He usually does.”


In Waters’ defense, The Wall is an autobiographical project, moving from the his father’s death on the World War II battlefront to his own struggles. The Wall lays bare the rage and insecurities of a brilliant, deeply sensitive man who cannot be faulted for wanting the project to be fully realized.


The technology Scarfe and his team relied on in 1978 strikes today’s reader as archaic: reels of test film from Animals are pictured; nary a computer is in sight.  (I write this as Kodachrome goes out of production.  We’ve lost our best word to describe a sunny day.) Scarfe relied on team of expert animators to create “12 drawings per second, 720 per minute, 3,600 drawings for every five minute sequence.”  Later in the book he describes surmounting an impossible deadline by drawing on an animation cell then ferried to the venue to run with that evening’s show. 


The book is interspersed with interviews with the surviving members of Floyd (Richard Wright died on 2005), providing interesting counterpoint.  David Gilmour, while gentlemanly, admits he has no visual sense whatsoever.  Nick Mason is more involved, contributing numerous photographs from his personal archive to the book.  But the show belongs to Waters, who conceived The Wall after an infamous incident in Montreal.  During a concert he noticed the audience was disengaged from the music—drunken, screaming, yelling.  In the book, he likens it to a football match: a gathering of people in a stadium who could be doing anything.  Enraged, he spat on a fan, an action that later mortified him.  But the idea of The Wall as a barrier between Waters and his audience, between Waters and the rest of the world, was born. 


After rejected a Punch and Judy motif, Waters and Scarfe landed on Pink, a victim not only of himself but society, personified by The Wife, The Teacher, The Mother, and, finally, The Judge.  We see Scarfe’s early ideas, the varying iterations of these monstrous, soulless creatures, so at odds with Scarfe’s cheery dialogue. Scarfe and Waters are both children of World War II, and the war imagery Scarfe employed remains unsettling.  The marching crossed hammers, meant to invoke Germany’s Swastika, have lost none of their power.  Nor have the screaming aircraft or a bit of animation from the Wish You Were Here tour featuring two steel towers awash in blood.


Scarfe goes into great detail over the album art, the animation and inflatables necessary for the show, and, finally, the movie.  The combination of producer Alan Parker with Waters and Scarfe proved near toxic to all three, who have since mended fences.  In an interesting side note, Bob Geldof, who played Pink so well, professed to hate the band, a sentiment that pleased Waters. 


The book closes with all the men older and considerably grayer, though the formidable Waters is pictured with his arm around Scarfe, wearing an expression of genuine affection.  Waters continues to tour, working with Scarfe to update some of the Wall’s images and technology, including a new tour t-shirt reading “MOTHER SHOULD I TRUST THE GOVERNMENT?” in white lettering.  Between the lines, the answer is scrawled in Scarfe’s distinctive penmanship, colored bloody red: No fucking way!

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Diane Leach has a Master's Degree in English Literature from Humboldt State University. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New Mobility, and The Collagist. She can be reached at dianesleach@gmail.com.


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