Rock opera. What the hell is a rock opera?
No, it doesn’t have opera singers singing over guitar riffs, bass lines and drum licks. It is rather a rock album that presents a storyline and a base theme spread throughout several songs and or parts in a similar way to an opera. It can be understood as a type of a concept album, of which you may already have heard.
Ok, but why am I bringing this subject? Because several rock operas have been hugely successful, and you have certainly heard some related songs.
I myself enjoy very much a rock opera, as we can hear a theme, both musical and lyrical, in different ways and varied instrumentations, for example. So, I’m going to start a series of posts regarding this matter.
Today’s post is about the most celebrated rock opera ever: The Wall by Pink Floyd! Who hasn’t heard the children choir singing “We don’t need no education” ?
In 1979, Pink Floyd released what would become their greatest worldwide success, an album (and a movie) that explores abandonment and isolation, symbolised by a metaphorical wall. The songs create an approximate storyline of events in the life of the protagonist, Pink, a character based on Waters, whose father was killed during the Second World War. Pink is oppressed by his overprotective mother, and tormented at school by tyrannical, abusive teachers. Each of these traumas become metaphorical “bricks in the wall”.
The protagonist eventually becomes a rock star, his relationships marred by infidelity, drug use, and outbursts of violence. As his marriage crumbles, he finishes building his wall, completing his isolation from human contact.
Hidden behind his wall, Pink’s crisis escalates, culminating in an hallucinatory on-stage performance where he believes that he is a fascist dictator performing at concerts similar to Neo-Nazi rallies, at which he sets men on fans he considers unworthy. Tormented with guilt, he places himself on trial, his inner judge ordering him to “tear down the wall”, opening Pink to the outside world. The album turns full circle with its closing words “Isn’t this where…”, the first words of the phrase that begins the album, “…we came in?”, with a continuation of the melody of the last song hinting at the cyclical nature of Waters’ theme.
On 1980, they had a small tour where they staged the whole album, similar to the movie that was also released (with Bob Geldof as Pink), with a wall being built and destroyed during the performance. Later, when the Berlin Wall was destroyed, Roger Waters (then already outside the Floyd) organized a huge concert with many guests in Berlin. 20 years later, he toured the world again recreating the 1980 concerts. I was fortunate enough to have witnessed the awesomeness that is The Wall! Check the whole concert here
Ok, the post is growing long and I still haven’t posted what is considered David Gilmour’s best solo, and one of the best rock solos ever, Comfortably numb (in the recent Roger Waters tour)
Finally, one piece of music that I love from the movie: empty spaces / what shall we do now:
Hope you enjoyed this rather long description of one of the best albums ever, and stay tuned for the next rock opera:
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis