London’s Empire theater in Leicester Square became the crossroads where the magic of the silver screen merged with the madness of one of the greatest rock and roll concept albums, as it hosted the world premiere of Pink Floyd – The Wall. Attended by members of the band and contemporaries from The Police, Queen and more, as well as director Alan Parker and musician/actor Bob Geldof, who played the ubiquitous “Pink,” walked the red carpet and celebrated the release of this film.
Hours later, as the lights came up, Steven Spielberg reportedly asked the question on most moviegoers minds after their first viewing of Pink Floyd – The Wall. “What The F@#$ was that?”
The adaptation of the Pink Floyd’s dark tale was brought to life in a bleak and challenging film, full of washed out imagery and bombastic songs that left audiences shell-shocked. The story follows an increasingly alienated musician, as life on the road and the pressures of being a star erode his stability and already tenuous connection to reality. Combining iconic animation with scatter-shot nightmarish scenes from the title character’s childhood and adult life, loosely based on bassist Roger Waters‘ own life and breakdown.
Pink Floyd – The Wall – Official Trailer
The party at the Empire, luckily, was nothing like the film. Cases of booze, hors-d’oeuvres, and the obligatory red carpet were rolled out for a elite mixing of royalty from the music and film worlds. Notably absent from the London premiere was Richard Wright, keyboard player for Pink Floyd, but plenty of London musicians, including Pete Townshend from The Who, Sting, Lulu and others mixed with actors and filmmakers like Spielberg and Bob Hoskins. Waters, guitarist David Gilmour and the rest of the band worked the room and were congratulated all evening with cheers and applause after the credits rolled.
Gilmour was pleased with the animation meshing with the live action footage, calling it “Psychedelic filmmaking at its finest.” On the other hand, Bob Geldof, who hard fought for the leading role, was reportedly disturbed by the final product. He even apologized to a young woman who worried she was going to have nightmares about him and the film for weeks.
When the film finally opened in wide release, the incredible word of mouth helped drive fans to the theaters in scores. Critical reaction was full of praise, though tempered with cautionary words about the somber and fractured tone of the film. Pink Floyd – The Wall would soon become one of the top three grossing films in America, ending a lengthy theatrical run with 22 million dollars.
Pink Floyd would sadly part ways soon afterwards. Waters’ and Gilmour’s personal and musical issues had been a part of the strife that had sparked the malaise documented in The Wall, and it seems that the time period it portrays is the beginning of a long and tragic demise for the beloved band. The Wall stands as a testament to the corrupting power of fame and fortune, and the break downs in friendships and lives it can cause.
[Originally published 7/14/16]