The hidden message in the Pink Floyd album ‘The Wall’

The journey that Pink Floyd takes you on throughout their massive 1979 double LP The Wall is pretty heavy. That’s actually an understatement: war, death, drug addictions, rock star burnouts, mental breaks with reality, and even implied Naziism makes The Wall a stunningly dark ride for such a commercially successful LP. What other artist could score a number one single out of child abuse and educational riots?

As was the Floyds signature style, The Wall was a concept album following a central character, Pink, as he loses his father in World War II, lives with an overprotective and overbearing mother, gets abused in school, and eventually gets cheated on by his wife. With each new traumatic event comes a new brick in Pink’s wall that will cut him off fully from the outside world. However, the real horrors begin once he places the final brick.

From there, seclusion nearly drives Pink to complete madness. A forced drug trip turns his concert into a fascist fever dream, and eventually his actions force him to put himself on trial. The verdict comes in for Pink to tear down the wall, and the story ends with an uncertain Pink rejoining society without a strong notion of whether he will be able to return to any sense of normalcy.

Even though the ending is left ambiguous, the implication is that Pink will simply revert back into a never-ending cycle of trauma. Those allusions aren’t actually implications – if you listen closely enough, you’ll hear that Roger Waters deliberately left a clue that confirms Pink’s fruitless attempts to escape The Wall. It might not have been obvious on the first listen, but a subtle message bookends the album.

As the desolate clarinet intro of ‘In the Flesh?’ plays solemnly, a voice quietly says “…we came in?” It’s too subtle to pick up on the first time you listen to The Wall, and it doesn’t become obvious what, if anything, the broken phrase means at first. It’s only when you reach the final track on the album, ‘Outside the Wall’, that all suddenly becomes clear. With a reprise of the clarinet melody from ‘In the Flesh?’, the final sounds on the album are from the same voice as the beginning asking, “Isn’t this where…”

When pieced together, the question of “Isn’t this where we came in?” suggests that Pink is doomed to repeat his cycle, no matter how many times he might escape from The Wall. It’s a truly disturbing implications from a truly demented album, but it was the kind of theatrical impact that Waters was looking for all along in the project. When Water created a concert film of his 2010s reimagining of the album, Waters replicates the cyclical nature by repeating the message at the start and end of the film.

Listen closely to a mashup containing the end of ‘Outside the Wall’ and the beginning of ‘In the Flesh?’ down below.

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