By Michael Goldstein
Pink Floyd’s “rock opera” The Wall (released on Columbia Records in the U.S. and on Harvest Records in the UK), is the best-selling multi-disc recording of all time, having sold well over 30 million packages since its 1979 release. The record reached #1 in the U.S. (topping at #3 in the U.K.) and included the #1 hit single “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”, along with the hits “Hey You”, “Run Like Hell”, and the epic “Comfortably Numb”. It was voted #87 of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” in the 2003 survey published by Rolling Stone Magazine.
It was after this record that founding keyboardist Richard Wright departed, to return as a paid player when the band performed The Wall on tour, finally re-uniting as a full member in 1987.
According to the legend, songwriter/lyricist Roger Waters was inspired to begin writing The Wall while on tour in 1977 promoting their Animals record. Near the end of the tour, an angry Waters spat in the face of an audience member who was trying to jump up onto the stage with the band. Whatever the motivation, the record required 8 months in the South of France to complete.
All Pink Floyd records since their 1967 release The Piper at the Gates of Dawn had featured cover designs/packaging by Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis. For The Wall, the band chose U.K. cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe, who then also designed the giant puppets of the ‘Mother’, ‘Wife’ and ‘Teacher’, as well as the animations that were projected around the theater and onto the Wall constructed during the public performances of the opera. The selection of Mr. Scarfe as illustrator was inspired, as he creates “drawings that are often a cry against that which I detest, and in showing my dislike I have to draw the dislikeable. To horrify people with a drawing of the waste of war I must make a horrific drawing of war, and when I come to draw people, their bodies become vehicles for their emotions – greed, lust, cruelty.” Considering The Wall’s subject material, the story behind the making of today’s Cover Story image is particularly compelling….
In the words of the illustrator, Gerald Scarfe (interviewed July 2007, with additional quotes and info provided by Julie Davies and the nice folks at geraldscarfe.com) –
“In 1973, the BBC sent me to Los Angeles to work on a twenty minute animated film about all things American – a psychedelic stream-of-consciousness work featuring Mickey Mouse, Black Power, Playboy Magazine, the Statue of Liberty, Nixon and John Wayne. We used a new animation system called the ‘De Joux’ system. In full Disney-type animation there are twelve drawings to one second of film. The ‘De Joux’ system cut that number to only six or eight by mixing photographically between every drawing and producing the illusion of extra movement. This still meant an immense amount of work, drawing every second of a twenty minute film. I worked, ate and slept that project for six weeks, drawing every cliché I knew about America straight onto 70mm film – from Coca Cola to John Wayne. I called the film Long Drawn-Out Trip.
Two members of Pink Floyd (Roger and Nick) saw this film when it was shown on the BBC and asked me to make an animated film for their next series of live concerts, based on their LP Wish You Were Here. I didn’t take up the offer for some time – it seemed like a lot of work and I feared it might stop the flow of my other work (it did!). Directing animation is a full-time job. I ended up with a studio of about forty animators whom I tried to wean away from the Disney system in which most are trained.
The first animations I made for Wish You Were Here were projected onto a circular screen at the back of the stage, behind the band. I drew a man who walked slowly towards the camera, stopped and was eroded, like sand, by the blowing wind. A metal monster that stomped across the landscape for the song, ‘Welcome to the Machine‘, a sea of blood that appeared over the horizon, raced towards us and engulfed two shining, circular metal towers. The blood turned to groping hands which prayed to the metal monoliths. A leaf tumbled through the sky and slowly turned into a naked man who, still tumbling, smashed through the sky as though it were made of glass.
I continued my association with Pink Floyd by collaborating on The Wall. Begun in 1979, this project became three years of work. Roger and I worked out the cover design in the South of France and I completed it on my return to London. Roger gave me complete carte blanche, complete control over it. Besides showing me the libretto, they didn’t interfere at all in crafting of the images. They obviously saw what I was going to do, but they never altered them. I remember Roger saying that “when we employ an artist, we employ him for what he does, not for what we would like to make him do.”
In as far as what inspired the ‘Hammers’ imagery, we obviously wanted to have some figure of oppression, and I came up with the hammers. I had to think, ‘what would be the most obvious symbol of oppression’, and the most unrelenting, crushing, unthinking thing that I could think of was a hammer. The violence of a hammer when it comes down is horrific. I was slightly worried that they might be adopted by some fascist, neo-Nazi group as a symbol but thankfully it didn’t happen. And I think that when I did the hammers, and Roger wrote ‘hammer, hammer’ into the lyrics, it was the one instance when the drawings influenced the lyrics.
I knew the images were ultimately going to be used in an animated sequence. The actual images came to me quite quickly, but of course the animation is an incredibly time consuming process. When we began the animation for the film there were only about 8-10 people on the project, but by the end there were around 40-50 animators using pen, paper, ink and paint.
From the original LP of The Wall, a stage show was produced, for which I art-directed. I made puppets and inflatables and directed another animated film, The Trial. The Wall was subsequently made into a feature film which I designed and for which I directed two further pieces of animation – ‘Empty Spaces’ and ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’.
As a child who grew up in the war, ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’ came completely from my mind, because I had memories of the war. Roger was born after the war; as you may know, he lost his father in the war, and that’s why he refers to it, but I actually lived through it, and remember the bombs falling in London, and being in air raid shelters.
But above all else I remember having to wear a gas mask, which is a very claustrophobic thing for anyone to wear, let alone an asthmatic. I’d put this thing on and fight for breath. We had to put them on for practice – thankfully there was no occasion when gas bombs were actually dropped, to my memory. But I hated the mask. They tried to make it look cute and childlike by putting Mickey Mouse ears on it and calling it a ‘Mickey Mouse children’s gasmask’. But the memory of the mask came in useful for the ‘Frightened Ones’. I gave them gas-mask heads and they are running for cover into air raid shelters as the dove which explodes into the Germanic Eagle, and flies across the landscape, lays its trail of waste.
When I do my illustrated talks I like to show the ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’ sequence, because it ties up with my childhood really, it’s a sort of poem to the Second World War, and it was the Floyd that gave me the opportunity to do it. I am often asked if I think my drawings change anything. I don’t believe they do, but on occasion I hope they may crystallize a mood or sum up an attitude. If I have succeed in demonstrating this – or even better, in making people laugh – then I can ask for no more.”
About the illustrator, Gerald Scarfe –
Illustrator and cartoonist Gerald Scarfe was born in 1936 in London. He was asthmatic as a child and spent much time drawing and reading. After a brief period at the Royal College of Art in London, he established himself as a satirical cartoonist, working for Punch magazine and Private Eye during the early sixties. He has had many exhibitions worldwide, including ones in New York, Osaka, Montreal, Los Angeles, Sydney, Melbourne, Chicago and London, as well as 50 one-man shows. He has designed the sets and costumes for plays, operas and musicals in London, Houston, Los Angeles and Detroit. His film work includes designing and directing the animation for Pink Floyd’s rock opera The Wall (he also created the graphics and animation for Roger Waters’ 1984 solo album titled The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking and its supporting tour). Scarfe has written and directed many live action and documentary films for BBC and Channel 4.
He has also published many books of his work, including Heroes & Villains: Scarfe at the National Portrait Gallery, which was published in September 2003. His most recent book, Gerald Scarfe: Drawing Blood: 45 Years of Scarfe Uncensored was published in November 2005. Gerald Scarfe has been political cartoonist for the London Sunday Times for 40 years, and has worked for The New Yorker magazine for 14 years. His work regularly appears in many periodicals and in 2005, he was selected as one of the 40 Most-Influential Journalists by the U.K.’s Press Gazette. In 2006, he received the British Press Award as Cartoonist of the Year.
Most recently, he has just completed working with Ozzy Osbourne on illustrating a 10-foot guitar for Gibson Guitar and their special charity event held for the Prince’s Trust.
He is married to British film/TV actress and author Jane Asher, and they have 3 three children.
You can see more of Mr. Scarfe’s work, please visit – www.geraldscarfe.com. Not only will you find a large selection of illustrations covering his whole career (including the work with Pink Floyd), but there is more information about Gerald, his book Drawing Blood (where some of today’s material was excerpted from), a CV, and writings on all the different subjects of his work.
To see more of Mr. Scarfe’s images that are available for sale at the RockPoP Gallery, please follow this link – http://rockpopgallery.easystorecreator.com/items/gerald-scarfe/list.htm?1=1
About “Cover Stories” – Our weekly series will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.
Every Friday, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.
We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.
Copyright 2007 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery – All rights reserved.