In 1978, Roger Waters proposed two concepts to Pink Floyd. The first was the concept of a rock star so completely addled by life and society that he builds a metaphorical wall to surround him. The second was about one dream cycle of one man during one night’s sleep. The former became The Wall, while the latter became The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. The Wall went on to achieve massive success. It has been certified platinum over 23 times, spawned a film, and has been produced as a massive stage show, first in the early 1980s, then once after the Berlin Wall fell, and again as an overwhelmingly popular stage show starting in 2012. The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking became Roger Waters’ first solo album and has been mostly forgotten except for Waters diehards like myself. But what if Pink Floyd had chosen Pros/Cons instead of The Wall?
As stated previously, The Wall is known to all music fans worldwide. It is a sprawling masterpiece. It’s an album that becomes more refined as you age. It becomes more applicable to your life. When you reach a certain age you simply wish to be left alone to your own devices, perhaps not as much as the protagonist of the album, but still. The songs are classics. Everyone has heard, or heard of, Comfortably Numb, Hey You, Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, Young Lust, Run Like Hell, Mother, and tons more. The Wall continues to be as important now as it was upon first release. Its continued success is because it resonates... or is that really the case? What if it’s just a product of the success of Pink Floyd?
By the time of The Wall’s release, Pink Floyd was a mega, mega, mega superband. The back to back to back success of The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals is undeniable. Suffice to say any and everything Pink Floyd did at this time was guaranteed to leave an impression. One could argue that any album Pink Floyd did after these three would obviously achieve a certain level of success. So what if the band had chosen Pros/Cons, and what if The Wall became Roger Waters’ first solo record?
Pros/Cons is, like every other Waters solo effort, an acquired taste. While the concept is interesting - a man dreaming of an affair, each song being determined to begin/end at a certain time during the night, and the corresponding length of each song matching a time between 4:30 - 5:11 AM - the album didn’t do very well at all. There are some outstanding songs on the album. In fact, I like it quite a bit. I am in the minority, it would seem, because the album sold poorly, and it took eleven years for it to even be certified gold. It even had Eric Clapton playing lead guitar on the entire thing. How could it have done so poorly? Why didn’t it resonate as the Pink Floyd concept albums had?
If Pink Floyd had chosen Pros/Cons, would it have been as successful as The Wall? Would it have had a massive stage show? Perhaps a larger version of what Waters toured with solo? Would it have inspired a film? Would The Wall have been seen as a landmark piece of music, the first of what must certainly be many outstanding Roger Waters solo efforts? Would Roger Waters have left Pink Floyd in 1985? Perhaps the band would have stayed together, but probably not. The personal animosity was there in 1979 and would remain until 2005 when the four band members finally performed together live at Live 8, for their first show together since The Wall tour finished in 1981. The Live 8 show demonstrated how fucking incredible the band was/is, and they were by far the most anticipated and well-received band on the bill that night.
While playing the “what if” game serves no purpose except to suppose or hypothesize, it’s fun to do from time to time. This is one of those times. As always, comments are welcome.