The most uncomfortable song in the history of Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd’s superficial prog tag and fun psychedelia of the Syd Barrett era conceal a distinctly political subtext. While the band produced some of the most striking aural compositions in popular music history, former creative director Roger Waters also brought to life a number of significant social commentary.

While these may be found throughout his career with the band, the 1979 rock opera The Wall is unquestionably the most concentrated and famous of them all. It follows Pink, a fading rock star, creating a psychological “wall” isolating her from followers and the outside world. It was Waters’ final great album with Pink Floyd, exploring themes of mental illness, political tyranny, stardom, and drug misuse. His bitter departure occurred in the mid-1980s.

The album begins with ‘In the Flesh?‘, which introduces the broader concept. We encounter Pink for the first time, at the outset of a rock concert. The lyrics warn us that things are not as they appear for the rockstar, with a totally different landscape “behind these cold eyes.” The listener will “just have to claw your way through this disguise” to find out what’s really going on inside his mind. It is also stated that Pink’s father died in a war, leaving his mother to care for herself and her newborn. This made an indelible impression on him.

Much later in the plot, the 21st song on the album, ‘In the Flesh,’ is a reprise of the opening, but with longer instruments and a choir. This is the first of a sequence of tunes. In it, Pink, now in a drug-induced hallucination, believes he is a fascist dictator. He is ecstatic with his adoring audience. In this regard, the song resembles a right-wing ideological rally. To bring this sentiment to life, it is also Pink Floyd’s most unpleasant and direct song to date.

Pink encourages his admirers to demonstrate their unshakable love for him by hurling undesirables. He refers to them as “queers,” Jews, and “c***s,” urging to throw them “up against the wall.” The heated audience then yells “Hammer! Hammer! Hammer!” as the song transitions into ‘Run Like Hell’.

Waters told Rolling Stone in 2010 that he needed the appropriate riff to convey such ludicrous sentiments. He aimed to parody mindless stadium rock and right-wing ideology with his song. “We needed a beginning, so I walked into a room with a bass guitar and said, ‘I need something that’s incredibly stupid-sounding. Really loud, monolithic, and dumb. And I’ve grown fond of that riff over the years.”

Pink Floyd’s Animals tour in 1977 served as the direct inspiration for The Wall and the title of the ‘In The Flesh‘ pair. While the title does not appear in either song, it refers to the previous album’s tour, In The Flesh. At the time, Pink Floyd performed in large sports stadiums designed for that purpose rather than music performances. Waters noted that their fans reveled in abuse, frequently becoming black-out intoxicated. It was then that he came up with the concept of a wall between the band and the audience. This served as the foundation for his following album.

Listen to ‘In the Flesh‘ below.

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