Building Up Pink Floyd’s The Wall

Readers of British newspapers and such magazines as The New Yorker or Private Eye, and those who have seen the Disney film Hercules are aware of the art of Gerald Scarfe. Although known for political cartoons and caricatures, some of which have been shown at the National Portrait Gallery, Gerald Scarfe is most associated with the images of Pink Floyd’s most ambitious project, The Wall, in the eyes of music fans.

Scarfe conceived the iconic images associated with the double album The Wall, and the original ideas for the film. He also created the look of all the characters and the animations used for live performances by Pink Floyd and Roger Waters.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Wall and to coincide with the current Roger Waters tour, Scarfe has come out with The Making of Pink Floyd: The Wall (Da Capo). The book brings together many previously unseen photos and drawings on the making of the album, film and concerts. The book includes a foreword by Roger Waters, and all of the members of Pink Floyd share their memories on all the various aspects of The Wall project.

Scarfe met Pink Floyd just after Dark Side of the Moon was released and the group approached him to come up with some visuals. He initially did some drawings for the group’s fan club magazine and then started working on animation for videos for the Wish You Were Here album.

Scarfe talked about the beginning stages of working for the band, which started with the group supplying him with all the album art. “I wasn’t quite sure how to approach the music,” began Scarfe. While listening , he started coming up with ideas. “They probably wanted me to do what I’m known for in Britain, which is my satirical approach to life. Roger is quite political and he likes to reflect on the times around us.”

Many people don’t know that before beginning work on The Wall, Pink Floyd actually had the choice of two different album ideas, based on songs that Roger Waters wrote. One was The Wall and the other was The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. Scarfe talked about the first time Rogers Waters played him his demo of The Wall songs. “He played me the whole thing and it’s quite awkward when someone presents their work and you’re the only one in the room with them,” he recalled. “It was an awkward time. Then, soon after that, we started discussing what could be done and how we should do it, and what the timeline was, all those things. And practicalities took over from artistic intentions.” To this, Scarfe added, “Roger said right from the beginning, ‘It’s going to be three things—an album, a show and a film.’”

Scarfe indicated that Waters intended the album to be a double right from the start. It was from that decision that Scarfe began the real work of designing the album art. “The gatefold was the first thing I had to work on,” he began, because I had to create the characters for the gatefold. So, long before anything else I had to design the mother, the girlfriend, the judge—all the characters in the film had to go on the album cover so they were done first.”

In the early stages of the film ideas, Scarfe was possibly going to direct, but ultimately, Alan Parker directed the film. “Alan Parker dropped the band from the film, and made it into a dramatic film, which I thought turned out to be the right decision.”

In concluding our conversation, the idea that The Wall was the beginning of the end of Pink Floyd was something Scarfe could not agree with. “The Wall wasn’t the beginning of the end. It’s very tough for these groups to stay together,” he remarked.

As for any future collaborations with Waters, Scarfe said, “The Wall had such a strong identity it would be very difficult to repeat doing something like that again.”