Pink Floyd The Wall Immersion: Making Sense of the Work In Progress Demos
Pink Floyd The Wall: Immersion features the classic studio album digitally remastered and presented as a limited-edition, high quality boxset featuring rare and unreleased audio and video material including over two hours of demos from the album’s conception and production. Seriously, The Wall Immersion is the definitive release of the album to date.
In particular, I think the demo tracks on the Immersion set Work In Progress CDs are great to hear. Overall, I think they are a great listen and I’m really glad the band released the recordings that they did. But the tracks as presented on the Work In Progress discs are presented in sections and not as a whole. I had to use other resources to connect some of the dots there, so to speak, to really appreciate the tracks and put the proper running order into perspective. To help sort these recordings out, I referred to the sets of demo track listings published in the excellent books Comfortably Numb – A History of “The Wall” – Pink Floyd 1978-1981 by Vernon Fitch and Richard Mahon and The Complete Pink Floyd: The Ultimate Reference by Glenn Povey.
I think the sequencing on the Immersion release was revised and tweaked a lot and I think a few of the tracks were doctored a bit. Several songs were renamed from their original titles to the title of release, “The Doctor” and “Backs To The Wall” being notable exceptions. Overall, the tracks are somewhat mixed up and I believe their timeline and sequencing to be somewhat confusing the more you dig into it.
I do not think that each programme of the Work In Progress CDs was a proposed assembly of tracks in sequence like the original 1979 demos were. The original band production demos were a snapshot of the progress of the album at that time, but I found that wasn’t always the case in the Work In Progress release. In several of the programmes, the track sequence matches sections of the published track listings from the demos. Other programmes seem to be more of a composite of a couple of the band demos, even after taking into consideration that many of the recordings from the previous demos were used in later ones.
What they did was present most of the production tracks in a revised yet tighter sequence for this box set. It’s confusing if you want to get a more accurate idea of the evolution of The Wall.
The Wall Immersion Box Set is currently out of print but can still be ordered worldwide on Amazon. Tap here.
Disc 5, Programme 1, Excerpts from Roger Waters Original Demo
This does not crosscheck with the published track listing for the original Bricks In The Wall demo. Tracks in Immersion are sequenced like they were on the album and not on the demo.
Many of the tracks here are renamed. “Death Disco” is missing (by all accounts, this is a good thing…). Roger’s original demos of “Teacher, Teacher” and “Sexual Revolution” are missing, although recordings of both with the full band appears elsewhere on disc 5. “Who’s Sorry Now/It’s Never Too Late” is missing; on the Work In Progress ROIO, there may be a snippet of the track spliced into “The Show Must Go On” as a placeholder.
A 0:51 snippet of a very early version of “Run Like Hell” (or another early track with those lyrics) is included in the excerpts. Prior to the Immersion box set, the track had never been mentioned as part of the original demo. Because it was never listed in any of the published track lists, it’s impossible to speculate how or where this track originally fit in with the original demo. “When The Tigers Broke Free” which has long been acknowledged as part of Roger’s original demos is missing from both the Work In Progress tracks and any published listing.
“The Doctor” (“Comfortably Numb”), of course was still a David Gilmour demo at this point and not part of the album’s storyline yet.
Disc 5, Programme 2, Roger Waters Original Demo And Band Demos
For the most part, this faithfully follows the track sequencing of Sides 1 and 2 of the first production demo assembled January 9, 1979. There are a few exceptions. In ‘Work In Progress’, “Empty Spaces” precedes “Young Lust” like it does on the album. On the production demo, “Empty Spaces/Backs to the Wall” appears much later on Side 2 right before “Goodbye Cruel World”.
Sides 3 and 4 are missing here. “Run Like Hell” first appeared on the January 9 demo. Since this demo was assembled before co-producer Bob Ezrin came on board, I strongly suspect that this missing version would have sounded a lot like the bouncy yet dark snippet from Programme 1, Roger’s original demo cassette.
“In The Flesh” was added later and was actually from Roger’s The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking demo. Roger Waters and Bob Ezrin felt that The Wall needed something a little more theatrical so Roger took and adapted that song for The Wall.
“Goodbye Blue Sky” features an outro that fades out with a Richard Wright solo before crossfading into “Teacher, Teacher”. The solo is reminiscent of the outros Wright was “permitted” to play for The Wall live shows.
A shorter version of “Comfortably Numb” (“The Doctor”) ends Side 3 of the January production demo. It includes the middle guitar solo. Although this version is not included in the Work In Progress discs, I suspect it sounded a lot like Disc 6, Programme 1, Track 5. Because the band used a lot of earlier recordings as placeholders throughout production, this might even be the same recording from the January demo.
These are the recordings that really illustrate to me how much The Wall evolved as an album. For all its similarities, this is a different album. These first recordings illustrate to me how much The Wall was less about the things that isolated and protected Pink the person from the outside and more about The Band and its growing frustration, isolation and separation from everyone who cares about them — fans, friends, loved ones alike. Especially this first band production demo, it tells a story that’s more directly related to the spitting incident in 1977 at Pink Floyd’s Montreal show.
Disc 5, Programme 3, Band Demos
Other than some title changes such as using “In The Flesh?” instead of “The Show”, this is Side 1 of the second band production demo assembled on March 23, 1979.
Side 2 appears to be missing here. It seems to show up on Disc 6 as part of a programme of tracks combined from both the January 7 and March 23, 1979 production demos.
Disc 6, Programme 1, Roger Waters Original Demos And Band Demos
This appears to be Sides 3 and 4 of the March 23, 1979 production demo with some sequencing changes, song title changes, and some of the elements of the earlier January demo thrown in. Although we get to hear the tracks, they are sequenced out of context. Track sequences have been “revised” and it’s really all mixed up. It’s as if they did a mashup of the January and March production demos.
Part 2 of “Is There Anybody Out There?”, a 53-second reprise featuring spacey vocals and an acoustic guitar instrumental, has been moved from after “Bring The Boys Back Home” to before. It’s the end of the “Vera” track and is not listed in the track listing on Work In Progress. On this demo, the guitar instrumental segues into “The Doctor” and it would have been a pretty nice transition.
“Hey You” is sequenced before “The Doctor” (like it would have been on the January 9 demo). On the March 23 demo, it is sequenced after. This is one of the details that leads me to believe that this is the same recording from the January 9 production demo, used here instead of earlier on the Work In Progress CDs.
“It’s Never Too Late”, which later evolved into “The Show Must Go On”, is missing here. In The March 23 demo, it should be sequenced right before the reprise of “The Show” (“In The Flesh”). In this programme, it is sequenced after “Trial By Puppet” — the same sequence as the January 9 demo. It’s also missing the original first verse that we get to hear in the Building The Wall ROIO recordings. Here, the finished David Gilmour vocal take from the release version of the album has been edited in twice. This song has its roots from “Who’s Sorry Now?/It’s Never Too Late”, a track from Roger Water’s original demo. From the released recordings, it sounds like these were in fact two distinct, different songs. I suspect that “The Show Must Go On” evolved more from “Who’s Sorry Now?”
“Trial by Puppet” (“The Trial”) is the recording from the earlier January 9 production demo. It’s a mock-up placeholder using a Prophet synthesizer (the March 23 demo has the piano version that can be heard on the Building The Wall ROIO).
“Outside The Wall” ends Side 4 on the March 23 demo, just like it does in this programme.
“Instrumental Theme” (the instrumental second part of “The Thin Ice”) ends Side 4 on the earlier January 9 demo. It had been cut from the March 23 demo. There was never a production demo that had this track coming out of “Outside The Wall”.
Disc 6, Programme 2, Band Demos
As best I can figure out, these are three leftovers from the mashup of Disc 6, Programme 1.
“Outside The Wall” is the same recording from Building The Wall ROIO, so I suspect that this is from the August 11-12 production demo.
This recording of “It’s Never Too Late” sounds nothing like “Show Must Go On” and I suspect that this is from the end of Side 4 of the January 9 production demo.
This version of “Comfortably Numb” is David Gilmour’s “sloppier” version that he recorded to demonstrate how he thought the track should sound. Roger Waters and Bob Ezrin preferred a slicker, orchestrated version. In the end, there was a compromise. The album version takes elements from both and turned it into a classic.
Disc 6, Programme 3, Band Demos
Other than changing the titles of a couple of the tracks, this appears to be Side 2, tracks 4 through 8 of the March 23 production demo. Although the content of the discs is great, it’s scattered with a logic that can be frustrating at times.
Disc 6, Programme 4, David Gilmour Original Demos
These are David Gilmour’s original demos, leftover from the sessions of his first solo LP. The excellent 2015 BBC documentary ‘Wider Horizons’ has a snippet of his original “Comfortably Numb” demo with lyrics.
A complete listing of all tracks in the Immersion box set can be found here in the discography.