Roger Waters - The Wall - Live in Berlin (by request)

Posted By: avoros
Roger Waters - The Wall - Live in Berlin (by request)

The Album

Group Captain Leonard Cheshire was a decorated veteran bomber pilot of World War 2 and official British observer of the atomic bomb detonation in Nagasaki, a role he was forever to regret, dedicating the remainder of his life to charity. In 1989 he was looking for a suitable event to launch the Memorial Fund For Disaster Relief. This was to raise $10 for each of the 100 million lives lost in the wars of this century, the interest from which was to be used in the aid of disaster victims worldwide. Live-Aid promoter Mike Worwood suggested someone he thought appropriate to help Cheshire. He approached Roger Waters who had been thinking about re-staging his magnum opus The Wall again. The problem was where. Cheshire mentioned Berlin, but it was seen to be too inflammatory at the time. The Grand Canyon, the Gobi Desert in Asia, Red Square in Moscow, even Wall Street in New York (one of Waters' favourites) were considered. But, on November 9 1989 when the Berlin Wall opened after standing for 28 years, the decision was made for him: "If the Wall ever came down in Berlin, I said I would go there and perform the work again as an act of celebration of the freeing up of the feelings between the peoples of the East and the West."

While seeming to lose out on his disputes with the other members of Pink Floyd, Waters main desire was to retain The Wall concept. After looking at a number of Berlin sites, the open area of no man's land between the eastern and western part of the wall was deemed perfect. This area, called Potzdamer Platz, was once one of the busiest sections of Berlin, but had become the death strip patrolled by East German border guards and had been sealed for more than 30 years. Once permission was granted to us the site, it was necessary to clear the area of armaments dating back to World War 2. This included 12 mines, a Soviet rocket launcher, a 125 kilo bomb and a huge range of ammunition. A furnished Nazi bunker was also found which was filled in to prevent it becoming a shrine. Incidentally, contrary to many reports, this was not Hitler's bunker which was allegedly destroyed when the Allies overtook Berlin in 1945.

Production costs estimated at $6.5 million, spiralled to around $10 million. It was always destined to be a huge project, the scale being dictated by the huge site. Waters obtained the expertise of Mark Fisher and Jonathon Park, who designed the original Wall concerts. To concentrate on the concert. Waters took about 9 months off his current project which was working on the music to a French opera called CA IRA , written by his friend Etienne Roda-Gil. These 9 months were extremely difficult and stressful for Waters with full permission by the East German government to use the site not given until April 20 1990. With such a limited time to work with for such a massive project, the pressure was intense to complete everything on time, but they managed to complete the project with only two and a half months to get it built, and rehearsed, with only one month on the site itself.

The largest musical production ever all came together on July 21 for a live audience of around 250,000 plus countless millions on TV. A production crew of over 600 worked on the project, with 50 men building 2,500 bricks along a 168m long and 25m high stage, while 100 others worked various stage effects. Also making an appearance was an 80 piece East Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra, 150 person East Berlin Radio Choir plus a 100 piece Marching Band of the Combined Soviet Forces. Many musical artists were approached to be a part of this event, with varying degrees of interest. In fact, no stars were mentioned until all were confirmed thus leading to wild speculation in the press. A preview ad on a radio station in South Australia broadcasted the special guests as Steve Winwood, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Don Henley, and Stevie Wonder. Who knows where they got their information from! Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Sinead O'Connor, Cyndi Lauper, The Scorpions, Thomas Dolby, Ute Lemper, Tim Curry, Marianne Faithfull, Albert Finney and Jerry Hall were on hand to join in, with the aid of The Bleeding Heart Band.

Media interest in this concert was huge, and was promised to continue long after the last brick had been carried away from Potsdamer Platz. The album, released in the UK on August 27, and the video, released September 24, was to have huge promotional backing, as promised in distributed promotional booklets. The live video was premiered at the National Film Theatre on September 16 in the UK, while Polygram held a press reception in the US on board the USS Intrepid on October 3. Yet the album proved to be less than a success. A major drawback was the inevitable comparisons between this live album and the original Wall. Another Brick In The Wall part 2 was released as a single, but with Cyndi Lauper not being a popular choice to sing the best known Pink Floyd song, the single bombed. A second single The Tide Is Turning, only appeared for a short time, thus adding to its collectability.

Media reviews of the album and video seemed less than enthusiastic. Many journalists focussed on Waters less than successful solo career as compared to the reformed Pink Floyd, with some seeing The Wall in Berlin as simply a way of boosting his popularity. Less focus was put on the charity event for which the event was organised, and the Memorial Fund For Disaster Relief did not seem to take hold in the public's imagination for much longer than the concert itself. Backing for the concert was to come in the form of a $5 million advance from Polygram, guaranteed TV sales of $5 million (only a fraction of which was eventually recovered), $850,000 of Waters publishing advance, plus the sale of tickets. Despite 180,000 tickets being sold and the widespread publicity, there was a $1 million loss after the concert once all the bills were paid. The expected $9 million revenue from the concert was not to eventuate with less than $1 million being collected 2 years after the concert with the sale of the album and video.