Pink Floyd roadie’s tale of painting The Wall

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd will perform The Wall tonight in Dublin in what he promises will be his last tour of the classic 1979 concept album.

Pink Floyd roadie’s  tale of painting The Wall

The show is one of the most spectacular live extravaganzas on the planet, using state-of-the-art technology to breathe life into Waters’ vision of a rock star who becomes alienated by success.

Pink Floyd originally performed just 18 concerts, in LA, New York and London, in support of The Wall in 1980, followed by another eight in Dortmund, Germany and five in Earl’s Court, London in 1981. The concerts, which featured the construction of a massive wall across the stage while the band performed, were some of the most expensive ever undertaken by a rock band.

Richard Harvey, now a potter in Castletownbere, Co Cork, worked on Pink Floyd’s road crew at the time and helped construct the set. “We painted the bricks in a warehouse in Brentford,” he says. “There were 2,000 of them, though they didn’t use them all in each show. They’d get damaged, so they had replacements. The bricks were made of cardboard, they were made by a small factory in Wales.

“We gave them each two coats of paint — Crown’s white emulsion, I think it was. That was the first time I used an airless paint sprayer, so we wound up painting the whole warehouse white as well.”

Harvey worked on staging the show at Earl’s Court, though he cannot claim to have helped build the wall. “That was my mate Steve, I think. The crew wore black, so they couldn’t be seen working on stage. The funny thing about Pink Floyd was that, back then, no-one really knew what they looked like either.”

Part of Pink Floyd’s mystique was that they didn’t appear on their album covers. Nor did they appear in the video for their hit single, ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, or even in the film, Pink Floyd: The Wall, in which Bob Geldof played the lead role of the disoriented rock star, Pink.

Harvey, who also worked for the Rolling Stones in 1982 (“it was supposed to be their last ever tour”), remembers thinking of Pink Floyd’s performance that “yeah, they were good”. He was more impressed by the guys who designed their stage show. “They had this model airplane that used to scream from one end of the stadium to the other. Mark Fisher was the designer, and they had an engineer named Jonathan Parks. Parks later did the Millennium Dome, and Fisher worked with U2 on one of their big tours.”

Harvey never met Roger Waters, but he did get to know Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason. “He was a real ordinary bloke. He’d come into the pub near where they had their offices on Brittania Row in Islington. People didn’t know who he was. One time he was going to put something on the jukebox and this girl said, ‘Go on, put on Barry White.’ And he said, ‘I don’t really like Barry White.’ And she went, ‘Oh yeah? What would you know about music anyway?’ That was funny. I don’t think he minded.”

The last time Harvey worked with Pink Floyd, he was part of the team charged with building an air-conditioned room for preserving their master tapes at Brittania Row. “About 11 o’clock one morning, we were sitting around eating bacon sandwiches. There were these hampers, or baskets, and one of the guys opened one up to see what was in it. This tape fell out and rolled across the floor. It was a big thick tape, and when he rolled it up again — with his bacon-y fingers — I asked him to show me what the box was. And it was the masters for Dark Side of the Moon.”

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