Why Bob Ezrin Hid ‘The Wall’ Tapes From Pink Floyd’s Record Label
As work on the 1979 double album neared completion, amid tensions that were to keep Roger Waters and his former colleagues apart for decades, a dispute opened up with Columbia Records over royalties. “Technically, they didn’t have to pay double for a double album,” Ezrin told the CBC in a new interview. “It offended my sensibilities.”
Toward the end of the studio sessions, a Columbia executive sent his secretary to collect the tapes. “She was just a nice girl who was sent on a mission,” the producer recalled. “I said, ‘Listen, your boss just sent you into a very, very dangerous place. You’re not getting these tapes. He’s not getting these tapes. And you need not to come back here, or I’ll call the band and then I can’t be responsible for what’s gonna happen to you."
As a result, he took the master tapes home with him “every night for a week while they sorted out their issues. ... I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, This is not really my place to do that. … I’d just look at it and go, ‘This is huge, this is monstrous … and what am I doing?’ … But I would look at that pile of tape and go, ‘This is an amazing work.’”
You can watch the full interview below.
Ezrin readily admitted the members of Floyd were no longer getting along, but argued that it was part of his role as producer to “create an environment for them to be able to do their best.”
“[Waters] just said, ‘The reason I need you is, you’re going to deal with them. I can’t deal with them any more,’" he said. "Which is not how it turned out. How it turned out was, in many ways I got that band to play together and be together and create together and do really great stuff.”
Ezrin cited the example of the classic track “Comfortably Numb." "I had written a script for the album, putting the songs that I had in a particular order to tell this story, and then there were holes," he noted. "When we got to where ‘Comfortably Numb’ needed to live, we needed to get into Pink’s head … and we needed to be in the key of D. David [Gilmour] comes out with his little high-strung and he plays [his idea for the song] … and it was brilliant. David wasn’t really encouraged to write on this album except by me. But Roger, to his credit, he accepted it.”
He didn’t accept readily, however. “I said to Roger, ‘This is genius. Take his home and let’s write some lyrics,’” Ezrin remembered. “He refused. … I basically said, ‘So you don’t really think you can do anything with this, huh? … You don’t think you’re man enough?’ He goes, ‘Screw you!’ We had this big blow-up as we had all the time during the making of this thing, but they were always friendly.”
The next morning, Waters threw Ezrin a sheet of paper carrying the “Comfortably Numb” lyrics. “Seriously, I read that and I thought, ‘This is pure genius,’” Ezrin said.