By Todd Whitesel
When guitarist/keyboardist Billy Sherwood was approached by his record company, Cleopatra, and asked if he would like to remake Pink Floyd’s The Wall, he said yes. Then he made a list.
“I know the album inside and out,” Sherwood said. “So I made a wish list of players from the rock and progressive- rock fields who I thought would work well with the songs.” He admitted happily, “And about 99 percent of them played on the album.”
Sherwood’s wish list is more like a dream list, and the artists who contributed to the project, titled Back Against The Wall, give new meaning to the term supergroup. The roster includes Ian Anderson, Adrian Belew, Vinnie Colaiuta, Geoff Downes, Aynsley Dunbar, Elliot Easton, Keith Emerson, Tony Franklin, Gary Green, Steve Howe, Glenn Hughes, Tony Kaye, Robby Krieger, Tony Levin, Steve Lukather, Ronnie Montrose, Steve Morse, Tommy Shaw, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Fee Waybill, John Wetton, Alan White, Dweezil Zappa and more!
For Sherwood, staying true to the original spirit and intent of The Wall was a necessity. “The analogy I use is the movie Mutiny On The Bounty. Marlon Brando, Richard Harris, and Trevor Howard are all great actors, but what holds their performances together is the writing; they are bound by the writing,” Sherwood said. “That’s what holds this project together. My role was to provide a bed for the writing to flower. And I’m pleased with the integrity of the project.”
One participant Sherwood hadn’t planned on was Los Angeles DJ Jim Ladd. Their paths had crossed briefly in the past, but it would be Shaw who would bring them together again for Back.
“Tommy had played on a couple tracks for the album, and then later he referred me to Jim Ladd. I got a call from Jim, and he said, ‘I understand you’re making my favorite record.’”
Sherwood played part of the album for Ladd, and after hearing a few tracks, Ladd gave the project his personal thumbs-up. Sherwood then asked Ladd if he would narrate on the track “Outside The Wall.” He deferred, stating he wanted to first get Roger Waters’ blessing before doing so. After Waters heard some of the music he gave the go-ahead to Ladd, who jumped in. He provides not only the oration on “Outside” but also “ranting & raving” on “Waiting For The Worms.”
More ranting and raving comes courtesy of actor Malcom McDowell, who performs the dialogue in “The Trial” as well as the closing, “Isn’t This Where We Came In?” which was included in the movie version of The Wall but not on the album.
“Take this rock and roll refugee
Oooh, baby set me free”
Such a group of artists makes for some intriguing combinations on the album: Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson joins Gary Green from Gentle Giant and Tony Levin on “The Thin Ice”; Fee Waybill of The Tubes takes lead vocal on “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2” as Ronnie Montrose supplies the lead guitar parts; Glenn Hughes is joined by ex-Cars Elliot Easton and Aynsley Dunbar on “Young Lust”; Shaw joins forces with Robby Krieger for “Don’t Leave Me Now”; and John Wetton and Adrian Belew team up on “Mother,” on what Sherwood calls a meeting of old and new King Crimson.
“So ya thought ya
Might like to go to the show”
Back Against The Wall will hit store shelves Sept. 27 (look for a review in the next issue of Goldmine, #658 Oct. 14, 2005, our annual prog issue), and there is the possibility of a tour to follow. “I have an idea where we might go out on the road with three musicians from the record at a time,” said Sherwood. “We’d play a series of shows, and then another three would replace them. It would be like a revolving-door of artists.”