Analysis of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh? /Outside the Wall”

This is the start of hopefully a complete analysis of several Pink Floyd songs.

Besides being one of the most influential and popular bands in the world, Pink Floyd’s music can open many doors of discussion as each of their songs can be interpreted differently.

As always, the insights below are strictly my opinion. Nevertheless, here is my interpretation of songs “In the Flesh?” and “Outside the Wall,” off of Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979).

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The reason I decided to look into both of these songs together is that, if one listens closely, there is a prelude message in the beginning of “In the Flesh?” and a postlude message at the end of “Outside the Wall.” “Outside the Wall” is the last song on the album, while “In the Flesh?” is the first (“When the Tigers Broke Free, Part 1” was added strictly for the film). And so, one can easily assume the message was purposefully connected.

Of course, like always, the band likes to confuse us. While the message at the end of “Outside the Wall” would be considered a postlude, or concluding message (as mentioned previously), it actually serves as the prelude, with the prelude of “In the Flesh?” serving as the postlude.

At the end of “Outside the Wall,” you’ll hear these words: “Isn’t this where — ” At the beginning of “In the Flesh?” you’ll hear: ” — We came in?”

So the entire masked message is: “Isn’t this where we came in?”

First we need to hypothesize what actually happens to Pink when he breaks down The Wall at the album’s conclusion. Perhaps he finally was forced to deal with his problems and/or interact with society again. Personally, I feel the breaking down of The Wall resulted in Pink’s death and/or suicide. While death is a bleak outlook on Pink’s fate, it makes the most sense considering the beginning/ending songs and the message mentioned above.

As you may have realized, The Wall, in album and film, contains various themes of birth and death. Being the opening song, “In the Flesh?” begins Pink’s journey, and therefore represents his birth, physically and metaphorically. When Pink finally broke down and went “Outside the Wall,” he died. This, along with the message, “Isn’t this where we came in?”, suggests that after death, we end up where we started- “In the Flesh?” or in our mother’s womb, which is literally IN the flesh.

The Wall, metaphorically and physically, shuts Pink off from the rest of the world, separates him from society and encloses him in a subtle form of protection and self-preservation. Without The Wall he is vulnerable. But the irony is that when Pink finally tears down The Wall (death), he ends up in another enclosed space (the womb). This corresponds with the film’s imagery of swallowing vaginas and the birth process. Essentially we are born in the womb, and then we enter a world where The Wall immediately begins to get built. So it seems the band is trying to convey that no matter who or how old we are, we all simply long to be back in our mother’s womb- fully protected, nurtured and at peace. Or perhaps human beings were made/programmed to feel this way by whoever created us, whether we like it or not.

While many have stated that The Wall was built by Floyd and contributed to by the very people in his life he cared about, I feel the big picture of these tracks, and of the album in general, is that blame need not be placed- The Wall is a fact of human nature just as it’s a fact that humans need water to survive. Sure people contribute to who we become, our beliefs, our disappointments, our sorrow, our loss of trust, our inward isolation- yet in the end the entire blame rests on our shoulders as individuals because we are ultimately responsible for our own lives. However, the fact of life is that we cannot choose to be born, nor can we choose our parents. So who is truly to blame? Perhaps the point is that placing blame is pointless.

And so, if breaking down The Wall/being “Outside the Wall” is the closest Pink (and humans) can come to true freedom, does this mean that only in death we are free? And if so, what is the point of death if we simply end up where we started?- In the womb, preparing to face yet another cruel world as soon as we leave it. This way of thinking is quite dismal as it portrays that humans have no purpose except to be born and to die (Note- I didn’t say live). However, it also portrays that while we build The Wall out of our fears and differences from others, this is the very aspect of mankind we all have in common: We ALL build The Wall. We ALL share and experience loneliness and pain. And therein lies the core of human predicament and tragedy.

As far as the lyrics, “In the Flesh?” quite literally welcomes us “to the show” of life (paralleled through a rock concert). “Action! Drop it on ‘Ëœem!” could be signifying the actual birth process where we literally “drop” out of our mother’s womb. In comparison, “Outside the Wall” describes “the bleeding hearts and artists” that are, and perhaps always have been, trying to get through to Pink, perhaps even including Pink himself.

And so, while the message contained in “In the Flesh?” and “Outside the Wall” reflects the pessimistic, cruel and cyclic nature of life, it also reflects that we as humans are given another chance by being born again. While it may take lifetimes to realize, we have the chance to break down the bricks of The Wall in life before they begin to get built. We can deny violence an oppose oppression. An even if The Wall is built, we can at the very least try to “cancel out” each and every brick with an act of creation, until hopefully our children, if not us, can live in a world where peace is not an alien concept.

Feel free to share your thoughts.