The Wall uses quite a bit of sound effects to tell its story. Many of the sounds were taken from a library of stock sounds (such as the airplane on “In The Flesh?”), but most of the sounds were recorded by the group themselves. The cars driving by throughout the album is the ambient noise of Hollywood Boulevard that bassist Roger Waters took by hanging a microphone outside a window. Other effects such as tires screeching for “Run Like Hell” and breaking crockery for “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 3” were also recorded. Actress Trudy Young provided the voice of the groupie at the beginning of “One Of My Turns.” Throughout the third side of the album, a TV can be heard. According to engineer James Guthrie, “We recorded a lot of ‘wild’ TV onto quarter-inch and some of it directly to the multitrack. ‘Nobody Home’ was one take. The Gomer Pyle bit, ‘Surprise. Surprise, Surprise!’ fell right there, perfectly after Roger’s vocal.”
At the end of the track “Young Lust,” the main character Pink attempts to call his wife while on tour to hear a man answering the phone. This is something that happened to Roger Waters himself on the band’s previous In The Flesh tour. Guthrie explains how they achieved recording it for the album: “We were in L.A. at Producer’s Workshop so I phoned my neighbour, Chris Fitzmorris in London. He had the keys to my flat and I asked him to go there and said that I would call him through an operator. ‘No matter how many times I call’, I said, ‘just pick up the phone, say ‘Hello’, let the operator speak and then hang up’. I placed a telephone in a soundproof area, got on to an extension phone and started recording… It took a couple of operators – the first 2 were a bit abrupt, but the 3rd was perfect. I told her that I wanted to make a collect call to Mrs. Floyd. ‘Who’s calling?’ she asked. ‘Mr. Floyd’, I replied. Chris’s timing was terrific, over and over he would hang up just at the right moment and she became genuinely concerned. ‘Is there supposed to be someone there besides your wife?’ I was playing her along saying things like ‘No! I don’t know who that is!’ ‘What’s going on?’ and she would try the call again. Unwittingly, she was helping to tell the story… I sometimes wonder if she ever heard herself on the record.”
The album’s most successful song, “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2,” is introduced by a shriek performed by Roger Waters. While recording the album, the scream got lost in the mixing process and had to be recorded. Guthrie recalls, “Roger was still in the South of France and I called him there. I set up the phone recording system, explained that the scream was missing and asked if he would scream down the phone for me… He did numerous ‘takes’ over the phone, eventually saying to me, ‘I can’t do this much longer, you know. My family are giving me very strange looks!’ I put the scream in place and we never replaced it in the studio, so the performance on the record is phoned in, from France to the U.K.”
It was producer Bob Ezrin’s idea to give the song a disco beat. It was initially against the band’s wishes, especially David Gilmour. “[Bob] said to me, ‘Go to a couple of clubs and listen to what’s happening with disco music,’ so I forced myself out and listened to loud, four-to-the-bar bass drums and stuff and thought, Gawd, awful! Then we went back and tried to turn one of the [song’s] parts into one of those so it would be catchy.” Ezrin recalls the recording process: “The most important thing I did for the song was to insist that it be more than just one verse and one chorus long, which it was when Roger wrote it. When we played it with the disco drumbeat I said: ‘Man, this is a hit! But it’s one minute 20. We need two verses and two choruses.’ And they said, ‘Well you’re not bloody getting them. We don’t do singles, so fuck you.’ So I said, ‘Okay, fine’, and they left.’” Without them knowing, he added the extra verse and chorus, and to spice up the second half added the children’s choir, performed by students at Islington Green School in London. After it was finished he showed it to band, and where Waters was reportedly “beaming,” guitarist David Gilmour was unimpressed, saying “And it doesn’t, in the end, sound like Pink Floyd.”
Above: Pink Floyd, producer Bob Ezrin, and recording engineer James Guthrie.