Pink Floyd’s The Wall is an album truly like no other. The rock opera is a piece of art that sits in his own lane, one that has an absolute plethora of different meanings to it that can be interpreted in a number of ways. One track in particular, however, has taken on another meaning by Floyd fanatics with believing it is about their former leader Syd Barrett.
The Wall, famously, is a record that follows the story of a burnt-out rockstar who has turned his back on civilisation becomes a recluse which is symbolised by a wall. The songs attempt to create a storyline of events in the life of the protagonist, Pink—a character who fans believe is a hybrid of Syd Barrett and Roger Waters—whose father’s both died when they were children which also happens to the lead character.
The likelihood is that the character of Pink takes elements from an array of different people which are then exaggerated like all good storytelling. It is difficult to not see parallels between parts of the characteristics of the jaded Pink figure and that of Barrett, a musician who had been out of the public eye for a decade by 1979 when The Wall was released.
One track especially seemed to confirm the fan theory that Pink was based on Barrett, which is on ‘Empty Spaces‘. Inserting a hidden message, Roger Waters can be heard speaking when the track is played backwards: “Congratulations. You’ve just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the funny farm, Chalfont,” he says.
Then a voice in the background states: “Roger! Carolyne is on the phone!”, which led many to believe ‘Old Pink’ is the band’s former lead singer Syd Barrett, who had gone off the radar since he suffered a breakdown in 1968.
However, this theory was later refuted by drummer Nick Mason who spoke to Sonic Reality in 2014 about the topic. “At the time, people were always looking for messages in albums,” Mason explained. “So we thought: ‘Oh, well. We better do one.’”
“Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message.” Asked whether there was any sort of deeper meaning behind it, Mason laughed it off, adding, “It’s complete nonsense.”
Whether it was based on Barrett or not, only Roger Waters really knows as he penned the track and he certainly knew that that part of ‘Empty Spaces’ would undoubtedly get fans speculating about the former frontman.
Listen to ‘Empty Spaces’ below and make your own mind up about Old Pink.