THE WALL

Album version


Cigarettes and a bottle of beer, this poem that I wrote for you
This black stone and these hard tears are all I got left now of you
I remember you in your Marine uniform laughing, laughing at your ship out party
I read Robert McNamara says he's sorry

Your high boots and striped t-shirt, ah, Billy you looked so bad
Yeah you and your rock and roll band, you were the best thing this shit town ever had
Now the men that put you here eat with their families in rich dining halls
And apology and forgiveness got no place here at all, here at the wall

Well I'm sorry I missed you last year, I couldn't find no one to drive me
If your eyes could cut through that black stone, tell me would they recognize me
For the living time it must be served as the day goes on
Cigarettes and a bottle of beer, skin on black stone

On the ground dog tags and wreaths of flowers, with the ribbons red as the blood
Red as the blood you spilled in the Central Highlands mud
Limousines rush down Pennsylvania Avenue, rustling the leaves as they fall
And apology and forgiveness got no place here at all, here at the wall


Info

THE WALL is a song written by Bruce Springsteen and released on his 2014 album High Hopes. The above lyrics are for Bruce Springsteen's album version of THE WALL as released in 2014.

Background

Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa were in Washington, DC, on 07 Dec 1997 to attend Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. While in Washington they visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In a 19 Dec 2013 interview that premiered on 10 Jan 2014 during Dave Marsh's Live From E Street Nation show on Sirius XM's E Street Radio channel, Springsteen said, "So we went, and we're there in the day and I found Walter [Cichon]'s name. I'm not sure if I found Bart Haynes. Bart Haynes was the drummer in The Castiles and he was our first friend that was killed overseas, and then Walter."

Walter Cichon was the lead singer of The Motifs, a mid-60's New Jersey shore band. The Motifs was a new British Invasion-inspired band in early 1965 that soon afterwards was taken under the professional management of Norman Seldin. The Motifs immediately struck a chord with the teen audiences and by the summer of 1965, becoming the hottest new band in the New Jersey shore region. They eventually released a single, "Molly", in December 1965 on Seldin's fledgling Selsom Records label. The Motifs were a major inspiration in other kids forming bands during 1965-66. Sadly Walter Cichon, The Motifs dynamic lead singer, was drafted in 1967 and killed in Vietnam on 30 Mar 1968. He was twenty-two. Read the spoken intro for the live 16 Nov 2005 version of THE WALL.

In the spoken intro to the live 19 Feb 2003 version of THE WALL, Springsteen mentioned two friends who were killed in Vietnam, "the drummer of my first band and another close friend in town". These are most probably Bart Haynes and Walter Cichon. Haynes was the first drummer in Springsteen's earliest band, The Castiles. He joined the Marines and went to Vietnam on 13 May 1967. He was killed in action 5 months later, on 22 Oct 1967 (at the age of 19) in Quang Tri, South Vietnam. He was then replaced by drummer Vini Maniello.

Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa were sitting not far from Robert McNamara at the 1997 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. "There was this unusual experience that night of sitting a few tables away from Robert McNamara," Springsteen later said. McNamara, name-checked in the song, was the U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968, during which time he played a large role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War.

THE WALL was written after the visit to Washington and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in honor of Walter Cichon and Bart Haynes. The song's title and idea came from Joe Grushecky who sent Springsteen a few days following the visit to Washington a newspaper clipping about the memorial. Read the spoken intro for the live 19 Feb 2003 version of the song. In the above-mentioned E Street Radio interview, Springsteen said that Grushecky also sent him lyrics for a song called "The Wall", but it was different from Springsteen's THE WALL.

Springsteen wrote about the song in the liner notes to his 2014 album High Hopes:

"The Wall" is something I'd played on stage a few times and remains very close to my heart. The title and idea were Joe Grushecky's, then the song appeared after Patti and I made a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. It was inspired by my memories of Walter Cichon. Walter was one of the great early Jersey Shore rockers, who along with his brother Ray (one of my early guitar mentors) led the "Motifs". The Motifs were a local rock band who were always a head above everybody else. Raw, sexy and rebellious, they were the heroes you aspired to be. But these were heroes you could touch, speak to, and go to with your musical inquiries. Cool, but always accessible, they were an inspiration to me, and many young working musicians in 1960's central New Jersey. Though my character in "The Wall" is a Marine, Walter was actually in the Army, A Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry. He was the first person I ever stood in the presence of who was filled with the mystique of the true rock star. Walter went missing in action in Vietnam in March 1968. He still performs somewhat regularly in my mind, the way he stood, dressed, held the tambourine, the casual cool, the freeness. The man who by his attitude, his walk said "you can defy all this, all of what's here, all of what you've been taught, taught to fear, to love and you'll still be alright." His was a terrible loss to us, his loved ones and the local music scene. I still miss him.

Studio Recording

THE WALL was recorded with the E Street Band probably at Thrill Hill Recording (Springsteen's home studio) in Colts Neck, NJ, sometime between February 1998 and February 1999. In the above-mentioned E Street Radio interview, Bruce Springsteen mentioned that there are some studio sessions with the E Street Band that took place before The Rising recording sessions. "There are some sessions of the band going in for an evening and roughing out some songs," he said, and revealed that HARRY'S PLACE and THE WALL were among the songs recorded during these sessions.

Springsteen performed THE WALL live on very few occasions in 2003 and 2005, but it wasn't until 2014 that the song was released when it was included on High Hopes. In a December 2013 interview for Rolling Stone, Springsteen told Andy Greene that the song "was kind of out there under the radar, but it was just a song that meant a lot to me."

In a December 2013 interview for Rolling Stone, Ron Aniello told Andy Greene that he thinks that the recording of THE WALL on High Hopes is from the late nineties, but he's not sure. "I think that's just the band playing in a room. It's haunting. Danny [Federici] is there, too. We had a couple of guitars, but we wound up just using one. The way they transfer the music to digital, there's no track sheet and you don't know who is playing what. I didn't know who was playing what, and I added some touches to it. But that's the E Street Band back in the day. The track is beautiful and haunting. I think that's the only one [on High Hopes] they are all playing on."

The album version of THE WALL was produced by Ron Aniello with Bruce Springsteen. The performing musicians line-up on the track is:

  • Bruce Springsteen (vocal, guitar, drums)
  • Roy Bittan (piano)
  • Danny Federici (organ)
  • Nils Lofgren (guitar)
  • Patti Scialfa (backing vocals)
  • Garry Tallent (bass)
  • Max Weinberg (percussion)
  • Ron Aniello (synths, accordion)
  • Curt Ramm (coronet)

High Hopes

High Hopes is Bruce Springsteen's eighteenth studio album. It was officially released on 14 Jan 2014 on Columbia Records. It consists of 12 tracks and clocks at 56:24. Four songs were previously released in different versions (two of which are covers), two more were previously performed live but never released, and the remaining six are new to fans (one of which is a cover). "This is music I always felt needed to be released," Springsteen wrote in the album's liner notes.

In a December 2013 interview for Rolling Stone, Springsteen told Andy Greene that he has always written and recorded significantly more songs than can fit on to whatever album he's creating at the moment. "I have a lot of this music on a computer," he said. "I bring it out on the road to amuse myself. Very often, if I have nothing to do late at night I'll bring it up and look at different bodies of music." The songs that began catching Springsteen's attention were largely recorded after he reunited with the E Street Band in 1999. "The songs were relatively current and had a similar sound picture," he said. "I was interested in putting this material together in some form because it sounded like it all fit together... You have to imagine that when I'm home or done with a tour I go into a studio and I'm surrounded by paintings that I've sorta half-finished. There might be something wrong with this one and I didn't have time to finish this one. When I go into my studio, I'm surrounded by all my music that I haven't released. I wait to see what's going to speak to me." But then they cut a few sessions in 2013 while on tour. "I said, 'Well, these sound good,'" Springsteen told Rolling Stone. "These things blend together. Suddenly, it began to feel very fresh and fit together quite well."

Work on the album started in late 2012 when Springsteen called producer Ron Aniello asking him to work on some demos that he was thinking about releasing. "I remember that Bruce called me on my birthday, so it was December 9th, 2012", Aniello told Andy Greene in a December 2013 interview for Rolling Stone. "He said to me, 'I have some songs. I want to get together.'" According to Aniello, these were old demos that Springsteen had done with Toby Scott and that had been around for a while. Springsteen told him that he wanted to get these songs in shape and see what comes out of that. Aniello was not able to sit with Springsteen to sort it all out because Springsteen was away most of the time touring with the E Street Band. "It all happened in a very unusual manner," Aniello told Rolling Stone. "There was a lot of conversations in Europe and I did some of the recording via iChat when the band was in Australia."

In a January 2014 interview for Rolling Stone, Tom Morello told Andy Greene that he wasn't aware that there was ever talk of a new studio album when they sent him a couple of songs to add guitar on. He did that in his home studio and shortly after he was recording in studio with Max Weinberg and Ron Aniello. "But these studio sessions just kept occurring without any formal notion of what we were doing," Morello recounted. "My assumption was just that 'Bruce is always recording music.' So it was fantastic that I was asked to be a part of it. I was psyched." In March 2013 Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band performed ten shows in Australia as part of the Wrecking Ball Tour. Steven Van Zandt was off filming his television series Lillyhammer and was replaced by Morello for that leg of the tour. Morello suggested to add HIGH HOPES to the live set. They worked it up during the rehearsals prior to the Australian shows and Morello then "proceeded to burn the house down with it," as Springsteen said. They then re-cut the song along with JUST LIKE FIRE WOULD at Studios 301, Australia's largest studio complex. "Tom and his guitar became my muse, pushing the rest of this project to another level," Springsteen said. He told Rolling Stone's David Fricke, "We've never had a recording session during a tour in our lives. We did a couple of things that I wanted to put down. So that was very exciting. And being with Tommy was exciting. The band – Steven, Nils, all those guys – continues to be a source of inspiration for me." Morello told Rolling Stone that he didn't get the notion that this was "coalescing into what was going to be a major release" until they were in Australia.

No less than sixteen recording studios were used in the making of High Hopes: Thrill Hill Recording (Springsteen's home studio in Colts Neck, NJ), Stone Hill Studio (Springsteen's new home studio in Colts Neck, NJ), Very Loud House (in Los Angeles, CA), Renegade Studio (in New York City, NY), Veritas Studio (in Los Angeles, CA), Southern Tracks (Atlanta, GA), East West Studios (in Los Angeles, CA), NRG Studios (in Los Angeles, CA), Village Studios (in Los Angeles, CA), Studios 301 (in Byron Bay and Sydney, Australia), Record Plant (in Los Angeles, CA), Electric Lady Studios (in New York City, NY), Avatar Studios (in New York City, NY), Sear Sound (in New York City, NY), and Berkeley Street Studio (in Santa Monica, CA).

Ron Aniello revealed that at least 20 tracks were recorded for the album. Among the tracks that didn't make the album cut were COLD SPOT, HEY BLUE EYES, AMERICAN BEAUTY, and MARY MARY.

The album was produced by Bruce Springsteen, Brendan O'Brien, and Ron Aniello. It features all E Street Band members, including the late Clarence Clemons and the late Danny Federici on several songs of what Springsteen calls "some of our best unreleased material from the past decade." The album also features an ensemble of guest artists, including Tom Morello who's featured prominently on the album, appearing on eight tracks.

Bruce Springsteen -- High Hopes
Bruce Springsteen -- High Hopes

High Hopes is available in three configurations: standard CD edition, limited edition, and double-disc LP. The limited edition consists of the standard audio CD and includes a bonus live DVD of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band performing the entire Born In The U.S.A. album on 30 Jun 2013 at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, England, during the Wrecking Ball Tour. The double-disc LP is pressed on 180-gram vinyl and includes a CD version of the album.

High Hopes was officially announced on 25 Nov 2013 and the release date was set for 14 Jan 2014, but on 28 Dec 2013 it became available for purchase as individual tracks in MP3 format through Amazon.com's mobile application. Although Amazon quickly removed the files, presumably recognizing its mistake, the album had already made its way onto file-sharing websites.

The album topped the charts in 20 countries, including the United States and the UK. It was Springsteen's eleventh #1 album in the US, placing him third all-time for most #1 albums only behind The Beatles and Jay-Z. It was his tenth #1 in the UK, putting him joint fifth all-time and level with The Rolling Stones and U2.

Country Chart Peak position
Australia Aria Top 50 Albums Chart 1
Austria Alben Top 75 2
Belgium Ultratop 50 Albums (Flanders) 1
Belgium Ultratop 50 Albums (Wallonia) 2
Canada Billboard Top Canadian Albums 1
Croatia Arhiva Kombiniranih (all artists chart) 1
Czech Republic 1
Denmark Album 40 1
Finland Suomen Virallinen Albumilista 1
France Top 200 Albums 2
Germany Media Control Charts Top 100 Albums 1
Greece 1
Hungary Top 40 Albums 12
Ireland Top 100 Individual Artist Albums 1
Italy Top 20 Albums 1
Japan Japan Hot 100 8
New Zealand Album Top 40 1
Norway VG Lista Topp 40 Album 1
Poland Poland Albums Top 50 6
Portugal Albums Top 30 4
Slovenia 1
South Africa 5
South Korea 83
Spain Album Top 100 1
Sweden Sverigetopplistan Albums Top 60 1
Switzerland Albums Top 100 1
The Netherlands GFK Dutch AlbumTop 100 1
UK Official UK Albums Top 100 1
USA Billboard 200 1

Other Official Releases

live.brucespringsteen.net
Audio recordings for most High Hopes Tour shows were officially released on live.brucespringsteen.net. These include 7 versions of THE WALL.

  1. 12 Apr 2014 at Farm Bureau Live At Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach, VA
  2. 17 Apr 2014 at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
  3. 19 Apr 2014 at Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
  4. 22 Apr 2014 at Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
  5. 29 Apr 2014 at BB&T Center, Sunrise, FL
  6. 13 May 2014 at Times Union Center, Albany, NY
  7. 14 May 2014 at Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA

Live History: on-tour

THE WALL was performed twice during the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour (72 dates, April to November 2005). See the live 16 Nov 2005 version for more details.

  1. 11 Nov 2005 at Constant Convocation Center At Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA
  2. 16 Nov 2005 at Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, NJ

THE WALL was performed 7 times during the High Hopes Tour (34 dates, January to May 2014). Audio recordings for most High Hopes Tour shows are officially available for purchase. See the live 19 Apr 2014 version for more details.

  1. 12 Apr 2014 at Farm Bureau Live At Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach, VA
  2. 17 Apr 2014 at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
  3. 19 Apr 2014 at Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
  4. 22 Apr 2014 at Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
  5. 29 Apr 2014 at BB&T Center, Sunrise, FL
  6. 13 May 2014 at Times Union Center, Albany, NY
  7. 14 May 2014 at Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA

Live History: off-tour

THE WALL was performed off-tour on 19 and 20 Feb 2003 at Somerville Theatre in Somerville, MA, during the DoubleTake Magazine benefit shows. See the live 19 Feb 2003 version for more details.

Bruce Springsteen appeared at a total of six Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers concerts at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, in 2010, 2011, and 2014. THE WALL was performed on 22 May 2014. The song was played solo on acoustic guitar.

  1. 22 May 2014 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, Pittsburgh, PA

Covers

As far as it's known, no artist has recorded and released Bruce Springsteen's THE WALL.

In a December 2013 interview for Rolling Stone, Bruce Springsteen told Andy Greene that "Brian Fallon from Gaslight Anthem called just a little bit after we cut it saying, 'Hey, I've been thinking about cutting this song.' And I said, 'We just cut it for our next record.'"

Credits/References

Thanks Elke for the help on this page and Saj for the corrections. Thanks Lars (L.B. at Greasy Lake) for the lyrics help. Information about The Motifs is taken from Brucebase.

Available Versions

List of available versions of THE WALL on this website:

THE WALL [Album version]
THE WALL [Live 19 Feb 2003 version]
THE WALL [Live 16 Nov 2005 version]
THE WALL [Live 19 Apr 2014 version]

Page last updated: 10 Dec 2015