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Oct 08

PINK FLOYD – “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)”

FT + Popular73 comments • 8,253 views

#448, 15th December 1979

The 1970s ends with one of its most explicitly anti-establishment hits – Roger Waters’ direct frontal attack on the school system. Education is thought control, the flower of youthful creativity ruthlessly crushed by frustrated men grinding kids through their sausage machine. If we don’t watch out this will end up in a fascist state where we’re all ruled by robot hammers. Grinding conformity is represented by the dark pulse of a disco bassline, which wells into the unfettered individuality of a big old Dave Gilmour guitar solo – hurrah!

“Another Brick” may be as subtle as one, but the massed choir of kids singing “We don’t need no thought control” has a creepy power, with the music’s ponderousness actually helping the song build its sour, thick atmosphere, guitars skritching uneasily around the lumbering bottom end. I have an apostate’s dislike of 70s-onwards Pink Floyd – for six months or so at 14 I thought they were profound and hugely important, on one occasion shunning a party in order to listen carefully through The Wall and extract still deeper meanings from it. My distaste for them ever since has been amplified by embarrassment – though I do honestly think they’re rubbish, Waters’ immense bitterness and misanthropy colouring and curdling their work beyond my ability to enjoy it.

But this is a rare and partial exception – Waters’ championing of the individual may not have extended to the contributions of his bandmates, but thanks to them (and the kids) “Another Brick” does a job. The one it set out to do? I don’t know – when you mix individualism and misanthropy you can easily end up with nihilism, and there’s a cackling viciousness to the kids’ voices to remind us that life without teacher might end up scarier than Waters imagines.

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Comments

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  1. 61
    Andy Pandy on 6 Oct 2009 #

    Good comment -I was 14 when this came out and although I bought “The Wall” at the time have gradually realised that for me “Wish You Were Here” was the last classic and I haven’t really liked anything I’ve heard by them since (to be honest I havent heard much stuff after “The Wall”). And I find “Animals” so execrable that it marks a nice neat dividing line between the peereless stuff from 1967-75 and the rest.
    PS I even like “Ummagumma” even the live stuff and I don’t usually like live albums at all.

  2. 62
    lonepilgrim on 13 Dec 2009 #

    For fans of the band or the album, here’s a live performance from 1980 – including some songs left off the album.
    http://www.bigozine2.com/archive/ARrarities08/ARpfnassau.html

    I’ve become quite taken with ‘Comfortably Numb’ – particularly the live version with Bowie at the Albert Hall (which, with it’s awesome guitar solos juxtaposed with images of middle-aged geezers (like myself) striking poses, I find quite affecting). I keep meaning to listen to the album as in an age where much pop seems focus-grouped to death it seems like a refreshing contrast to hear something that is characterised by ‘immense bitterness and misanthropy’.

  3. 63
    MildredBumble on 6 Jun 2010 #

    @ 58 pink floyd lover

    So the system needs to change because, apparently according to your all-but-indecipherable rant, the teachers were rude to you. I’ll grant you, the ‘system’ isn’t perfect but it cannot be blamed for the failure of hypocritical, entitled illiterates like you.

  4. 64
    lonepilgrim on 12 Nov 2010 #

    Pink Floyd fans (and others) may want to follow this track-by-track journey through their history:

    http://yeeshkul.tumblr.com/

  5. 65
    lonepilgrim on 12 Dec 2010 #

    Somehow the combination of war memorial and educational protest seems entirely appropriate:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/dec/12/charlie-gilmour-arrest-student-protests

  6. 66
    seekenee on 5 Jun 2011 #

    This was a big record for 9 year old me, but I usually only experienced it as part of The Wall (er, like a brick?) which is my favourite Floyd album probably because I inhaled it so completely at that impressionable age throughout 1980, (ironically it was these rusty dinosaurs who primed me for my fave punk acts which I would soon discover) – can’t say I’ve played the 7” much over the years though it is the only way to hear the opening pre-vocal intro section.

    In fact the instrumental intro and outro are by far more enjoyable than what lies between, the shouty children’s chorus being somewhat unwelcome. Still, it’s the only number one that’s a part of a trilogy of the same song, (isn’t it?) and I saw the singer in Scissor Sisters speaking of its influence on TV once and he gave it its full title i.e. ABITW PART TWO (displaying a level of retentiveness to which I could relate but never consider.)

    ABITW is also an early example of the hit single represented/recalled by the non-performance, artist-free music video (unlike, say, Buggles, funnily enough). This is not necessarily a good thing.

    There was a backlash of sorts I remember re: the lyrics, when Madness released Baggy Trousers they were on an anti-ABITW buzz in some interviews (Smash Hits?) a la teachers and kids all in the same boat..etc.
    I’d give it a seven for guitar solo and (non) groove.

  7. 67
    Mark G on 21 Aug 2012 #

    Syd Sings!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSusDIz5VyU

  8. 68
    Erithian on 14 Nov 2013 #

    “I heard this song on the radio, something about “teacher, leave the kids alone”, and it occurred to me even then that at my school it was “kids, leave the poor bloody teachers alone”. So I was trying to redress the balance a bit…” – Suggs.

  9. 69
    punctum on 8 Jan 2014 #

    TPL on the epilogue to The Wall, or perhaps something greater than The Wall: http://nobilliards.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/pink-floyd-final-cut.html

  10. 70
    Rory on 18 Feb 2014 #

    Worth noting here that some further “Another Brick” discussions have cropped up in the “Mama” thread. (Okay, so it’s mainly me so far. I’m posting this link rather than cross-posting that comment.)

  11. 71
    hectorthebat on 18 Aug 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 4
    Life (USA) – 40 Years of Rock & Roll, 5 Songs for Each Year 1952-91 (Updated 1995)
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    RIAA and NEA (USA) – 365 Songs of the Century (2001) 296
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 375
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 384
    Treble (USA) – The Top 200 Songs of the 1970s (2012) 127
    VH1 (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs from the Past 25 Years (2003) 15
    Dave Thompson (UK) – 1000 Songs that Rock Your World (2011) 925
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    XFM (UK) – The Top 1000 Songs of All Time (2010)
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 13
    Rolling Stone (Germany) – The 500 Best Songsof All Time (2004) 424
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  12. 72
    Patrick Mexico on 16 Nov 2014 #

    I always mishear this as “Christmas Day… Should we break in the mall?” Which would single-handedly raise this from a 6 to a 10.

  13. 73
    cryptopian on 22 Nov 2015 #

    Even as a big Pink Floyd fan, I’ve never gelled with this one. Maybe it’s the sledgehammer politics, maybe it’s the lack of interesting melody-line. I know that I have an irrational aversion to child choirs, so that certainly doesn’t help. There’s enough here for a 5, but no more for me.

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