10
Oct 08

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

FT + Popular73 comments • 7,706 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. 51
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 20 Oct 2008 #

    yes also released singles now and then — “going for the one”, the clue is in the name!

    mike oldfield made a special point of writing songs precisely for singles release, that weren’t gathered on LP till much later

    i think this claim has become a but of an-overgeneralised anti-prog calumny actually: a lot of prog ideology , so-called, is really actually just the inadvertent photonegative of the positions being taken by the younger-sibling movement jostling for prog’s position of “seriousness in rock” (punks said and did this because prog “didn’t” — but there was never a “prog partyline”)

    (indeed you could probably still start arguments on eg ilx by claiming that PF or zep ARE prog!)

  2. 52
    wichita lineman on 22 Oct 2008 #

    The new Record Collector has a nicely timed Floyd singles feature. Give Birth To A Smile from The Body was a 45 in the Phillipines. Never heard it, but I’m guessing it didn’t press the same radio-friendly buttons as ABITW. Or even Apples And Oranges.

    I once heard, but have no confirmation, that there was no album pressing plant in the Phillipines so some verrry odd singles got released.

    As for Prog albums/singles debate, it was an album genre whereas Punk was def a singles genre. No? I’ve got a “45” of Roundabout by Yes which plays at 33 and can only be heard if it’s cranked up to 11 – doesn’t work.

    Led Zeppelin are the only Underground (is that a catch-all that includes Prog?) group who can be confirmed as not releasing singles for ideological (ie money making, mystique building) reasons. Unless anyone knows different?

  3. 53
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 22 Oct 2008 #

    an admittedly quick skim thru the progrography reveals that the Usual Suspects — inc. zep!! — all released singles from time to time (Crimson probbly with the least alacrity)…

    … EXCEPT GONG!

  4. 54
    mike on 22 Oct 2008 #

    Well, “Opium For The People” was a single, so that sort-of counts. There was also “Ooby Scooby Doomsday”, which was recorded for single release (with the express aim of having a Top 40 hit… AS IF) but never issued.

  5. 55
    lonepilgrim on 6 Feb 2009 #

    there’s an interesting article by a sometime contributer about tha floyd here:

    http://thequietus.com/articles/01084-careful-with-that-axe-pink-floyd-reappraised

    ..he does’nt think much about the wall mind you..

  6. 56
    JonnyB on 24 Apr 2009 #

    Golly. What a thread.

    What can I add? Bob Ezrin was brought in to stop Waters and Gilmour killing each other, or at the very least to mediate and help the less-musically articulate bass player realise his vision. Every interview with Roger Waters I’ve ever read has given the impression that he knows nothing whatsoever about other popular music and isn’t particularly interested – he likes words, he likes ideas and concepts, he likes making an impression. Gilmour has proved subsequently that he has a weakness for the technology and overproduction. Bob Ezrin thus got his leeway, and amongst other things took the fairly rudimentary ‘Wall’ theme and suggested one of the versions of it on the album (there are three, plus other snatches of the theme) is played to a straight disco beat. The childrens’ choir didn’t come from the band – it was recorded and played to them later, spliced in as the second verse. The double album was cocking expensive, so the promotion of a single would help with this.

    So no great design. Nothing worth great analysis; no hidden agenda. A great pop song, like many of the others featured in this series.

    The guitar solo, for me, is fantastic. It’s beautifully played and has this incredibly light touch. And what makes it is the chords underneath, anchored by that bass that doesn’t move an inch.

    I guess I’ve always thought ‘The Wall’ is the Pink Floyd album for people who don’t like Pink Floyd. Certainly I thought and still think that about Comfortably Numb (a song I still quite like) – now THAT’S a teeth-clenching solo. Dark Side of the Moon is a fantastic record, although it’s not fashionable at the moment. Whether people like them or not, they’ve always been a terrifically interesting band.

  7. 57
    MikeMCSG on 15 Jul 2009 #

    Ironic that this was the number one going into the 80s the decade when public school lefties such as Waters (the Tony Benn of rock music) were to become deeply unfashionable and disliked.

  8. 58
    pink floyd lover on 30 Jul 2009 #

    looki agree whit you abut the it is an attack to the studing sistemBUT IS TRUE THE SISTEM NEEDS TO CHANGE BECAUSE IN THAT TIME THE TEACHERS AND THEY KEEP BEEN SO RUDE WHIT THE KIDS so you need to understand that fucker and to the closed minds like you can take wrong the message of the music ok
    fuck you

  9. 59
    Tom on 31 Jul 2009 #

    This is what happens when the teachers leave them kids alone :(

  10. 60
    thefatgit on 5 Oct 2009 #

    Speaking as a fan of Pink Floyd, I felt I had to comment. I was 13 when this reached the top of the charts. I couldn’t have been happier to see my favourite group at the top. However, this particular track off The Wall was the weakest track. Yes, it had resonance with school-age kids like myself, although it failed to knock School’s Out off it’s school disco perch for it’s morose dead disco feel. Imagine dancing to Staying Alive (constantly popular at our school disco nights) then hearing Mason’s flat beat cut in followed by Roger Waters vocal. Way to kill the mood Mr DJ! This was when I realised why my Beloved Floyd were an album band. This was bedroom disco then, laying on my bed, tapping my foot against my headboard, secretly raging against the injustices of my school day. I wanted to love this single, but even in my bedroom, this felt like going through the motions. I was infinitely more satisfied with the album as a whole and even then much more inclined to spin Wish You Were Here or Dark Side Of The Moon and escape to that place inside my head where nothing at all mattered. If anything, I longed for a fearsome teacher at my school that resembled that eye-popping hammerhead from the video. None of my teachers inspired anything more than disdain. Would my school experience be different if any of my teachers yelled “YOU…YES YOU!! STAND STILL LADDIE!!!” in my direction?

    After giving this track another listen, I feel this represents the beginning of Pink Floyd’s downhill journey. The following albums lacked the magnitude of their pe-Wall output (Ummagumma aside). I prefer a period from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, where their creative force was all pervading. A new release from Pink Floyd was an event in my house, as both my parents were fans as well. I know you’re supposed to rebel against your parents’ taste in music, but that moment would come much, much later. ABITWP2 was accepted for what it was, a part of The Last Great Concept Album of The Seventies. And so it remains.

  11. 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.

  12. 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’.

  13. 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.

  14. 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/

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 67
    Mark G on 21 Aug 2012 #

    Syd Sings!

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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.)

  21. 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)

  22. 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.

  23. 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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