Another Brick In The Wall (Part II) sleeve


11 December 1979 – 14 January 1980 · Harvest HAR 5194 · Writer: Roger Waters

It’s now widely regarded as a classic single, but the last number one of the 1970s and the first of the 1980s took everyone by surprise.

The Pink Floyd’s only two previous hit singles – Arnold Layne and See Emily Play – had been back in 1967, when the band was an entirely different proposition. Under the leadership of celebrated oddball Syd Barrett, the Floyd were darlings of the underground scene, known for producing tripped-out psychedelic ditties and ingesting remarkable quantities of mind-altering substances. Before long, Barrett’s enthusiasm for hallucinogens overtook his ability to perform and he was quietly sidelined, to be replaced by the altogether less way-out David Gilmour. The band soon veered away from the confines of the three-minute single towards lengthier pieces, which could often take up a whole side of an album.

By the mid-1970s, thanks largely to the runaway success of their concept album Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd was exactly the kind of sprawling prog rock behemoth that punk was supposed to sweep away. The young Johnny Rotten, it is said, was fond of wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt with the words “I hate” scrawled above the band’s logo. After the release of their Animals album in early 1977, the Floyd sat out most of the punk era, although this was by no means an admission of defeat – rather, Roger Waters was writing that antithesis of all things punk, a rock opera.

As with all rock operas, and indeed much of Waters’ later work, The Wall has gained a reputation for being overblown and pretentious. However, as perhaps the most immediately accessible part of the suite, Another Brick In The Wall (Part II) quickly took on an identity of its own. Underpinned by a simple, no-frills drum beat which nods vaguely in the direction of disco, the song’s one verse and single-line chorus is sung by Waters and then reprised by a group of children who sound more like the Bash Street Kids than the St Winifred’s School Choir. Its simplicity confounded the critics and won over the singles-buying public who would never previously have considered buying a Pink Floyd record. It became 1979’s Christmas number one and held onto the position through the first two weeks of 1980.

Anyone hoping for the Floyd to maintain their mainstream success in the new decade was disappointed, however; the band troubled the top forty only twice more throughout the decade, their biggest success being Not Now John, a number 30 hit in 1983. Waters left the band in acrimonious circumstances following the release of their 1983 album The Final Cut, since which time the band has only managed three further studio albums: A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (1987, #3), The Division Bell (1994, #1) and 2014’s The Endless River. The latter set, intended as the band’s farewell release, was based around unreleased recordings from sessions for their previous album twenty years earlier. Waters has since progressed from rock opera to writing a “proper” opera, Ca Ira.

Waters was briefly reconciled with Pink Floyd in 2005 when they took part in London’s Live 8 concert, which turned out to be the band’s last performance with keyboard player Richard Wright who died in 2008. Waters and Gilmour continue to perform, both including Floyd material in their sets, and the two have – very occasionally – guested at each other’s shows, including one of Waters’ live performances of The Wall in 2011 at which Gilmour and Mason both unexpectedly appeared.

Another Brick In The Wall (Part II) almost topped the chart again in 2007 when dance producer Eric Prydz turned it into the dance track Proper Education, credited to “Eric Prydz Vs Floyd”. Despite – or perhaps because of – the song’s iconic status, it has been strangely resistant to cover versions. One notable exception is techno-punk duo Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine’s deconstruction of the track for the NME’s 1992 compilation album Ruby Trax, complete with gratuitous cry of “All in all you’re just another brick in the wall… motherfucker!” The spirit of Johnny Rotten’s t-shirt lives on…

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One comment on “ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL (PART II) – Pink Floyd

  1. This reminds me of dancing around in my Dad’s friend’s teenage daughter’s bedroom as she used to babysit me from time to time; I was only 3 but I absolutely loved this track! She had it on single and I would ask her to play it all the time.

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