“Another Brick in the Wall” is the title of three songs set to variations of the same basic theme, on Pink Floyd‘s 1979 concept album, The Wall, subtitled “Part I”, “Part II”, and “Part III”, respectively, all of which were written by Pink Floyd’s bassist and then lead songwriter, Roger Waters. “Part II” is one of the band’s most well known songs and also their biggest hit, peaking at #1 on the American singles charts and also the UK charts. In addition, the second part was #375 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
“Part II,” best known for the line “We don’t need no education”, was released as a single, and provided the band’s only number-one hit in the UK, the US, West Germany and many other countries. In the UK, it was their first single since 1968′s “Point Me at the Sky”. It is a protest song against rigid schooling in general and boarding schools in particular, which has led to the song being banned in several countries.
For “Part II”, Pink Floyd needed a school choir, and producer Bob Ezrin asked sound engineer Nick Griffiths to find one. Griffiths approached music teacher Alun Renshaw of Islington Green School, around the corner from their Britannia Row Studios. The choir were not allowed to hear the rest of the song after singing the chorus, and were let down, as they wanted to hear Gilmour’s solo. Though the school received a lump sum payment of £1000, there was no contractual arrangement for royalties from record sales. Under 1996 UK copyright law, they became eligible for royalties from broadcasts, and after royalties agent Peter Rowan traced choir members through the website Friends Reunited and other means, they claimed their payments. Contrary to press reports, this did not involve suing Pink Floyd. Music industry professionals estimated that each student would be owed around £500.
“Part II” gave Pink Floyd a Grammy nomination for Best Performance by a Rock Duo or Group and lost to Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind”.
In 1980, the song was adopted as a protest anthem by black students during the “Elsie’s River” uprising in South Africa, protesting against the racial propaganda and bias in the official curriculum. On May 2, it was banned by the government.
Each of the “Another Brick in the Wall”s have a similar, if not the same tune and lyrical structure (not lyrics, apart from the “all in all” part), and each one is louder, and more enraged, e.g. Part I is not angry, but rather sad, Part II is a protest, but not insanely angry, and Part III is rather angry, selfish, pessimistic and cynical.
Part one of the song is very quiet in dynamics, and features a long, subdued guitar solo. The vocals are softer and more gentle in tone than in Parts II and III, although there is a short, sharp rise in dynamics and tone for a brief period towards the end of the lyrical portion.
“The Thin Ice” discussed during the previous song breaks when Pink becomes older and learns of the death of his father. Pink is devastated by this reality and begins to build The Wall.
Pink’s mother is seen praying in a church, after the death of her husband overseas. Pink however is, at this point, oblivious of his death, playing with a toy aeroplane. The song continues with Pink playing in a public park, after his mother leaves him to go shopping. He sees a man, who he takes a liking to in the absence of his own father. The man gives Pink a lift onto a ride, and it’s clear Pink feels as if this man is his real father. Pink follows the man’s son around, copying him, but doesn’t understand why the other boy’s father isn’t paying attention to him. He grabs the man’s hand, but is shooed away, only to grab the man’s hand again. The man pushes Pink away again, and dejectedly he sits on a swing.
In the album version of The Wall, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” transitions in from “The Happiest Days of Our Lives”, with a trademark scream from Roger Waters (Waters screams like this most notably on the track “Careful with That Axe, Eugene”). The two songs are sometimes played one after the other on the radio, particularly on rock stations, because of how the songs merge together, and because the single version has a guitar intro not used on the album. The song has strong drums, a well known bass line and distinctive guitar parts in the background with a smooth yet edgy guitar solo. The song also features a group of school children for lead vocals in the second verse: as the song ends, the sounds of a school yard are heard, along with the teacher who continues to lord it over the children’s lives by shouting such things as “Wrong! Do it again!” which somehow sounds mocking, and “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?!”, all of it dissolving into the dull drone of a phone ringing, and ending with a deep sigh.
After being insulted by the teacher, Pink dreams that the kids in Pink’s school begin to protest against their abusive teachers.
Following “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” Pink starts to daydream during his class. He imagines several students marching in unison to the beat of the song, walking through a machine only to emerge as putty-faced clones void of any individual distinction. The children follow the path until they ultimately fall blindly into an oversized meat grinder. Starting with Gilmour’s guitar solo, the children destroy their school and create a bonfire, dragging their teacher out of the burning school kicking and screaming. The song ends with Pink rubbing his hand, which the teacher slapped with a ruler in the previous song.
In this part of the film, the theme of ‘hammers’ is shown by the meat grinder. A shadow of its workings shows a hammer moving back and forth, squashing up the putty-faced children inside.
Prior to the film, the first video for the track, directed by Gerald Scarfe, depicted students running in a playground and the teacher puppet from The Wall concerts was used. The video also mixed in some animated scenes later used in “The Trial” and “Waiting for the Worms”. The children who sang on “Another Brick in the Wall (Pt. 2)” could not appear in the video because they didn’t hold Equity Cards.
* The single version had a short guitar intro.
* The versions from live albums and videos Delicate Sound of Thunder and P*U*L*S*E (recorded after Waters’ departure from the band) feature the main guitar solo by David Gilmour, followed by an additional tapped guitar lead by touring guitarist Tim Renwick. These are backed by Guy Pratt’s slap bass lines.
* The version from Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81 (from the 1980–81 concerts at Earls Court, London) also features an extended solo by Snowy White and an organ solo by Richard Wright.
* In 1990, prior to The Wall Live in Berlin a rare, limited edition promo CD was issued to radio stations (Mercury CSK 2126) which included When the Tigers Broke Free and a new version of “Another Brick in the Wall part 2″ re-recorded by Roger Waters and the Bleeding Heart Band
* The version from The Wall Live in Berlin has Cyndi Lauper singing lead vocals, and features Rick DiFonzo playing the original solo, Snowy White playing a second guitar solo, Peter Wood playing an organ solo, and Thomas Dolby playing a synthesizer solo.
* An edit without the segue from “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” and with an early fade-out was included in the 1981 compilation A Collection of Great Dance Songs.
* The song was included with “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” in the compilation Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd, and segues into the first note of an edited version of “Echoes”.
Pink decides to finish this wall as a result of his rage after his wife’s betrayal. He concludes he no longer needs anything at all, dismissing the people in his life as just “bricks in the wall”.
* Roger Waters: bass guitar, lead and harmony vocals, guitar on “Part III”
* David Gilmour: guitars, lead vocals on “Part II” (in unison with Waters), harmony vocals on “Part I”
* Nick Mason: drums on “Part II” and “Part III”
* Richard Wright: Hammond organ “Part II”, Prophet-5 synthesizer
* Islington Green School students (organised by Alun Renshaw ): vocals on “Part II”