This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #86: Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd.
It seems appropriate that on the day following “Mental Health Day” in Canada, that a song built around the premise of depression, anxiety and social isolation should be next on our countdown list. “Another Brick in the Wall” was released in 1979. It was from a concept album called “The Wall”. The idea for the album, “The Wall”, came about while Pink Floyd were touring the world in promotion of their previous album, “In The Flesh”. During that tour, singer Roger Waters began to sense that the connection the band had always had with its fans was waning. He felt a disconnect and became increasingly agitated at the fact that fans seemed as eager to drink and to socialize among themselves as they did to listen and interact with the band. By the end of that tour, Waters was having angry exchanges with the audience and, at one point, he even spit upon some partiers in the front row in Montreal.
As the tour drew to a close, tensions were high within the band. Waters emotional issues aside, the band was also in financial trouble due to some poor investment decisions made by a firm they had hired to manage their finances so that they could concentrate on the creative side of things. So, even though everyone in the band desperately needed a break from performing, from touring and from each other, their financial dire straits forced them straight back to work.
David Gilmour took it upon himself to look into managing the band’s money, which left Waters to come up with a concept for the next album which, by necessity, needed to be released quickly. Because of the alienation he was feeling with regard to their fans, Rogers came up with the idea of building a wall on stage between the band and the audience. Then, he went one step further and thought about all the different ways people manage to erect walls around their own lives in order to protect themselves from things that are hurtful or scary or that make them angry. Waters then took that idea and refined it based on the memory of former lead singer, Syd Barrett, and how he retreated within himself as mental illness took hold. From it all, the concept for an album called, “The Wall” was formed.
Within the album concept are a collection of songs that all explore various facets of the the process that brings one to the point where an emotional wall is needed. The song that we know as, “Another Brick in the Wall” is actually the middle song in a three-part trilogy of tunes. The song deals with Waters’ experiences in the British school system. If you know the song at all, you can surmise that Waters did not enjoy his time in school; finding the teachers to be overly strict and lacking in real teaching skills. After hearing the song on the radio, many fans mistakenly thought that the entire album was one big anti-education rant but, that is not the case. Waters’ views on his school experiences were, quite literally, just “another brick in the wall” that he built around himself in order to survive, psychologically and emotionally.
Ordinarily, Pink Floyd were not in the habit of releasing singles. They preferred that their fans accept their vision as being album-based so, as a result, many fans were perplexed when “Another Brick in the Wall” was actually released on its own. Originally, when Waters was writing the song, as part of the overall story arc, it was less than two minutes long and was meant to be just one small part of an entire rock opera. However, producer Bob Ezrins saw something in it that Waters didn’t and asked to be allowed to “add” to the song. Waters reluctantly agreed, as long as Ezrins didn’t expect to receive a song writing credit because the band needed all the money it could get and couldn’t afford splitting it any further for Ezrins. Ezrins agreed anyway.
His idea was to add a children’s choir. He felt that a song about school experiences held by children would seem more real if there were real children’s voices on the song. So, Ezrins approached a music teacher at a school located not far from their studio and asked if they had a choir and, if so, would they agree to practice part of the song and them come to the studio to record it. The music teacher, who knew of Pink Floyd, was very happy to allow his students to become involved. However, he was fearful that the Headmistress of the school would probably not allow her school to be associated with an anti-education song. So, the teacher rehearsed with the students in secret. The Headmistress didn’t find out what he had done until the choir had recorded their part for Ezrins. When Ezrins played the finished song for Waters and the rest of the band, they all agreed that the children helped to elevate the track and added a level of poignancy that, otherwise, would have been lacking. The funny thing about this is because of how tight the band was with money at the time, they simply made a small donation to the school, along with a framed album and cover. They did not give the children a singing credit and, as such, denied them a share of the royalties they should have been earning all along. At the time, copyright laws in the UK allowed for such a thing but, about twenty years later, the laws changed and someone rounded up all of the former choir members and launched a class action suit against the band. The children, who were adults now, won a nominal sum to settle their claim.
All in all, the song, “Another Brick in the Wall”, from the album, “The Wall” was a huge success, selling almost forty million copies making “The Wall”, along with “Dark Side of the Moon”, two of the most important albums of all-time. There was a musical staged, as well as, a movie shot. Many who saw the movie claim that it was really “weird”. But, in Pink Floyd’s defence, the movie was based on someone having to battle a variety of mental illnesses which, as some of you may know from firsthand experience, isn’t easy to describe in a safe, linear fashion. So, of course, the movie, “The Wall” is confusing and disturbing because, in real life, mental illness is that way, too. So, when we speak of being advocates for Mental wellness, it means really rolling up our sleeves and being prepared for whatever awaits. For those who suffer, if a wall helps you then, build away. If my hand and my time help you then, ask away and it shall be yours. For now, let’s all strive to be there for others as they need us to be.
In the meantime, here is Pink Floyd’s famous song, “Another Brick in the Wall” from the album, “The Wall”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd, can be found here.
The link to the video for the trailer for the movie, “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Pink Floyd, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.