In a world of love songs, Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” inevitably stands out.
The defiant anthem is a satirical view on formal education, a loud protest against authority, and it became one of Pink Floyd’s most recognizable songs.
Here we’ll dive into the song’s context, composition, and success.
Just one part of the story.
“Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” is as it’s descriptor indicates, only one part of the story. There are three sections of “Another Brick in the Wall” on Pink Floyd’s 1979 rock opera album, The Wall. All three parts total eight odd minutes of building up emotional walls.
The beginning, “Part 1,” sets the scene with the protagnoist’s first blow from life. His father abandons the narrator, whether that is in death or otherwise, and creates a level of distress. Daddy, what else did you leave for me? / Daddy, what’d ya leave behind for me?
“Part 2,” which we will get to, continues the assembling of emotion. Then, “Part 3” concludes the trilogy with the determination that everyone has simply been just bricks in the wall.
Recording an unexpected beat and children’s choir.
Roger Waters, singer/songwriter and bassist for Pink Floyd, wrote the “Another Brick in the Wall” song series and the band recorded the songs for several months in 1979.
For “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2),” the underlying beat leans into the themes and sounds of disco. And according to guitarist David Gilmour, the band’s producer Bob Ezrin, has suggested this sonic turn. “[Ezrin] said to me, ‘Go to a couple of clubs and listen to what’s happening with disco music,’” Gilmour recalled in a 2009 interview with Guitar World, “so I forced myself out and listened to loud, four-to-the-bar bass drums and stuff and thought, Gawd, awful! Then we went back and tried to turn one of the parts into one of those so it would be catchy.”
Another unique aspect of “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” is the children’s choir that sings the second verse of the song. The collection of young singers was composed of 23 children from the Islington Green School in North London. After recording, the childrens’ part was overdubbed 12 times to give the effect of many, many more children singing.
Ezrin explains their decision to use a children’s choir: “[W]e sent [engineer] Nick Griffiths to a school near the Floyd studios [in Islington, North London]. I said, ‘Give me 24 tracks of kids singing this thing. I want Cockney, I want posh, fill ’em up,’ and I put them on the song. I called Roger into the room, and when the kids came in on the second verse there was a total softening of his face, and you just knew that he knew it was going to be an important record.”
Lyrics: Say a lot with little.
The lyrics themselves while not necessarily elaborate, speak volumes.
We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teacher, leave them kids alone
Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!
It’s a pretty glaring critic of the education system, but Waters explained that it wasn’t so much of a blanket statement on education itself, but rather a statement to inspire a sense of individuality.
“Obviously, I care deeply about education. I just wanted to encourage anyone who marches to a different drum to push back against those who try to control their minds rather than to retreat behind emotional walls,” Waters told The Wall Street Journal in 2015.
Further explaining how he arrived at these lyrics, Waters revealed that his own experiences in school left a bad taste in his mouth.
“The lyrics were a reaction to my time at the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys in 1955, when I was 12,” Waters told The Wall Street Journal. “Some of the teachers there were locked into the idea that young boys needed to be controlled with sarcasm and the exercising of brute force to subjugate us to their will. That was their idea of education.”
Success and its haters.
Pink Floyd released “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” as a single, their first single release after “Point Me at the Sky” in 1968. The track topped the charts in 14 different countries, including the United States and the UK The song also garnered a Grammy nomination and a spot on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list in 2010.
Not everyone liked the track, however. The single and the subsequent album were banned in South Africa in 1980 after the lyrics were used by school children to protest their educaiton under apartheid. Prime minster Margaret Thatcher was also reported to have “hated it.”
All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall
Photo by Doug McKenzie/Getty Images