Roger Waters, Pink Floyd, Bob Ezrin and “Another brick in the Wall”

Roger Waters is a social critic by temperament but he doesn't spare himself from criticism. He has said straight out that playing arenas is all about making money.

“But, er, I felt at the same time that it was a situation we'd created ourselves through our own greed, you know, if you play very large venues...the only real reason for playing large venues is to make money… I'm actually happy that they do whatever they feel is necessary because they're only expressing their response to what it's like, in a way I'm saying they're right, you know, that those shows are bad news.”

Notwithstanding his feelings about playing arenas, Waters continues to tour them because the combined fan base of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters is still a large one and turns out in large numbers.

The Wall will probably always be remembered as a Pink Floyd rock masterpiece, both the album (1982) and stage presentation (performed by Roger Waters and produced Tony Hollingsworth).  

Following the album’s release, and touring behind The Wall, artistic differences (as they are called) ended the band’s run. But the album’s legacy has held up for decades and will likely last for decades more. A lot of records, merchandise, and rock t-shirts have been sold because The Wall had gained a place in the hearts of fans worldwide. Their place in music memorabilia is also ensured.

"Another Brick in the Wall," the cornerstone of the album is three songs in one. The story of its creation makes a compelling account. Part 1 had the working title "Reminiscing", Part 2 was called "Education,", and Part 3 was known as "Drugs." Pink Floyd's bassist, Roger Waters wrote the entire song—with a little bit of help from producer Bob Ezrin.

Part 2 is the section most people remember vividly. It was released as a single and gave the band its only number one hit in the United States and the UK and was also a hit in many other countries. It sold over four million copies across the globe. The single and the album that included it was banned in South Africa in 1980 when supporters of a school boycott against the apartheid regime adopted it. Waters continued to embrace social issues throughout his career and this became a sore point between him and Gilmour.

Ezrin said, “The most important thing I did for the song was to insist that it be more than just one verse and one chorus long, which it was when Roger wrote it. When we played it with the disco drumbeat I said: ‘Man, this is a hit! But it's one minute 20. We need two verses and two choruses.’ And [the band said], ‘Well you're not bloody getting them. We don't do singles, so fuck you.’ So I said, ‘Okay, fine’, and they left. And because of our two [tape recorder] set up, while they weren't around we were able to copy the first verse and chorus, take one of the drum fills, put them in between and extend the chorus.”

The question about the second verse, which was the same as the first, posed a problem that Ezrin solved. “And having been the guy who made Alice Cooper's School's Out I've got this thing about kids on record, and it is about kids after all. So while we were in America, we sent [recording 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.”

As David Knowles put it in Consequence of Sound, “With Roger Waters, there’s always two givens: that he’s brilliant and that he’s a famously hard case. There’s been a lot of hard feelings between Waters, the rest of Floyd, and Ezrin over the years, but as Ezrin says, “I really love him despite all of the problems that we had.”

Erzin bonded right away with Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, and tried to get him more involved with the album, which was mainly Roger’s baby. “Plus, I’m trying to make Roger’s stuff more musical if I could. We took the storyline that Roger had been working with, and I wrote a screenplay for The Wall, where every scene was a song. You could see where each song came from and how it worked into the next. The opening would be ‘Act One-Scene One’ as opposed to ‘Song One.’ We fade up, we pan across, and we zoom in …those were the terms we were using to describe how things would sound and feel.

“and I really lobbied to fill it with Gilmour material, because my feeling was, at that point, we were one-sided musically. We were really missing the Gilmour influence and his heart. We had a lot of Roger’s angst and intellect, but we were missing the visceral Gilmour heart and swing. So then we started filling in the holes with Gilmour’s stuff. When there were certain holes left in the script, it would say, ‘To be written.’”

Although Waters insisted there were to be no singles from the album, Ezrin knew “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” was going to be a hit. The song originally had no children’s chorus and just one verse and a chorus, and out. Ezrin told the band, “That’s too short. We need it as a single. It’s a smash, and we have to have it.”

Waters objected, so Ezrin copied it, “and if you listen, you’ll realize it’s the same verse and chorus twice. I copied it, edited it together, and sent it across to England to the Arts High School around the corner from the studio. We recorded these kids in the stairwells. Having done “School’s Out”, I knew the effect of kids, particularly in anything that has to do with school! I played it for Roger as a surprise, and the grin on his face was unbelievable. From that point on, not only did he get it, but I think he probably believed it was his idea in the first place!”

He also said, “Making that album was a very difficult job, but it was thrilling because it was such a pure vision. When I finally got all four sides of the record done and I could play them 1, 2, 3, 4 in order, I broke down and cried because it was such a release. So many months in construction, pounding away and fighting with things, bending, adapting, and going without to get that final product.”

Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 was eventually named one of the 500 greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. Roger Waters’ latest solo album has just been released (June 2, 2017) and a press release quotes Waters as describing it as “part magic carpet ride, part political rant, part anguish. It’s pondering … the question of how do we take these moments of love – if we are granted any in our lives – and allow that love to shine on the rest of existence, on others.”



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