GRANGE HILL PLUS PROG ROCK WOW MARK BLAKE
(from The Wall, 1979)
Among the many artefacts in Pink Floyd’s exhibition Their Mortal Remains are the cane and punishment book from Syd Barrett and Roger Waters’ old alma mater, the Cambridgeshire High School For Boys. The cane was used by headmaster Arthur Eagling, and the book records that Floyd’s future bass player received six strokes for fighting in 1959. Waters challenged his tutors at every opportunity. He was dishonourably discharged from the school cadet force, and once claimed to have staged some sort of Dadaist art prank, by eating the apples on the school gardener’s favourite tree without first removing them from the branches. All this fed into the story of The Wall’s disillusioned rock star, Pink. But Waters took his revenge on Eagling and the rest with the album’s unexpected hit single. Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)’s supremely dismissive message – “We don’t need no edu-kay-shun” – was a red rag to teachers across Thatcher’s Britain, but a gift to schoolkids everywhere. The song’s wildest card is still drummer Nick Mason’s four-on-the-floor rhythm. The idea of Pink Floyd ‘going’ disco seemed improbable at the time. But The Wall was a double album with room for such experimentation. Despite Floyd thinking they couldn’t write hit singles after Syd Barrett left, Another Brick…’s sloganeering lyrics and post-Saturday Night Fever drum beat made it ideal for radio airplay. Unusually for Pink Floyd, the song cuts right to the chase, with its sole verse sung twice. But the devil is in the detail. David Gilmour’s delivery of the first few lines up until “no dark sarcasm in the classroom”, is almost comically deadpan, but it’s elevated at 0:47, when Roger Waters adds his manic tone to the mix (“Hey teachers!…”). Waters returns later as the hysterical Scottish schoolmaster – “How can ye have any pudding if ye don’t eat ya meat!” – and you can hear the disgraced army cadet and phantom apple-eater in every tortured syllable. The teenage choir on the second version of the verse is simple but dazzlingly effective. The band and producer Bob Ezrin recorded most of The Wall in Super Bear Studios, in Berre-les-Alpes, France. But engineer Nick Griffiths at Floyd’s Britannia Row studio in north London was ordered to “find some kids” and headed to nearby Islington Green School. His hastilyassembled choir evoke the spirit of Fagin’s pickpockets in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! but, like everything on Another Brick In The Wall, they never out-stay their welcome. Gilmour plays the song out with a guitar solo so sublime, so measured, even one extra note would have knocked it out of sync. Taken individually, this peculiar mish-mash of disco drumming, children’s voices and phoney Scottish accents is all wrong. Together, though, it makes perfect, brilliant sense.
Detention time again: Roger Waters lays a brick during The Wall tour, 1980.