Monday, April 16, 2018

Musical Monday - Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) by Pink Floyd

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: March 22, 1980 through April, 12, 1980.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: March 22, 1980 through April 5, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: December 15, 1979 through January 12, 1980.

Some songs are so inextricably linked with larger works that it is almost impossible to talk about them without referencing that larger work. Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) was part of Pink Floyd's concept album The Wall, and later appeared in the movie also named The Wall which starred Bob Geldof. Because the album wove the various songs together into something of a coherent narrative in which Pink, the protagonist of the story, loses his father, grows up with an extremely protective mother, slowly builds a metaphorical wall around himself that serves to isolate him from everyone around him as he slowly descends into madness, it is difficult to evaluate this song without also touching upon the themes of abandonment and alienation that run through the entire album.

I have seen Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) described as an anti-education song, and the repeated refrain "We don't need no education" would seem to back that up, but I think that is an erroneous interpretation. What the song rails against is conformity and authority, not education. It is just that Waters identified the British education system as enforcing a kind of subservient conformity that is the antithesis of knowledge and understanding, In the context of the story told by The Wall as a whole, this song marks out that Pink's experiences in school formed some of the earliest foundations of the wall that he surrounded himself with. There is an undercurrent of rage that runs through this song, but it is a rage that is corralled and suppressed by the system and can only surface much later in self-destructive ways.

For me, in 1980, that level of analysis was all in the future. I first heard The Wall some time in the summer or autumn of that year. My family had recently returned from Tanzania, and my parents had some function they had to attend. They hired a teenage girl as a sitter for my brother and me, and she brought The Wall with her. In retrospect, it seems obvious that she had just acquired the album and simply could not wait to listen to it, so she took it with her to a job watching an eleven year old and a six year old for the evening. I remember almost nothing about her other than the fact that she worked part time as a model for a local store and that she introduced me to Pink Floyd. I can't even remember what she looked like, let alone remember her name.

I do remember the album though. I remember listening to the songs and trying to connect them with the artwork on the jacket. Even though the movie The Wall wouldn't be released for two more years, the animation style that ended up being used in it was pretty much already fully formed on the album cover in 1980. I was hooked. Maybe it was partly because it was an album brought to my consciousness by a pretty, older (she must have been at least sixteen!) woman, but I was completely drawn in by Pink Floyd's music, which was unlike anything I had previously heard.

I also remember this as the first time I disagreed with my father concerning music - when I brought it up with him, he pretty much dismissed the album as juvenile junk. The odd thing is that he wasn't really all that old - in 1980 he would have been thirty, which made him younger than Roger Waters and David Gilmour. It seems that he turned into a curmudgeonly old fogey pretty early in his life, at least so far as music is concerned.

Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) topped all three of the charts I am using for the 1980s Project, but it topped the U.K. Chart well before it topped out either the Billboard or Cash Box lists. It reached number one on the U.K. chart in December of 1979, but didn't get to the top position on either of the U.S. charts until March of 1980. This seems to be something of a pattern for British-based acts of the era: They made their mark in their home country first, and then made waves in the U.S. after something of a delay, with the reverse being true for those American acts that had success in Britain - for example, in 1976 the Bay City Rollers were able to have a hit in the U.S. with S.A.T.U.R.D.A.Y. Night, a song they had released in the U.K. in 1973. Even in the 1980s, culture was still localized enough that something could make a big splash on one side of the Atlantic and not be noticed until later on the other. The pond was getting smaller, but in the 1980s there was still frequently a delay between a song hitting the charts in the U.K. and a song hitting the charts in the U.S.

Previous Musical Monday: Please Don't Go by KC and the Sunshine Band
Subsequent Musical Monday: Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Call Me by Blondie

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Longer by Dan Fogelberg
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Call Me by Blondie

Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Pink Floyd     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

No comments:

Post a Comment