Sunday, November 12, 2017

Pink Floyd - Spare Bricks (1982)


"Pink Floyd - The Wall", released in 1982, was Pink Floyd's second full-length film, and was based on their album of the same name. It featured most of the album's songs in their original form, and followed Bob Geldof playing the role of Pink, as he built an imaginary wall between himself and the world, also explaining the reasons that led him to do such a thing. Mostly driven by the music, the film expanded on the original rock opera's narrative's themes of war, isolation and even the very own nature of rock and roll, being a great companion piece to the LP, as well as a fan favorite of many. The film was pretty well received by the critics, and was even a moderate success at the box office, screening from July 1982 to early 1983. The flick combined Gerald Scarfe's surreal animation sequences with other additional live-action scenes, written by Roger Waters himself, who later criticised the way his screenplay and vision were treated, saying it didn't do them justice. In addition to all that, it also featured a new song, "When the Tigers Broke Free", originally written for the 1979 album but dropped before the recordings started, due to being "too personal", for the band and producer Bob Ezrin's liking, but brought back for this project. Other songs, such as "Mother" and "Bring the Boys Back Home", were re-recorded entirely, featuring different, more orchestral arrangements or different interpretations, to better fit the narrative and visuals of the motion picture they were inserted on.

Because of that, there were plans by the group of releasing a soundtrack album with the re-recorded tracks and the new song, as was announced in the credits of the movie, with a planned release date of November 1982. Pink Floyd also planned on adding other songs, either The Wall leftovers or newly written tunes, to help make up an album, since the movie versions weren't enough to make up a full album, and the band felt fans wouldn't buy an album of rehashed older material only. It was also supposed to flesh out its narrative, adding some more depth to the story with these new tunes, as the band had to work within the limitations of the LP. The "Spare Bricks" sessions, as the album was now known, then began in mid-1982, with the band recording about six new songs, all of them written by Waters. However, in May of the same year, after album sessions were already underway, Argentinian dictator Leopoldo Galtieri invaded the Falklands Islands, leading to a war against the UK for the area. Roger Waters was enraged by this, and began writing a new concept. That conflict caused a direction change on the album, which then became "The Final Cut - A Requiem for the Post-War Dream", with him writing the rest of the LP's material based on the war and his feelings about it. Since the band was already uninterested in the soundtrack idea to begin with, Waters decided that scrapping SB and starting anew was the right thing to do, as the next Pink Floyd album.

So instead of a new album, all the band's fans got in that year was a single, with "When the Tigers Broke Free" on the A-side and their new orchestral version of "Bring the Boys Back Home" on the B-side, in July 1982. It charted considerably well, considering it's nature, peaking at #39 and being well received by critics. However, now that the album had grown into a standalone unit, problems arose: in-fighting within the band was at an all-time high, with Gilmour and Waters simply not getting along. The lead guitarist's lack of productivity also further extended the issues, with him later criticizing the album for its overtly political tone and lack of musicality, and ends up only singing lead vocals on one of The Final Cut's songs. With keyboardist Rick Wright long gone by this point, the piano parts were played by the album's producer Michael Kamen, who also wrote most of the orchestration on it. He proved to play an essential role on the sessions, but did not manage to ease the tensions between the band members, as Bob Ezrin had before him, and his more passive approach in producing could be seen, with Roger finally managing to take the reins of the band. Due to all that was mentioned above, Floyd fans were left without a "real" release of the soundtrack, and even to this date, the seven movie-exclusive songs haven't been released anywhere, leading the rerecordings to be largely forgotten among the listeners, and very few info being available about them.

However, what some of us fans were left wondering was: if Pink Floyd had carried on with the project as was intended, what would that album look like? Well, to start off, the six newly written songs would obviously, with some minor lyrical changes, be released on TFC, so it is our main source of material in this reconstruction. All tunes featured here were recorded with the intention of being a part of SB, between 1981-82 by the band, with only one notable exception, that will be explained later. As well as that, all of the film songs would be taken from a fan-made DVD rip, since it hasn't met an official release yet, and any other sources aren't available. That implies that most of these songs will feature some sound effects from what was happening onscreen, but unfortunately, those are unavoidable. The album's sequence will be mostly inspired by the one on The Final Cut, because of our familiarity with the album and the direct linking of some tracks, thankfully making my job a lot easier. The songs from The Wall are not sequenced in order of appearance, however, but on the spots I felt they fit on the best within the LP, to make up the best listening experience possible within our limitations. Very few editing was needed in this, mostly to make the songs segue smoothly, and since it's no use to try and avoid the many sound effects in the songs, the movie tunes are left mostly unaltered from their original state on the movie. So without any further ado, here's our tracklist:

Side One:
01 In the Flesh
02 Your Possible Pasts
03 One of the Few
04 When the Tigers Broke Free
05 The Hero's Return
06 Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3
07 What Shall We Do Now?
Side Two:
08 Bring the Boys Back Home
09 The Fletcher Memorial Home
10 Mother
11 The Final Cut
12 The Moment of Clarity
13 Outside the Wall

Waters, Gilmour and Hugo Zuccarelli during the TFC sessions, 1982
Starting off the album is the re-recording of "In the Flesh", which is led by an almost Wagnerian orchestral arrangement and features actor Bob Geldof unaccompanied on lead vocals. As an intro for the album, a snippet of "The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot" by Vera Lynn is used, in order to emulate the beginning of the film, that featured the aforementioned song as its opener. That is followed by "Your Possible Pasts", whose chorus was recited as a poem by Geldof as a part of the tune "Stop" in the flick. One of the first to be recorded for the LP, it was based on some early ideas written early on for The Wall by Waters, but that were scrapped beforehand, more than justifying its inclusion in here. After that comes "One of the Few", featuring Roger alone on acoustic guitar and vocals. Originated from the first 1978 demos for TW, it was originally named "Teach", and is sung from the point of view of the Teacher from "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2", having been brought back from there by the band for use in this project. "When the Tigers Broke Free" comes next, featured on a different, slightly longer mix with different vocals in some spots, as well as added military snares to certain sections of it. At first rejected by the band due to being "too personal" on the original album, back then when it was titled "Anzio, 1944", it was not forgotten by Waters, finally finding a home in the film. Being the only new song in it, it more than justifies its own inclusion in here.

Up next is "The Hero's Return", first recorded as "Teacher, Teacher" during the The Wall sessions. The version used here is an edit of both parts, joining them together and excluding the verse about "the gunner's dying words", as it doesn't quite fit. Also sung in the POV of the teacher, it was the first song recorded for the project, what led to its appearance here. Track no. 06 is "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3", here re-recorded in a slightly faster tempo than the original, and with it's classic "TV smashing" intro intact. "What Shall We Do Now?" finishes up the first side, having been excluded from the original album at the last minute due to the album's length and the constraints of vinyl. It's a shame it couldn't be featured on the LP, but it ended up finding a good home on the movie and soundtrack. It features a reprise of "Empty Spaces" as its first section, then leading to a different, fast-paced section, that is exclusive to it. "Bring the Boys Back Home" is next, an orchestrated version featuring vocals by the Portaddulais Male Voice Choir, not featuring any Pink Floyd members in it, and was the only of two songs of the film to see an official release. "The Fletcher Memorial Home" follows, having been written for SB, without any leftover material being used on it. This version doesn't feature its spoken word bridge, since it was only added after they had shifted towards The Final Cut, and dates the song considerably, with its many references to 1980s politics.

"Mother" is next, being re-recorded almost entirely, with the exception of its guitar solo section. The only song on the album to feature a lead vocal by David Gilmour, it has a much slower and different arrangement than the LP version, being mostly orchestral and led by a glockenspiel, instead of the acoustic guitar-led arrangement it had before. Afterward comes "The Final Cut", having been inspired by many "bits and pieces" left over from The Wall, and even featuring a reference to it in its lyrics. The line "I'll tell you what's behind the wall" is obscured by a shotgun blast, in order to try and disguise its connection to TW. Most probably, if SB had happened, it would have been present in its original form, but since there isn't a version without the blast, the regular one is used here. "The Moment of Clarity" is next, being recited by Bob Geldof as a poem during the movie. While not appearing as a song per se, it was performed in the movie, and due to that, I think the band would end up recording it for Spare Bricks. Since that didn't happen, we use Waters' solo version, released on The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, instead, with him alone on acoustic guitar. Finally, "Outside the Wall" ends the album, in a longer and much less ironic version. It features an instrumental bridge, with the melody of "Southampton Dock", from TFC as its main motif, and is mostly orchestrated, and with Waters on lead. It ends the album on a much more positive note than the original, and also gives it a proper ending.

"Spare Bricks - Music from the Film" is a pretty decent companion piece to The Wall movie and album, adding more depth to it's narrative than ever intended before, and also finding a home for many of its outtakes, that were otherwise without any proper context, stranded in TFC. With both of its sides clocking in at about 23 minutes, it would easily fit into the vinyl's constraints, and with 13 songs, makes up for a solid listening experience. The most probable lead single of the album would be "Your Possible Pasts" backed with "The Final Cut", due to them being released that way as a promo single for TFC, and being part of the new material recorded for the project, it would make sense to think that. As even as a promo, it managed to climb to #8 on the charts, I'd consider it would manage to be a hit, with the single release and Wall association probably helping it. As a standalone album, there's no doubt that it suffers considerably, with the new material making up for about half the LP, and even still, of a slightly sub-par quality. However, as a companion piece to The Wall, it works quite well, proving to be an essential piece of the rock opera's lore, and giving the movie re-recordings a home, instead of being lost as they are at the moment. With the original LP's 40th anniversary on the way, a deluxe edition featuring the film tunes, without sound effects would be the ideal thing to do. But until then, we're all left to speculate about The Wall's lost spare bricks.

Sources used:
- The Final Cut (2004 remaster)
- The Wall - Music from the Film
 - The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking

4 comments:

  1. Sorry for the abscence, people, had some personal issues to worry about during the last month or so. More posts are on the way!

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  2. Hello, is there anybody........... In there ?

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