Bring the Boys Back Home

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"Bring the Boys Back Home"
Song by Pink Floyd
from the album The Wall
Released30 November 1979 (UK), 8 December 1979 (US)
RecordedApril-November, 1979
GenreArt rock/Progressive rock/ Symphonic rock
Length1:21
LabelHarvest Records (UK)
Columbia Records (US)/Capitol Records (US)
Songwriter(s)Waters
Producer(s)Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour and Roger Waters

"Bring the Boys Back Home" is a song on the Pink Floyd album, The Wall. The song appeared as a b-side on the single, "When the Tigers Broke Free". "Bring the Boys Back Home" is about not letting war, or careers, overshadow family relationships or leave children neglected. This is symbolized by the scene in the film, a flashback in which protagonist Pink is a young boy at a train station, which is filled with soldiers returning from war, their loved ones rushing happily to greet them. But though he wanders around in vain, there is no one for Pink to embrace, as his father did not make it off the battlefield alive. The happy crowd sings an exultant tune, "Bring the Boys Back Home", but the song ends abruptly on a minor chord as Pink suddenly realizes he is alone, and the crowd of reunited families vanishes. As the last notes die away, we flash forward to his embittered and alienated adulthood. Memories of events that drove Pink to mental isolation begin to recur in a loop: The teacher from "Another Brick in the Wall", the operator from "Young Lust", and the groupie from "One of My Turns", Pink's manager yelling, "Time to go!" (to play a concert) and manic laughter are also mixed into the closing seconds, concluding with the ominous voice from "Is There Anybody Out There?", reverbating slowly into silence, leading into "Comfortably Numb".

According to songwriter Roger Waters, "Bring the Boys Back Home" is the central, unifying song on The Wall:

" . . . it's partly about not letting people go off and be killed in wars, but it's partly about not allowing rock and roll, or making cars, or selling soap, or getting involved in biological research, or anything that anybody might do . . . not letting that become such an important and 'jolly boy's game' that it becomes more important than friends, wives, children, or other people."

--Roger Waters
Interview by Tommy Vance, "Interview With Roger Waters",
broadcast November 30, 1979, BBC Radio One

Composition

The listener first hears several snare drums articulating a march beat in 4/4 time. The song proves to be polyrhythmic, however, as this beat continues unchanged while the orchestra, choir, and lead vocals begin in 12/8. Waters sings the lyrics in his upper register (in a style that might be described as "melodic shouting"), supported by a choir. Waters and choir exhort, "Bring the boys back home / Don't leave the children on their own". On the final reiteration, the song, primarily in G major, climaxes on the relative minor of E minor. The choir abruptly drops away, leaving Waters's voice alone, agonized and struggling to sustain the high note (the first B above Middle C). A lone snare drum also remains, continuing its insistent march beat.

In the film, the song is sung by a large choir, without Waters's lead vocal. It is also expanded, with an extended vamp on the subdominant before repetition of the full four-line lyric.

Performances

The original Pink Floyd concerts of The Wall were so expensive that, in the end, the band lost money staging them. They were also, at that time, the most elaborate stage productions a rock band had ever mounted before. For these reasons, and others, it is understandable that the band chose to use the original recordings of Michael Kamen's orchestral arrangements, rather than hire and rehearse a live orchestra. Recordings of the original sound effects (televisions, helicopters, various atmospheric effects) were used, as well. With the use of click tracks, the musicians were able to play in sync with the recordings (with the additional result that they reproduced nearly every song at its exact original tempo).

As "Bring the Boys Back Home" is performed by an orchestra, with a large number of drummers, and none of the typical rock and roll instruments, Roger Waters would simply sing along to a remix of the studio recording. The listener can hear this for himself on Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81, paying special attention to the ending, when the "live" Roger drops out, and the recorded lead vocal remains, sustaining the last note with the unique wavering heard on the studio album.

Ten years later, when Roger Waters (by then a solo artist) decided to stage a massive re-production of The Wall at the site of the recently-dismantled Berlin Wall, he had the personnel and the finances for a full-scale arrangement. Using the extended arrangement from the film, Waters sang (in his most strident, histrionic style) and marched around the stage dressed in full military regalia, while backed by The Rundfunk Orchestra and Choir, and the Military Orchestra of the Soviet Army.

Personnel

References

  1. ^ Fitch, Vernon and Mahon, Richard, Comfortably Numb - A History of The Wall 1978-1981, 2006, p. 97
  2. ^ a b c d Fitch and Mahon, p. 97