Run Like Hell
The song is written from the point of view of anti-hero Pink, an alienated and bitter rock star, during a hallucination in which he becomes a fascist dictator and turns a concert audience into an angry mob. The lyrics are explicitly threatening, directed at the listener, one with an "empty smile" and "hungry heart", "dirty feelings" and a "guilty past", "nerves in tatters" as "hammers batter down your door." Even the act of lovemaking is doomed, for "if they catch you in the back seat trying to pick her locks", the results will be fatal. Although the lyric "You better run like hell" appears twice in the liner notes, the title is never actually sung; each verse simply concludes with "You better run".
In the film adaptation, Pink directs his jackbooted thugs to attack the "riff-raff" mentioned in the previous song, in which he ordered them to raid and destroy the homes of queers, Jews, and black people, among others. One scene depicts an interracial couple cuddling in the back seat of a car when a group of neo-Nazis accost them, beating the boy and raping the girl.
The Wall director Alan Parker hired the Tilbury Skins, a skinhead group from Essex, for a scene in which Pink's "hammer guard" (in black, militaristic uniforms designed by the film's animator, Gerald Scarfe) smashes up a Pakistani diner, and, Parker recalled, the action "always seemed to continue long after I had yelled out 'Cut!'."
The music was written in collaboration with David Gilmour (one of three songs on The Wall for which Gilmour is credited as a co-writer), and the lyrics were written by Roger Waters. Waters provides the vocals (except for Gilmour's multitracked harmonies singing "Run, run, run, run,"). The song features the only keyboard solo on The Wall (although on live performances, "Young Lust" and "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II" would also feature keyboard solos); after the last line of lyrics, a synthesizer solo is played over the verse sequence, in place of vocals. Following the solo, the arrangement "empties out" and becomes sparse, with the guitar only playing an ostinato with rhythmic echoes, and brief variations every other bar. Sound effects are used to create a sense of paranoia, with the sound of cruel laughter, running footsteps, car tyres skidding, and a loud scream. The original single version and promotional EP both contain a clean guitar intro, without the live crowd effects.
As with "Comfortably Numb", also from The Wall, the music to "Run Like Hell" has its roots in Gilmour's first solo album. "Short and Sweet" can be seen as this song's precursor. "Yes," Gilmour told Musician magazine, "it's a guitar with the bottom string tuned down to a D, and thrashing around on the chord shapes over a D root. Which is the same in both [songs]. [Smiling] It's part of my musical repertoire, yes."
The guitar intro begins with the scratching of strings dampened with left-hand muting, before settling on an open D string dampened by palm muting. As heard earlier on the album, on "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)", the muted D is treated with a specific delay setting, providing three to four loud but gradually decaying repeats, one dotted-eighth note apart, with the result that simply playing quarter notes (at 116 beats per minute) will produce a strict rhythm of one eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes, with rhythmic echoes overlapping. Over this pedal tone of D, Gilmour plays descending triads in D major (mostly D, A, and G), down to the open chord position (a quieter, second overdubbed guitar plays open chords only). Some of the guitar tracks are also treated with a heavy flanging effect.
The verses are in E minor, with pedal tones of the guitar's open E, B, and G strings (a full E minor triad) ringing out over a sequence of power chords, resulting in the chords E minor, Fmaj7sus2(♯11), C major seventh, and Bsus4(add♭6). Providing contrast, another guitar, equally treated with delay, plays a low-pitched riff on the roots and minor sevenths of each chord, although the E♭ (minor seventh of F) and B♭ (minor seventh of C) do not match the sustaining open E and B strings an octave above.
Aside from the added tones in each chord, the basic verse sequence of E minor, F major, E minor, C major, and B major is reprised later in "The Trial", the conceptual climax of The Wall. However, David Gilmour is not credited as a co-writer of "The Trial", which is credited to Waters and producer Bob Ezrin.
The movie version of the song is considerably shorter than the album version. The second guitar refrain between the first and second verses was taken out, with the verse's last line, "You better run", leading directly to Gilmour's harmonized chant ("Run, run, run, run"), which now echoed back and forth between the left and right channels. Also, Richard Wright's synth solo was superimposed over the second verse, and the long instrumental break between the end of the synth solo and Waters' scream was removed.
The Wall Tour
During the previous song, "In the Flesh", a giant inflatable pig was released, which Waters refers to in a speech between both songs. The speech given varied slightly on each concert and therefore can be used to identify which show a recording came from. On Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81, the speech is a mix of the 15 June 1981 and 17 June 1981 speeches. It was sometimes introduced by Waters as "Run Like Fuck" and Waters and Gilmour sang alternating lines in the verses, while the vocal quartet of Stan Farber, Jim Haas, Joe Chemay, and John Joyce sang the choruses.
During the song, the "surrogate band" (also referred to, in Nick Mason's book, as the "shadow band") are onstage with the Pink Floyd members and their quartet of singers. Both Andy Bown and Roger Waters play bass on this song. Bown plays the bass exactly as it was recorded—four quarter notes per bar, playing only roots, using the lowest possible root in drop D tuning. Waters, meanwhile, plays variations at key moments, plays whole notes while singing, and, during the "emptied out" section on D following the synth solo, Roger sometimes improvised high-pitched riffs above Bown's low D.
Following Waters' departure from Pink Floyd, the song became a regular number in the band's concerts, usually ending the show and going over nine minutes long. One live version was used as the B-side to "On the Turning Away". The song also was the closing track on the live album Delicate Sound of Thunder. Gilmour generally played an extended guitar introduction, sharing vocals with touring bassist Guy Pratt, with Pratt singing Waters' lines. In the 1994 tour, Pratt sometimes sang the name of the city where they were playing instead of the word mother in the line "...they're going to send you back to mother in a cardboard box..." – in the P•U•L•S•E video (live at Earls Court, 1994), he clearly sings London. According to Phil Taylor, David Gilmour played Run Like Hell on a Fender Telecaster guitar tuned to a drop-D, in the 1994 tour.
For Waters' worldwide 2010-2013 Wall tour, the song was transposed one whole step down, from D to C. This is commonly done in live performances when a singer has difficulty reaching the highest notes in the song's original key. During the intro of the song, Waters clapped and in some cases shouted, exhorting the audience to clap along and "have a good time, enjoy yourselves", which might be considered ironic, given the paranoid tone of the actual lyrics.
In addition to performing the song with Pink Floyd, Gilmour has also performed it himself on his 1984 solo tour in support of his About Face album. In Waters' absence, Gilmour would trade lines with bassist Mickey Feat. He also performed the song solo at the Colombian Volcano benefit concert in 1986, trading lines with house-band keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick (who would later play on Waters' solo album, Amused to Death).
- Roger Waters — vocals, screaming and panting
- David Gilmour — guitars, bass guitar, backwards cymbals, vocals (chorus)
- Nick Mason — drums
- Richard Wright — Prophet-5 synthesiser
- In 2001, the Canadian all-woman heavy metal band Kittie, recorded a cover and was released on their full-length album Oracle. In this version, lead vocalist and lead guitarist Morgan Lander actually does incorporate the title of the song within the lyrics.
- The Disco Biscuits have covered "Run Like Hell" since 1997.
- Violinist Andrej Kurti and cellist Victor Uzur recorded an instrumental version for their album The Entertainers.
- In 2011 the Italian band Mastercastle recorded a cover that was released on their album Last Desire special edition by the label Lion Music. The vocals are performed by the singer Giorgia Gueglio together with the special guest Flegias (singer of the band Necrodeath); the song was recorded by Pier Gonella at MusicArt studios (Italy).
- Fitch, Vernon. The Pink Floyd Encyclopedia (3rd edition), 2005. ISBN 1-894959-24-8.
- "Pink Floyd - "Run Like Hell" A-Side". Pink Floyd Discography. Discogs. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
- Strong, Martin C. (2004). The Great Rock Discography (7th ed.). Edinburgh: Canongate Books. p. 1177. ISBN 1-84195-551-5.
- Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-4301-X.
- Library and Archives Canada: Top Singles - Volume 22, No. 17, July 19, 1980, July 19, 1980, retrieved 15 July 2014
- Schaffner, Nicholas (1991). Saucerful of Secrets (First ed.). Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 978-0-283-06127-1.
- Matt Resnicoff (August 1992). "Careful With That Axe David Gilmour Interview". Musician. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- Guitar World magazine, Volume 20, Number 3, March 2000
- Floyd, Pink. Guitar tab anthology (Authenic guitar tab ed.). Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Music Pub. Co. ISBN 0739076833.
- Video on YouTube
- Tolinski, Brad (September 1994). "Welcome to the Machines". Guitar World. Retrieved 2011-07-29.
- Video on YouTube
- Fitch, Vernon and Mahon, Richard, Comfortably Numb — A History of The Wall 1978–1981, 2006, p. 106.
- Full albums: Pink Floyd's The Wall Pt. 2, Cover Me Songs, 2010.
- "Mastercastle Last Desire". Lion Music Records. Retrieved 2011-05-01.