Originally written in 1978 for The Wall album, When The Tigers Broke Free was rejected by the band because they felt it was too personal.
“When The Tigers Broke Free” was released as a single on July 26, 1982, almost three weeks before the movie. It’s definitely a “spare brick” — one of the original leftover songs from The Wall and one of two that was reintegrated in the film.
The single version is a unique mix and differs from the versions that appear in the film and all subsequent releases. It has a different intro that is shorter than most other versions. The first verse uses an alternate vocal take that has never appeared on any other release of the track.
This recording also features different percussion accents — short snare roll fills throughout, giving an already dark and emotional song an even more somber feel. The snare fills make the track sound more military or like a slow funeral march. If it’s even possible, this version is more solemn than the movie version. It’s the version I prefer.
The song was originally titled “Anzio, 1944” . It’s a highly autobiographical song for Waters and tells the story behind perhaps the biggest brick in the wall — how Pink’s father died at the Battle of Anzio during World War II and by proxy Roger’s father, Eric Fletcher Waters.
Its working title was “When The Tigers Break Through” and was originally written for The Wall album release. In a 1984 interview, Waters recalled,
“In fact, there was some stuff in The Wall that was too personal as well… which showed up in the movie. There’s a song in the movie called “When The Tigers Broke Free” which is about my father being killed, which had been on the original Wall demo. It was part of the piece originally but which made them uncomfortable because it tied it down to specifically “this record is about Roger Waters” rather than Pink, which was a worry, reasonably enough, I suppose.” 
Bob Ezrin explained further:
“The record used to be Roger’s life story, and there were dates in the lyrics that put him at 36 years old. Kids don’t want to know about old rock stars. I insisted we make the record more accessible, more universal. It was kept universalized, with some very important fine-tuning by Roger.”
It was rejected by the band for inclusion on the album because they felt it was too personal, even though its inclusion would have helped to tell the story. It ended up in The Wall anyway. The song was later recorded for the film. When it was eventually released as a single in 1982, it bore its original copyright date of 1979.
Similar to most of Side 3 of the album, the music of the piece is orchestral. Other than Roger Waters on vocals, none of the other members of Pink Floyd appear on the recording. Orchestrations were arranged and conducted by Michael Kamen, who had also worked with Pink Floyd previously while recording The Wall. He would go on to work with the band on The Final Cut as well as Waters and Gilmour solo projects.
The track first appears on the Pink Floyd – The Wall movie soundtrack. It’s the first song credited to Pink Floyd to appear in the film. Vera Lynn’s version of “The Little Boy That Santa Forgot” is the first song to appear in the film and plays in the background on a radio throughout the scene where housekeeping discovers a stuporous Pink. “Tigers” is presented in two parts with a fade out during a choral break after the first verse. Part II is sequenced between “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 1” and “Goodbye Blue Sky”.
It was first released to the public on CD in the Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd compilation. The version on Echoes runs 3:42 and is a combined edit of the movie version with a longer intro and none of the snare drum fills. An edited, 3:12 version of the movie/Echoes mix was eventually added to the 2004 remaster and re-release of The Final Cut.
“Tigers” does not appear in any live performance of The Wall. In the 2015 film Roger Waters The Wall, Waters opens the performance with a brief, trumpet solo version of “Tigers” at the Anzio monument where it replaces the opening “Outside The Wall” snippet from the album. It’s a powerful and moving moment that works very well within the context of this film, but I prefer how “Outside The Wall” bookends the cycle by opening and closing the original album.
My guess is that “Tigers” was ultimately released on The Final Cut for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason? It says so right on the label. When it was first released as a single, the sleeve read “Taken from the album The Final Cut” even though it was ultimately not included on that album for its original 1983 release. So the expectation, such that it was, was for it to be there.
I think, more importantly, because The Wall is such a classic album. Any attempt to change, repair, or restore it would definitely spark huge fan backlash (I realize the irony of that statement as it pertains to this website and project). Finally, The Final Cut has not been as popular as other Pink Floyd albums over the years and there has been much less backlash by adding this track 20 years after the album’s first release.
However, “When the Tigers Broke Free” was written specifically for The Wall. It made its first appearance in the canon as a crucial part of Pink Floyd The Wall (the film). In my opinion, that’s where it belongs.
When The Tigers Broke Free, Parts 1 and 2
I’ve heard several fan edits of The Wall that split up “When The Tigers Broke Free” into two parts like in the film. They almost always start the mix with the first verse at the very beginning and slip the second half with the second and third verses in a few songs later. For the life of me, I don’t understand why. There are several reasons why the song only makes sense sequenced in the middle of the first half of the album.
“When The Tigers Broke Free” isn’t so much about how Pink’s/Roger Waters’ father died at the Battle of Anzio in World War II but about how Young Pink comes to learn about it. It’s a huge brick and a primary catalyst for Pink’s descent into isolation and eventual withdrawal. It’s a brick that belongs in the story somewhere after “Another Brick In The Wall Part 1” where a very young Pink was first told that “Daddy’s flown across the ocean.”
In the second verse of the song, Pink in first person recalls finding a scroll from King George that told his mother that his father had died. He found it while looking through drawers as children will do and was old enough to realize that “his majesty signed with his own rubber stamp.” In the film, the scroll is found by a preteen Pink which sounds about right. Even with The Wall’s fluid time structure, chronologically that puts “Tigers” somewhere between “Another Brick Part 2” and “Empty Spaces/What Shall We Do Now?”.
The Wall is Pink’s story and literally starts at the beginning in “The Thin Ice”. Place an event such as his father’s death before that and the story becomes third person. I am not discounting the death of a parent, but it’s almost as if the death of his father becomes the sole motivation for the events in the story and not one of many that add up to a complete wall. “Daddy’s flown across the ocean…” as a listener, we know what that lyric is a euphemism for. Then later on in “Tigers”, Pink discovers the note from King George and learns the truth. In the film, this happens years later. If that point in the story has already been told at the beginning, it renders “Another Brick Part 1” moot.
It the film, splitting the track works because it’s presented there as part of a linear, visual story. The death of Pink’s father can be a more significant piece of the backstory here because visually more of The War can be shown on screen. It’s a story that can be then further explored and shown in flashbacks which don’t make much sense when you take away the visuals.
I think “When The Tigers Broke Free” needs to stay as one piece when trying to restore it with The Wall. In the context of the story, it works well in several places. It works between “Another Brick Part 1” and “Happiest Days Of Our Lives” — Pink is old enough here in the story to understand the truth about his father. It fits really well into the story when sequenced on side three between “Bring The Boys Back Home” or “Fletcher Memorial Home” and “Comfortably Numb”. When placed there, it becomes a more powerful “brick” in that it combines all the bricks in the wall from sides one and two with the powerful wartime undertones of side three. Before “Numb”, “Tigers Broke Free” really becomes that most significant brick in a dramatic way and becomes a glimpse into the wall and into the very heart of Pink.
I think the complete track works best when it’s between “Mother” and “Goodbye Blue Sky” in the film. To my ear, the song isn’t built to be broken up like it was in the film. Sequenced at the top of Side 2, it’s a good fit musically. I think fits best there within the narrative of the album. “Goodbye Blue Sky” is a transition piece between Pink’s childhood questions of “Mother” and young adulthood — the wall has been built and “Tigers” helps to fill a few of the spaces.
What Got Cut
- The entire track.
Pink Floyd The Wall movie (1982). The track first appeared the film where it was split into two parts. Part I, which fades out after the first verse, opens the film. The sequence shows Pink’s father in a quiet bunker before the World War II Battle of Anzio. This version of the intro and vocals is used in the mix that appears on the Echoes best-of compilation. The second part completes the last two verses of the song and is sequenced at about 14:30 into the film between “Another Brick In The Wall, Part 1” and “The Happiest Days Of Our Lives”.
When The Tigers Broke Free/Bring The Boys Back Home 7″ single (1982). The track was released as the A-side of a single on July 26, 1982, almost three weeks before the movie. This version has a runtime of 3:00 and is different than any other released version, including the film. It has a different intro that is shorter than the film and Echoes versions. The first verse uses an alternate vocal take. The lyrics are the same throughout all versions. There are also different percussion accents — short snare roll fills throughout the track.
This single was originally released in an elaborate 3-way foldout sleeve featuring new art from Gerald Scarfe and scenes from the film. This version has only been released on CD as a bonus track on the promo only CD The Wall – Berlin ’90 by Roger Waters in 1990 and on the radio-only compilation CD Full of Secrets in 1992. It’s never been released digitally otherwise. Copies of the single are still pretty easy to find on eBay and other resellers. The US version on Columbia records is pressed on low-quality styrene and easily prone to wear, noise, and static.
The Wall – Berlin ’90 by Roger Waters. This was one of only two CD/digital releases of the 3:00 single version, the other being A CD Full Of Secrets, a broadcast-only promo release from 1992. Neither CD was released to the public. This was originally a promo-only issue and there aren’t many out there. They very occasionally show up on eBay and other online retailers and are pretty pricy when you can find one.
Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd (2001). A 3:42 combined edit of the movie version with a longer intro and no snare drum accents. The vocals of the first verse the same take used in the film, which were different than the original single version.
Last Updated: June 29, 2017