“Your Possible Pasts” is one of two tracks from The Final Cut with a direct connection to The Wall. It’s most likely one of the original songs considered for the album early on.
Your Possible Pasts and The Wall
“Your Possible Pasts” is one of two tracks from The Final Cut with a direct connection to Pink Floyd The Wall and The Wall: Spare Bricks. It’s widely presumed to be one of Roger Waters’ original leftover song ideas written and considered for The Wall early on but not used.
The Wall co-producer and engineer James Guthrie later recalled,
“Roger had written enough material for three albums, so we began by arranging and recording the most complete songs. That way we could start to get our heads around the shape of the story.”
It’s not in the track listing of Waters’ original demo, Bricks In The Wall. It was likely just a snippet at the time, an unused concept or undeveloped piece of music which was discarded for not being as far along as it needed to be when the band were storyboarding the album early in the production process.
The origins of the song actually go back to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. The first two lines of the chorus and the foundation of their melody come from “Incarceration of a Flower Child”, a song Roger wrote in 1968. It has the same tempo and 6/8 time signature as the chorus of “Your Possible Pasts” and opens with the lyrics, “Do you remember me? How we used to be, helpless and happy and blind?” The song was eventually recorded and released by Marianne Faithfull on her 1999 album, Vagabond Ways. It was never recorded by Pink Floyd.
“Your Possible Pasts” was one of the first tracks written and recorded for the Spare Brick/The Final Cut sessions, along with “The Fletcher Memorial Home”, “The Final Cut” and “The Hero’s Return” (a track originally titled “Teacher, Teacher” which was written and recorded for The Wall sessions early on).
It slipped into The Wall canon three years later in 1982 when it was included briefly in Pink Floyd The Wall the film, although as a much different, much abbreviated version. The song makes a brief appearance at the beginning of the song “Stop“. After a few seconds, Pink softly starts to sing a few lines from the chorus of “Your Possible Pasts” before moving on to several lines of “5:11AM (The Moment of Clarity)” — a song eventually released on Waters’ 1984 solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking — and then moving on to the rest of “Stop”.
In the film, the lyrics are a little different:
Do you remember me?
The way it used to be?
Do you think we should have been closer?
The full song was officially released in March 1983 on The Final Cut album. If the full track was recorded and released on The Wall instead, it would have fit in very nicely with almost no changes. Musically, the song is similar in sound, feel and theme to the rest of Side 3. The music is mostly orchestral with the rest of Pink Floyd playing only during David Gilmour’s guitar solo.
Its ambiguous chorus serves both the storyline of broken relationships, alienation, and walls as well as providing the staging for a smooth transition into the World War II motifs of “Vera” and “Bring The Boys Back Home”. Throughout its verses, “Your Possible Pasts” alternates between a wartime memory and the narrator’s more personal plea of the acknowledgement of a growing emotional distance between people — either himself and his partner or on a broader scale between himself and everyone else in his life. On the surface, this could be the estrangement between Pink and his wife and the disintegration of their relationship playing out in the first half of the album. It’s a memory of what he thinks were better times and he questions if things would have been different, might they not have drifted apart. In a larger sense, the song can also apply to Pink’s estrangement behind his wall now that it’s complete and the emotional distance from everyone in his life that he has created for himself.
Within the story framework of The Wall and of Side 3 in particular, I felt that the meaning of the song was a good transition between the loneliness, rejection, and isolation of “Nobody Home” and the more WWII-themed “Vera”. In The Final Cut, the song propels the narrative of a soldier’s change and alienation after coming home from the war. It takes on a different meaning in The Wall where the chorus could also be a call from Pink to anyone outside the wall.
I think that “Your Possible Pasts” is a powerful piece of music. It’s incredibly dynamic. Musically, it alternates between what feels like passages of soft touches and sections of repeated punches. It alternates between softly lulling the listener and screaming out for help. If the song idea had been better developed early on and if the band wasn’t under a time constraint to release an album in time for holiday sales in 1979, I believe this song would have been included in the original release of The Wall — probably very close where I placed it in my personal track listing and probably very close lyrically to what was later released on The Final Cut. As it is now, the additional time gave Roger Waters and producer James Guthrie plenty of additional opportunity to craft one hell of a track.
Pink Floyd had recycled songs prior to The Wall. Most notably, “Dogs” and “Sheep” from 1977’s Animals album were originally “You’ve Gotta Be Crazy” and “Raving And Drooling” from the sessions for 1975’s Wish You Were Here. Although there were some changes to the lyrics for the concept of the Animals album, both tracks remained very similar to their earlier versions.
Based on how well the lyrics fit into both album’s narratives, I suspect that “Your Possible Pasts” would have been likewise similar regardless of the album it was released on. Because there are no demo recordings or very early versions available of the track, there is no way to be sure without confirmation from Roger Waters himself.
Highlighted below are two lines from the final verse that were cut from the song before its release on The Final Cut:
“By the cold and religious we were taken in hand
Shown how to feel good and told to feel bad
Tongue tied and terrified we learned how to pray
Now our feelings run deep and cold as the clay
And strung out behind us the banners and flags
Of our possible pasts lie in tatters and rags”
The missing lyrics from “Your Possible Pasts” appear in the liner notes of the original LP release, but have been removed from all subsequent reissues and remasters.
The Whisper in “Your Possible Pasts”
After the first chorus just before the lyric “She stood in the doorway, the ghost of a smile,” a very faint female voice with a slight European accent can be heard whispering ”How are you tonight?” This spoken line does not appear in any printed lyrics for the song.
What Got Cut
- The song did not appear in any form on the original Pink Floyd The Wall album
A few lines from the song appeared briefly late in Pink Floyd The Wall the film. In his cell, Pink sings a couple of lines of the song a cappella after “Waiting For The Worms” and “Stop” and before “The Trial”. This tiny but definite Wall connection legitimizes the song as part of The Wall canon. For my personal mix of The Wall Complete, I inserted the song towards the beginning of the second half, between “Nobody Home” and “Vera”.
The full song was officially released in March 1983 on The Final Cut album.
Pink Floyd The Wall movie (1982). A few lines from the song appear briefly in Pink Floyd The Wall the film. In his cell, Pink sings a couple of lines of the song a cappella after “Waiting For The Worms” and “Stop” and before “The Trial”.
Last Update: June 27, 2017