Toto’s Jeff Porcaro ended up playing drums for the album version of “Mother” as Nick Mason was having trouble with the time signature changes.
“Mother”, the song by Pink Floyd, is the fifth track on the album and finishes up Side 1 of the original LP. The studio version runs 5m 35s but there are a couple of excellent longer, alternative versions available.
In a most literal interpretation of The Wall timeline, it’s a coming-of-age song as young Pink transitions from childhood through his teenage years and becomes more aware of a larger world. Having had to depend on his mother as a sole parent for his entire young life, Pink is looking to her to address his questions and fears. The over-protective Mother of The Wall wants to keep Pink safe as she tries to mother the growing child she still sees as her “baby,” using her strict morality and values to protect him girlfriends, the the threat of war, the government, and even Pink’s own self-doubts.
In doing so, she adds to Pink’s wall. To her, it is a defense mechanism for her baby although she is actually adding to the foundation of a much bigger “wall.”
Over the years, the “Mother” of The Wall has evolved to be interpreted as any powerful, Big Brother type, overbearing and over-reaching entity, often an intrusive government that, under the guise of “protecting its citizens” and “keeping them safe,” in fact keeps its grip on power through lies, war, surveillance and subjugation.
The character of Mother returns later in the album in the song “The Trial”.
“Mother” is one of the tracks from Roger Waters’ original demo, Bricks In The Wall. In his demo, it appeared earlier in the track listing, sequenced between the tracks that would become “Another Brick In The Wall” Part I and Part II. You can hear about 30 seconds of his original demo version on The Wall: Immersion edition. For the most part, it sounds very much like the album version that would be released about a year after, right down to its use of multiple time signature changes, such as 5/8 and 6/8 time.
Jeff Porcaro from the band Toto ended up playing drums on the album version of “Mother” as Nick Mason was having trouble with the time signature changes. Waters recalled, “Nick, to his credit, had no great pretense about it. He just said, “I can’t play that.””
David Gilmour talked about the song’s “somewhat elastic” timing:
“On “Mother” the timing follows the words: “Mo-ther-do-you-think-they’ll-drop-the-bomb?” How many beats is that? Nine. It was very very difficult to get it to work. You can’t [mimes standard Floyd 4] — there’s no rhythm that carries on straight through like that. You’ve got to find a way of floating through it, which Jeff Porcaro did immediately.”
Early production versions with Nick on drums can be heard in the band demos on the Immersion edition as well as on the Under Construction ROIO.
Shortly before the album’s release, “Mother am I really dying?” the last line of the second verse was changed to “Is it just a waste of time?” This was one of the changes made late in production after the inner sleeve artwork was sent out to print. The original lyric still appears in the liner notes on most copies of the LP and CD
On the album, co-producer Bob Ezrin played piano and organ for the track, not Richard Wright.
“Mother” was never released as a single but is one of the tracks from The Wall that has received the most airplay over the years thanks to Album-Oriented Rock and Classic Rock radio and music formats. Nothing was cut from the track during production — it was just refined and finessed with minimal lyric changes. There are a couple of great extended versions that offer a longer, alternate look at the track.
In his 2010-2013 Roger Waters The Wall tours, Roger performed a duet with himself. Rare video shot during the original 1980-81 The Wall Live tour with Pink Floyd was displayed on Mr. Screen (the large, round screen at the back of the stage) as Roger performed and sang with his younger self. Similar video from one of the original 1980 Earls Court performances can be seen above.
What Got Cut
- A short, 8-beat instrumental intro with the band seems to have been dropped and rerecorded in favor of the album’s cold intro with only Roger’s vocals and acoustic guitar.
Pink Floyd The Wall – Work In Progress from Pink Floyd The Wall: Immersion edition. An early, rough, bare version of The Wall from pre-release production demo tapes made by the band. In addition to a couple of snippets from Roger’s original demo, there are two band demos on the Immersion edition. Both include the short, 8-beat instrumental intro with the band.
Both versions are fairly close to what was ultimately released on the album. It’s mostly all there — there are a few changes and additions to the lyrics. The “Mother, should I run for president?” verse has not been added yet and both band demo versions go straight from the first verse to the “Mother, do you think she’s good enough — for me?” verse.
In both band demo versions, Nick Mason is on drums and his trouble with the song’s unusual time signature shifts is pretty evident and easy to hear.
Is There Anybody Out There?. The official live album of the original The Wall tour in 1980. Live versions of all songs. Many of them are extended or have some of the bits which were cut from the original studio LP. “Mother” was nicely extended for the live shows with an extended intro and guitar solo. Running time is 7m 55s — over two minutes longer than the album version.
The live version starts with an added 10-bar into in 8/8 time featuring Roger on acoustic guitar and keyboard flair from Richard Wright. This extended intro is longer and works much better than the band demo versions.
The last line of the second verse is “Is it just a waste of time?” — the same as the album version.
David Gilmour’s guitar solo is extended in the live version. At about 4m 10s into the track, there’s an additional 55 seconds of extended guitar solo that is not in the album version or any of the demo versions. This was most likely added for the live shows only.
During the live shows, a large inflatable Mother puppet loomed over the wall onstage.
Pink Floyd The Wall movie (1982). “Mother” was almost completely rerecorded for the film. The movie version runs about 6m 49s. The verses and choruses have been rerecorded with new vocals and background instrumentation. The only part that was retained from the album was the mid-section featuring David Gilmour’s original guitar solo.
Michael Kamen wrote new, mostly orchestral instrumentation that was recorded throughout the track. Instead of acoustic guitar, the track opened only with a glockenspiel. This sounded like a music box playing the individual, repetitive notes and gave the opening verses a warmer, more childhood-like feel.
Between the third verse “Ooooh aaah. Mother, will she break my heart?” and chorus, a brief minuet-style musical passage was added along with yet another time signature change. The different orchestration helped to illustrate the passage of time and Young Pink’s growth into Young Man Pink.
The last line of the second verse was changed back to “Mother am I really dying?”, the same as the original lyric on the liner notes.
In an August 1982 interview for Melody Maker magazine, Roger Waters talked briefly about “Mother” and how Pink Floyd The Wall movie soundtrack eventually became The Final Cut:
“We were contracted to make a soundtrack album but there really wasn’t enough new material in the movie to make a record that I thought was interesting. The project then became Spare Bricks, and was meant to include some of the film music, like “When The Tigers Break Through” and the much less ironic version of “Outside The Wall” which finishes the movie… plus some music written for the movie but left on the cutting room floor. I decided not to include the new version of “Mother” from the movie because it really is film music and it doesn’t stand up. It’s a very long song, and besides, I’m bored with all that now. I’ve become more interested in the remembrance and requiem aspects of the thing, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious. Anyway, it all seemed a bit bitty then I came up with a new title for the album, The Final Cut.”
In a possible connection to the addition of a few lines of “Your Possible Pasts” later in the film, between the guitar solo and the final verses, Pink’s wife tries to distract him while he’s at the piano, asking “Do you remember me? I’m the one from the registry office.” In a film with a ton of other subtext, this cannot be immediately dismissed as coincidence.
Last update: September 19, 2017