Roger Waters considers “Bring The Boys Back Home” the central song on the whole album
This short track starts and ends with snares playing a solemn military march beat in 4/4 time. The music is orchestral. On the album, Roger Waters is the only member of the band to appear on the track where he sings the simple lyric in his upper register, seemingly shouting to be heard. His voice wavers throughout the track, adding to its emotional impact. As the verse finishes, the orchestra and choir end abruptly, leaving only fading snare drums and Roger’s wavering vocal sustain.
More than just a simple war protest song, ”Bring The Boys Back Home”, for Roger Waters, is the central song on the whole album. He explained in a 1979 interview at the time of The Wall’s release:
“It’s partly about not letting people go off and be killed in wars, but it’s also 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 boys game” that it becomes more important than friends, wives, children, other people.”
The visuals in the film afforded by the extended length of the track helped to clarify and expand upon the central theme of the song. Although this short track is often credited as the track that gives The Wall an anti-war message as well, like much of the other music in the work it carries multiple layers of interpretations — the common conclusion being don’t leave the children alone… the largest brick in Pink’s wall.
The original album version runs about 1m 25s depending on the mastering. The music itself runs only about 1 minute or so before the snares fade out into a building, swirling cacophony of voices, memories and sounds which build until a repeat of “Is there anybody out there?” precede “Comfortably Numb”.
The orchestrations were arranged and conducted by Michael Kamen and featured musicians from the New York Philharmonic and New York Symphony Orchestras. The choir featured vocalists from the New York City Opera. The drum corps were thirty-five hired snare drummers. One of them was Joe Porcaro, the father of session drummer Jeff Porcaro who played drums and carried the difficult and changing rhythms of “Mother”.
Originally, this track was to appear as the B-side of the UK release of “Run Like Hell”, the second single from the album. It was replaced before release by “Don’t Leave Me Now” in most countries. Eventually, a rerecorded version ended up on a B-side years later.
Extended Versions of “Bring The Boys Back Home”
“Bring The Boys Back Home” was rerecorded and extended for the film. The verse was repeated and in the single version, a longer instrumental bridge was added between the verses.
Vocals were handled by the Pontarddulais Male Choir led by Noël Davies. Roger Waters’ vocal was not used or rerecorded.
In the film, the song is used in a scene that takes place on a crowded railway platform with Young Pink which evolves into WWII-era soldiers on a battlefield. Actors singing in this sequence were conducted by David Gilmour during one of his set visits. Gilmour later recalled,
“I did come to a lot of the filming however. I conducted the singing, for example, when they were doing ‘Bring The Boys Back Home’. I was there, but spent a lot of time in the sound booth with Michael Kamen.”
What Got Cut
Other than the change from a guitar to an orchestral arrangement, the album version of the song did not change at all from Waters’ original demo.
Pink Floyd The Wall movie (1982). The track was rerecorded and extended for the film. The length of the song is 1:28. New vocals were recorded by the Pontarddulais Male Choir conducted by Noël Davies. To extend the track, the verse repeats. New orchestrations were recorded and were arranged and conducted by Michael Kamen, who also did the same for the original album track. Movie sound effects obscure the very beginning and end of the track.
When The Tigers Broke Free/Bring The Boys Back Home 7″ single (1982). The B-side of the single which was released on July 26, 1982 — two months after the film first debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. The single version is the same recording that was used in the film but it runs a little longer at 1:40. Between the two verses, there is a short orchestral bridge that was edited from the film soundtrack. The single version has a clean snare intro and outro with none of the film’s sound effects.
Last update: August 19, 2017