- The entire track. “Empty Spaces” was moved in its place for release. The album version of “Empty Spaces” shares the same long musical intro and four line verse structure as the first part of “What Shall We Do Now?”. The track is in the key of D minor. While finishing the album, “Empty Spaces” was pitched up a little bit, changing its key to E minor.
“What Shall We Do Now?” was cut just before release of The Wall. The studio version has never been released on album, CD, or digital and can only be found on the movie soundtrack.
“What Shall We Do Now?” is one of the classic, most well-known missing songs from The Wall. Considered the most evident “spare brick”, its removal was right there in plain sight on the album’s release as well as on many of the earlier repressings. It is more accurate to call it a missing brick.
It’s one of the songs from the Bricks In The Wall original demo. Through at least the March, 1979 band production demo, its working title was “Backs To The Wall”. Originally slated for the final release of the album, “What Shall We Do Now?” was cut days before the album was mastered due to time and mastering limitations of the vinyl format. The studio version has never been released on album, CD, or digital formats. However, it was used in the soundtrack of the movie.
Roger Waters explained,
“[We] realized as we were mastering the thing that side two was just too long and we had to get rid of something. And ‘Empty Spaces’ and another cut that used to be on there called ‘What Shall We Do Now’ are the same tune. So ‘Empty Spaces’ was a reiteration, musically, of that tune towards that end of the side and so we just axed ‘What Shall We Do Now’, but we’ve left the lyrics on the back because they help tell the story.”
Actually, the lyrics to the song were left off the booklets for the very first US and UK issues of the CD in 1984. In the US, they were restored in the second issues. Both tracks appeared on the inner sleeve/liner notes in their original, unedited sequence for several years until the 2000 Capitol Records US reissue, where the lyrics to “What Shall We Do Now?” were removed and “Empty Spaces” restored to its actual running order. “What Shall We Do Now?” appeared on the inner sleeves of the vinyl LP releases until the 1997 UK reissue and the US 2012 reissue. It’s complicated….
The song was originally sequenced between “Goodbye Blue Sky” and “Young Lust” on Side 2. The shorter but similar “Empty Spaces” was moved there in its place. Musically, it’s a similar reprise of the first half of “What Shall We Do Now?”.
It was widely expected that the track was to be included on the planned Wall follow-up album Spare Bricks. When Great Britain became involved with The Falklands War in 1982, that project was scrapped, rewritten and it evolved into The Final Cut.
A live version of the track appears in its original sequence on the live album Is There Anybody Out There?. It was also performed instead of “Empty Spaces” for the Roger Waters The Wall tour.
As the song was performed during the original 1980-1981 live shows, the “Fucking Flowers” sequence — one of the show’s classic pieces of animation by artist Gerald Scarfe was projected onto Pink Floyd’s signature round screen at the back of the stage behind the band. This animated sequence was adapted pretty much intact for the film version of The Wall where most of it is shown over this track. On its own, it’s a powerful piece of film, full of metaphor as well as some stark and powerful imagery.
During the original live shows, the flowers sequence would repeat onscreen. The additional sequence after the pterodactyl flies off was created for the movie.
Hear the studio version of “What Shall We Do Now?” and watch the sequence from the film below.
Hearing the Studio Version in Pink Floyd The Wall the movie
The complete studio version of “What Shall We Do Now?” only appears in The Wall movie soundtrack. It starts at about 34m 46s into the movie at the end of the relocated phone call. It’s sequenced before “Young Lust” as it was in the original liner notes of the album. Here, as in the live shows, it replaced the album version of “Empty Spaces”. Although a couple of rough demo versions of the track were eventually released on The Wall: Immersion box set, the studio version has never been available commercially.
The Phone Call
“Young Lust” implies that Pink is out on the road, young, on the way up, and is looking for some action. It’s not just sex that’s implicated but the lust for life that the rock ‘n roll lifestyle affords. But really, it’s sex. Pink is living a rock and roll lifestyle and parties with the groupies in each town, looking for “a dirty girl.”
In the story, Pink places an international collect phone call to his home to speak with his wife. Apparently, he’s on the road so much that an unnamed man picks up the phone and Pink finds his wife is cheating on him. This phone call originally appears in the story over the outro at the end of “Young Lust”.
On the album and live shows, all this happens before he discovers his wife’s infidelity. The morality is darker and murkier for both Pink and his wife — it’s clear that they are both unfaithful. This sequence better illustrates the deterioration of their marriage — another brick, if you will. Pink is not portrayed as the victim here and it’s difficult to feel sorry for either of them.
In the film, the phone call has been moved up two songs in the track sequence, over the long, instrumental intro of “What Shall We Do Now?”. This seemingly simple move changes Pink’s story in The Wall quite a bit. The phone call instead becomes the motivation and justification for moody movie Pink’s own infidelities and are now implied as a response to his wife’s affair. It’s an attempt to make the morality of his choice a little more cut-and-dry and this brick is intended to make Pink a more pitiable character. A bit of revisionism from Roger there….
If the time limitations of the LP format, the primary musical medium at the time, were not a factor, “What Shall We Do Now?” would not have been cut from the album.
Pink Floyd The Wall movie (1982) (3’51”) – The studio version has only been released as part of the Pink Floyd The Wall movie. The sound quality is very good overall, although it’s mastered for loudness for the film and is a bit overcompressed. Sound effects from the film are placed sparingly and don’t really detract from the track. The phone call covers part of the long musical intro. Desolate wasteland-like sound effects are scattered throughout the track, but sound very “Floydian” and are used well. In the film, the track abruptly ends cold and the very end is obscured by glass breaking from the film.
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 of The Wall, including “What Shall We Do Now?”. The song has been split and renamed to “Empty Spaces” (2m 15s) and “What Shall We Do Now?” (1m 40s). There are four extra beats at the end of the live version to end the song with a decelerating cold fade in concert fashion. The lyrics of this version of “Empty Spaces” are actually just the original first section of the unspilt “What Shall We Do Now?”. The album version of “Empty Spaces” does not appear in any of the live shows.
The Gerald Scarfe animation of “The Fucking Flowers” in the movie is an extended version of the footage used in the original 1980-1981 The Wall Live shows. The visuals of two flowers dancing, intertwining, and mating have become iconic. For the 2010-2013 Roger Waters The Wall live shows, the complete animation, including the additional footage created for the 1982 movie is shown on stage.
Click here to see the animated sequence on YouTube or watch above.
Last update: September 9, 2017