Monday, May 23, 2011

Pink Floyd - "When the Tigers Broke Free" (forgotten song)

I'll just assume that everyone has seen The Wall at least a dozen times and spare you the exposition on the cultural impact of the LP and film. I'll remind you that most of the songs on the 1979 LP and the 1982 film are slightly different, with many versions re-recorded, Bob Geldof (who played Pink in the film) singing lead on some, etc.

But do you remember "When the Tigers Broke Free", the only non-LP song in the film? It is split in two parts and interpolates "Another Brick in the Wall Part 1". The death of Roger Waters' father in WWII and his subsequent absence during his youth influences a lot of Waters' music, but this song is the most detailed and provides significant historical detail. For example, we can deduce that his father died in Italy during Operation Shingle. I don't often reproduce entire lyrics, but in this case they succinctly motivate the entire franchise that is "The Wall":
It was just before dawn
One miserable morning in black 'forty four.
When the forward commander
Was told to sit tight
When he asked that his men be withdrawn.
And the Generals gave thanks
As the other ranks held back
The enemy tanks for a while.
And the Anzio bridgehead
Was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives.

And kind old King George
Sent Mother a note
When he heard that father was gone.
It was, as I recall,
In a form of a scroll,
With gold leaf and all.
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away.
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed
With his own rubber stamp.

It was dark all around.
There was frost in the ground
When the tigers broke free.
And no one survived
From the Royal Fusiliers Company C.
They were all left behind,
Most of them dead,
The rest of them dying.
And that's how the High Command
Took my daddy from me.

WTTBF was released as 7" single entitled "The Wall -- Music From The Film". As the name suggests, the single was supposed to be from a soundtrack LP for the film, to complement the 1979 LP. That soundtrack LP never materialized, but instead morphed into the 1982 LP "The Final Cut" (which did not contain WTTBF), the LP that pretty much ended Pink Floyd as we knew it. The 7" single was the only release for the song until the 2001 greatest hits compilation "Echoes" and then the 2004 re-release of "The Final Cut". Despite these belated re-releases, I'm guessing that most of us have only heard the song in the context of the movie.

While musically simple, it is a good song and suits the storyline of the movie/LP well. It also hints at the direction that the solo work by Roger Waters would take in the mid-80s.

When the Tigers Broke Free: (parts 1 and 2 from the film, spliced together): YouTube.

When the Tigers Broke Free, the B-side alternate version of "Bring the Boys Back Home": YouTube.

N.B. In case you did not know, a "tiger" was a formidable German tank from WWII.

1 comment:

  1. Very very very good. Waters is really genius musician and the author of lirycs. I love all the Wall album and the movie too. Perfect.