IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO TODAY They didn't need no education

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
This week in 1979 millions of British schoolchildren were taking to the playgrounds and chanting with one voice: "We don't need no educa- shun". Their teachers may have been unperturbed, but the tabloid press was outraged: the anthemic inspiration was "Another Brick in the Wall", Pink Floyd's first UK single for 11 years. "The killer punch comes when the children's choir is brought in to sneer its way through the chorus, upending the seasonal tradition of cutesy, kiddy novelty records," said Melody Maker.

It went to No 1 on 15 December, stayed there over Christmas, and sold more than a million copies by the end of January. But the tabloids got their revenge. The Daily Mail discovered that the children featured on the single hadn't been paid, while their school boasted one of the poorest exam records in London, and its headmistress had once belonged to the Young Communist Party.

The single was taken from the epic double album The Wall, which charted on 8 December 1979. Roger Waters' ambitious concept - the story of "Pink", whose life experiences become "bricks" in a wall around him - was based on his own life, from his father's death in the Second World War to the alienation of his rock-star lifestyle. The album also achieved multi-million selling status, but it left the critics bemused. "And so [Pink Floyd] shall recognise that outside all their insular overdrive there do indeed exist Other Things!!!" said NME. "Then shall they tell us what a pile of shit these Other Things are, and they shall spread this revelation thinly across too much vinyl". "I'm not sure whether it's brilliant or terrible, but I find it utterly compelling," said Melody Maker.

The album was promoted by an expensive stage show - in which a 30ft wall of cardboard blocks rose in front of the band - and was made into a film by Alan Parker in 1982. But it was the end of the band's classic line- up. Waters' dominance saw off Richard Wright, and The Final Cut (1983) preceded his own departure. Nick Mason and Dave Gilmour persevered with the band and, after a legal wrangle, its name. And when Waters assembled an all-star group to perform The Wall to more than 250,000 people in unified Berlin in 1990, he said it was "most gratifying. A few more people in the world will understand that The Wall is my work and always has been".