The story of Pink Floyd and their surprising Christmas hit

Pink Floyd weren’t a singles band by any means. Their focus was very much on albums and live performances.

Dave M. Benett/GettyImages
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It may be a surprise to note that Pink Floyd did hit the top of the singles chart in the UK. Even more so when it was the very desirable Christmas number one. It’s probably the thing you’d expect least from the band.

Let’s go back to 1979 and the band’s album The Wall. The astonishing rock opera written by Roger Waters still features heavily in his own live performances today. As part of the album Waters wrote a three-part song “Another Brick In The Wall”. Part two of this was released on November 30, 1979 as a single. 

This was the first single the band had released since 1968.  It came out in the run-up to the somewhat crazy and very schmaltzy Christmas single period. With the lyrics protesting against abusive schools and corporal punishment, it hardly fitted the jingling sleigh bells and Christmas settings of a seasonal number one. But amongst the angst and guitars, there was a catchy chorus and a school choir. 

During recording there was a suggestion of capturing some children’s voices, perhaps two or three, for the song. A visit to Islington Green School, close to the Pink Floyd studio, ended with the entire school choir and the chanting protest that’s now so familiar. That may have helped clinch the Christmas title along with the video produced to promote the single. 

Pink Floyd and their Christmas hit video

We were never going to see Waters or David Gilmour in cheery Santa hats to publicise the song. The video wasn’t your usual Christmas fare either. Opening with a grey city landscape, homing in on a school and the pupils, the scenes soon take a sinister turn with the characters from The Wall story appearing in some macabre cartoon-style graphics. 

The song was the only number-one single for the band. It was a worldwide hit and features in many great songs of all-time lists. It seems odd to think of all the huge Christmas number-one singles and realise that this Pink Floyd track was one of the biggest. It won’t get as many replays each year at this time as your Michael Buble and Mariah Carey tracks do,  but it’s still a great listen. 

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