What Shall We Do Now?

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"What Shall We Do Now?"
Song by Pink Floyd
from the album Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81
Released 18 April 2000
Recorded 1978–1979, 14 June 1981 (in Live)
Length 1:40
Songwriter(s) Roger Waters

"What Shall We Do Now?" (working title "Backs to the Wall") is a song by Pink Floyd, written by Roger Waters.

It was originally intended to be on their 1979 album The Wall, and appeared in demo versions of The Wall, but was omitted[1] due to the time restraints of the vinyl format. In its place is a much shorter song, titled "Empty Spaces", which segues directly into "Young Lust". This was a last-minute decision; the album's sleeve notes still feature the song in its track listing, and include its lyrics.


The beginning of the song is the same backing track as "Empty Spaces", but in the original key of D minor. It's a slow, dark progression with a repetitive, electronic drum beat and solo guitar, but where "Empty Spaces" ends and segues into "Young Lust", "What Shall We Do Now?" moves into a second, louder section punctuated with guitar power chords. The transition of D - E - F - E is a recurring theme throughout the album, heard on "In the Flesh?", "In the Flesh", "Waiting for the Worms", and the three "Another Brick in the Wall" songs. The long verse is played with D minor and A minor chords. Where the album's main character, Pink's question about how he should fill out the gaps in his wall was of a rhetorical nature in "Empty Spaces", "What Shall We Do Now?" lists the diversions, possessions, and vices of a rock star ("Shall we buy a new guitar / Shall we drive a more powerful car / Shall we work straight through the night / Shall we get into fights / Leave the lights on / Drop bombs ....") in response.

The two tracks are easily confused. The tape speed for "Empty Spaces" was sped up, to raise its key to E minor, with re-recorded vocals and guitar. The members of Pink Floyd have contributed to the confusion regarding the identity of this track, misidentifying "What Shall We Do Now?" as "Empty Spaces" on multiple occasions, such as in the track listing for the film version of The Wall, and on Waters' The Wall Live in Berlin. On other occasions (such as the officially released live version), the first and second parts of the track are divided and identified as "Empty Spaces" and "What Shall We Do Now?" respectively, even though they are in fact two distinct parts of the same song, the first of which was later intended to be reprised as "Empty Spaces". (This is based on the original lyrics and running order as printed on initial vinyl copies of the album.)

The studio version has not been officially released on any CD to date, but has been widely bootlegged from the film (with the audio taken from VHS, Laserdisc and DVD sources over the decades).

The film

The song was featured in the film version of The Wall,[1] coupled with an animated sequence by Gerald Scarfe. The animation — described by Roger Waters in the DVD commentary as "The fucking flowers!" — starts with the image of two flowers caressing each other. Synchronized to the music, the flowers both have sex (taking the shape of a human couple doing so) with the male flower at one point is shaped like a penis, and the final form of the female flower is of a vagina, having a fight, and ultimately ending with the "female" flower consuming and destroying the "male" flower.

The flower sequence ends as soon as the first lyrics ("What shall we use...") are sung. The female flower, now transformed into a pterodactyl-like creature, flies into the distance as a row of residential and commercial buildings appears. These, however, turn out to be a wall of many post-war goods such as cars, electronics, appliances, etc. which slowly surrounds a "sea of faces". As the song speeds up and launches into "Shall we buy a new guitar?/Shall we drive a more powerful car?...", the animation becomes extremely morbid — the buildings evidently transform into the Wall, heads of people caught in the Wall screaming (the screaming face, seen later in "Waiting for the Worms"), flowers turn into barbed wire, a baby suffers a metamorphosis and turns into a reptile-headed creature and then into a Neo-Nazi stormtrooper, who smashes the head of a sitting-by dark-skinned man with a club and finally, the wall rams through a cathedral and the rubble turns into a casino-like temple, which produces more and more (albeit neon) bricks. A rag doll representing Pink is grotesquely contorted and transformed into an array of objects relating to the materialistic nature of Pink's Wall: a naked woman, ice cream, an MP-40, a hypodermic needle, a black Fender Precision Bass guitar, and a BMW M1. The sequence ends as the ground rises into the form of a fist that becomes a hammer (a hammer that would reappear in the animated sequence of "Waiting for the Worms").



"What Shall We Do Now?" would be performed at all concerts for The Wall,[1] and so appears on Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81. It was also included in Waters' 1990 The Wall Concert in Berlin, therefore appears on the album The Wall – Live in Berlin. Waters also performed it on his 2010–2013 tour.


  1. ^ a b c Manning, Toby (2006). "Soundtracks, Compilations & Bootlegs". The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 227. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.

External links

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