"Run Like Hell" is a song from the 1979 Pink Floyd album The Wall.

Concept[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song is written from the point of view of anti-hero Pink, an alienated and bitter rock star, during a hallucination in which he becomes a fascist dictator and turns a concert audience into an angry mob. The lyrics are explicitly threatening, directed at the listener, one with an "empty smile" and "hungry heart""dirty feelings" and a"guilty past", "nerves in tatters" as "hammers batter down your door." Even the act of lovemaking is doomed, for "if they catch you in the back seat trying to pick her locks", the results will be fatal. Although the lyric "You better run like hell" appears twice in the liner notes, the title is never actually sung; each verse simply concludes with "You better run".

Film adaptation[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In the film adaptation, Pink directs his jackbooted thugs to attack the "riff-raff" mentioned in the previous song, in which he ordered them to raid and destroy the homes of queersJews, and black people, among others. One scene depicts an interracial couple cuddling in the back seat of a car when a group of neo-Nazis accost them, beating the man and raping the woman.

The Wall director Alan Parker hired the Tilbury Skins, a skinhead group from Southeast London, for a scene in which Pink's "hammer guard" (in black, militaristic uniforms designed by the film's animator, Gerald Scarfe) smashes up a Pakistani diner, and, Parker recalled, the action "always seemed to continue long after I had yelled out Cut!."[4]

History[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The music was written by David Gilmour (one of three songs on The Wall for which Gilmour is credited as a co-writer), and the lyrics were written by Roger Waters. Waters provides the vocals (except for Gilmour's multitracked harmonies singing "Run, run, run, run,"). The song features the only keyboard contribution to the song, as well as the only keyboard solo on The Wall (although on live performances, "Young Lust" and "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II" would also feature keyboard solos); after the last line of lyrics, a synthesizer solo is played over the verse sequence, in place of vocals. Following the solo, the arrangement "empties out" and becomes sparse, with the guitar only playing an ostinato with rhythmic echoes, and brief variations every other bar. Sound effects are used to create a sense of paranoia, with the sound of cruel laughter, running footsteps, car tyres skidding, and a loud scream. The original single version and promotional EP both contain a clean guitar intro, without the live crowd effects.

As with "Comfortably Numb", also from The Wall, the music to "Run Like Hell" has its roots in Gilmour's first solo album. "Short and Sweet" can be seen as this song's precursor. "Yes," Gilmour told Musicianmagazine, "it's a guitar with the bottom string tuned down to a D, and thrashing around on the chord shapes over a D root. Which is the same in both [songs]. [Smiling] It's part of my musical repertoire, yes."[5]

Composition[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The guitar intro begins with the scratching of strings dampened with left-hand muting, before settling on an open D string dampened by palm muting. As heard earlier on the album, on "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)", the muted D is treated with a specific delay setting, providing three to four loud but gradually decaying repeats, one dotted-eighth note apart, with the result that simply playing quarter notes (at 116 beats per minute) will produce a strict rhythm of one eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes, with rhythmic echoes overlapping. Over this pedal tone of D, Gilmour plays descending triads in D major (mostly D, A, and G), down to the open chord position (a quieter, second overdubbed guitar plays open chords only). Some of the guitar tracks are also treated with a heavy flanging effect.

The verses are in E minor, with pedal tones of the guitar's open E, B, and G strings (a full E minor triad) ringing out over a sequence of power chords, resulting in the chords E minor, Fmaj7sus2(♯11), C major seventh, and Bsus4(add♭6). Providing contrast, another guitar, equally treated with delay, plays a low-pitched riff on the roots and minor sevenths of each chord, although the E♭ (minor seventh of F) and B♭ (minor seventh of C) do not match the sustaining open E and B strings an octave above.[6][7]

Aside from the added tones in each chord, the basic verse sequence of E minor, F major, E minor, C major, and B major is reprised later in "The Trial", the conceptual climax of The Wall. However, David Gilmour is not credited as a co-writer of "The Trial", which is credited to Waters and producer Bob Ezrin.

Before the final riff ends the song, a piercing shriek by Roger Waters can be heard, not unlike one heard in between "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" and "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)".

Film version[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The movie version of the song is considerably shorter than the album version. The second guitar refrain between the first and second verses was taken out, with the verse's last line, "You better run", leading directly to Gilmour's harmonized chant ("Run, run, run, run"), which now echoed back and forth between the left and right channels. Also, Richard Wright's synth solo was superimposed over the second verse, and the long instrumental break between the end of the synth solo and Waters' scream was removed.

Live performances[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Pink Floyd[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The Wall Tour[edit source | editbeta]Edit

During the previous song, "In the Flesh", a giant inflatable pig was released, which Waters refers to in a speech between both songs. The speech given varied slightly on each concert and therefore can be used to identify which show a recording came from. On Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81, the speech is a mix of the 15 June 1981 and 17 June 1981 speeches. It was sometimes introduced by Waters as "Run Like Fuck" and Waters and Gilmour sang different lines in the verses, while the vocal quartet of Stan Farber, Jim Haas, Joe Chemay, and John Joyce sang the choruses.

Later tours[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Following Waters' departure from Pink Floyd, the song became a regular number in the band's concerts, usually ending the show and going over nine minutes long. One live version was used as the B-side to "On the Turning Away". The song also was the closing track on the live album Delicate Sound of Thunder. Gilmour generally played an extended guitar introduction, sharing vocals with touring bassist Guy Pratt, with Pratt singing Waters' lines. In the 1994 tour, Pratt sometimes sang the name of the city where they were playing instead of the word mother in the line "...they're going to send you back to mother in a cardboard box..." – in the P•U•L•S•E video (live at Earls Court, 1994), he clearly sings London. According to Phil Taylor, David Gilmour played Run Like Hell on a Fender Telecaster guitar tuned to a drop-D, in the 1994 tour.[8]

Roger Waters[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In Roger Waters' The Wall concert in Berlin in 1990, he made no speech and sang all the lines alone. During the concert in Berlin, Waters didn't play the bass guitar during the song, but during the 1980 tours he played the Gilmour bass line (which is composed almost entirely of four quarter notes per bar, with very few eighth-note variations, and only the root of each chord).

For Waters' worldwide 2010-2013 Wall tour, the song was transposed one whole step down, from D to C.[9] This is commonly done in live performances when a singer has difficulty reaching the highest notes in the song's original key. During the intro of the song, Waters clapped and in some cases shouted, exhorting the audience to clap along and "have a good time, enjoy yourselves", which might be considered ironic, given the paranoid tone of the actual lyrics.

David Gilmour[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In addition to performing the song with Pink Floyd, Gilmour has also performed it himself on his 1984 solo tour in support of his About Face album. In Waters' absence, Gilmour would trade lines with bassist Mickey Feat. He also performed the song solo at the Colombian Volcano benefit concert in 1986, trading lines with house-band keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick (who would later play on Waters' solo album, Amused to Death).

Personnel[edit source | editbeta]Edit


Cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.