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"Not Now John" is a song from Pink Floyd's 1983 album, The Final Cut. The track is the only song from the album featuring the vocals of David Gilmour, found in the verses, with Roger Waters singing the refrains and interludes, and was the only single released from the album. Though the word "fuck" was censored in the single release, it is one of the few Pink Floyd songs to contain profanity.
It reached No. 30 in the UK Singles Chart.
The lyrics, written by Roger Waters, deal with war (particularly the Falklands War) and criticism of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as well as general criticisms of the greed and corruption that Waters saw as dangers to society. It also shows the corruptible and fruitless labor of post-war America, Europe and Japan. The wording is such that it mainly tells of the changing of global trade and that a new leader is emerging in the consumer goods industry, Japan.
Despite the political content of the album and the specific references in other songs to public figures of the time, the "John" of the title is not intended to refer to any particular person named John. It is being used in the British colloquial sense, where "John" can be employed in the same way as "mate", "pal", "Jack", or "Guv" to refer to anyone to whom one is speaking, particularly if the speaker does not know their name. At the time, this usage of "John" as a general means of address to others would have been particularly associated with blue-collar workers, who were the people being most strongly affected by the changes to manufacturing and trade referred to in the song.
In The Final Cut Video EP for the song depicts a Japanese child walking through a factory searching for a soldier. The child is confronted by factory workers playing cards and geisha girls before he falls to his death from a scaffold and is discovered by a World War II veteran (played by Alex McAvoy, who also played the schoolteacher in Pink Floyd — The Wall). It was directed by Waters' then brother-in-law, Willie Christie.
Unlike the majority of other tracks on The Final Cut, "Not Now John" takes an upbeat, driving, tempo — and hard rock style — for much of its duration. Gilmour and Waters split vocals duties, similar to the song "Comfortably Numb" from The Wall, and they represent different "characters" or points of view — Gilmour is the self-serving ignorant layperson while Waters is the intellectual, responsible observer of the world's woes. However, Waters sings verses associated with Gilmour's character near the end of the song. Gilmour sings the three main verses, and Waters sings the two interludes — which feature a musical reprise of "One of the Few" — as well as the lead-in to the first interlude and the outro following the second. During the demo stages of the album, the song was sung entirely by Roger Waters.
It is the only track on the album not to exclusively feature Waters on vocals. The interludes feature Waters' vocals and a 12-string acoustic guitar mimicking the structure of "One of the Few"; the acoustic guitar, however, is barely audible except for the fill on each fourth bar between Waters' vocals. Also, the lead-in to the first interlude — "Can't stop, lose job, mind gone, silicon, ..." — has Waters' high-pitched singing voice double-tracked with a low-pitched spoken voice — in a similar manner to his singing on the choruses of the song "The Hero's Return".
The word "fuck" occurs in the song seven times, six times as part of the phrase, "fuck all that"; near the end the song is a "Where's-the-bar?" lyric — which is sung in Italian, Greek, French and finally English— with the English iteration sung as, "Oi — Where's the fucking bar, John?" "Fuck" is bowdlerized to "stuff" in the 7" single release. (The four iterations are preceded by the lyric, "One, two, free four!" — reminiscent of the intro to another Pink Floyd song, "Free Four".)
"Not Now John" was released as a single on 3 May 1983. The words "fuck all that" were overdubbed as "stuff all that" by Gilmour, Waters, and the female backing singers.
"The Hero's Return" was released as the B-side, featuring an additional verse not included on the album. A 12" single was released in the UK, featuring the two 7" tracks on side 1 and the album version of "Not Now John" on side 2. The single hit number thirty in the UK and number seven on the US Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
- "Not Now John" (single version) — 4:12
- "The Hero's Return (Parts I and II)" — 4:02
- "Not Now John" (album version) — 4:56 (12" single only)
- Roger Waters — lead vocals, bass guitar, tapes, synthesizer
- David Gilmour — lead vocals, guitars
- Nick Mason — drums
- Andy Bown — Hammond organ
The song also features a group of female backing singers, who perform a sort of "call-and-response" to Gilmour's vocals. Neither the sleeve notes nor the band have ever given any clue as to their identity.