The Division Bell
|The Division Bell|
|Studio album by Pink Floyd|
|Released||28 March 1994|
(London, United Kingdom)
|Producer||Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour|
|Pink Floyd chronology|
|Singles from The Division Bell|
The Division Bell is the fourteenth and last studio album by English progressive rock group Pink Floyd. It was released in the UK by EMI Records on 28 March 1994, and the US by Columbia Records on 4 April.
The music was written mostly by David Gilmour and Richard Wright; lyrically, the album deals mostly with themes of communication. Recording took place in a number of locations, including the band's Britannia Row Studios, and Gilmour's houseboat, Astoria. The production team included Pink Floyd stalwarts such as producer Bob Ezrin, engineer Andy Jackson and saxophonist Dick Parry. Gilmour's new wife, Polly Samson, co-wrote many of the album's lyrics, and Wright performed his first lead vocal on a Pink Floyd album since 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon.
The album reached number one in the UK and the US, but received lukewarm reviews. Its release was followed immediately by a tour of the US and Europe. The Division Bell was certified gold, platinum and 2x platinum in the US in 1994, and 3x platinum in 1999.
Much of the album deals with themes of communication, the idea that talking can solve more of life's problems. Songs such as "Poles Apart", "Lost for Words" and particularly the reference to "The day the wall came down" in "A Great Day for Freedom" are occasionally interpreted as references to the long-standing estrangement between former band-member Roger Waters and Pink Floyd, though Gilmour has denied that the album is an allegory for the split. In 1994 he said: "People can invent and relate to a song in their personal ways, but it's a little late at this point for us to be conjuring Roger up." The general theme of communication is reflected in the choice of name for the album; The Division Bell was inspired by the division bell rung in the British parliament to indicate that a vote is to take place.[nb 1] Drummer Nick Mason expanded on this in 1994, when he said "it does have some meaning. It's about people making choices, yeas or nays."
Produced only a few years after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the song "A Great Day for Freedom" juxtaposes the general euphoria of, for instance, the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the subsequent wars and ethnic cleansing, particularly in Yugoslavia. Audio samples of Professor Stephen Hawking provide the spoken word portions of "Keep Talking". Gilmour had first heard the professor's words on a British television advertisement, and was so moved by Hawking's sentiment that he contacted the company which made the advertisement to get permission to use the recordings on the album. Emphasising the general theme of poor communication, at the end of the album Gilmour's stepson Charlie can be heard hanging up the telephone receiver on Pink Floyd manager Steve O'Rourke, who had pleaded to be allowed to appear on a Pink Floyd album. In the Studio radio host Redbeard suggested that the album offered "the very real possibility of transcending it all, through shivering moments of grace".
In January 1993, Gilmour, Mason and Wright began ad-libbing new material, in sessions at a remodelled Britannia Row Studios. Although the band were initially apprehensive about recording together, after the first day their confidence improved and soon, bassist Guy Pratt (who had, since the end of the Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour, become an item with Wright's daughter, Gala Wright) was asked to contribute. According to Mason, "an interesting phenomenon occurred, which was that Pratt's playing tended to change the mood of the music we had created on our own". Without the legal problems experienced during production of their 1987 album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Gilmour was at ease; if he felt the band were "getting somewhere", he would press the record key of a two-track DAT recorder. At one point Gilmour surreptitiously recorded Wright playing the keyboard, and captured material which later formed the basis for three pieces of music.
The improvisations the band recorded helped spur their creative process, and after about two weeks they had around 65 pieces of music. With engineer Andy Jackson back on the team, and Bob Ezrin employed as co-producer, production moved to Gilmour's houseboat and recording studio, Astoria. The band listened to and voted on each track, and whittled the material down to about 27 pieces of music.[nb 2] Eliminating some tracks, and merging others, they eventually arrived at a list about fifteen strong songs, before cutting another four to produce a tracklist of eleven. Song selection was based upon a system of points, whereby all three members would award marks out of ten to each candidate song, a system skewed somewhat by Wright's decision to award his songs ten points each, and the other songs no points. Wright was not contractually a full member of the band, a situation which clearly upset him; Wright later reflected: "It came very close to a point where I wasn't going to do the album, because I didn't feel that what we'd agreed was fair." Despite his frustration he chose to remain, and received his first songwriting credits on any Pink Floyd album since 1975's Wish You Were Here.
"Wearing the Inside Out" contains Richard Wright's first prominent vocal contribution to a Pink Floyd album since 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon.
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Gilmour's new wife, Polly Samson, also received song-writing credits. Initially, her role was limited to providing encouragement for her husband, but she later helped Gilmour write "High Hopes" (a song about Gilmour's childhood and early life in Cambridge). Her role expanded to co-writing a further six songs, something which did not sit well with Ezrin. In an interview for Mojo magazine Gilmour admitted that Samson's contributions had "ruffled the management's [feathers]", but Ezrin later reflected that her presence was inspirational for Gilmour, and that she "pulled the whole album together". She also helped Gilmour, who, following his divorce, had developed a cocaine habit.
Keyboard player Jon Carin, and Gary Wallis were brought in to complete the band, before recording began. Five backing vocalists were also hired, including Sam Brown, and Momentary Lapse tour singer Durga McBroom. The band then moved to Olympia Studios, recorded most of the 'winning' tracks over the space of a week. After a summer break, they returned to Astoria to record more backing tracks. Ezrin worked on the various drum sounds, and previous collaborator and orchestral composer Michael Kamen provided the album's string arrangements. Dick Parry played saxophone on his first Pink Floyd album for almost 20 years, on "Wearing the Inside Out", and Chris Thomas was booked to undertake the final mix. Between September and December recording and mixing sessions were held at Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, and the Creek Recording Studios in London. In September, the band performed at a celebrity charity concert at Cowdray House, in Midhurst. The album was mastered at the Mastering Lab in Los Angeles, by Doug Sax and James Guthrie.[nb 3]
With the aid of Gilmour's guitar technician, Phil Taylor, Carin managed to locate some of the band's older keyboards from the warehouse in which they had been stored, including a Farfisa organ. Some of the sounds sampled from these instruments were used on the tracks "Take It Back", and "Marooned". Carin was joined on keyboards by Ezrin, Durga McBroom supplied backing vocals alongside Sam Brown, Carol Kenyan, Jackie Sheridan, and Rebecca Leigh-White.
Gilmour used several styles on the album. "What Do You Want from Me" is heavily influenced by Chicago blues, "Poles Apart" contains folksy overtones. Gilmour's heavily improvised guitar solos on "Marooned" used a DigiTech Whammy pedal to pitch-shift the guitar notes over a full octave. On "Take It Back" he used an EBow (an electronic device which simulates the sound of a bow on the strings), on a Gibson J-200 guitar through a Zoom effects unit.
Packaging and title
To avoid competing against other album releases (as had happened with A Momentary Lapse) Pink Floyd set a deadline of April 1994, at which point they would begin a new tour. By January of that year however, the band still had not decided on a title for the album. The list of names being considered included Pow Wow and Down to Earth. At a dinner one night, writer Douglas Adams, spurred on by the promise of a £5,000 payment to his favourite charity, the Environmental Investigation Agency, suggested "the division bell" (used in the lyrics for "High Hopes"), and the name stuck.
Longtime Floyd collaborator Storm Thorgerson provided the album artwork. He erected two large metal heads, each the height of a double-decker bus, in a field near Ely. The sculptures were positioned close together, and photographed in profile, to give the illusion that not only were they either facing or talking to each other, they also presented the viewer with a third face. The sculptures were devised by Keith Breeden, and constructed by John Robertson. Ely Cathedral is visible on the horizon. The sculptures are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
The album was released in the UK and US on CD, vinyl, and compact cassette, each with its own format and label-specific design. It was also available in mini-disc format. Two 7.5-metre (25 ft) stone sculptures were made by Aden Hynes[nb 4] for the cassette releases, and photographed in the same style as the metal heads. The artwork inside the CD liner notes revolves around a similar theme, with the image of the two heads formed by various other objects, such as newspapers ("A Great Day for Freedom"), coloured glass ("Poles Apart"), and boxing gloves ("Lost for Words"). Pages two and three portray a picture from the Chilean La Silla Observatory. The CD case itself had the name of Pink Floyd printed in Braille on the left front side.
Release and reception
On 10 January 1994 a press reception to announce the new album and world tour was held at a former US Naval Air Station in North Carolina, in the US. A purpose-built Skyship 600 airship, manufactured in the UK, toured the US until it returned to Weeksville, and was destroyed by a thunderstorm on 27 June. Pieces of the aircraft were sold as souvenirs. The band held another reception, in the UK, on 21 March. This time they used an A60 airship, translucent, and painted to look like a fish, which took journalists on a tour of London. The airship, which was lit internally so it glowed in the night sky, was also flown in northern Europe.
The album was released in the UK by EMI Records on 28 March 1994,[nb 5] and in the US on 4 April,[nb 6] and went straight to #1 in both countries. The Division Bell was certified silver and gold in the UK on 1 April 1994, platinum a month later and 2x platinum on 1 October. In the US, it was certified gold and 2x platinum on 6 June 1994, and 3x platinum on 29 January 1999.
Despite strong sales the album received poor reviews. Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly gave it a "D", writing that "avarice is the only conceivable explanation for this glib, vacuous cipher of an album, which is notable primarily for its stomach-turning merger of progressive-rock pomposity and New Age noodling". Rolling Stone's Tom Graves criticised Gilmour's performance, stating that his guitar solos "were once the band's centerpieces, as articulate, melodic and well-defined as any in rock, [but] he now has settled into rambling, indistinct asides that are as forgettable as they used to be indelible", adding that "only on 'What Do You Want from Me' does Gilmour sound like he cares". Nevertheless, the album was nominated in the 1995 Brit awards for the "Best Album by a British Artist", but lost to Blur's Parklife. In March the same year the band was awarded with a Grammy for the "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" on "Marooned".
More contemporary reviews have been warmer towards the album. Writing as part of Uncut's Pink Floyd: The Ultimate Music Guide, Graeme Thomson felt that the album "might just be the dark horse of the Floyd canon. The opening triptych of songs is a hugely impressive return to something very close to the eternal essence of Pink Floyd, and much of the rest retains a quiet power and a meditative quality that betrays a genuine sense of unity".
Two days after the album's release, the band's Division Bell Tour began at Joe Robbie Stadium, in suburban Miami. The setlist began with 1967's "Astronomy Domine", before moving to tracks from 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and The Division Bell. Songs from Wish You Were Here and The Dark Side of the Moon featured, as well as The Wall. Backing musicians included Sam Brown, Jon Carin, Claudia Fontaine, Durga McBroom, Dick Parry, Guy Pratt, Tim Renwick, and Gary Wallis. The tour continued in the US through April, May and mid-June, before moving to Canada, and then returning to the US in July. As the tour reached Europe in late July, Waters was invited to join the band, but he declined, and later expressed his annoyance that some Floyd songs were being performed again in large venues. On the first night of the UK leg of the tour on 12 October, a 1,200 capacity stand collapsed, but with no serious injuries; the performance was rescheduled.
During the tour an anonymous person named Publius posted a message on an internet newsgroup, inviting fans to solve a riddle supposedly concealed in the new album. The veracity of the message was demonstrated when white lights in front of the stage at a performance in East Rutherford spelled out the words Enigma Publius. During a televised concert at Earls Court in October 1994, the word enigma was projected in large letters on to the backdrop of the stage. Mason later acknowledged that the Publius Enigma did exist, and that it had been instigated by the record company rather than the band. As of 2013 the puzzle remains unsolved.
The tour ended at Earls Court on 29 October 1994, and was the group's final concert performance until Live 8. Estimates placed the total number of tickets sold at over 5.3 million, and gross income at about $100 million. A live album of the tour, named Pulse, and a concert video, also named Pulse, (which was shot on 20 October 1994) were released in June 1995.
All lead vocals performed by David Gilmour, except where noted.
|1.||"Cluster One" (Instrumental)||N/A||Gilmour, Richard Wright||5:58|
|2.||"What Do You Want from Me"||Gilmour, Polly Samson||Gilmour, Wright||4:21|
|3.||"Poles Apart"||Gilmour, Samson, Nick Laird-Clowes||Gilmour||7:04|
|4.||"Marooned" (Instrumental)||N/A||Gilmour, Wright||5:29|
|5.||"A Great Day for Freedom"||Gilmour, Samson||Gilmour||4:17|
|6.||"Wearing the Inside Out" (Lead vocals: Wright and Gilmour)||Anthony Moore||Wright||6:49|
|7.||"Take It Back"||Gilmour, Samson, Laird-Clowes||Gilmour, Bob Ezrin||6:12|
|8.||"Coming Back to Life"||Gilmour||Gilmour||6:19|
|9.||"Keep Talking"||Gilmour, Samson||Gilmour, Wright||6:11|
|10.||"Lost for Words"||Gilmour, Samson||Gilmour||5:14|
|11.||"High Hopes"||Gilmour, Samson||Gilmour||8:31|
Charts and certifications
- The bell used at the end of the album is not the bell used in Parliament
- Mason (2005) also writes that they had enough leftover material to create a separate release, which he called The Big Spliff.
- See sleeve notes.
- See sleeve notes.
- UK EMI EMD 1055 (vinyl), EMI CD EMD 1055 (CD)
- US Columbia C 64200 (vinyl), Columbia CK 64200 (CD)
- Blake 2008, p. 365
- Morse, Steve (12 May 1994), Pink Floyd pride and drive keep band on top with No. 1 album and 60-show tour (Registration required), Boston Globe, hosted at infoweb.newsbank.com, retrieved 14 January 2010
- Mabbett 1995, pp. 119, 123
- Cosyns, Simon (26 September 2008), Echoes brought Rick out of his shell ... we had musical telepathy, thesun.co.uk, retrieved 17 January 2010
- In the Studio with Redbeard, 31 March 1994
- Mabbett 1995, p. 123
- In the Studio with Redbeard, inthestudio.net, 17 August 2009
- Blake 2005, p. 356
- Mason 2005, p. 315
- Blake 2005, p. 354
- Di Perna 2002, p. 86
- Mason 2005, pp. 314–315
- Mason 2005, p. 316
- Mason 2005, pp. 314–321
- Blake 2005, p. 355
- Blake 2005, pp. 354–355
- Blake 2005, pp. 355–356
- Mason 2005, pp. 318–319
- Blake 2008, pp. 356–357
- Povey 2007, p. 257
- Blake 2008, p. 357
- Mabbett 1995, p. 120
- Di Perna 2002, pp. 83–85
- Mason 2005, p. 317
- Mason 2005, pp. 319–320
- Mabbett 1995, pp. 119–120
- Mason 2005, p. 320
- Division Bell — Metal Heads, hypergallery.com, retrieved 13 January 2010[dead link]
- McCully, Jerry, The Division Bell, retrieved 2010-01-09
- Manning 2006, p. 144
- Povey 2007, p. 270
- Povey 2007, p. 350
- Blake 2008, p. 359
- Povey 2007, p. 351
- Graves, Tom (16 June 1994), The Division Bell, rollingstone.com, archived from the original on 19 June 2008, retrieved 3 January 2010
- Sinclair, Tom (22 April 1994), The Division Bell, ew.com, retrieved 9 January 2010
- The Nominees, Billboard, 18 February 1995, p. 48, retrieved 13 January 2010
- Browne 2001, p. 611
- Thomson, Graeme (07/06/2011). "The Division Bell". Uncut: Ultimate Music Guide - Pink Floyd (6): 128.
- Blake 2008, p. 367
- Povey 2007, pp. 270–280
- Blake 2008, pp. 363–367
- Povey 2007, p. 264
- Povey 2007, p. 285
- "Pink Floyd – The Division Bell". Australiancharts.com. Hung Medien.
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- Hits of the World 106 (24), Nielsen Business Media, Inc, 11 June 1994, p. 41, retrieved 13 October 2011
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- "Gold & Platinum 1987–1998". IFPI Sweden (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 21 May 2012.
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- "British album certifications – Pink Floyd – The Division Bell". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 11 January 2013. Enter The Division Bell in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
- "American album certifications – Pink Floyd – The Division Bell". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 11 January 2013. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
- Blake, Mark (2008), Comfortably Numb—The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, Da Capo, ISBN 0-306-81752-7
- Browne, Pat (2001), The guide to United States popular culture, Popular Press, ISBN 0-87972-821-3
- Di Perna, Alan (2002), Guitar World Presents Pink Floyd, Hal Leonard Corporation, ISBN 0-634-03286-0
- Mabbett, Andy (1995), The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd, Omnibus Pr, ISBN 0-7119-4301-X
- Mason, Nick (2005), Philip Dodd, ed., Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd (Paperback ed.), Phoenix, ISBN 0-7538-1906-6
- Povey, Glenn (2007), Echoes, Mind Head Publishing, ISBN 0-9554624-0-1
- Manning, Toby (2006), The rough guide to Pink Floyd (illustrated ed.), Rough Guides, ISBN 1-84353-575-0