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The Division Bell

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The Division Bell
Pink Floyd - Division Bell.jpg
Cover used on all vinyl copies except in Brazil, Colombia and the United States
Studio album by
Released28 March 1994 (1994-03-28)
RecordedJanuary–December 1993
GenreProgressive rock[1]
Pink Floyd chronology
Shine On
The Division Bell
Alternate cover
2014 20th anniversary reissue cover
2014 20th anniversary reissue cover
Singles from The Division Bell
  1. "Take It Back"
    Released: 16 May 1994
  2. "High Hopes" / "Keep Talking"
    Released: 17 October 1994

The Division Bell is the fourteenth studio album by the English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, released on 28 March 1994 by EMI Records in the United Kingdom and on 4 April by Columbia Records in the United States.

The second Pink Floyd album recorded without founding member Roger Waters, The Division Bell was written mostly by guitarist and singer David Gilmour and keyboardist Richard Wright. It features Wright's first lead vocal on a Pink Floyd album since The Dark Side of the Moon (1973). Gilmour's fiancée, novelist Polly Samson, co-wrote many of the lyrics, which deal with themes of communication.

Recording took place in locations including the band's Britannia Row Studios and Gilmour's houseboat, Astoria. The production team included longtime Pink Floyd collaborators such as producer Bob Ezrin, engineer Andy Jackson, saxophonist Dick Parry, and bassist Guy Pratt.

The Division Bell received mixed reviews, but reached number one in the UK and the US. It was certified double platinum in the US the year it was released, and triple platinum in 1999. It was followed by a tour of the US and Europe. Unused material from the Division Bell sessions became part of Pink Floyd's next album, The Endless River (2014).


The Division Bell deals with themes of communication and the idea that talking can solve many problems.[2] In the Studio radio host Redbeard suggested that the album offered "the very real possibility of transcending it all, through shivering moments of grace".[3] Songs such as "Poles Apart" and "Lost for Words" have been interpreted[by whom?] as references to the estrangement between Pink Floyd and former band member Roger Waters, who left in 1985; however, Gilmour denied this, and 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."[4] The title refers to the division bell rung in the British parliament to announce a vote.[5][nb 1] Drummer Nick Mason said: "It does have some meaning. It's about people making choices, yeas or nays."[4]

Produced a few years after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, "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.[6] Audio samples of Stephen Hawking, originally recorded for a BT television advertisement, were used in "Keep Talking";[4][7] Gilmour was so moved by Hawking's sentiment in the advert that he contacted the advertising company for permission to use the recordings on the album.[8] Mason said it felt "politically incorrect to take ideas from advertising, but it seemed a very relevant piece."[4] At the end of the album Gilmour's stepson Charlie is 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.[9]


David Gilmour's recording studio, Astoria

In January 1993, Gilmour, Mason and Wright began improvising new material in sessions at the remodelled Britannia Row Studios. They recruited bassist Guy Pratt;[10] 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".[11] 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 record them on a two-track DAT recorder.[12][13] At one point Gilmour surreptitiously recorded Wright playing, capturing material which formed the basis for three pieces of music.[14]

After about two weeks the band had around 65 pieces of music. With engineer Andy Jackson and co-producer Bob Ezrin, 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. Eliminating some tracks, and merging others, they arrived at about eleven songs. 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.[15] Wright was not contractually a full member of the band, a situation which upset him. Wright 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."[16] Wright received his first songwriting credits on any Pink Floyd album since 1975's Wish You Were Here.[17]

Gilmour's fiancée, author Polly Samson, also received songwriting credits. Initially, her role was limited to providing encouragement for her husband, but she 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, which did not sit well with Ezrin. In an interview for Mojo magazine, Gilmour said that Samson's contributions had "ruffled the management's [feathers]", but Ezrin later reflected that her presence had been inspirational for Gilmour, and that she "pulled the whole album together".[18] She also helped Gilmour, who, following his divorce, had developed a cocaine addiction.[2]

Keyboardist Jon Carin and drummer/percussionist 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 Olympic 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 which were recorded at Abbey Road Studio Two by Steve McLaughlin.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] The album was mastered at the Mastering Lab in Los Angeles, by Doug Sax and James Guthrie.[nb 2]

Jackson edited unused material from the Division Bell sessions, described by Mason as ambient music, into an hour-long composition tentatively titled The Big Spliff,[22] but Pink Floyd decided not to release it.[11] Some of The Big Spliff was used to create the band's next album, The Endless River (2014).[23]


With the aid of Gilmour's guitar technician, Phil Taylor, Carin located some of Pink Floyd'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".[24] Carin was joined on keyboards by Ezrin. Durga McBroom supplied backing vocals alongside Sam Brown, Carol Kenyan, Jackie Sheridan, and Rebecca Leigh-White.[25]

"What Do You Want from Me" is influenced by Chicago blues, and "Poles Apart" contains folksy overtones. Gilmour's 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.[26]

Packaging and title[edit]

The album feels much more home-made, very much as a band playing together in one space. I think that Rick in particular felt significantly more integrated in the process this time, compared to Momentary Lapse. It was nice to have him back.

Nick Mason (2005)[27]

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 an album title. Titles considered included Pow Wow and Down to Earth. At a dinner one night, writer Douglas Adams, spurred on by the promise of a payment to his favourite charity, the Environmental Investigation Agency, suggested The Division Bell, a term which appears in "High Hopes".[28][29]

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 together and photographed in profile, and can be seen as two faces talking to each other or as a single, third face. Thorgerson said the "third absent face" was a reference to Syd Barrett. The sculptures were devised by Keith Breeden, and constructed by John Robertson. Ely Cathedral is visible on the horizon.[30][31] The pictures were shot in February for optimal lighting conditions.[28] Since 2001, the sculptures are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.[32] An alternate version of the cover photo, featuring two 7.5-metre (25 ft) stone sculptures by Aden Hynes[nb 3], was featured on the compact cassette release and the tour brochure.[33]

The Division Bell was released in the UK and US on CD, vinyl, cassette and mini-disc, each with its own format and design. The artwork inside the CD liner notes uses 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 Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. The CD tray has "Pink Floyd" printed in Braille on the left front side.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic2/5 stars[34]
Entertainment WeeklyD[1]
PopMatters7/10 stars[35]
Rolling Stone2.5/5 stars[36]
Uncut4/5 stars[37]

On 10 January 1994 a press reception to announce The Division Bell 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.[38]

The Division Bell was released in the UK by EMI Records on 28 March 1994,[nb 4] and in the US on 4 April,[nb 5][38] and went straight to #1 in both countries.[40] 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 double platinum on 6 June 1994, and triple platinum on 29 January 1999.[41]

In the United States the album debuted at number one in the Billboard 200 during the week of April 23, 1994 selling more than 460,000 units, at the time it was the 12th largest single-week total since Billboard began using SoundScan data in May 1991 and also became the fifth-largest first-week sales sum back then.[42] The next week it stayed at the top of the chart selling a little less than half its first-week total, it moved 226,000 units during its second week on chart.[43] The next week sales slid by 30% from last week's sum selling 157,000 units, despite this sales decrease the album stayed at number one.[44] The following week, on May 14, 1994 The Division Bell remained at number one on the Billboard 200 and sales declined by 17%.[45] On its fifth week on chart it fell off to the fourth place on the chart. It was present on the Billboard 200 for 53 weeks.[46] It was certified three times platinum by the RIAA on January 29, 1999 for shipments of three million units.[41]

Despite decent sales, The Division Bell received mixed 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".[1] Rolling Stone's Tom Graves criticised Gilmour's performance, stating that his guitar solos had "settled into rambling, indistinct asides that are as forgettable as they used to be indelible ... only on 'What Do You Want from Me' does Gilmour sound like he cares".[36] Nevertheless, the album was nominated in the 1995 Brit awards for the "Best Album by a British Artist",[47] but lost to Blur's Parklife. The band was awarded with a Grammy for the "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" on "Marooned".[48]

Just rubbish ... nonsense from beginning to end.

Ex-Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters on The Division Bell[49]

In Uncut's 2011 Pink Floyd: The Ultimate Music Guide, Graeme Thomson wrote that The Division Bell "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."[50]

Uncut reviewed the album once again in 2014 to celebrate the 20th anniversary reissue, and in their review praised the album for its production, citing that the album sounded much "more like a classic Pink Floyd album than 1983's The Final Cut" and throughout the album noted the empathy and connection between Wright and Gilmour, stating that these moments were "at the album's musical heart".[37]

The album was re-issued again with the Pink Floyd Records label on 26 August 2016.


Two days after the album's release, the band's Division Bell Tour began at Joe Robbie Stadium, in suburban Miami. The set list 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 declined an invitation to join the band, and later expressed his annoyance that Pink 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.[51][52]

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 message was verified during a show in East Rutherford, where white lights in front of the stage spelled out "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, but it had been instigated by the record company rather than the band. As of 2014, the puzzle remains unsolved.[53]

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.[54] 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.[55]

Track listing[edit]

All lead vocals performed by David Gilmour, except where noted.[56]

Original release[edit]

1."Cluster One" (instrumental) 5:56
2."What Do You Want from Me"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
3."Poles Apart"
4."Marooned" (instrumental) 
  • Wright
  • Gilmour
5."A Great Day for Freedom"
  • Gilmour
  • Samson
6."Wearing the Inside Out" (lead vocals: Wright, Gilmour)Anthony MooreWright6:49
7."Take It Back"
  • Gilmour
  • Samson
  • Laird-Clowes
8."Coming Back to Life"GilmourGilmour6:19
9."Keep Talking"
  • Gilmour
  • Samson
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
10."Lost for Words"
  • Gilmour
  • Samson
11."High Hopes"
  • Gilmour
  • Samson
Total length:66:23


20th anniversary double-LP edition[edit]


Since its release in 1994, The Division Bell has been reissued twice. The first was part of the 2011 Why Pink Floyd...? campaign which saw it remastered by Andy Jackson and released as a standalone CD and as part of the Discovery box set which collects all of the 14 studio albums together for the first time.[57] The second reissue occurred on 30 June 2014, which saw the album released as a "20th anniversary deluxe edition" box set[58] and a 20th anniversary double-LP vinyl reissue.[59] The box set contains the 2011 remaster of the album; a 5.1 surround sound remix by Andy Jackson; 2-LP record on 180g vinyl; a red 7" "Take It Back" single; a clear 7" "High Hopes/Keep Talking" single; a blue, laser-etched 12" "High Hopes" single; book and assorted art cards.[58] The 2014 reissues saw the first release of the full album on vinyl as the 1994 vinyl release saw only edited versions of the songs to keep it to a single LP.


Charts and certifications[edit]



  1. ^ The bell used at the end of the album is not the bell used in Parliament
  2. ^ See sleeve notes.
  3. ^ See sleeve notes.
  4. ^ UK EMI EMD 1055 (vinyl), EMI CD EMD 1055 (CD)[39]
  5. ^ US Columbia C 64200 (vinyl), Columbia CK 64200 (CD)[39]


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External links[edit]