The Division Bell


The Division Bell
The Division Bell
Studio album by Pink Floyd
Released 28 March 1994
Recorded 1993–1994
Genre Progressive rock
Length 66:32
Language English
Label EMI
Producer Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour
Pink Floyd chronology
A Momentary Lapse of Reason
(1987)
The Division Bell
(1994)
Singles from The Division Bell
  1. "Take It Back"
    Released: 16 May 1994[1]
  2. "High Hopes"
    Released: 17 October 1994[1]

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

Written mostly by guitarist David Gilmour and keyboardist Richard Wright, 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 went to 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 Double Platinum in the US in June 1994, and triple Platinum in January 1999. The album sold over 12 million copies worldwide.[2]

Contents

Concept

Much of the album deals with themes of communication—the idea that talking can solve more of life's problems.[3] 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."[4] 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.[5][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."[4]

It feels politically incorrect to take ideas from advertising, but it seemed a very relevant piece.

Nick Mason (1994), referring to Stephen Hawking's voice on "Keep Talking"[4]

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.[6] Audio samples of Professor Stephen Hawking provide the spoken word portions of "Keep Talking".[4] 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.[7] 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.[8] In the Studio radio host Redbeard suggested that the album offered "the very real possibility of transcending it all, through shivering moments of grace".[9]

Recording

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)[10] was asked to contribute. According to Mason, "an interesting phenomenon occurred, which was that Guy'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 press the record key of a two-track DAT recorder.[12][13] At one point Gilmour surreptitiously recorded Wright playing the keyboard, and captured material which later formed the basis for three pieces of music.[14]

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 15-strong, before cutting another 4 to produce a tracklist of 11 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.[16] The keyboardist 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."[17] Despite his frustration he chose to remain, and received his first song-writing credits on any Pink Floyd album since 1975's Wish You Were Here.[18]

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".[19] She also helped Gilmour, who, following his divorce, had developed a cocaine habit.[3]

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.[20] Dick Parry played saxophone on his first Pink Floyd album for almost twenty years, on "Wearing the Inside Out", and Chris Thomas was booked to undertake the final mix.[21] 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.[22] The album was mastered at the Mastering Lab in Los Angeles, by Doug Sax and James Guthrie.[nb 3]

Instrumentation

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".[23] Carin was joined on keyboards by Ezrin, Durga McBroom supplied backing vocals alongside Sam Brown, Carol Kenyan, Jackie Sheridan, and Rebecca Leigh-White.[24]

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.[25]

Packaging

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)[26]

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.[27][28]

Long-time 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.[29][30] 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. 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 lyric booklet 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

... there's a sense that the band may have put more thought into its trademark audio gimmickry ... than it did into its songs this time around. ... Still, the band maddeningly manages a few moments of the old grandeur here and there. The Division Bell is not a great Pink Floyd album, but an all-too-fallible simulation.

Jerry McCully on The Division Bell[31]

Just rubbish ... nonsense from beginning to end.

Roger Waters, giving his opinion of The Division Bell[32]

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.[33]

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][33] and went straight to number one in both countries.[35] The Division Bell was certified Silver and Gold in the UK on 1 April 1994, Platinum a month later, and 2* Platinum on 1 October. In the US it was certified Gold and 2* Platinum on 6 June 1994, and 3* Platinum on 29 January 1999.[1]

Despite strong sales the album received poor reviews.[36] 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".[37] Rolling Stone's Tom Graves criticised Gilmour's performance, stating that his guitar solos "were once the band's centrepieces, 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".[36] Nevertheless, the album was nominated in the 1995 Brit awards for the "Best album by a British artist",[38] 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".[39]

Tour

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 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.[40][41]

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 2011 the puzzle remains unsolved.[42]

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.[43] 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.[44]

Track listing

All lead vocals performed by David Gilmour except where noted.

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Cluster One"   Instrumental Gilmour, Wright 5:58
2. "What Do You Want from Me"   Gilmour, Samson Gilmour, Wright 4:21
3. "Poles Apart"   Gilmour, Samson, Laird-Clowes Gilmour 7:04
4. "Marooned"   Instrumental Gilmour, Wright 5:29
5. "A Great Day for Freedom"   Gilmour, Samson Gilmour 4:17
6. "Wearing the Inside Out" (Lead vocals: Richard Wright) Moore Wright 6:49
7. "Take It Back"   Gilmour, Samson, Laird-Clowes Gilmour, 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
Total length:
66:32

Personnel

Pink Floyd
Production
Additional musicians

Sales chart positions

Album
Year Chart Position
1994 UK Albums Chart[35] 1
US Billboard 200[35] 1
Chile (APF)[45] 1
Norwegian Record Charts[46] 1
Australian Albums Chart[47] 1
Swiss Charts[48] 1
Singles
Year Title Position Chart Source(s)
1994 "Take it Back" (edit)/"Astronomy Domine (live)" 73 US [nb 7]
"Take It Back" 23 UK Singles Chart [nb 8]
"High Hopes" (album version)/"Keep Talking" (album version)/"One of These Days" (live) 26 UK Singles Chart [nb 9]

References

Notes
  1. ^ The bell used at the end of the album is not the bell used in Parliament
  2. ^ Mason (2005) also writes that they had enough left-over material to create a separate release, which he called The Big Spliff.[15]
  3. ^ See sleeve notes.
  4. ^ See sleeve notes.
  5. ^ UK EMI EMD 1055 (vinyl), EMI CD EMD 1055 (CD)[34]
  6. ^ US Columbia C 64200 (vinyl), Columbia CK 64200 (CD)[34]
  7. ^ UK EMI EM 309 (ltd edition 7-inch red vinyl single), US Columbia 38-77493 (7-inch single)[1]
  8. ^ UK EMI CD EMDJ 309 (one-track promotional CD single)[1]
  9. ^ UK EMI CD EM 342 (CD single), EMI CD EMS 342 (ltd edition CD), EMI 12 EM 342 (12-inch one-sided single)[1]
Footnotes
  1. ^ a b c d e f Povey 2007, p. 351
  2. ^ Mail, Royal (2010-03-05) (Registration required), Post Rock — Royal Mail and Pink Floyd issue special souvenir stamp sheet, Royal Mail, http://www.news.royalmailgroup.com/article.asp?id=2679&brand=royal_mail, retrieved 2010-05-24 
  3. ^ a b Blake 2008, p. 365
  4. ^ a b c d Morse, Steve (1994-05-12) (Registration required), Pink Floyd pride and drive keep band on top with No. 1 album and 60-show tour, Boston Globe, hosted at infoweb.newsbank.com, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/InfoWeb?p_product=AWNB&p_theme=aggregated5&p_action=doc&p_docid=0EADE0D25AAA5012&p_docnum=1&p_queryname=2, retrieved 2010-01-14 
  5. ^ Mabbett 1995, pp. 119, 123
  6. ^ Cosyns, Simon (2008-09-26), Echoes brought Rick out of his shell ... we had musical telepathy, thesun.co.uk, http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/sftw/1734926/Pink-Floyds-David-Gilmore-Echoes-brought-Rick-out-of-his-shell.html, retrieved 2010-01-17 
  7. ^ In the Studio with Redbeard, 1994-03-31 
  8. ^ Mabbett 1995, p. 123
  9. ^ In the Studio with Redbeard, inthestudio.net, 2009-08-17, http://www.inthestudio.net/ 
  10. ^ Blake 2005, p. 356
  11. ^ Mason 2005, p. 315
  12. ^ Blake 2005, p. 354
  13. ^ Di Perna 2002, p. 86
  14. ^ Mason 2005, pp. 314–315
  15. ^ Mason 2005, p. 316
  16. ^ Mason 2005, pp. 314–321
  17. ^ Blake 2005, p. 355
  18. ^ Blake 2005, pp. 354–355
  19. ^ Blake 2005, pp. 355–356
  20. ^ Mason 2005, pp. 318–319
  21. ^ Blake 2008, pp. 356–357
  22. ^ Povey 2007, p. 257
  23. ^ Blake 2008, p. 357
  24. ^ Mabbett 1995, p. 120
  25. ^ Di Perna 2002, pp. 83–85
  26. ^ Mason 2005, p. 317
  27. ^ Mason 2005, pp. 319–320
  28. ^ Mabbett 1995, pp. 119–120
  29. ^ Mason 2005, p. 320
  30. ^ Division Bell — Metal Heads, hypergallery.com, http://www.hypergallery.com/prints/division-bell---metal-heads-25.html, retrieved 2010-01-13 
  31. ^ McCully, Jerry, The Division Bell, http://www.amazon.com/Division-Bell-Pink-Floyd/dp/B000002A3T, retrieved 2010-01-09 
  32. ^ Manning 2006, p. 144
  33. ^ a b Povey 2007, p. 270
  34. ^ a b Povey 2007, p. 350
  35. ^ a b c Blake 2008, p. 359
  36. ^ a b Graves, Tom (1994-06-16), The Division Bell, rollingstone.com, archived from the original on June 19, 2008, http://web.archive.org/web/20080619021617/http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/album/219753/the_division_bell, retrieved 2010-01-03 
  37. ^ Sinclair, Tom (1994-04-22), The Division Bell, ew.com, http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,301952,00.html, retrieved 2010-01-09 
  38. ^ The Nominees, Billboard, 1995-02-18, p. 48, http://books.google.com/books?id=wgsEAAAAMBAJ, retrieved 2010-01-13 
  39. ^ Browne 2001, p. 611
  40. ^ Blake 2008, p. 367
  41. ^ Povey 2007, pp. 270–280
  42. ^ Blake 2008, pp. 363–367
  43. ^ Povey 2007, p. 264
  44. ^ Povey 2007, p. 285
  45. ^ Hits of the World, 106, Nielsen Business Media, Inc, 1994-06-11, p. 41, http://books.google.com/books?id=UAgEAAAAMBAJ, retrieved 2011-10-13 
  46. ^ norwegiancharts.com — Pink Floyd — The Division Bell, norwegiancharts.com, http://norwegiancharts.com/showitem.asp?interpret=Pink+Floyd&titel=The+Division+Bell&cat=a, retrieved 2009-07-02 
  47. ^ australian-charts.com — Pink Floyd — The Division Bell, australian-charts.com, http://www.australian-charts.com/showitem.asp?interpret=Pink+Floyd&titel=The+Division+Bell&cat=a, retrieved 2009-07-03 
  48. ^ Pink Floyd — The Division Bell — hitparade.ch, hitparade.ch, http://hitparade.ch/showitem.asp?interpret=Pink+Floyd&titel=The+Division+Bell&cat=a, retrieved 2009-07-03 
Bibliography


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