In my opinion, The Division Bell is an album in which David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright achieved Pink Floyd greatness. The sounds, the overall musicianship and musical landscape make it one of the band’s finest achievements. Particularly, the song “High Hopes” (and video by Storm Thorgerson) rank amongst Pink Floyd’s best works.
The new 20th Anniversary Box Set is chock full of new goodies. For me, the best part is the vinyl as for the first time you get all the tracks in their entirety, and moreover on 180-gram black vinyl. If you’re interested, you can go back to my blog from last July 14th 2013 and read a funny story about the original vinyl produced for the album. Briefly, it was a glorious sea blue color, but some of the music had to be edited to fit the music on one disc. Now, you get it all and on the finest quality vinyl available. For those of you who are into 5.1 Surround Sound, well it IS Pink Floyd, and when you hear Andy Jackson’s 5.1 mix cranked up in your den or living room, your brain will melt. Also, there is a cool new video of “Marooned” shot by Po Powell of Hipgnosis which is very stirring and topical, some great colored vinyl featuring two live tracks from The Division Bell Tour, “One Of These Days” live from Hannover Germany and “Astronomy Domine” live from Joe Robbie Stadium which sound AMAZING, and some great prints by the late Storm Thorgerson. There is a special one that’s a picture of a scull rowing boat in space (of course!), which is one of Storm’s last works before he passed away. It’s brilliant, and Stormy all the way!
Back to the Pink Floyd Airship for just a couple more fun stories.
The airship flew all over the country and even up into Canada, giving fans rides, and having radio stations broadcast live from the gondola. In every city it got both newspaper and television coverage–it was an over-the-top Pink Floyd phenomena and worked like a charm informing everyone about the new Division Bell album and tour.
It was also just plain fun and frankly, the biggest toy I ever had. Yes, it was like a remote controlled model airplane or helicopter, except that is was real, and piloted by human beings. And, if you were lucky enough to be holding the Pink Floyd One Walkie-Talkie you could control the airship and have it do whatever you wanted!
So, I had a blast with it. “This is Pink Floyd one to Pink Floyd two, would you please buzz the Sony Music offices in Santa Monica!” I also flew it parallel right next to the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Park Observatory—that one certainly freaked a lot of people out.
But my favorite was when I was flying in it and parked it next to the Capitol Records tower on Vine Street in Hollywood. Whether you’ve been there or not, most people are familiar with the Capitol Records offices—the “Tower” as it is known looks like a bunch of 45 RPM records stacked on a record player. It’s painted white and is a Los Angeles landmark.
Again, it’s worth mentioning that one of the great things about an airship is, that if you turn the engines off, it just hangs in the air like Superman can. So after “hanging around” over Sunset Blvd. for a while, we glided over to the Capitol Tower and sat right next to it.
When the sun shines from the east in the morning, most Capitol employees who have their offices facing that way keep their blinds closed because it’s too bright. So, picture a 200 feet psychedelic airship floating on the east side of the building right in downtown Hollywood. I took out my cell phone and called my friend who was the head of Capitol Promotion at the time. “Hi John, you’re in your office now right? Open your blinds.”
“AHHHHHHHHHH, holy sh*t!!!! Rap, ARE YOU IN THAT THING???!!!!!!!”
Well, imagine opening the blinds in your office and seeing something like that!
The Division Bell Tour opening date was at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami and the band really wanted to show off the airship at that show. So it had to travel all the way back across the country to get there. The band wanted to have the airship magically appear floating over the top of the domed stage at the very end of the show, just as the smoke cleared from all the pyro and rockets that were set off after their last encore. It was challenging, as the way Joe Robbie was constructed at the time the stage was built at an open end of the stadium. The people sat in a giant horseshoe like ring facing that opening, and we couldn’t hide the airship behind the band without it being seen. I was put in charge of accomplishing this feat—big job, but great fun!
I conferred with the two pilots of the airship and we figured out that the only way to do it was to hide the giant blimp on the side of the stadium (have it float in, with it’s lights off during the show so that know one would see it), and then somehow rocket it around so that it hit its mark right after the pyro went off. Also to be sure that all the pyro was finished so that we didn’t blow up the airship!!
Because an airship’s speed is only about 35 mph tops, this would be a bit of a dangerous maneuver. In fact, one of the pilots refused to do it. The other one saw it as more of a challenge and was anxious to try it. As I mentioned before, some of blimp pilots we met throughout this campaign were like real cowboys!
So, there I am at the end of the show standing at the back of Joe Robbie Stadium with the Pink Floyd Airship walkie-talkie in my hand. I’m looking around at the crowd and thinking, no one here has a clue of who’s on the other end of this walkie-talkie or what I’m about to do. I’ve got a headset on so I can hear the lighting and effects crew giving the cues.
The band is ending their last song, “Run Like Hell,” and I hear, “cue pyro, cue sparks, cue rockets—Go pyro! Go pyro! Go rockets!” The sky over the dome lights up with all kinds of beautiful explosions and at the same time I yell into the walkie, “Floyd one to Floyd two, go airship, go airship!!!” What I saw then is something I’ll never forget.
In order to gain enough speed, height, and at the same time get around the stadium to the back of the band, the pilot put both engines on full speed and tilted the flaps to make the giant blimp shoot straight up in the air like a rocketship!! It must have been on a 70 or 80 degree angle and honestly it looked like a very scary maneuver (which is obviously why the first pilot said he wouldn’t try it). There was a kid standing next to me and he looked up and said, “Gee Whiz, I hope they’re not having their dinner!”
That made me laugh and help take the edge off, because if that thing were any more straight up the wind could have blown it over and put it upside down! Then you’re talking real catastrophe, and on so many levels it made my head spin.
But the pilot righted the ship, got it around the bend, and sure enough as the smoke cleared, two big spotlights hit the airship and boy did it look grand! It got its own applause from the crowd who gawked at it all the way out the door.
Check out the new 20th Anniversary Edition Division Bell box set and vinyl set which is sold separately, for your convenience. Great stuff!
© Paul Rappaport 2014