Classics Du Jour




Hi kids!

Sorry, I’ve been away for so long.  Been feverishly working on the new Pearl Jam album Lightning Bolt, Black Sabbath’s 13, Jonny Lang, Mark Knopfler, and more!
The new Pearl Jam pushes the envelope and at the same time has a nice return to form.  I would by the album for the song “Sirens” alone!

(By the way, if you missed the previous post, read it here)

Every time I saw Donnie or Fred Ehrlich, Donnie’s right hand man (and totally righteous dude by the way) I would say things like, “Imagine,…the biggest billboard in the world,…and it floats from city to city!” Or, “Imagine,…whole cities of people looking up in the sky and wanting to get a ride or just wanting to be a part of something so cool, and to participate means buying a CD and/or concert ticket to be a part of it.”

Little by little I was wearing them down.  I think they actually began to see the real possibilities of this thing.  Another selling point was that the band had heard about it and they were really pumped on the idea.  Not only because it was huge, psychedelic, and it floated, but also because they had all become pilots, O’Rourke included, and they wanted to log flying time in it themselves!

But, it was still a lot of money—Three quarters of a million dollars of EXTRA money.  I called Steve and told him I was so close, that I had them on the edge but I just couldn’t close the deal.  O’Rourke called Donnie and both figuring it would, indeed, be something that EVERYONE would be talking about around the water cooler, figured out a way to fund it.  Columbia would pay $250,000.00, the band would chip in themselves for $250,000.00 and Michael Cohl, the national promoter, would also pay $250,000.00 (as long as the airship also flew to Canada to help sell concert tickets there).  Done and Done!

The next step was, who was gonna design it??  It had to be authentic–it had to BE Pink Floyd.  At first I thought it was going to be a giant pig, like the kind the band had floated across stadiums during their live performance.  But I got word back from Steve that David thought that was old, and he wanted something new.  The album was, in fact, about communication and I kept wracking my brain for images.   But thankfully not for too long, as Steve told me to get in touch with Storm and HE would be the one to design it.  Wow, why didn’t I think of that??!  Probably for the same reason Storm hadn’t.

“Hello Rapper, Storm here”, (that high, airy voice with the English accent I always loved to hear so much–sounding a bit wobbly or werbbly—perhaps a bit tipsy best describes it).  “I’ve been told that you have commissioned an air ship, a giant blimp, and that I’m suppose to design it.  Well, here’s the thing you see, I don’t design blimps, never have.  I design album covers, posters, single sleeves even direct movies for the live show, but I don’t do blimps”.

I replied, “I appreciate that Storm and I suppose this will be a challenge.  But have fun with it man.  What’s the worst that can happen?  You’ll fuck it up and then we’ll just repaint it!”  I got a dry laugh out of him, but I could sense his anxiety.  But, God bless him, he got all the specs from Airship International and went to work designing this floating three-dimensional object.  And, he did a fabulous job.  He realized that most people would be viewing the thing from the bottom looking up as it flew over-head—and then, some would see the sides, front, and tale, but hardly anyone would ever see the top of the blimp looking down from above.  He also understood that most everyone would see the airship from a distance, so the images painted on the ship (which were a series of very clever faces talking to each other) each had to be enormous in size to be seen from hundreds of feet below.  And, the colors he chose exploded against a typical blue or gray sky, which would be the airship’s background as it flew.  I really reserve the word genius for only a few, and in my humble opinion (now think about all those Pink Floyd covers folks, and oh yeah, Zep’s Houses of the Holy, and many others) Storm Thorgerson was a genius.

In that category of the five weirdest places I ever expected to be in my life, I found myself somewhere in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina at a huge airfield designed for blimps!  The aircraft hangars that sheltered these behemoths were humongous.  And there, at the Airship International Hangar, floating the size of a football field, I got my first glimpse of the PINK FLOYD AIRSHIP!

IT WAS RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME!!!  But there were still more painting decisions to be made and the artist doing the job was standing on a cherry picker aside the giant airship eager for my input.  Lucky I happen to be a bit of a painter myself and could actually help.  I had him extend the flames (see photo) up over the top of the airship so that a nice flow was developed instead of an abrupt halt.  The main overseer had the gondola painted pink (for Pink Floyd of course), and it really did look perfect against the major royal blue and many other colors painted on the blimp’s giant airbag.   But I knew the band was very cautious about using that color as a knee jerk reaction.  I could have run the other way, asking for a color change, but it looked so perfect I approved it and was ready to take the heat if any came my way.

But none did.  The first time the band saw it, it blew their respective minds—they LOVED it!!  They all hopped in and went for a ride.

The inside of the gondola (which I believed sat about two dozen people max) was decked out in wall to wall (no pun intended) Pink Floyd posters and each seat came equipped with a Sony Walkman with The Division Bell album inside.  So, you buckled in your seat, put on your headphones, and listened to Pink Floyd as you floated away from Earth and went on a flying adventure.  How Pink Floyd can you get?!!!

Pink Floyd Airship

Tune in next time and follow the PINK FLOYD AIRSHIP on it’s maiden voyage across the country to the Rosebowl in Passadena for it’s debut in front of all the LA press!

Here’s a preview:
We wanted the first part of the airship program to be a teaser campaign.  Of course, whereever it landed on its way across country it started a stur in the local press and on televsion.  For the initial fllight we had only put the band’s name on it.  So everyone wondered what kind of flying machine this thing was, who sent it, and what was it doing here??  The pilots were instructed not to say anything to the media.  We gave them a card to silently hand out to anyone that was asking questions.  The card read:


Be back to these pages soon!

Keep on rockin’


Paul Rappaport

Paul Rappaport was Senior VP at Columbia Records where he enjoyed a 33 year career in radio promotion and marketing. He is recognized as being instrumental in the careers of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Santana, Journey, Elvis Costello, Judas Priest, Alice in Chains, and many more. He is also noted as the Co-Creator...

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