It was probably Monday the 28th of March 1994 when the Reverend came home from work and had a burning hot CD in his pocket. On the train from work to Atagong mansion he had already opened the booklet, had thoroughly scrutinised the artwork by Storm Thorgerson, trying to read the music in the intriguing images. Cerro Tololo, the boxing gloves, the paper heads (and headlines)... The Reverend's heart literally skipped a beat when he found out that Rick Wright had been given a song he could call his own. Rick's first Pink Floyd song for nearly two decades (and literally the centrepiece of the album).
Probably the Atagong family had supper first, then LA-girl sat in the couch, and after the Reverend had put the CD in the player he sat next to her. It must have been a rather chilly day because there was some wood burning in the stove and Mimi, the fat and pregnant cat, was enjoying the heat in her basket.
The earth noises came in... and a new legend was born...
All this came back to the Reverend when, on the 19th of May 2014 a new Pink Floyd website appeared, called Division Bell 20.
There was a countdown clock and a new - Storm Thorgerson inspired - video for the excellent Marooned instrumental, that grew out of a jam at the Astoria recording studio between David Gilmour & Rick Wright. There were immediately some rumours in Pink Floyd internet land, some clearly more inspired than others, but the general consensus was that the album would be re-released in an anniversary or even an Immersion edition.
The obvious nod towards Thorgerson and Wright made the fans hope for the release of The Big Spliff, a Division Bell satellite album whose demos had been lying in the vaults since 1994. Nick Mason in Inside Out:
After two weeks we had taped an extraordinary collection of riffs, patterns and musical doodles, some rather similar, some nearly identifiable as old songs of ours, some clearly subliminal reinventions of well known songs. (…) But even having discarded these, forty ideas were available. (…) We eventually ended up with enough left-over material that we considered releasing it as a second album, including a set we dubbed ‘The Big Spliff’, the kind of ambient mood music that we were bemused to find being adopted by bands like the Orb, although – unlike Gong’s Steve Hillage – we never received any invitations to join this next generation on stage.
It needs to be said that the Reverend's expectations were running in overdrive as well, he was hoping for a new Publius Enigma clue (or perhaps a modest explanation of the riddle - stroke - hoax), hidden in the artwork somewhere, and of course the anticipation of some unreleased tracks, as on the other Immersion and Discovery sets (see also: Fuck all that, Pink Floyd Ltd).
Four Star Daydream
When the clock reached zero the website indeed revealed a pricey Division Bell box-set (actually it crashed at first, as it was hit by thousands of fans at the same time). Limited at 500 copies worldwide it contained an exclusive Limited Edition Division Bell 20th Anniversary T-shirt, a remastered double vinyl in gatefold sleeve, a Division Bell CD and a Bluray with 3 alternative mixes and the new Marooned music video. Some 7 and 12 inch coloured vinyl singles were thrown in as well, together with a 24 Page 12" (30 cm) booklet, 4 art prints and... some toasters.
So basically Pink Floyd decided to ride the gravy train (again) by repackaging the same product five times in the same box and throwing it at the fans for the giveaway price of £157.50 (about 263 $ or 193 Euro, the unlimited box [without t-shirt and coasters] comes somewhat cheaper and is still available).
Each man has his price, Fred
The fact that it is Gilmour now who spits the fans in the face even made it into the papers and generally there is much disdain from the fanbase. What seemed to be the hype of the year was nothing but a cheap stunt to sell some recycled material at exorbitant prices. That the memory of Rick Wright and the legacy of Storm Thorgerson were thrown in to make a cynical million bucks more makes this release even more nauseating. Polly Samson once wrote: “David Gilmour should be cloned so that every crowded house might have one”, but at this rate she can keep him inside, lock the door and throw away the key.
Did you understand the music, Dave, or was it all in vain?
And when you feel you're near the end
And what once burned so bright is growing dim?
And when you see what's been achieved
Is there a feeling that you've been deceived?
Near The End - David Gilmour, 1984.
Upgrade 2014: a month after the publication of this article it was found out that a brand new 'recycled' Pink Floyd album was in the make, loosely based upon the Big Spliff sessions. However, this resulted in an unprecedented attack of the Floyd management towards its fans. Read: The loathful Mr. Loasby and other stories...
(The above article is entirely based upon facts, some situations may
have been enlarged for satirical purposes.)
Sources (other than the above internet links):
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Orion Books, London, 2011 reissue, p. 315-316.
Samson, Polly: Perfect Lives, Virago Press, London, 2010, p. 225.