The Later Years: Hot Air & Co
21st Century Schizoid Man
Musicians, rockers, pop artists,... - name them like you want – live in a bi-focused, nearly schizophrenic world and need to cultivate dissociative identities if they want to survive and stay successful. Just like there are two distinct forms of copyright there are two quasi contradictory sides representing the same artist. Alfa and omega, yin and yang, art and product, band and brand.
Let's get to the point because the above intro sounds like one of those oriental religions that were so popular in the psychedelic sixties.
What I am writing about is the difference between rock music as 'art' and rock music as 'product'. While an artist regards his latest release as 'art', his or her record company invariably defines it as 'product'. For record company executives it makes no difference if they are selling The Dark Side Of The Moon or a singing trout, as long as it keeps on paying for their daily dose of chemical stimulants.
Pink Floyd is so big nowadays, despite being mainly in the recycling business since the end of the last century, that it has evolved from a band into a brand. They are now their own record label, reducing the EMI's and CBS's of this world to mere distributors of their product. When David Gilmour was asked by MTV (in 1987) why the Roger Waters album and tour (Radio KAOS) was not as successful as the Pink Floyd one (A Momentary Lapse of Reason) he came up with the following business-mogul explanation...
The reason is that we’ve all spent... well he [Nick Mason] spent over 20 years. I spent nearly 20 years working on, building up, the Pink Floyd name. I mean, if you liken it to basic crass of advertising… You know if someone left Coca Cola and started up his own soft-drink company with the same recipe it wouldn’t sell as many. It’s very simple.
Direct link for recalcitrant browsers: Pink Floyd & Coca Cola. Full interview (30 minutes) hosted at the Pink Floyd HD channel: A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour [MTV Interview].
Spontaneous Apple Creation
Unfortunately, protecting the brand can have a few disadvantages. Sometimes these are unintentionally funny, like that one time the Pink Floyd company deleted a video from the official David Gilmour website for 'copyright' infringements. There is a less savoury side as well. To fully monetise on the release of 'The Early Years' box the Pink Floyd copyright police deleted dozens of YouTube movies, including 'Nightmare' of psychedelic curiosity Arthur Brown – on his own YouTube channel – just because they legally could. Can Mr. Gilmour and his leprechaun Paul Loasby please explain us how this marginally known performer was a financial threat to the multi-million dollar machine that is Pink Floyd?
For the last couple of decades Pink Floyd has been recycling old stuff, sometimes adding unreleased material to the default product. Just a quick list of compilations and live albums since the late eighties: Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988), Shine On (1992), Pulse (1995), The First Three Singles (1997), Is There Anybody Out There (2000), Echoes (2001), Oh, By The Way (2007), Discovery (2011), Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion & Experience (2011), Wish You Were Here Immersion & Experience (2011), A Foot in the Door (2011), The Wall Immersion & Experience (2012), Their First Recordings (2015),…
There were also 30 and 40 years anniversary editions of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and The Early Years box-set with its 33 discs, although I have never counted them.
These editions are all of the original or classic line-up and it may have itched a bit at the Gilmour camp that the third and final incarnation of the band, the one without Roger Waters, has never had a separate compilation. Well, that is soon going to change.
Coming Back To Life
Diet Floyd has existed from 1987 with the release of A Momentary Lapse of Reason, until 2014 with the release of The Endless River. That is a total of 27 years or nearly the double in time than the classic line-up that existed from 1968 with the release of the second album A Saucerful of Secrets until 1983 with Waters’ swansong The Final Cut.
Alright, alright, I hear you coming. It is not that the band was very productive in their third incarnation. The classic line-up of Floyd made eleven albums in fifteen years, Diet Floyd just three in 27, not counting the two live ones. On top of that The Endless River could be considered as just another compilation or out-takes album. Basically, Diet Pink Floyd has been in a state of hibernation after 1995 and for nearly two decades only recycled material from the classic heydays has been re-released. The box-sets Oh, By The Way (2007) and Discovery (2011) for instance contain the same 14 albums, and only people with a high-end stereo installation will pretend to hear the difference. How many times can you remaster an album, anyway? It’s not bloody washing powder.
Back to basics. It doesn’t matter if Diet Floyd existed for 8 (1995, Pulse), 19 (2006, On An Island) or 27 years. What does matter is that David Gilmour wants to replenish his pension fund now that he has given a small fortune away by selling his guitars for charity.
What is more of importance, what is still lying in the vaults that hasn’t already been (officially) leaked, one way or another.
Let’s have a small history lesson, shall we?
A New Machine
Around 1985 David Gilmour was thinking of resuscitating Pink Floyd with Nick Mason. There are two main reasons for this, one was the public’s disinterest in Gilmour’s solo-career, a second reason was that contractually Pink Floyd still had to make an album with important financial consequences if they didn’t.
As Waters refused to work any longer with the two others he was – legally and financially – obliged to hand over the Pink Floyd brand to the drummer and the new boy, although it took a while for this bad news to sip in.
Previously Gilmour had been jamming with Jon Carin for a third solo album but when the call for Floyd product became louder, he contacted Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music) and super-producer Bob Ezrin. Not all collaborators brought in suitable material, Eric Stewart (10CC) and writer and poet Roger McGough, who had worked on the Yellow Submarine movie with The Beatles, were invited, but their input didn’t lead to a valid concept (although some demos do exist).
Record executives weren’t that happy either and when David Gilmour sent four tracks over to CBS he was informed that ‘this music doesn’t sound a fucking thing like Pink Floyd’, something that made Roger Waters chuckle. Apparently, Gilmour’s New Coke didn’t taste at all like Waters’ Classic Coca Cola.
David Gilmour understood the message and he and his collaborators had the difficult task to give the existent material a much needed Floydian treatment. One possibility was to forcibly turn these tracks into a concept. Carole Pope (from the somewhat underrated band Rough Trade) was flown over from Canada and at least one song was tried out, Peace Be With You, ‘a nice, mid-tempo thing about Roger Waters’. When this experiment failed (again) David Gilmour gave up looking for a portmanteau. It would be a regular album without a storyline, like in the pre-Dark Side Of The Moon days. Anthony Moore (Slapp Happy, Henry Cow) was called in, co-writing the lyrics on three songs. One of those, Learning To Fly, was the much needed turning point. The sound effects, provided by Nick Mason, the guitar, keyboards and vocals felt like a real Pink Floyd song (although one set in the eighties and still without Rick Wright).
A Momentary Lapse of Reason was the Diet Floyd’s showcase that they could exist without Roger Waters, although – in retrospect – it wasn’t a band’s album at all. Co-director Nick Mason had given the drum parts to Carmine Appice and Jim Keltner and the list of keyboard players shows that Rick Wright’s name had been added for legal and public relations reasons, not for his musical input. David Gilmour, talking about Lapse in a 1994 Mojo:
We went out last time with the intention of showing the world. ‘Look we’re still here’, which is why we were so loud and crash-bangy. Echoes, p. 260
Crash-bangy indeed. The Lapse-album suffered from a digital eighties production, David Gilmour admitted. Nick Mason was unhappy that he had been made redundant by a drum computer and a couple of session players and planned to re-record the drum parts. The same can be said about Rick Wright’s input, who only entered the studio when the album was nearly finished and after his wife's plea to take him back aboard. Keyboard parts from live shows were inserted to replace the 80’s synths.
Although the above rumours started in 2011 the revised album was never released, but this will change in November 2019 when it will be an exclusive part of The Later Years boxset.
A Day At The Races
David Gilmour was a busy bee in the early nineties, he made four (unreleased) soundtracks, with or without the help of Rick and Nick: Ruby Takes A Trip (1991), The Art Of Tripping (1993), Colours of Infinity (1995) and La Carrera Panamericana (1992). That last one contained the first Rick Wright and Nick Mason co-compositions since Dark Side Of The Moon / Wish You Were Here. The Colours of Infinity soundtrack has the complete band jamming, lends several themes from Ruby and Art of Tripping and has been partially recycled for The Endless River.
La Carrera Panamericana is an oddball in the Pink Floyd canon. It has been well documented that Nick Mason and the Pink Floyd manager Steve O’Rourke were (are) historic car racing enthusiasts, a hobby for multimillionaires with too much time and money on their hands. In 1991 they could cajole David Gilmour into entering the 7-day Carrera Panamericana race that ran over 2800 km in Mexico. (Rick Wright, according to Nick, was asked as well but preferred sailing the seven seas.)
Not only did they plan to have some fun racing cars, but an inventive Steve O’Rourke, always the hustler, managed to pre-sell the rights for a documentary about the race, with Pink Floyd music, recouping the costs of the expedition. (A side effect is that Gilmour, Mason and O'Rourke look like walking billboards, pretending to be cool.)
Disaster struck on the third day when the C-type Jaguar of the Gilmour / O’Rourke team missed a bend near the city of San Luis Potisi. Gilmour was relatively unharmed but O’Rourke had broken his legs and their race was over. Both were extremely lucky, the band could have literally died that day. But, business is business and the promised movie had to be made with two protagonists out of the race and only the least flamboyant member left to save the furniture.
The movie is not one that will be remembered for its ingenuity, but if you like vintage cars and flimsy interviews it might be worth checking it out, once. The (new) music isn’t that spectacular either, but as one of only four original products Pink Floyd produced in their later career many fans feel this should be a required item in the box set. Yet it will not be included, not as a DVD / Blu-ray, nor as audio.
Keleven at Yeeshkul put it this way:
Omitting La Carrera Panamericana is really disappointing because this seemed like the absolute last opportunity ever to get that music out, and there are some really nice tunes on it unavailable in any format that doesn't have people talking over it from the movie. And this is a set covering a 30-year period that had a total of four releases of new material, yet they decided to skip one of them.
Probably Gilmour is afraid that we will all laugh with his driving skills, nearly killing his manager in the process. A scenario even Roger Waters didn't dare to dream of.
Video killed the radio stars
But what is in this ruddy box then? It will be mainly focused on video material and live concerts, claiming to have six hours of unreleased audio and seven hours of unreleased video, including the mythical Venice 1990 concert. Also included is the Knebworth Silver Clef show with guest star Candy Dulfer. Those two shows are nice to have obviously, but they are not particularly rare amongst collectors. I have them both in legal and less legal releases.
It’s all a bit random actually. There will be a revised Pulse movie, with added and re-edited content, but not the Pulse CD. For that other live album Delicate Sound Of Thunder, both movie and audio versions will be present, remixed and with added material. But, and I will try not to be too overtly cynical, it will not have Welcome To The Machine (on video) for the only reason that this would give more copyrights to… Roger Waters. I kid you not, the Gilmour Waters feud is still alive and kicking. Just imagine these two slightly demented rock stars mud wrestling about a song about being nobody’s fool.
Calling it an 18-disc set is of course not wrong, but it needs to be said that the 5 DVDs in the set duplicate the videos on the Blu-rays, and those Blu-rays more or less duplicate the audio that are on the CDs. Weird as well is that there is no regular Division Bell CD, but the 2014 5.1 mix will be included on Blu-ray. The same goes for The Endless River that has been turned into a movie experience, like The Wall or The Final Cut video EP. I seriously wonder what will be the added value of that.
Love In The Woods
There is also a bunch of music and ‘mister screen’ movies included, but as far as I can remember the Pink Floyd phenomenon mainly turned around music, not around video clips. One thing I would like to see is the Pink Floyd documentary that was shown before the Knebworth concert, containing the Syd Barrett and Iggy the Eskimo home movies that have been reviewed here over a decade ago. I can only hope these will turn up, in one form or another. (See: Love in the Woods (Pt. 1) & Love In The Woods (Pt. 2))
Outtakes, demos and alternative versions
Probably there was a plan to include a CD with ‘later years’ outtakes, demos and alternative versions, but this has been reduced to 6 tracks (4 ‘new’ ones and early versions of Marooned and Nervana). Several tracks that were originally intended to be in the box have been removed at a later stage, presumably by Mr. Gilmour himself, including the already mentioned Peace Be With You and early versions of One Slip and Signs Of Life. And unless something drastically changes the ambient suite The Big Spliff will forever reside in one of the Pink Floyd dungeons.
Giving none away
That some product is missing in this box is one thing. That the initial selling price is well over 500 dollar another. This means that each disc in the set, not counting the doubles, costs over 40 dollar. I wouldn’t mind paying 40 dollar for the revised Momentary Lapse Of Reason record, but in this case you have to come up with 500 dollars for the one record you really want and some extra discs that each contain 80% of easy obtainable material. It is like selling yesterday’s lunch at a higher price than the day before. Or if we may use David Gilmour's comparison: it is like selling New Coke at double the price than the classic one.
Of course Pink Floyd may ask whatever it wants for its music. At least they have always released product of the highest quality, right?
Recently it has been found out that Blu-rays from The Early Years suffer from bit rot. Bubbles appear on its surface making them unplayable. People who were trying to have them replaced, as a matter of fact this box set only dates from 2016, have been politely advised by the record company to go fuck themselves. I'm lost for words.
This is not the first time that Pink Floyd doesn’t deliver. Many Immersion sets had quality problems, the Shine On box had a book that ended its last page in mid-sentence and a few decades ago Pink Floyd even issued 'remastered' CDs that weren't remastered at all. That was – to use another Floydian term – a pretty fair forgery.
As a Floyd fan since the mid seventies a part of me screams, take my money and give me the box, but – and that is a first for me - another part is sincerely doubting if it is really worth it. Perhaps this is the time to seriously reconsider my lifelong relationship with the Floyd.
To quote RonToon, that Jedi master of all things pink:
Gilmour is very generous when it comes to charities but there is no charity for his fans.
Pink Floyd may be a great band, but has turned into an unreliable brand.
Some pros and cons of The Later Years:
PROS: A Momentary Lapse of Reason remix (stereo and 5.1) - Delicate Sound of Thunder concert on audio and video, remixed and complete - A few Division Bell demos and outtakes - Knebworth 1990, full concert, on audio and video - Previously unreleased documentaries and other material - Previously unreleased Venice 1989 on video - Restored Pulse on video - Screen films, music videos. Arnold Layne, live at The Barbican on 10 May 2007, the Floyd's last performance ever (not on CD unfortunately).
CONS: The price per disc is outrageous, plus there are a lot of doubles. Missing: Live 8, remember Live8? - The Knebworth pre-show documentary, starring Langley Iddens and Iggy the Eskimo - A Momentary Lapse of Reason demos (present on ‘early’ track listings, but removed afterwards) - Alternate single and promo mixes, from A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell (enough to fill a CD on its own) - Echoes (and a few other songs performed live) - La Carrera Panamericana - Peace Be With You - Pre-show Soundscape track (issued as a 22 minutes extra track on the Pulse audio cassette) - Professionally filmed Omni shows in Atlanta, 3-5 November 1987 (although, who needs another live performance by the Floyd?) - The Big Spliff - The Division Bell stereo remix or remaster - Venice 1989 on CD - Welcome To The Machine on Delicate Sound of Thunder video.
The Church wishes to thank: Keleven, Rocco Moliterno, RonToon, the many
collaborators on Steve Hoffman Music Forums and Yeeshkul.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥
Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013, p. 311-321.
Povey, Glenn: Echoes, the complete history of Pink Floyd, 3C Publishing, 2008, p. 260.
Steve Hoffman Forum Thread: Pink Floyd The Later Years Box Set
Yeeshkul Forum Thread: Pink Floyd - The Later Years