1987 – Pink Floyd release A Momentary Lapse of Reason. The comeback

A Momentary Lapse of Reason

1987 – Pink Floyd release A Momentary Lapse of Reason. The comeback album is the band’s first since the departure of Roger Waters and the subsequent lawsuit over the use of the band name.

A Momentary Lapse of Reason is Pink Floyd’s 1987 album, the band’s first release after the departure of Roger Waters from the band in 1985. The album reached #3 on both the U.S. and UK charts. It was released in the UK and the rest of Europe on EMI and on Columbia Records for the rest of the world.


After Roger Waters had declared Pink Floyd ended in 1985, David Gilmour attempted to continue the band together with Nick Mason. A bitter dispute with Waters ensued, but Gilmour and Mason eventually settled out of court for the legal right to continue using the name Pink Floyd. In exchange, Waters dissolved his former management partnership with Steve O’Rourke and gained exclusive rights to some traditional Pink Floyd imagery, including the original flying pig design, almost all of The Wall concept and everything to do with The Final Cut. Richard Wright re-joined the band during the recording sessions for this album, but only as a salaried session musician.

The recording sessions started in October 1986 as a new David Gilmour project. Gilmour revealed on the Shine On and A Momentary Lapse of Reason episodes of In the Studio with Redbeard that it was almost his third solo album as the material initially sounded too weak to be a Pink Floyd album. He then went on to say that by Christmas of 1986 that he had enough confidence to turn the album into a Pink Floyd project.

The music press responded with mostly negative reviews of the album (though Rolling Stone claimed it portended “a Floyd with a future”), despite its heavy airplay rotation on video and radio music stations. Many fans regard this album a David Gilmour effort, rather than an actual Pink Floyd album. The allmusic review refers to it as a “Gilmour solo album in all but name”. Waters himself described it as “a pretty fair forgery or a good copy” of a Pink Floyd record; his most generous appraisal was that the album contained “a few bright moments when I heard something and thought, ‘Well, maybe I’d have done something with that’.” But Waters also commented that to him, Pink Floyd no longer existed.


The album was performed largely by David Gilmour and several session musicians. The most famous of these was Tony Levin (of Peter Gabriel and King Crimson fame), who played bass on most of the tracks. Nick Mason felt he was out of practice on drums, and thus many of the percussion parts were either programmed or delegated to others. For example, Carmine Appice played drums on “The Dogs of War” while Jim Keltner played on “On the Turning Away” and “One Slip”. The drum machine, used on “Sorrow”, was programmed by Gilmour.

Session keyboardist Jon Carin, whom Gilmour met and played with in Bryan Ferry’s band at Live Aid, went on to collaborate with both Pink Floyd and Roger Waters on subsequent albums and tours. Pink Floyd’s original keyboardist Richard Wright arrived during the sessions, but did not officially rejoin the band due to concerns about his severance contract with Waters (the initial album lists Pink Floyd as consisting of only Gilmour and Mason; however, later re-releases add his name). Wright can be heard playing on a few tracks, notably “Sorrow”, which features his background vocals. Most other keyboard parts on the album were played by Carin, Gilmour or Ezrin.

It has been rumoured that some of the songs on A Momentary Lapse of Reason were David Gilmour’s rejected contributions to The Final Cut. Early demos to songs like “The Dogs of War,” “Round and Around,” and the melody to “On the Turning Away” are the only known songs to be rejected.

The recording heard in the middle of “Learning to Fly” is of Mason talking to an air traffic control tower in his private aircraft (both he and Gilmour became enthusiastic pilots after conquering their mutual fear of flying).

A Momentary Lapse of Reason is Pink Floyd’s first fully digital recording; however, the acoustic drums and bass guitar tracks were recorded on analogue equipment.

Cover artwork

The cover shows 700 hospital beds placed on Saunton Sands, Devon. This effect was not achieved with trick photography; a team actually hauled the wrought iron beds over three hours from London to Devon and arranged them as seen on the finished design. When the team realised that the shoot would take more than one day, a single bed was left on the beach to see if the sea would have any effect on it over night. When they returned the following morning, the bed was nowhere to be found. Long-time Pink Floyd collaborator Storm Thorgerson produced the artwork.

The official Storm Thorgerson website  actually covers a version of this story:

700, yes 700, wrought iron hospital beds separately made up and positioned on the beach. Madness to do it at all, but we had in fact to do it twice cos it rained suddenly the first time, dank grey dizzle, and we couldn’t see the distant half of the beds.

This was the first Pink Floyd studio album since Animals to feature his work (not counting a design for the compilation album A Collection of Great Dance Songs in 1981).

In the gatefold sleeve was a portrait of David Gilmour and Nick Mason making it the first time that a picture of the members of Pink Floyd appeared in a gatefold sleeve since 1971’s Meddle album (not counting a poster of the band members on stage that came with vinyl copies of The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973)

The vinyl copies had two picture labels. Side one depicted a black and white photo of a man rowing his boat. Side two depicted the beds from the front cover on a beach with the dogs of war running whilst a man is sitting on a bed and a female maid is standing up.

If you look closely, there is a person flying a Hang Glider, probably a reference to Learning to Fly.

Reissues and remastering

A re-mastered CD was released in the early 1990s for Europe, and in 1997 for the rest of the world. Another remastered version was released in the U.S. and Canada in October 2005 due to Columbia Records losing the production masters. James Guthrie and Joel Plante supplied the label with new masters, and thus the mastering credit was changed from Doug Sax to Guthrie and Plante. Also, a number of minor changes have been noted in the credits and legal text for this latest release, mostly reflecting changes in the band’s business situation since 1997 (including the death of their manager Steve O’Rourke).

It is also the only one of the post-Waters Pink Floyd albums to have a remastered EMI version. The Columbia version is now out of print and will be re-released by Capitol/EMI in the not too distant future.

Track listing

All lead vocals performed by David Gilmour except where noted.

1. “Signs of Life” (instrumental, spoken word by Nick Mason) (David Gilmour, Bob Ezrin) – 4:24
2. “Learning to Fly” (Gilmour, Anthony Moore, Ezrin, Jon Carin) – 4:53
3. “The Dogs of War” (Gilmour, Moore) – 6:05
4. “One Slip” (Gilmour, Phil Manzanera) – 5:10
5. “On the Turning Away” (Gilmour, Moore) – 5:42
6. “Yet Another Movie” (Gilmour, Patrick Leonard) / “Round and Around” (Gilmour) – 7:28
7. “A New Machine (Part 1)” (Gilmour) – 1:46
8. “Terminal Frost” (Gilmour) – 6:17
9. “A New Machine (Part 2)” (Gilmour) – 0:38
10. “Sorrow” (Gilmour) – 8:46

Live performances for the 1987–89 tours

1. “Signs of Life” (performed after “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1–5)” or “Echoes”)
2. “Learning to Fly”
3. “Yet Another Movie”
4. “Round and Around”
5. “A New Machine (Part 1)”
6. “Terminal Frost”
7. “A New Machine (Part 2)”
8. “Sorrow”
9. “The Dogs of War”
10. “On the Turning Away” (ended the first half of the show)
11. “One Slip” (was the first encore on the 1987/88/89 tour)

The Momentary Lapse Tour, according to Tim Renwick, was only supposed to last 11 weeks. Originally the band would play a show at Wembley Stadium, tour the United States Of America, and finish back again at Wembley, much like what Roger Waters was doing on his Radio K.A.O.S tour. The tour began on 9 September 1987 at Lansdowne Park Ottawa, Canada, and finished at BC Place in Vancouver, Canada, on 10 December 1987. The World Tour began with the band’s first and only New Zealand performance at Western Springs in Auckland, New Zealand on 23 January 1988 and finished at the Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, on 23 August 1988. In the spring and summer of 1989, the band did another European leg of the tour, dubbing it Another Lapse. During the tour, the band played two consecutive nights in Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the Dean Smith Center, where one of the men who the band was named for, Floyd Council was born.


* David Gilmour – vocals, guitars, keyboards, sequencers
* Nick Mason – drums, percussion, drum machine, sound effects

Additional personnel

* Richard Wright – keyboards, backing vocals
* Tony Levin – bass guitar, Chapman Stick
* Bob Ezrin – percussion
* Carmine Appice – drums
* Jim Keltner – drums
* Jon Carin – keyboards
* Tom Scott – alto and soprano saxophones
* Scott Page – tenor saxophone
* Patrick Leonard – synthesizers
* Bill Payne – Hammond organ
* Michael Landau – backing guitar
* John Helliwell – saxophone (mistakenly credited as John Halliwell)
* Darlene Koldenhaven, Carmen Twillie, Phyllis St. James, Donnie Gerrard – backing vocals
* Spherical sound by: Ken Caillat, Tom Jones, Sarah Nean Bruce
* Recorded by: Guy Charbonneau, Le Mobile, Los Angeles
* Additional sound effects by: Andrew Jackson
* General technical and musical instrument supervision: Phil Taylor
* Mastered at: Mastering Lab & Precision Lacquer
* Pink Floyd management: Steve O’Rourke, EMKA Productions, London

Sales certifications (U.S.)

The R.I.A.A. have certified the album:

* Gold and Platinum (in November 1987)
* Double Platinum (in January 1988)
* Triple Platinum (in February 1992)
* Quadruple Platinum (in August 2001)

Single releases

* “Learning to Fly (edit)”/”Terminal Frost” – Columbia 38-07363; released 15 September 1987
* “On the Turning Away”/”Run Like Hell (Live)” – Columbia 38-07660; released 24 November 1987
* “The Dogs of War”; April, 1988 (US radio only)
* “One Slip”/”Terminal Frost”; June 1988

Chart positions

Year     Chart     Position
1987     UK album chart     3
1987     The Billboard 200     3
1987     Billboard CD Charts     1
1987     Norway’s album chart     2

Year     Single     Chart     Position
1987     “Learning to Fly”     Mainstream Rock Tracks     1
1987     “Learning to Fly”     The Billboard Hot 100     70
1987     “Learning to Fly”     UK Singles Charts     55
1987     “On the Turning Away”     Mainstream Rock Tracks     1
1988     “The Dogs of War”     Mainstream Rock Tracks     10
1988     “One Slip”     Mainstream Rock Tracks     5
1988     “Sorrow”     Mainstream Rock Tracks     36


On the Momentary Lapse of Reason album, Nick’s belief in himself was pretty well gone, and Rick’s belief in himself was totally gone. And they weren’t up to making a record, to be quite honest about it  Roger’s very good at belittling people, and I think over the years he managed to convince Rick completely that he was useless and more or less convinced Nick of the same thing.

– David Gilmour, Rock Compact Disc magazine, September 1992

I must say, that under the circumstances, it’s a superb title for a so-called Pink Floyd record.

– Roger Waters, Penthouse magazine, September 1988

Release of the LP

A Momentary Lapse of Reason was released on the same day in the UK as the LPs Bad by Michael Jackson and Actually by The Pet Shop Boys, both of which topped it at the first and second positions in the following week’s album charts. It debuted at No. 3 and never rose any higher although sales remained brisk helped by heavy airplay, the overall welcome reunion of Pink Floyd, and the world tour which lasted over a year.

The album debuted at #43 on the Billboard 200 and, like in the UK, rose to No. 3 in the United States as Michael Jackson’s Bad and Whitesnake’s Whitesnake ’87 occupied the top two spots respectively at numbers 1 and 2. The album remained on the US charts for over a year.

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