A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)

Pink Floyd

"Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I ..."

While the 1987 album "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" had the name Pink Floyd on the cover, the inner photos were more telling: There was David Gilmour, and there was Nick Mason, but the rest of the Floyds were not to be found.

After Roger Waters had firmly taken control of the band during 1979's "The Wall" and "The Final Cut" in 1983, it was clear that he and the remainder of the band would part ways. A tour was planned for "The Final Cut," but was soon scrapped, and before too long Waters was involved in a solo project ("The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking"), and Gilmour was putting together his "About Face" album.

By the time Gilmour got back together with bandmate Mason — keyboardist Rick Wright left the group during the making of "The Wall," and wouldn't be called back into the group until later in the "Momentary Lapse" sessions — Waters was in the process of releasing his second post-Floyd solo album: "Radio K.A.O.S."

Legal maneuvers

The news that Gilmour and Mason intended to release an album using the Pink Floyd name stoked the flames of discontent between Waters and the remaining band members. The battle became official in the autumn of 1986, when Waters filed suit to end the partnership that was Pink Floyd. In the end, after much legal raggling too complex to analyze here, Gilmour and company won, and the name Pink Floyd would grace their 1987 album. (It turned out that the details of what constituted the original Pink Floyd partnership was never put into writing in the first place. How can you officially dissolve something that never officially existed?)

Most of "Momentary Lapse" was recorded aboard Gilmour's converted houseboat Astoria docked along the Thames in Hampton, 16 miles outside of London. Other work was performed at Britannia Row; A&M in Los Angeles, Calif.; and a handful of other studios. It was the first Floyd album recorded digitally.

Expanded lineup

The roster of people who played and wrote material for "Momentary Lapse" would be unlike that of any previous Floyd album. The names of nearly 20 musicians and singers were listed on the album, with Gilmour and Bob Ezrin, who had first worked with the group on "The Wall," co-producing the effort. The songwriting was largely handled by Gilmour and a handful of others, such as Tony Moore, whose band Slapp Happy had been managed by Peter Jenner, as had the Floyd once upon a time; Ezrin; Patrick Leonard, who had produced hits for Madonna, of all people; and Phil Manzanera, guitarist for Roxy Music.

Wright was called back to the band to help validate it musically as well as legally. He joined the recording fairly late in the game, so his contributions to the recording were limited. He also was not taken back into the fold as a partner of the group, rather as a salaried player, drawing $11,000 a week, and forgoing a photo on the sleeve.

The return of Storm

Storm Thorgerson was called in to do the cover design, assuring the album had that Floydian look. Thorgerson hadn't done a Floyd album cover since 1977's "Animals" LP. By the mid-'80s, he was more involved with directing film. The design concept grew out of a line in "Yet Another Movie": visions of an empty bed. But Thorgerson wouldn't stop at a single bed. Instead, he lined up 800 along a beach in Saunton Sands, North Devon, England, for the picture. (Hadn't he ever heard of a matte shot?) The cover included allusions to other songs on the album: i.e. the canines from "The Dogs of War," voted worst song by a 1989 reader poll in the now-defunct Floyd fanzine The Amazing Pudding; and a hang glider from "Learning to Fly," named for Gilmour's preoccupation during the record's making. (That's supposedly a recording of him communicating with the control tower during the song's bridge.)

Chart success

The album, tentatively titled "Delusions of Maturity," "Of Promises Broken," and "Signs of Life" at one time or another, was released in September 1987, shortly after Waters's "Radio K.A.O.S." "Momentary Lapse" debuted at number 43 in the United States on Sept. 26, and went on to climb as high as number three. The CD version, however, made it to the top of the CD chart in the States on Oct. 10, 1987, and stayed there for a half dozen weeks. In the U.K., the album went as far as number three. "Momentary Lapse" achieved platinum status (a million units sold) on Nov. 28, 1987, in the U.S.

"Learning to Fly"/"Terminal Frost" was the album's only single in America. It reached number 70 on the Billboard chart. "One Slip" was the B-side to the single in the United Kingdom. "On the Turning Away," backed with a live version of "Run Like Hell," originally from "The Wall," was also issued as a 45 in the U.K.

Waters labeled "A Momentary Lapse of Reason," "a pretty fair forgery."
a momentary lapse of reason album cover

Release date

Sep 8, 1987 (UK)
Sep 8, 1987 (US)

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Track listing

  1. Signs of Life
    04:24 (Gilmour/Ezrin)
  2. Learning to Fly
    04:53 (Gilmour/Ezrin/Moore/Carin)
  3. The Dogs of War
    06:09 (Gilmour/Moore)
  4. One Slip
    05:07 (Gilmour/Manzanera)
  5. On the Turning Away
    05:42 (Gilmour/Moore)
  6. Yet Another Movie/Round and Around
    07:28 (Gilmour/Leonard)
  7. A New Machine (Part 1)
    01:46 (Gilmour)
  8. Terminal Frost
    06:17 (Gilmour)
  9. A New Machine (Part 2)
    00:39 (Gilmour)
  10. Sorrow
    08:47 (Gilmour)