A Momentary Lapse of Reason

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Pink Floyd fan. I have a black and white photo of the band, circa 1970, hanging by my computer at work, with a young David Gilmour (swoon) in the forefront. My very first CD was “The Division Bell” (1994) which I realize is  late in the band’s collection, but aside from the music, I loved the cover art.

Storm Thorgerson had the best job in the world. He was artistic adviser and graphic designer of Pink Floyd’s album covers. He has an online gallery that can be viewed at http://www.stormthorgerson.com/. In the course of reading his book “Mind Over Matter 4: The Images of Pink Floyd” one cover in particular, the 1987 album “A Momentary Lapse of Reason”, caught my attention, because of the story behind it but also because of Storm’s intense ability to pull together a vision with such scope in real life. That is a dedication to one’s art…FOR art. If I could ask Storm one question, it would be – in 2011 would you have set this up in real life again to photograph or rely more on computer graphics to create the vision?

A Momentary Lapse of Reason

According to Storm Thorgerson, “The idea for the beds comes from two sources. The first was a lyric line from ‘Yet Another Movie’ which read “A vision of an empty bed”. David [Gilmour] had drawn a picture for this which I liked, but not madly so I rearranged the words to become “a vision of empty beds” and that’s it. A long line of beds stretching across the landscape as far as the eye could see. Real beds in a real place. So many that the viewer might ask how it was done or what it might mean. The second source was a lonely rower, or sculler, rowing himself down a cracked, dry river bed. This was a reworking, I realise, of the swimmer in the dunes for WYWH. The beds then became arranged in a gentle curve stretching away from the camera, like a river, as in ‘river bed’!… The same rower, Langley Iddens, occupied a fast moving bed for the concert film for ‘On The Run’ from Dark Side, a hospital bed like the one from the cover. It all connects somehow and somewhere. But where to get all these beds and where to put them?…I wanted Victorian wrought iron, hospital type beds for dreamers, or mad people, or even ill people. Beds to dream in or beds to recover in. Lance Williams, location manager and all around good egg, somehow laid his hands on 700 beds and accompanying sheets, blankets and pillows, plus two articulated trucks and we took the whole lot down to Saunton Sands in North Devon and began to put them on the beach – one by one.”

He goes on to say that the weather didn’t cooperate at the beach and that after it started to rain they had to pick it all up and come back two weeks later. Additionally, the dogs in the photo were brought in with their trainer and the microlite in the sky had to be arranged along with rower, Langley Iddens, looking at himself in the mirror. A second shot of this scene was taken as the tide came in and if I’m not mistaken, this second photo was on the inside of the cover. The visuals that accompanied CDs were fun to look at. The art that accompanies MP3s online just isn’t…the same.

A truly haunting and beautiful photo created organically and orchestrated to fit the vision of the theme. The tight creative direction it must have taken to emulate the exact curve of the line of beds must have been time-consuming. The process is an art in itself and one that can come to really be appreciated knowing the lengths that a whole crew went to to set up this unforgettable shot.

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3 Comments

  1. It is astounding the lengths people go to in order to get the perfect shot. My guess is, if pressed, he would say he would still do it that way today, since a significant piece of the art itself (in this and many cases) is the process itself.

  2. Good call, Robby. “Analog” use of resources and creativity is often more fulfilling than today’s newfangled digitas. In this same vein, I find extreme satisfaction in the old fashioned “drawing by hand” ways than illustrating digitally, though it should be seen as just another tool. Seems like a lot of people are still partisan on that subject, though.

  3. Spot on with this write-up, I truly believe this amazing site needs much more attention.
    I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the information!


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