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April 14, 2024

Amazing Behind the Scenes Photos From “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” Album Cover Shoot in 1987

A Momentary Lapse of Reason is the thirteenth studio album by Pink Floyd, released in the UK on September 7, 1987 by EMI and the following day in the US on Columbia. It was recorded primarily on guitarist David Gilmour’s converted houseboat, Astoria. A Momentary Lapse of Reason was the first Pink Floyd album recorded without founding member Roger Waters, who departed in 1985. The production was marred by legal fights over the rights to the Pink Floyd name, which were not resolved until several months after release. It also saw the return of the keyboardist and founding member Richard Wright as a session player, after he was fired by Waters during the recording of The Wall (1979).

On June 14, 1987, the famed photographer and cover designer Storm Thorgerson hired 30 workers to move 700 beds rented ahead of time to Saunton Sands Beach in North Devon (where some of the scenes of The Wall were shot), to film what would become one of the most impressive and amazing covers in the rock world – the album cover for A Momentary Lapse of Reason.

The idea for the picture came to Thorgerson from the sentence: “A vision of an empty bed” taken from the song “Yet Another Movie” that appears on the album. Thorgerson who read the sentence immediately saw before his eyes a river of hospital beds dragging along a beach, he thought such a picture was so insane that it would also fit the title of the album, hence the idea for the iconic picture.

Once the idea was formulated, the fundamental problem of execution remained. We are talking about another era, before the computer effects and before the age of Photoshop. The first task was to locate hundreds of beds and make sure someone would even agree to rent them out. Thorgerson remembers asking for 1,000 but he got less. The second task was to find a way to transport them to shore and arrange them exactly the way Thorgerson had planned the image in his ingenious mind, a move that Thorgerson notes lasted about two weeks. The cost of this crazy project was over $500,000.

So all these crazy logistics drained into one moment that happened exactly on June 14, 1987. Everything was ready, the beds were placed exactly as Thorgerson predicted, the extras, the dogs, and made were in exactly the right places and even a glider was raised to the sky to be captured in the picture. But then the unbelievable thing happened, rain fell to the ground and forced all those involved in the craft to repeat everything all over again, until the amazing result.

The photographer, Robert Dowling, won a gold award at the Association of Photographers Awards for the image, which took about two weeks to create. Some versions of the cover do not feature the hang glider, and other versions feature a nurse making one of the beds.

Reflecting on the relationship between the music and the visual art, David Gilmour asked, “Which way round does it go? Does the image become a Pink Floyd image because it’s on a Pink Floyd record? … You always want it to be an iconic image that grabs people. I guess Storm was right in saying my image could have been very nice, been photographed beautifully and been atmospheric. But maybe not as iconic as his take on it.”


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