Sunday, October 18, 2020

"Learning to Fly" by Pink Floyd

Song#:  3291
Date:  10/10/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  70
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  The last time Pink Floyd had a single on the US Pop chart was back in 1980 with "Run Like Hell," a track from their classic double-LP The Wall. After the massive success of that album, the tour, and the associated 1982 movie, the band attempted to get their twelfth studio album off the ground. The relationship between members Roger Waters and David Gilmour had been rocky since the tour for The Wall and it continued into the studio. Confrontations ensued and by the time the dust settled, Waters had completed and released the 1983 Pink Floyd album The Final Cut with little input or contribution from Gilmour. Both Waters and Gilmour would then release solo albums as questions arose about the fate of Pink Floyd. Eventually Waters would depart with legal entanglements to follow. In the meantime, Gilmour decided to continue on under the Pink Floyd name and record a new album. Titled A Momentary Lapse of Reason, the effort was a departure for Pink Floyd in that it lacked a concept that drew the songs together. Gilmour would also work on a few tracks with outside songwriters. To preview the LP, this first single was released. It became a big hit at Rock reaching #1 and remaining there for three weeks. The success there allowed the song to cross over to Pop, but it would only stick around near the bottom of the chart for a couple of months. Still, the album would get to #3 and by January of '88 it would be certified double-platinum. Eventually it would sell over 4 million copies in the US. By the end of '87, the legal issues got ironed out with Gilmour retaining the use of the Pink Floyd name. Waters would get a stake in some things including the rights to The Wall. Gilmour would only put out two more studio albums under the Pink Floyd name, 1994's The Division Bell (#1, triple-platinum) and 2014's The Endless River (#3, gold).

ReduxReview:  Pink Floyd is one of those bands that I never really got into. I know some of their material because it was practically inescapable back in the day on rock radio, but besides The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, I never dove into their albums. I will at some point. A Momentary Lapse of Reason was not one of their critically lauded efforts, but it did include this tune, which I liked. The opening with the crunchy drum sound and swooping synths became instantly recognizable and it had memorable melodies. The mid-section with the voices (see below) added a bit of mystery. It ended up being a really good rock radio track and even did well enough to cross over to pop. Pink Floyd was never a singles band, but this one was a pretty good attempt to meld their prog rock into something slightly more mainstream.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia: Double Shot!  1) Gilmour based the song's lyrics on his experiences flying. Around the time the album was being recorded, Gilmour was taking flying lessons. He would eventually become a licensed pilot. Fellow Pink Floyd member drummer Nick Mason was also a pilot. Near the middle of the song there is a section that features vocal overdubs of a radio conversation. Apparently it was an actual recording of Mason in his plane during a flying lesson.  2) The video for this song was directed by Storm Thorgerson. The graphic artist had designed album covers for a lot of artists, but became linked with Pink Floyd for whom he designed over 20 covers including 1973's Dark Side of the Moon. He also directed a few music videos including one for "Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes. The video "Learning to Fly" would win an MTV Music Video Award for Best Concept Video.


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