Pink Floyd's Pulse

Last updated 09:03 02/12/2010

I bought Pink Floyd's Pulse the very second it became available. It was mid-1995.


It was my first year living away from home, in Wellington; ostensibly I had travelled to the capital to study English and Political Science. I already had my undergraduate degree in the works of Pink Floyd when Pulse was released.

The special edition version of Pulse featured a flashing red light; the actual pulse of the CD/packaging. We were told when we purchased that the batteries would need changing on the light after six months. I left mine. The LED continued to flash for six and a half years.

The hook, for me - and for most I'm sure - behind buying Pulse was the live rendition of Dark Side Of The Moon. I'd been a card-carrying Floyd fan since I was ten years old. I had Delicate Sound Of Thunder (and every studio album, including The Division Bell; the band's final studio album and reason for the Pulse tour). But I needed to hear the live versions of the Dark Side material.

How badly did I need to hear it? Well - pretty badly.

A chance stroll down Lambton Quay had provided the information that one music store would be offering Pulse at a special midnight opening (remember those?) The hook-line was that, being in New Zealand, you could be "the first in the world to own Pulse" - or however it was phrased.

Me and a mate decided we would definitely be up for that. He is a fellow Floyd nerd.

What time would you arrive for a midnight opening to ensure the prime position; to beat the queue? Half-past-eleven perhaps...maybe bang on eleven pm?

We arrived outside the store - pitch black, winter, cold, the streets essentially empty - at eight o'clock. Yep. Four hours early.

We were the only people outside the store. We were, I'm sure, the only people along Lambton Quay.

Now - as nerdy and in to Pink Floyd as we were, we did (kinda) expect to be the only ones there. We thought it would be fun. Good, clean fun. We didn't have Facebook or even cell phones then. We didn't have Twitter. We didn't have torrents. We did have cigarettes though - and filter-coffee. In fact it was smoking that became my second major, rather than politics.
Pulse LED
Another friend sat with us for a while - assisted with a coffee run and so on - and, mostly, I think, came to laugh at us.

At about quarter to twelve, our fingertips icy-white, our lungs coal-black, the owner of the store arrived. He chuckled to see two teens sitting on the concrete outside his store. We were allowed in a few moments early and looked around the store, waiting, waiting for Floyd. Waiting for Pulse.

I can't remember if we had much of a plan about who was going to step up and be the first in the world - by our understanding - to own the CD. I think, perhaps, we'd thought that we would be first equal; that we would be served together. If we even thought that.

It transpired that a small crew of fellow nerds arrived around five minutes to midnight; fresh from car-rides in from Lower Hutt listening to The Wall or Wish You Were Here no doubt.  

And, well, I can't really say what happened from here - I do know that I got the first copy of Pink Floyd's Pulse - the first in the world! (Ha!) And my mate was relegated to third or fourth. I'd like to say I felt bad. But I did not. Our other friend who, quote, "hates Pink Floyd" lined up with the nine or ten Floyd devotees and purchased an album by Pavement. His subtle joke.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, about a month ago the owner of the third of fourth-purchased copy of Pink Floyd's Pulse was staying with me (we still speak - all, or most at least, has been forgiven). And I decided to resuscitate Pulse - adding fresh batteries for the first time in nearly a decade.

Now, once again it flashes with insistence. It is a novelty once again - in a now depleted CD collection. Visitors to the house have commented, have marvelled. What is that? they ask. What is that? they wonder. Baffled by the LED pulsing away, blipping doggedly.

It is Pink Floyd's Pulse.

I took it down from the shelf last night and gave it a spin. Took the CD from the case - larger than normal packaging - felt like a mini-LP, same ritual started with the ubiquitous Pink Floyd opener, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, the way it always had; the way they always did.
Pulse's secret
From there it's to Gilmour and Wright taking on Barrett's Astronomy Domine and making a decent fist of it. To a few of tunes from The Division Bell and some from A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. And then to disc two - the live Dark Side...

I may only listen to Pulse once a year - or so - these days. It is not as ritualistic as I possibly made it sound - but it is a CD I'll hang on to. Because of that packaging - because of the story. Other CDs have disappeared - I prefer Delicate Sound Of Thunder (I am probably in a minority there, tends to be the way) but I don't still have the CD. It had no story attached to it.

So - there are two questions at the end of all of this. Right when I am figuring most of you are most pleased to just be at the end.

Firstly, what CD do you instantly think of in your collection that has a story attached to how you came to be the recipient of it? And - also - do you remember midnight openings? Did you ever line up for something? Do you remember the novelty, the excitement - the idea that you would be among the first to hear the music? And that you were rewarded for being a keen fan - you went to the music, rather than just expecting the music to come to you.

Oh - and now the CD has its batteries replaced and is shining its light once again it's as if I have admitted to a lovechild out of wedlock - my wife is not pleased with this thing that seems like it wants to be a burglar alarm, flashing and pulsing from our CD rack.

Last night she was in the other room while I played the album. She called out at one point - "what's this dumb album? Is this that Pulse album? It sounds dumb".

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Geoff   #1   09:22 am Dec 02 2010

So you'll be looking for a new wife then? :-p

Jonny   #2   09:29 am Dec 02 2010

I went to a listening party for the release of Kid A at the old Bodega in Wellington. There was hardly anyone there and we got stickers. If I were to come over to your place and see the Pulse still pulsing, I would probably drop my jaw in wonder as I thought the LED couldn't have its batteries replaced.

H   #3   09:30 am Dec 02 2010

I was lucky enough to go to the concert at Earl's Court. Was one of the best nights of my life. Fantastic album.

Dr First   #4   09:31 am Dec 02 2010

Blackfoot - Highway Song - a version of the 12inch single "recorded especially for Manchester". Limited edition. They released different versions from different venues (although I suspect they just overdubbed the "coming to you <placename>" at the beginning). I'd been at the gig - so I took the long bus ride into the City to go to (HMV, I think) for opening time. But it was "not in stock yet. Should be in this afternoon." So I spent the day hanging around the city, window-shopping, getting bored (no cafes in those days and no money to spend on anything else), until about 3pm when I tried again. Still no sign "try later". I tried again just before closing and the d@mn thing still hadn't arrived. I had to go home and return the next day. Big failure in the "trying to be first to get the item" stakes there. Turned out, there were plenty of copies (I probably bought the only one). Still - I must dig that out and give it a spin (yes - old fashioned vinyl as well).

Sarah   #5   09:34 am Dec 02 2010

I should think our flashing red light has gone out too. What size battery did you buy. What a good idea to add to the festive season decorations.

Stella   #6   09:41 am Dec 02 2010

Ah, Pulse. My mum bought it in 1995 too, and thus I discovered Pink Floyd (I was quite young in 1995). I loved it immediately when she played it.

Tony   #7   09:41 am Dec 02 2010

So sad Simon. You're not married to that shallow chick on the Tower adds are you? Obviously not a soul mate.

Omar   #8   09:42 am Dec 02 2010

I can’t say that I have lined up until midnight to get an album because realistically I haven’t needed too as the bands I’m into aren’t the type of bands will have a midnight release as they’re not huge like pink floyd. I’m a massive music collector so to me if any album goes missing I’m going to throw a fit. Once when I was younger 11-12 I believe I had just started collecting music; I remember a friend of mine and I worked our buts off out at his family’s farm to earn some money so we could both go and buy Limp Bizkit ‘Significant Other’. A year past and my music collection was getting bigger but still my Limp Bizkit album stuck out like a sore thumb and was getting trashed (ashamed to say; but I’m not going to lie) and one day after a couple of people had left my house I went to my room to find my CD was missing presumed stolen by a dodgee character who was floating around my house. Long story short I found out who stole it who then sold it to another dodgee character and after confronting the guy and getting punched in the face and stomach he gave it back because it was “dumb anyway”. So I guess the the album that has the biggest story behind it… ask me where it is now… underground in some tip somewhere.

Craig   #9   09:48 am Dec 02 2010

wow..that brings back some memories....I think I was #2 in the line to get it..and yes, made the decision to drive in from Lower Hutt at about 11:30.. (and yes, I may have pushed in front of your mates..please send my apologies!)

Still a great album..still gets a few plays when I plug in the guitar and trade a few solo's with Dave.... :) (strangely his tend to sound a lot better than mine...oh well)

Karlos   #10   09:50 am Dec 02 2010

Nice. This is why I still like buying the physical CD or LP of an album that I've really been looking forward to instead of just downloading it. The excitement and anticipation you feel as you open it up for the first time and put it in the stereo can't be matched by clicking a link on some web page.

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