Pink Floyd's Pulse

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.

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.

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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