MONUMENTAL LACK OF RESEARCH
was just a little theory of mine. Having
now done a bit more research, I think that my initial notion was completely
incorrect. However, the journey through the evidence presented here
is quite an interesting one, which is why I have chosen to display
it anyway. I'd like to know what anyone thinks about this either way,
so have a read - feedback is most welcome.
The above album cover - Pink Floyd's "A Momentary Lapse of Reason"
a rather famous image now. There's probably not many of you who haven't
been exposed to it at some point. The true beauty of this cover, like
all of Storm Thorgerson's art (including his many other Pink Floyd
works), is that it depicts a real event. Even today when the time-saving
computer is available, Storm still likes to painstakingly construct
the core of his idea using physical objects. And that's how it was
with this photograph. It is real. What? All of those beds? Absolutely.
700 hospital beds no less (or 800 depending upon which conflicting
account is used). Hundreds of real hospital beds arranged on a real
beach just for a photo. Where on earth is anyone going to get 700
or 800 hospital beds? Well, that's where my little theory comes in.
Storm was commissioned for this cover he decided on using beds from
the lyric "a vision of an empty bed." This evolved into
the notion of a massive "river of beds." He first thought
of Los Angeles as a base for the shoot, in order to concentrate on
the moody landscape of (comparatively) nearby Death Valley. This fell
through, as he says, because they "did not have the right kind
of beds. I wanted Victorian, wrought iron, hospital type beds for
dreamers, or mad people, or even ill people." So, the location
shifted back home to the infinitely more historical England. Location
manger Lance Williams "somehow landed his hands on 700 beds and
accompanying sheets, blankets and pillows, plus two articulated trucks
and took the whole lot down to Staunton Sands in North Devon."
It has never been publicly clarified where the beds came from. My
theory, as if you hadn't guessed this already, is that they came from
the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital. Here's a few thoughts in
CRCMH closed its doors for the last time in late 1985. It had began
its life in limbo, but had not had sufficient time to become as dilapidated
by 1987 as it was when I knew it. Hospitals, by their very nature,
contain beds. Lots and lots of beds. Until I began to ponder the issue
of this album sleeve, the thought had honestly never struck my mind.
Since I have known it, the hospital has been a big empty space. Why?
Because there are no beds! They had been removed- and it hadn't ever
occured to me. I didn't believe that I'd ever seen a single bed in
the whole place until sifting through old video footage of an expedition.
Parts of perhaps three or four beds were thrown together in what was
once the library.
A mess of old bed parts in one of the CRCMH outbuildings
were they truly representative of the standard bed throughout the
hospital? However likely or not it might be, my scientific training
insists that I cannot make such an assumption from such a small number
of parts. But at any rate, there is no doubt that these beds are fairly
ancient. Former patients corresponding with me over the years have
also told me of the antiquated appearance of the CRCMH wards and their
furniture. So, these could have been the original beds. But whether
they were or not is beside the point - the CRCMH must have
had a just few more than four beds (well, actually you never know
with the NHS...). What happened after the closure? Where did all the
you were a location manager looking for hundreds of Victorian-looking
cast iron hospital beds, where might you expect to find them? In a
recently closed hospital of course. Nowhere else are you going to
find so many identical old beds. And not only that, but sheets and
pillows too. A few calls to the government health authority, wave
a bit of cash around - they're going to let you know all about stuff
they no longer need. And the timeframe here is right. Less than two
years separate the patients being turfed out and the album appearing
in the shops. The distance between the CRCMH and the shoot in terms
of transport is also far from insurmountable. How many other old hospitals
in Southern England would have been in a position at that point in
time to fulfil the task? Did any better candidates exist?
the beds immortalized on the cover of Pink Floyd's "A Momentary
Lapse of Reason" are the very same beds that were housed for
a great deal of the twentieth century in the Canadian Red Cross Memorial
occured to me that "The
Last Days of Patton" - the film shot at the CRCMH in 1986
- surely had to feature beds, so I figured that I should check my
copy of the video to see if they were similar. Doing so turned out
to be somewhat of an anti-climax. There are two main ones shown (if
you don't count the operating theatre table) - but they bear no resemblance
to the very distinctive furniture of the album cover. However, the
theory does not necessarily die here.
Film still showing Patton's bed in the CRCMH
first bed featured (and heavily at that) in the film is the one occupied
by General Patton himself. He is isolated in a private room, and the
bed - white in colour - has a contraption fixed to the bedstead with
securing wires attached to Patton's head (his neck was broken and
it requires zero movement). Such a device could not be clamped onto
a more ornamental bedstead, therefore it might be considered possible
that Patton's bed was a special apparatus for spinal patients. The
fact that it was not alongside others in a general ward increases
the curiosity of this notion. So what of the other bed?
that doesn't really help either. The second bed shown in the film
is also not in a general ward. It is part of a comfortable (for the
time), private visitors bedroom and is used by his wife whilst staying
over in the hospital. Although made from wrought iron and again white
in colour, it has a completely different design to Patton's. Actually,
it's not very hospital-like at all (so there's not much point in showing
you what it looks like here).
we have a special bed for spinal patients, and a normal bed for non-patients.
the style of these two beds doesn't conclusively conflict with the
only thing that perhaps might would be their colour. The two in the
film are white. The Pink Floyd beds are red. However, the fact that
most hospital furniture tends to be white poses a further question.
is the last colour that you would think of using in terms of hygiene,
and it is hard to imagine any hospital having red beds (or
indeed anywhere that might allow red beds - for instance an orphanage
- having so many of them). That being the case - is it possible that
the beds were sprayed red for the album cover? That would entail an
awful lot of spraying, but it has to be said that money would have
been no object, and that artistically - red beds work really well
in the shot, whereas white would stand out too much. Technically it
could have been done...
just as it was once again looking plausible, I turned over some fresh
evidence by the way of a very brief (and previously missed) shot of
the general ward beds in "The Last Days Of Patton" (which
in the CRCMH would have been for rheumatism and maternity cases).
Well, here it is.
The very brief shot showing general ward beds
to me, these beds look very much like the ones shown earlier which
I uncovered on our videotape. I'd say they are identical in
fact. But what if they were so identical that they were the
actual same beds? After all, there are only three or four in
the shot. What if the original CRCMH beds had already been taken away,
leaving the film makers to bring in a handful of old beds from elsewhere
- which they then discarded here after the shoot? Just a thought.
The saga deepens, and I'm getting nowhere.
I am getting somewhere. Two former patients have now told me that
the beds looked nothing whatsoever like the Floyd beds. In addition,
a photography student who actually encountered some other beds at
the site has echoed their thoughts. It now appears certain that the
whole theory was way off track. Now all I need is Storm Thorgerson
himself to tell me where they actually got the beds from...
Well, what do
January - March 2002