About Face is the second solo studio album by the English singer-songwriter David Gilmour. It was originally released in March 1984, on the label Harvest in the UK, and Columbia in the US. Co-produced by Bob Ezrin and Gilmour, the album was recorded in 1983, in sessions that took place at Pathé Marconi Studio, in Boulogne-Billancourt, France. Two tracks, „All Lovers Are Deranged“ and the more radio-friendly „Love on the Air“, were co-written by Gilmour and his long-time friend Pete Townshend, the main songwriter for The Who (Gilmour composed the music and Townshend wrote the lyrics). The remainder of the tracks are credited solely to Gilmour. In May of the same year, fellow Pink Floyd member Roger Waters released his first official solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking.
On release, the album was received favourably by the majority of music critics and went on to peak at #21 on UK Albums Chart, and reached #32 on US Billboard 200. Two singles were issued from About Face: „Blue Light“, and „Love on the Air“. The album’s first and leading single, „Blue Light“ peaked at #62 in the US, while its second single „Love on the Air“ failed to chart. The album was certified gold by the RIAA.
The album was re-released on 14 August 2006 on EMI in Europe as a digitally remastered CD. Legacy Recordings, and Columbia Records released the remastered CD in the US and Canada on 12 September 2006.
The album was recorded with engineer Andy Jackson at a time when Pink Floyd’s future was uncertain. It was mixed by James Guthrie at Mayfair Studios in London, England.
Some of the musicians working with Gilmour were drummer Jeff Porcaro, bass guitarist Pino Palladino, Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord, backing vocalists Roy Harper, and Sam Brown, orchestral arranger Michael Kamen (who had also worked on The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking), and keyboardist Steve Winwood.
[When] doing this album I wanted to make a really good record. I didn’t want to do it very quickly, and I wanted to get the best musicians in the world that I could get hold of to play with me, so I thought I’d just make a little list of all my favourite musicians, you know, best drummer, best bass player, best keyboard player, and I’ll work through the list to see who I can get. Jeff Porcaro was top of my drummers list, Pino Palladino was top of my bass players list, and Ian Kewley, or the Rev, as he’s known, he actually came and did the bulk of the Hammond and piano playing, and he was terrific. Steve Winwood was top of my keyboard playing list but he couldn’t do most of the album, but I got him to do a bit. He played Hammond organ on „Blue Light.“ I had a bit more time and was feeling a bit freer about things on this album… just more „accidents“ tend to occur.
[About Pete Townshend’s lyrics on About Face and Townshend’s and Gilmour’s works on their own solo records while being the force behind successful bands] „I think [that] Pete feels some restrictions on what he would like to do with the Who, as I guess we all feel restrictions within everything we attempt [to do], just because of the types of personalities and role you’ve created for yourself. I know he’s felt uncomfortable about certain things— things he could express in solo stuff. For me, the restriction was the scale of what Pink Floyd had become more than anything. It’s nice to get out and do something on a slightly different scale; go out and do theatres, which is not really a possibility with Pink Floyd until we get a lot less popular.“
When Roger Waters began production of the Pink Floyd album, The Final Cut, Gilmour claims, he requested Waters to wait another month for Gilmour to develop some musical ideas himself, but Waters felt he was „on a roll“, and already had plenty of material to complete the album, a very personal project about his father’s death in World War II, and the further victimisation of those who survived it. Waters, seeing Gilmour and Mason’s lack of interest in the concept, offered to make The Final Cut as a solo album, but Gilmour and Mason still wanted a Pink Floyd album, of any kind, to sell. „[T]hey know [that] songs don’t grow on trees,“ Waters told David Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine. „They wanted it to be a Floyd record.“
Gilmour was later interviewed by Texas-based DJ Redbeard, on the radio programme, In the Studio during which the focus was his 2006 third album On an Island. He commented on About Face saying that, „looking back on it, it has some great moments on there but the whole flavour of it is too ’80s for my current tastes.“
„Murder“, was an outcry by Gilmour about the senseless killing of John Lennon, a longtime musical peer and inspiration to him. Gilmour embellished the song with a solo fretless bassline (played by Pino Palladino), adding an edgy funk groove to the acoustic beginning of the song, leading to an instrumental bridge, where the song picks up in the speed of the beat with more electric instruments. Gilmour collaborated with Townshend on the songs „Love on the Air“ and „All Lovers Are Deranged“, as Gilmour recalled: „I sent him three songs and he sent back three sets of lyrics. Two of them suited me well. One didn’t. He did the two on About Face and he did the other one [‚White City Fighting‘] on his White City album.“ The lyrics for „Love on the Air“ were written in a day, after Gilmour had asked for Townshend’s help. „You Know I’m Right“, was written in a similar vein to Lennon’s „How Do You Sleep?“, and was a dig towards to Waters. „Cruise“ was about Ronald Reagan having cruise missiles stationed in Britain at the time.
The cover of the LP is a little wider than usual, approaching 12 1/2 inches. The inner sleeve bears lyrics and photographs of Gilmour, and exists in at least two variations. A sleeve for the UK Harvest edition has rounded corners and opens to the side; one for the USA Columbia edition has square corners and opens to the top, relative to the lyric text. Like the cover, the latter sleeve is wider than it is tall, and may not fit into the outer sleeve if turned 90 degrees. In one corner of both versions are printed the words „Fleudian slip,“ a play on the words „Freudian slip“ and „Pink Floyd.“
The album featured the single „Love on the Air“, with lyrics by Townshend, and the disco-style single „Blue Light“, later remixed by François Kevorkian; „Blue Light“ was released, backed with „Cruise“, on 13 February 1984, while „Love on the Air“, backed with „Let’s Get Metaphysical“ on 24 April. The album was released on 5 March in the UK, and on 6 March in the US (coincidentally on Gilmour’s 38th birthday). „All Lovers Are Deranged“ and „Murder“ were released as singles for North American rock radio; the former reaching #10 on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock chart.
Writing for AllMusic, critic Tom Demalon wrote of the album „The songs on About Face‘ show a pop sensibility that Pink Floyd rarely was concerned with achieving.“ and he adds that „About Face is well-honed rock album that is riveting from beginning to end.“
All lyrics written by David Gilmour, except where noted; all music composed by David Gilmour.
Another piece of music written for the album was not used by Gilmour.
He asked Roy Harper and separately, Pete Townshend, to supply lyrics, but felt that those provided were not messages that he could relate to. Harper subsequently used the tune, with his lyrics, as „Hope“, on his 1985 album with Jimmy Page, Whatever Happened to Jugula?. Townshend used it with his lyrics as „White City Fighting“, which has a markedly faster tempo, on his 1985 album White City: A Novel, on which Gilmour plays.
The supporting tour for About Face, which lasted from March 31 to July 16, 1984, covering Europe and North America saw Gilmour perform the following songs:
Roy Harper and Nick Mason joined him at his shows at the Hammersmith Odeon on 28, 29 and 30 April 1984, which were filmed.
Singles – Billboard (US)