On The Turning Away

Album: A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (1987)
Charted: 55


  • This is about how people turn away from the "weak and the weary," despite the fact that suffering is such a big problem in the world. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Matt - Russell Springs, KY
  • Pink Floyd frontman David Gilmour told Only Music (December 1987): "'Turning Away' is about the political situations in the world. We have these rather right-wing conservative governments that don't seem to care about many things other than looking after themselves."
  • Gilmour wrote this with Anthony Moore, a lyricist who was in a band called Slapp Happy. Gilmour wrote the music first, then Moore came up with the lyric the next day. Gilmour said the words were "just what I wanted to say."
  • A Momentary Lapse Of Reason was the first Pink Floyd album without founding member Roger Waters. The band split up in 1983 after releasing the album The Final Cut. In 1985, Waters told their record company he was done with the band, which he thought would retire Pink Floyd. It didn't. The following year, Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason reinstated keyboard player Rick Wright as a full member (Waters demoted him to session man) and announced they would be continuing as Pink Floyd. Waters tried to stop them, but his legal efforts failed. Convinced the album would fail, he sniped at his former bandmates in the press, wondering how they could make anything of value without him.

    But this new iteration of Pink Floyd proved worthy, and they certainly sounded like Pink Floyd. With Waters gone, Gilmour did most of the songwriting. Producer Bob Ezrin, who worked on The Wall, ensured quality control. A Momentary Lapse Of Reason went on to sell over 4 million copies just in America. Waters released his second solo album, Radio K.A.O.S., a few months earlier. It sold far fewer.

Comments: 54

  • Wblood from Tampa, FlHey Joel from Huntington Beach, Ca... can I buy some pot from you?
  • David Da Bronx from New York CityFrontline doctor here. We went through the C19 plague with support from around the US. It was a beautiful response to the horror we dealt with every minute of every day for weeks on end. We lost coworkers and crippled others by exposing them to this virus. They knew what they were facing and ran towards the danger rather than away. No more turning away. They sacrificed everything.
    The response from around the planet was encouraging. What remains so discouraging now is the political climate that has changed a piece of DNA into a red state blue state issue. New York city paid a mighty price controlling this disease but we did it. Now instead of learning from our tragedy, there are other places in the United States that are refusing to take precautions and their folly has resulted in tens of thousands of dead Americans. It also more or less guarantees that this won’t be over anytime soon. The weak and the weary need help now more than ever. That includes Covid victims and their caretakers. The economy can wait.
    “Don’t accept that what’s happening is just a case of others suffering or you’ll find that you’re joining in the turning away.“
  • Steve from EdinburghJust listened to it for the first time in years. It’s a haunting song. A bit of Robert Burns in there. Don’t turn away but think of your fellow man. It’s about compassion.
  • Robert S from Standing United This song really hits the spot for America’s climate right now.
  • AnonymousWhen I hear this song I think of the missing children .
  • Seth Davis from Not HeavenJoel, did you write this song? Come across that way. Whatever PF says it means, that’s good enough for me, they would know
  • Rob from Blue Mountains Nsw AustraliaThis song is not political, right wing, left wing, or airplane wing, It is simply about those less fortunate, the homeless, those living in poverty, all weary from worry and sadness. Do not turn away from them like they are nobody's not worthy of your attention. The light turning to shadow, It is getting worse, and all these years down the track from when it was first written, it is actually getting darker. January 2020, so many homeless in Australia, it is a disgrace.
  • Mark from IlCan't argue with anyone's viewpoint really. I think we all want the same thing out of life; fairness, a chance to succeed and have a good life with one's family/loved ones WITHOUT having to ruin/destroy others/the planet in the process. As for the meaning of this fantastic piece, I'll defer to the author(s)……..Gilmour doesn't seem to have any ambiguity what the song's meaning is per quotes above.
  • Sam from SomewhereJoel - Spot on! completely feel the same, cheers
  • Jolene from Dallas, TexasJoel - Huntington Beach, Ca, I absolutely agree with you and I totally get it.....I myself have been listening to this song for a few days now, over and over. I've loved it for years but as of late, as I have been really looking inward, I find the words have special meaning to me, as they must for you. My subconscious has found a recent "awakening" and I treasure songs like this even more than ever. I am very aware of the other planes that exist around us and I feel this kind of music opens my mind up to experience them even more.
  • Eric from ChicagoJoel, you are absolutely correct. And the message is everywhere apparent to those who can sense it as you say.
  • Annie from AnkaraI believe this song should not be so political as stated by David Gilmour but looking to ourselves and how we don't understand how our world works -- are you buying you clothes from China? then you are promoting slave labour -- it is more than politics but more how we live our lives... are we going to turn our backs on those that are suffering because it is easier to buy crap from some crap store but expect those with a heart of stone to fix it??? (all current political figures as far as I am concerned) we need to turn in and tune in and see how we are contributing to this world and pull away some how some way -- I don't have the answer but I am searching and I hope I will find it -- otherwise how as most of us who are writing on here are from a first world country and almost all of our comforts are derived from 3rd world slavery -- encouraged by the left and right wing mind you -- OK turning into a real hippy really soon I think but that is my 2 cents -- God bless us all - if not in this life then the next ;)
  • Jim Roberts from Presently - Mawson Base, AntarcticaWhen I first listened to 'On The Turning Away' in the mid '80s, I didn't understand the lyrics nor their meaning. After reading the lyrics in the early '90s, I do believe that it is reference to the disparity between the rich and poor people and associated countries of the world. Never the less, it is definitely David Gilmours' best guitar solo. Last year, 2014, I used the song and lyrics during my mother's funeral and it was appreciated by all who came. Alas, Pink Floyd have produced their last album, 'The Endless River', which means that we all can remember is "light is changing to shadow and casting a shroud over all we have known" of a great band.
  • Justas B from Phoenix Az UsaOn The Turning Away is one of those time-transcending Pink Floyd songs. A Platonic Form, if you wish.

    It was released in 80's, so PF used it bring attention to us ignoring the suffering of poverty and urging us to stop turning the blind eye.
    If it was written in the 60's it may have been about ending the Vietnam war.
    In 40s it may have been about helping the Europeans fight the Nazi plague.

    If it was written today, what would it be about? What are we, as people, not paying attention to? What do we need to stop turning away from?
  • Jillian from UsaJoel in Huntington Beach, CA - Your response is perfect--thanks.
  • Pritam Chandra from West Bengal, IndiaLoved it.. As David Gilmour stated, I felt the scarcity of right wing capitalist people to the problems of the world.. The suffering of proletariats makes no effect on them, that can led to 'joining on the turning away'... So don't bother of those.. This song is a call of getting out of self centrism to human.. Contribution of individual can make the world possible and it will not be dream anymore.
  • Alf from Woodstock, Nyold irish song?
    John, West Orange, NJ maybe it's an old scottish song? i was trying to work out how to play "on turning away" on the piano, when it hit me that you might have been thinking of "the wild mountain thyme?" the two songs don't exactly match, but sound close enough to confuse them. i don't know that galway and the chieftans recorded this together, however.
    maybe someone who knows more about music could tell us more about the formal differences.

    and joel, i think you're spot on about what the song "means"
  • Joel from Huntington Beach, CaThis song and almost all of Pink Floyd's songs cannot be taken for surface value. There are hidden messages to each song. Their ideology is on another plane that of which not many people can comprehend, thus the average responses on this board. This song is about ones interpersonal spirit. The turning away is the forgetting of the light, the heavenly, energy comprised, free, no pain, other dimension of ones self that only few have been able to tap into. Some of you might get this, the rest of you won't. Thus the turning away.... This song is about one being able to remember where they are in life and not on this physical solidified plane but on a spiritual "we will call it spiritual for lack of other words" plane. Now some of you are thinking WTF right, this guy must be off his rocker (or is he?)? Well this ideology is something that one learns through some type of life experience one way or another and begins to understand the true meaning behind life and is able to go on day to day looking at others with quiet eyes. Knowing things they cannot speak about because people will call them crazy. Trust me...I live it. Bob Marley talks about it, the cranberries sing about it. Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and the list go on. There is a transverse universe that is right above our head. How do you see into it is the question of life. “Light is changing to shadow” is someone forgetting about the heavens or “God lets say” the light and letting the shadows or “Demons or evil” take over their thoughts and mind and the pain sets in. Stopping, relaxing, letting the thoughts pass without letting them grab ahold of you is how you stop from the turning away. Allowing the shadows to fade and the lite to shine back in and energy to fill your body, remembering what life is about and the family you have around you (not the physical family either) although that helps sometimes: >. So what is this song about? Like I said, to me it is about sanity and insanity and the division bell. The moment in time when we all choose light over dark (dark side of the moon) and the clock stops (Money) and we are called upon the door through the looking door). There are so many songs saying this exact same thing... Ways we can remind ourselves and connect through song and not feel alone until we are called back home...........
  • Newton from Santa Cruz, CaThe "Turning Away" refers to an event also known as "The Culling". To quote Wikipedia "Culling is the process of removing animals from a group based on specific criteria. This is done in order to either reinforce certain desirable characteristics or to remove certain undesirable characteristics from the group. For livestock and wildlife, the process of culling usually implies the killing of animals with undesirable characteristics". Beware of man-made catastrophy.
  • Jake from Des Moines, IaI'm 14 years old (2010) and I first have to say I'm a loyal Pink Floyd fan, and I like all their albums, even Animals. I would say that like most people my favorite album of theirs is dark side of the moon or the wall (I went to Roger Waters 2010 tour of the wall in Kansas city and Omaha, and got Roger's autograph), but when it comes to songs I try to stay away from favorites. But after reading and listening to this song for hours I will have to say this is by far my favorite thing about Pink Floyd.
  • Richard from Irricana, AbProbably the song with the most powerful message for Pink Floyd. Song is very gripping. Lots of scriptural truth and references to this song.
  • Dennis from Burbank, Ca"On The Turning away" adresses the people who acknowledge but don't do anything to help improve homelessness, poverty, third world poor, and those who can't help themselves. The first verse states that clearly and requests not to accept it. The second verse states that "light is changing to shadow" - meaning the majority of people are becoming those "turning away" and its a sin that people are less caring of the less fortunate. The third verse says if those that do care, unite and carry the torch for the less fortunate, then maybe the cause can grow. The last verse is a "call to action" that we must all join in and help and not turn away from these problems we all recognize as a problem. This song is not about politics, left wingers, right wingers, etc. It is about "calling out" all of us individuals who see the despair in the world and do nothing but turn away from it. Good clear lyrics.
  • Samantha from Portland, OrActually, this song is written about the first book in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, "Lord Foul's Bane", published in 1977. It was referenced in an interview somewhere (a long time ago) and I really wish I could cite it but I don't remember who the interviewer was. I know people will have plenty of rude/criticizing comments countering my post, but maybe just try reading the book first and then come to your own conclusions...the correlation is unmistakable.
  • Kristen from Perth, AustraliaIt's about taking yourself seriously. The whole song is about selfishness within oneself. Drugs make a prominent appearance in the metaphors that are developed from verse one. Turning away from reality and the ever growing addiction becoming a reality. Tomorrow will always be better. Homelessness and poverty are mentioned as a turning away from friends rather than from humans in general. Everyone gets stingy toward the end of their stash.....???
  • Tom from Sydney, AustraliaTo Jennifer at Fort Wayne, the lyrics which you read are mis-quoting the song. The correct lyrics are "Light is *changing* to shadow. Casting a shroud over *all we have known*". You may want to listen to check for yourself. May I make this point. Lending a helping hand is most effectively done when it is done by one individual for another. "Odes" to politicians carry an evasion personal responsibility. I have made decisions to help based on the content of this song. Credit to the song and all involved in bringing it to my ears. My actions I dedicate to you. Over to you, whoever you are reading this.
  • Mike from Cincinnati, Oh Actors make a s--t load of money. I know some adopt kids but it could be all for show. If they would just part with some of there money maybe no one would have to suffer. I heard that Jim carry makes 20 million a movie. I would't know what to do with 1 million. How much money do you need anyway. I think the gov should step in and people should have a cut off point.
  • Albert from Lancaster, PaMy wife and I once tried to adopt a little boy from birth but the woman who gave birth to him took him back and kept him.When he was 16 mos. old he was brutally abused to death by the man she was living with. This song makes me think of him and other children like him.We did not turn away-we latter adopted a beautiful baby girl.Her middle name is Hope.
  • Jennifer from Fort Wayne, Ini saw this song quoted on myspace. most of it made good sense to me but I wonder about the line about the light causing a shroud and shadow over the needy. what light do they mean?
  • Terry from Wickford, RiWaters is in the record as saying that there were 'on or two' pieces from Lapse that he would have seen as belonging on a 'proper' Floyd album ( he called Lapse a 'fair forgery' of Pink Floyd's sound). He never admitted which ones he liked, but I have to imagine that this is one of them. Not only does it match what Waters wrote, thematically, but would have made a much better ending for Radio Kaos than 'The Tide is Turning', which was released that same year and is practically the same song in many ways....but this one is better, IMO.
  • Dubby from Dfw, TxPlease, this song is about PEOPLE. People turning away from people! It does not matter what their excuse for turning away, politics, economics, divorce, fear, whatever! Listen to the song again, that which brings us together is ever so much more important than that which divides us!
  • Rel from Tel Aviv, IsraelDave's solos have there way of conducting a dialog - i like the play between the high and low keys in this solo. Things only ge better when Nick enters in the final drum set... R.I.P. Rick Wright
  • Bill from Martinsville, NjThe light shone on the true meaning of this song for me when I heard Richie Havens perform it live a few years back. Truly heart-wrenching that the song point out how we can turn away from those who need us most and just go on about our lives.
  • Melanie from Seattle, WaThis song is so beautiful and meaningful. One of my favorite Floyd songs.
  • John from West Orange, NjThe melody of this song is an old irish folk song. When this album was released, my dad was listening as I played this song over and over again. He brought me an old record of James Galway with the Chieftains and played this exact melody as an instrumental recorded many years before Pink Floyd's new (at the time) album. I was shocked!!! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle?

    Are there any music buffs out there that know the album I'm referring to?

    John, W. Orange, NJ
  • Julie from Beatrice, NeThis is another beautiful song. Everytime I hear it I just want to cry. However I am more leaning towards the idea that pink floyd is not the same without Rodger Waters. I hope that someday David Guilmore and Rodger Waters will burry the hatchet and record something togther again.
  • Daferdaty from Leicester, Englandyet another great guitar solo from Gilmour and some of the most touching lyrics i've heard this song is my second favourite song of all time, my fav is comfortably numb, i love any song where Gilmour is either playing guitar or singing, he's brilliant!!!!
  • Sara Mackenzie from Middle Of Nowhere, Flpowerful, powerful lyrics. very good pink floyd song, but at a different time in their history. it is beautiful! =^_^=
  • Eric from St. Louis, MoThis song sounds like Gilmour is trying to replicate Comfortably numb, the way the song has a lighter side and a darker side, the kickass solo at the end, the way it fades out. Both wonderful songs.
  • Jeff from New Milford, CtThe sad fact is that this song is even more true today than ever. We need to deal with this as a world whole.
  • Derek from Sarnia, CanadaThe best song on AMLoR in my opinion...a very underrated album
  • Ashley from Moncton, CanadaThe government is composed of a bunch of cold-hearted, greedy bast*rds who only care about economical development and give only the least they possibly can to those in need without being called crooks. It doesn't need to be this way. We should live in a world where no one has to suffer. Maybe if all those sinfully rich war pigs who sit in their $40 million mansions, sipping their fine wine, wondering what they should buy next, would lay off their huge ego and give a damn about all the people dying because they have nothing at all!
  • Ziggy Hendrix from Lindenhurst , IlThe best dehydrated (no Waters) Floyd piece.
  • Taylor from Tarboro, NcThis is, in my opinion, one of Pink Floyd's better songs. The guitar riffs are very moving. However, it does not sound very much like the songs that they are most known for, but that's not a bad thing.
  • John from Northam, Australiapink floyd is one of the best bands ive ever heard. im only 16 but i grew up on this music. its good to see that back in the day bands made people think about how the government only cares for there own good will. this song is terrific and probably one of floyds best from a heeps good album 2
  • Ash from Charleston, WvWhat? Right wing conservatives don't enjoy spending other people's money, too? Please!! When it comes to politicians caring only about themselves, there is no divide among parties.
  • Wes from Springfield, VaA tiresome political song. "We have these rather right-wing conservative governments that don't seem to care about many things other than looking after themselves." Okay... and we have rather left-wing liberal politicians who love nothing better than the rush of spending other peoples' money - and looking after themselves.
  • Andrew from TorontoIagree with most of you this is a great post Waters tune.I seen Floyd back in 87 (wow)and this one was built tobe played live and showcase Gilmour's impeccable sound.This album was ok but not great.I used to think this album was strong but when I listen to it now it sounds kind of 80's,unlike Dark Side,Animals,Wish u were here which sound brilliant.
  • Dee from Indianapolis, InThis is one of my all time favorite Floyd songs. It always gives me goose bumps when the opening chord is played. I saw them in concert back in 93' and when they played this it was sooooooooooo great. They ended with "Run like Hell" which is another one of my favs. If you have never seen them live I highly recommend going when they are near by.
  • Ashley from Moncton, CanadaI'm actually listening to this song right now, and it's funny how you can completely forget just how good a song is until you are actually listening to it again. This is also one of my favourite Floyd songs.
  • Rich from Elkins, WvI forgot how good this song was...I just read the lyrics..this probably made Waters a little jealous
    to see his old mates do so well without him..
  • Helen from York, EnglandBack in the day when my Dad made me hate Pink Floyd, I still loved this song. I am a sentimental wench :) But I love it still... it's beautiful.
  • Mike from Mountlake Terrace, WaGreat song, both the sound and the lyrics are phenominal. In fact this whol album is a must have. Five basic essensials in life, 1)Food, 2)Water, 3)Shelter, 4)Solar powered CD player, 5)Pinkfloyd collection on CD!
  • Brian from Paoli, InVery good song, almost as good as Learning to Fly, both great great songs.
  • Matt from Russell Springs, KyI'll most definitely second that. You've got to love the shift between the acoustic guitar and the electric solo. It's what you would expect from someone of the caliber of David Gilmour, and is indeed one of the finer post-Waters works. Anybody noticed, however, that the solo on here sounds like part of "Sorrow", also from AMLoR?
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