Who or What is Publius
If one topic managed to cause an even bigger rift between Pink Floyd fans than the endless which-one-is-Pink debate, it was the discussion on whether or not the Publius Enigma was a band sanctioned puzzle, just someone (or a group of someones) pulling our collective legs, or maybe simply Nick Mason having found a way to relieve the tediousness and boredom of touring.
Whichever is the case, if there was a solution to the enigma, it has never been found (although many people have claimed to have found a solution).
You are strongly discouraged to discuss the enigma, and anything related to it on Echoes. The Pink Floyd newsgroup (alt.music.pink-floyd) is the appropriate place for this kind of discussions.
[this section is written by Mark Brown, who also wrote the Publius section in the Pink Floyd Encyclopedia.]
In June 1994, someone using the common Latin first name Publius began posting to Usenet’s alt.music.pink-floyd, using the title “>>>>>>>>>> T H E M E S S A G E <<<<<<<<<<" and variations of it. He posted irregularly throughout the tour and a few times afterward, offering mysterious clues. He invited us to look at TDB with open minds, discuss it in the newsgroup, and solve an enigma in the album. He promised a unique, tangible prize to the group or the individual who solved it. He/she/they said the identity of the messenger isn't important, and that the solution is some other thing.
Publius was answered with skepticism and flames, but on July 16 he predicted a signal to establish his credibility. He told us to watch for flashing white lights, East Rutherford, New Jersey, July 18, at about 10:30 p.m. At the Pink Floyd show in N.J. that night, the last night of the U.S. tour, “ENIGMA PUBLIUS” was spelled out by lights at the base of the stage for over a minute during “Keep Talking”. The signal in the lights was displayed only at that one show. Then some people accepted Publius’s word, and began investigating. Many ideas were discussed, but no definite solution (or even a definite question) has yet been found.
Near the end of the European tour Publius predicted another signal, and at the 7th of 14 London shows at Earls Court, “ENIGMA” was front- projected in large letters onto the stage during the intro to ABITW-2. Just like occasional personal messages which were displayed the same way on other nights, it was scribbled out after a few moments as if it was a schoolboy’s doodling. The show was televised live October 20 in Europe and replayed on Pay-Per-View in the U.S. on November 1. After editing (there were 20 camera angles available) it became the p.u.l.s.e home video. The ENIGMA signal remains, and it was enhanced as if to demonstrate that it was an important part of the concert: it was not simply ignored by the editors.
In late 1994, the album “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” was released on minidisc, with new photos taken from the “Learning To Fly” video. In a corner of one page is plain white text: “ENIGMA”, and again in another photo is plain white text: “PUBLIUS”. This differentiates the Publius enigma from the flaky “Paul is dead” clues that Beatles fans once claimed to see in the “Abbey Road” LP art. The AMLoR art signal was strong evidence that Publius wasn’t just a roadie pulling a prank. It wasn’t just Marc Brickman either: he was no longer working for Pink Floyd after the tour, when the home video was being edited.
Neil Strauss wrote in 1995 in his New York Times column “The Pop Life” that when he interviewed the band and manager early in the tour, they had a mysterious demeanor and said “there’s all sorts of other things” in TDB, and that clues would be forthcoming. When asked about oddities in the album, Gilmour said, “I like puzzling people.” Asked if some songs are veiled references to Roger Waters, he smiled and said, “Are they? You’ll just have to work it out for yourself.”
Whether or not it’s part of the enigma, the “Take It Back” video has partially-hidden images, and director Marc Brickman said some were Gilmour’s ideas. A computer animated explosion sequence shows bombers flying in formation (as in The Wall film), a pyramid from the back of a dollar bill (for the song “Money” and pyramids art from DSotM), hospital beds (from AMLoR art) and so on. In fades between scenes there are glimpses of an aerial view of the concert stage in Miami and a blurry image of ancient ruins that may refer to the “Pompeii” film (the wavering image is “watery”, perhaps a reference to “Echoes”). The “Shine On” and “High Hopes” concert videos also make many references to band history.
In 1995 interviews by guitar magazines, David Gilmour denied it all, saying he knew nothing about the enigma until people began asking him. In a WWW interview in 1996, Rick Wright also denied knowing about it. Mason hasn’t commented.
In late 1995 Sean Heisler, an impatient AMP-F fan, began digging for information from the band’s associates. Mark Fisher and Storm Thorgerson revealed nothing, but concert director Marc Brickman did! He said he was ordered by manager Steve O’Rourke to arrange the two signals via the lighting effects. O’Rourke denied that, and said the puzzle wasn’t from him or from any member of Pink Floyd. However, he encouraged the fans to keep working on it. He said his son was subscribed to AMP-F and was keeping him informed. Brickman’s and O’Rourke’s interviews are in Brain Damage magazine #38.
Following the 1994 tour, Publius wrote only a few more letters, one on Nick’s birthday and again in August. After August 1995, he was unable to send anything to us that we could be sure came from him. The Anonymous Contact Service ran into legal problems, and to protect its users’ anonymity the service was shut down. Some posts claiming to be from Publius or his successors were sent after August 1995, but they can’t be relied upon. Virtually all of them have been traced back to known mischief-makers.
Whatever the Publius enigma is about, it’s still in question as of this writing. Publius promised to watch AMP-F discussion and there may still be a prize to be claimed. However, AMP-F changed radically, so that any focused discussion (such as the one about the enigma) became extraordinarily difficult to carry on. Nothing much is happening there as of this writing. It’s as if the whole “difficulty of communication” theme of The Division Bell was being acted out in the newsgroup. Echoes e-mail regulars are skeptical and have discouraged enigma discussion. Despite numerous obstacles, those who worked hardest on the enigma think it’s worth looking at.
For further information, see the files in the echoserv publius directory (history.951018 includes all his letters to AMP-F), the Publius appendix in Vernon Fitch’s Pink Floyd Encyclopedia (with selected Publius letters), and the Publius Enigma www pages at http://www.uio.no/~ericsp/floyd.html (hosted by Eric Spierings).
“So What Is It?”
As said before, we have no evidence one way or another (or more correctly we have firm and outright denials by band- members and their management, on the other hand, there are the Lights at East-Rutherford, and the texts in the AMLoR minidiscs that aren’t easily explained away.
If the enigma was a band organized attempt, they apparently lost interest in it, and have never come in the open about it.
If there was a riddle to be solved, it was such a tough one, that after 4 years, and lots and lots of combined effort from Pink Floyd fans around the world it is still unsolved (and it’s still not even sure that there actually is a riddle).
Whichever is the case, before you make assumptions or jump to conclusions, check out the references given in the previous section, talk with people about it, and please, do not drag this issue back on echoes. Flame Wars have started over less.