Published: May 11, 2017
LONDON — Years in the making, the exhibition, “Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains” is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (V&A) through October 1. This major spring exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of the band’s first album, “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn,” and debut single, “Arnold Layne.”
“Their Mortal Remains,” originally conceived by Storm Thorgerson and developed by Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell, who worked closely with Nick Mason (consultant for Pink Floyd), is an audio-visual journey through 50 years of one of the world’s most iconic rock groups, and a rare and exclusive glimpse into the world of Pink Floyd.
It features many previously unseen objects collected over the band’s eclectic history. It begins with an oversized recreation of the Bedford van which took them from gig to gig in the mid 60s.
The scale and ambition of Pink Floyd’s imagery and live performances are encapsulated by several interactive,
floor-to-ceiling installations by Stufish. From a massive representation of “The Wall” stage set used during Pink loyd’s original 1980-1 tour with the giant inflatable schoolteacher looming over “The Wall” into the vaulted ceiling; visual trickery is adopted to create a parallax of Battersea Power Station complete with towering chimneys which is the London landmark pictured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album, and a pitch-black space containing a holographic image bringing to life the famous prism from “The Dark Side Of The Moon.”
The exhibition draws together many unique artifacts illustrating Pink Floyd’s relationship with music, art, design, technology and performance from every stage of their career and personal lives. Among the earliest exhibits is the punishment book and cane from the Cambridge And County High School For Boys, where Pink Floyd’s original guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett and bass guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Roger Waters were pupils in the late 1950s.
Waters studied architecture at London’s Regent Street Polytechnic in the early 60s, alongside fellow co-founders, drummer Nick Mason and keyboard player/vocalist Richard Wright. Included here are Waters’ and Mason’s technical drawings and sketches, showing how the formal training they received later influenced the group’s creative ideas.
Pink Floyd’s earliest performing days are represented with Syd Barrett’s letter, which includes a sketch of their Bedford van, and Nick Mason’s annotated gig diary detailing the future stadium-filling band’s humble beginnings, playing London’s underground music club UFO and touring Britain’s circuit of Top Rank ballrooms and college halls.
The exhibition offers a rare glimpse of the band’s working methods, and plots their transition from a psychedelic pop group in the 1960s to the multi-platinum-selling albums band in the ‘70s, ‘80s and beyond. These include a letter, dated August 1967, from the BBC to Pink Floyd’s booking agent requesting an explanation for Syd Barrett walking out of a recent recording session, and Roger Waters’ handwritten lyrics for the songs “Wish You Were Here” and “Have A Cigar.”
The exhibition also offers an in-depth look at the band’s instruments and technology. Several of David Gilmour’s
guitars, including his famous Black Strat, are exhibited, alongside Richard Wright’s early-70s era Mini Moog synthesiser and a treasure trove of effects pedals, hand-painted drum heads, echo chambers and more. Filmed interviews with the band members explain how this equipment was used to create Pink Floyd’s ground-breaking and experimental sound on albums such as “The Dark Side Of The Moon,” “Wish You Were Here” and “The Wall.” Meanwhile, the exhibition’s three purpose-built mixing desks allow visitors to ‘mix’ their own customized version of the classic Floyd song “Money.”
Exhibits include the 6-meter-plus tall ‘metallic heads’ from the cover of 1994s album, “The Division Bell,” the inflatable TV and refrigerator as used on Pink Floyd’s 1977 “In The Flesh” tour; the “lightbulb suit” pictured on the sleeve of 1988s “Delicate Sound Of Thunder” live album, and a life-sized model of the British soldier shown in the artwork for 1983s “The Final Cut” album.
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