Sunday, 15 October 2017

Remember a Day

On Thursday I traveled to London to see Their Mortal Remains, the V&A's Pink Floyd exhibition, for one final time before it closes on the 15th. I'm lucky to have been a total of 3 times so far (you can read about my other visits here and here), and I'm going to miss this exhibition SO much. I can't even begin to put into words just how much I love Pink Floyd and what they mean to me, and so what this exhibition means to me. It just gives me the biggest buzz and makes me so happy to escape and just be completely and utterly immersed in my favourite band for a few hours. It renews my love and wonder for them all over again and makes me feel like I did when I first discovered them, and I'm going to miss that feeling so much. I have no idea how I'll recapture that without the exhibition. The closest thing I can describe it as is it's like Disneyland, but for Floyd fans. It's that same kind of magical escapism. I managed to spend 5 hours in there this visit and I have no idea where that time even went, I was in such a happy bubble making sure I took in absolutely every little thing before it's gone forever. I just love Pink Floyd so much, and this entire exhibition just highlights that so much and overwhelms me with adoration. I could never see it enough times.

I know there's a lot of photos, but I just want to remember this always. You'll have to excuse the red and green dots, it's the reflection of the audio guide around my neck!

Their Mortal Remains

As you begin the exhibition you enter through a model of their Bedford van which was the bands earliest mode of transport for all of their equipment. There's a photo of Nick loading his drumkit into it (which you can see clearer here - notice the band through the window in the background!) and a letter Syd Barrett wrote to his girlfriend of the time that mentions the van.

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A zine Syd made for a school friend

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Really my only complaint about the entire exhibition, and has been since day 1, is that there isn't enough emphasis placed on Syd. Roger Waters himself has stated "We wouldn't of existed if it weren't for him", and as I know from first hand experience how few people are even aware of Syd's existence (the amount of times I've been condescendingly told by 'fans' that there's no member of Pink Floyd called Syd!) that I really feel his influence wasn't emphasized enough. After the first few rooms he's just never mentioned again, despite the fact that he inspired so much of the bands later content such as Wish You Were Here and a lot of The Wall and his shadow forever haunted them. At the very end of the exhibition there's a little tribute to Rick to mark his passing, and yet there's nothing like that for Syd which I thought was sad.

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One of Nick Mason's technical drawings from his architecture studies, and an abstract painting by Syd.
"After two years at the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology, Syd Barrett came to London in 1964 to study at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. He was a prolific painter, and many people saw him as an artist first and a musician second. Although Pink Floyd's increasing success meant Syd left Camberwell early, he continued to paint for the rest of his life"
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Portraits of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council who inspired the bands name, along with several of the books that inspired Syd's songwriting, a photograph of Roger and Nick in their architecture class, and footage of a 19 year old David Gilmour.

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A projector that was used in their early shows, swirling oils would be projected onto the stage over the band as they played. Also the prism lens used by Vic Singh to photograph the cover of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which was gifted to him by George Harrison.

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A letter from a booking manager writing to state that a member of the band (Syd) had "freaked out" and left recording without any explanation, and a replica of his Fender Esquire with mirrored body. It was his favourite guitar to play, and is unfortunately considered lost.

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Atom Heart Mother, and David's Fender Sunburst Stratocaster which he used for the free concert in Hyde Park. It was gifted to him by Steve Marriott of The Small Faces.

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Pink Floyd's final single until Another Brick in the Wall Part II, Point Me At The Sky.

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This makes me sad. Two contracts by the BBC, one of which has Syd's name crossed out and David's penned in.

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Rick Wright's keyboard. Roger's Fender Precision bass guitar which originally had a psychedelic pattern on it's body, but David bought it off of him and stripped the paintwork. Shirts and hat owned by Nick. Syd is always referred to as being the most stylish member of the band, but I've always thought Nick was just as much! These are the only clothes in the entire exhibition, which is a bit of a shame. I know they're not a band who had costumes, but they still wore some pretty iconic stuff.

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"A lot of experimentation that was going on musically ... could have, if they weren't careful, moved Pink Floyd away from rock altogether ... One of the reasons it never does that is because there's a kind of steel in there at all times. What roots Pink Floyd in rock music is Nick Mason's drumming. However complex the ideas, he gives these often superb repeated loop grooves which really make it feel like it's a rock exploration ... it's the rhythm that does that."
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String of coins made by Nick to help create sound effects on Money.

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Syd'd bike he used from the 1980s onwards to get around his hometown of Cambridge, and a biplane model used in the promo video for Point Me At The Sky

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For some reason they weren't playing the video of David talking about his famous black strat. It made me glad I'd already seen it!

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From left to right: David's Bill Lewis custom guitar which he purchased whilst on tour in Seattle 1970. It has 24 frets which is 2 full octaves more than a standard Fender Stratocaster. He used it on the album Meddle and the latter part of the guitar solo on Money; Fender Precision bass guitar that was originally owned by Roger Waters from 1972 to 1977. It was his favourite and featured on The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals. David Gilmour now owns it, and it featured on The Endless River; David's Fender Esquire 'Workmate' guitar, used in rehearsals for Animals; Roger's Magnum 1 Ovation bass guitar which he played on The Wall.

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From left to right: Ovation 12-string guitar played by Roger Waters on the The Wall tour; David's Charvel Telecaster-style guitar which was especially built for him by the owner of Charvel in late 1979 and was used on The Wall tour; David's Electra electric mandolin played for the finale of The Wall tour as they filed off stage. At the back are replicas of Nick's bass drum heads, painted by Katy Hepburn for him in 1973 inspired by Under the Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai.

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Synthesizers and electric pianos played by Rick Wright.

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Roger's handwritten lyrics to Have A Cigar, and Syd photographed when he unexpectedly visited the band during the recording of Wish You Were Here, an album that was heavily influenced by him and features songs dedicated specifically to him. Nick: "David asked me if I knew who he was...even then I couldn't place him, and had to be told. It was Syd."

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The punk movement of the late '70s weren't fond of Pink Floyd: "Pink Floyd represented everything Punk was not: musically skilled, conceptually ambitious, filthy rich, tastefully bearded." This t-shirt was worn by Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, who later admitted that he secretly loved Pink Floyd. The stand off between the two groups also didn't stop The Damned from asking Nick to produce their 1977 album Music For Pleasure.

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I think the teacher had deflated a little?

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Roger's handwritten lyrics and sketches outlining his concept of The Wall's stage design.

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Life masks of the band which were used in the opening of The Wall live show. A "surrogate band" would perform In The Flesh pretending to be Pink Floyd wearing these masks. I find these masks super creepy!

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A photograph of all pupils at Cambridgeshire High School For Boys in 1959 featuring Roger, Syd, and Storm Thorgerson (who created many of the album covers for Pink Floyd), and the cane and punishment book from the school with Roger's entry highlighted. Unfortunately I can't read the handwriting to know what he was punished for. According to the sign, Syd and Storm are in there also!

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It's difficult to capture on photograph just how truly enormous this inflatable of the teacher is! You can tell from some angles that his eye's are light bulbs so he could scan the audience.

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Animals is my personal favourite of the later Floyd albums, especially as it references one of my favourite books so heavily, George Orwell's Animal Farm. I'd love to own that black and white poster! I love all of the imagery that was used for this album.

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For the North American Animals / In The Flesh tour these sheep would be fired out above the audience during Sheep. Roger: "[when they exploded] it wasn't a big firework, it was a parachute in the shape of a sheep. They had little lead weights in each foot and they looked amazing...like sheep floating down."

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David's handbook with annotations from The Wall tour.

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I'm currently doing my dissertation on Gerald Scarfe's artwork for The Wall and his collaborations with Pink Floyd, so it's a real treat to have the opportunity to see his actual paintings in the flesh and up close. I love his washes of ink and use of colour, and there's so much texture that goes unnoticed when you're looking at the scaled down printed versions. I have a large poster of the walking hammers piece, and it's no where near as rich as the original.

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At the very end there's a performance room where they play the 2005 Live 8 reunion performance of Comfortably Numb, and the music videos for Arnold Layne and High Hopes. I guess because it was 4.30pm when I got that room and kicking out time, but they were only playing Comfortably Numb which was slightly disappointing as it's one of my favourite parts of the exhibition. They have a bit of a light show to go along with it, and the videos are projected onto all four walls. It's a shame it was cut short.

I'm going to miss this exhibition so much, although I've seen it before I feel like I've noticed new details with every visit. I believe it's going to go on tour, I can't stress enough how much I recommend going if you're able to!
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