Ever since I was a teenager I have been enthralled by the music and art of Pink Floyd, sonically, lyrically and artistically they spoke into my world then, and still do today. They were famous for their musical invention, for their willingness to address thorny issues such as madness, warfare and isolation, and for their wonderful artwork in their album covers and their stage sets. Having missed out on the V&A Bowie exhibition there was no chance I would miss out on this, I also found my ideal companion for this “pilgrimage” in John Rocha: Floyd are his favourite band!
You have timed slots to enter the exhibition, as you do so you are handed an audio devise with headphones which you are told not to touch apart from the volume as it will be triggered as you walk through the exhibition. The first sound you hear is the song “Echoes” from the album “Meddle”. You then enter the exhibition proper opposite a 3D artwork of the “Darkside of the Moon” cover through a larger “mock-up” on the Bedford van the band used to get to and from their early gigs.
You then enter the psychedelic 60’s which spawned their early sound and artwork. Throughout the exhibition there are phone boxes which have artwork, headlines and images of each period in time, as a way of linking the music and art of Floyd to the time they were produced. The next room shows you the early years and the first few albums, as well as documenting the turmoil that led to Syd Barrett leaving and being replaced by David Gilmore. There are video screens whose sound gets triggered as you walk near filled with band interviews talking about there influences, what was going on in their world and what they were trying to achieve through their art.
You then move into a room which explains the thoughts and sounds around their Iconic “Dark side of the Moon”, the political influences, the discussion of madness and the sonic experimentation. Videos talk of how they embraced very early sequencers, guitars that Gilmore used for certain songs (with both instruments on display!), and what their album artwork was about.
From there you move through a room explaining the album “Wish you were here” and how Gilmore and Waters wrote the title track.
The next room is filled with stage sets linked to the next two albums: Animals and The Wall. With the huge inflatable pigs and sheep (plus the worrying and amusing story of the photo shoot with the inflatable pig over Battersea Power station!). This was were art and stage sets linked to bring the music and imagery to the audience. A brief section on “The Final Cut” and then and few rooms dedicated to there final 3 studio albums and live album “Pulse”.
As if that isn’t enough as you enter a final room you read a sign that says “Please remove your headphones”. In that room images are projected onto all 4 walls and you are treated to the “video” to their first hit “Arnold Lane”; then their final hit “The division bell” before, finally, concert footage from Live8, when they “reformed”, of the wonderful “Comfortably numb”. The sound, the filming and this room is worth the entry fee alone!
Three of the most memorable hours I have spent were at this exhibition, it felt like a pilgrimage, paying homage to the art, the music and the talent that is Pink Floyd. Wonderful!