2017 has been a year for musical anniversaries. Back in June, we celebrated The 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and, only a few weeks ago Elvis fans the world over mourned the 40th anniversary of his death.
Another anniversary which has attracted less global attention is the 50th anniversary of the formation of Pink Floyd. This anniversary has been celebrated in a more low-key way, in keeping with the band’s aesthetic, with an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and a tie-in book, both titled Their Mortal Remains.
Pink Floyd is a band who seem to attract extremes of opinion. I am yet to meet anyone who considers themselves a “casual fan” of the group. Rather, people seem to either worship the ground they walk on or find themselves utterly disenchanted by the, well, weird soundscapes which Floyd have become famous for over the years.
They are also a band who have achieved success on their own terms rather than the standard of the music industry at large. Name any similarly iconic rock group – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen – and the average man on the street is likely to be able to reel off a list of their hit singles. Floyd? Most non-fans will likely dry up after “Another Brick in the Wall”. And yet Pink Floyd remains one of the best-known groups of the last half-century with one of the most iconic album covers of all time to boot.
The V&A exhibition, Their Mortal Remains, has been something of a dream come true for die-hard fans. Not only are dozens of items belonging to the band on display, as with any regular music exhibition, but enormous three-dimensional representations of their album covers are scattered throughout the building for fans to interact with. These enormous models allow fans to become part of the pictorial language of Pink Floyd, inserting themselves into the images they have loved for decades. Standing between the giant metal faces of The Division Bell, or beside a towering representation of Battersea Power Station from Animals is as meaningful to a Pink Floyd fan as sitting in the Captain’s chair is to a Trekker.
Visitors to the exhibition don headphones and walk around listening to narrators and the band themselves talking about the items on display, the devices picking up on where visitors are within the room and playing appropriate audio accordingly. With everyone cocooned inside their own audio experience, it would be easy to feel isolated – even if attending with a group. Instead, the headphones give the impression that the speakers are talking directly to you, making Their Mortal Remains a deeply personal, intimate experience.
For those unable to make it to London, the exhibition’s tie-in book is a thing of beauty.
The remarkably heavy book of Their Mortal Remains contains previously unseen photographs even for the most die-hard of fans, personal letters, hand written drafts of songs, and a wealth of details covering every stage of the band’s career. Those new to the band will find it contains everything they could want to learn, while old hands will find themselves reminded of details they may have long forgotten. Personally, I found the choice of font rather jarring and unattractive, but this is a minor quibble for a book that delivers everything a Floyd fan could have dreamed of within its pages. For those wishing to celebrate the group’s’ 50th, you could ask for little better than what the V&A has provided.
Their Mortal Remains will be at the Victoria & Albert Museum until October 15th, 2017. It is recommended to purchase tickets in advance.
GeekMom received a copy of Their Mortal Remains for review purposes.