Last year I had the pleasure of venturing to Indio, California, to see some of music’s greatest artists perform live, all on the one field, under the same stars, across three glorious nights. With a bill that included Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, The Who, and the Rolling Stones, the absolute highlight for me on this aptly named ‘Desert Trip’ was seeing and hearing Roger Waters, singer and bassist with Pink Floyd who occasionally likes to fly solo.
Though he wasn’t performing with his usual band, Waters played plenty of Pink Floyd classics and presented an audio/visual extravaganza that was every bit as brilliant and fantastical as anything Pink Floyd have delivered in their impressive, expansive career.
Quite possibly the world’s greatest psychedelic rock band, Pink Floyd have always stuck to their artistic guns, no matter how much pressure may have been put on them from record company suits to come up with sounds that were more ‘accessible’, ‘palatable’ or, to cut to the chase, commercially viable.
Theirs was a mission to create music for the thinking man; something listeners could be enlightened by, become introspective about, or simply be left in awe and amazement at hearing. And the visuals that went with the music have been just as inspiring.
Now, Pink Floyd’s music and art are celebrated in an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and via an accompanying coffee table book through V&A Publishing.
Subtitled Their Mortal Remains, the book tells the Pink Floyd story in a most stylish and succinct manner, from the band’s humble beginnings playing dingy venues like the UFO Club in London, to the dramas and fallouts that have dogged the band (hello/goodbye Syd Barrett), to the obstacles of staging some of the world’s greatest gigs and, ultimately, amassing an epic discography of awesome music.
But don’t go thinking this is merely a collection of seen-it-all-before album and poster art: a lot of the stuff in these pages have never seen the light of day until now, including some of Roger Waters’ sketches, notes and handwritten lyrics for The Wall, designs for the band’s extraordinary stage sets, and fresh photographs of Pink Floyd’s extensive collection of instruments, from classic synths to painted drum heads.
The only criticism I would give this hefty tome is that while the classic album artwork, vintage posters and slick photographs peppered throughout are of very high quality, the book itself is not exactly laid out in the most appealing graphic design and font – which is a shame for a band whose appreciation of aesthetics is so renowned, and for a publishing house whose bibliography includes far more beautifully created books for icons from Balenciaga to Bowie.
The cover concept, though, is a real treat, featuring a lenticular (ie: holographic) image of what is possibly Pink Floyd’s greatest trademark – the prism and rainbow from the cover of The Dark Side of the Moon, which, when viewed from an alternative angle, sees the prism shatter into pieces. Now that’s the kind of thing you’d expect from the world’s greatest conceptual rock band. Antonino Tati
‘Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains’ is available in hardback through V&A Publishing, RRP $74.99.