Their Mortal Remains

P1020956Their Mortal Remains is the title of the huge Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A Museum in London, which we went to see last weekend.

I’d been excited about the trip for weeks, and it didn’t disappoint. It was huge, it was stuffed with material ranging from personal letters to the band’s own instruments to huge models of album covers and/or special effects. There were things to look at, things to read, and things to watch and listen to. Everyone was given an audio headset on the way in, which played a variety of Floyd’s music and/or interviews with the band, roadies, and various other connected folk, depending on where you were amongst the exhibits.  And at the end, past a collection of vast replica inflatables from Animals and The Wall concerts (not least the floating pig!), there was a big interactive space where you were surrounded on all four sides by film footage and walls of sound, so that it felt as though you had prime seats at a Floyd concert.

There was also a wider interest in terms of the cover art, designed by the British company Hipgnosis, and critical acclaim for both the music and the lyrics of Floyd’s work. One expert said that in his opinion, Roger Waters should be ‘up there on the podium’ with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, a sentiment I totally agree with.

I found the whole experience incredibly moving, and as well as the sheer scale it also provided smaller items of note, like a handwritten letter describing the band’s first ever tour bus (you enter the exhibition through a larger-than-life version of it), and an explanation of where some of the album names came from.  Atom Heart Mother, for instance, was inspired by a newspaper headline about a woman who’d had a radioactive-powered pacemaker fitted, in the late 1960s.

A couple of small gripes – it was very hot, and very, very crowded.  There’s not a lot the V&A can do about the latter because this is turning out to be their most popular exhibition ever, and the queues just keep on building up. However, the twisty layout did create a few bottlenecks and as some of the fans wanted to read Every. Last. Word. on every label on every item, progress was slow and I kept getting elbowed out.  It was also pretty dark, which added to the overall atmosphere but made some of the exhibits and labelling hard to pick out.

However, this is an exhibition on the grand scale, entirely appropriate given some of Floyd’s own, dare I say, excessive set pieces.  But in amongst the replica aircraft, animals, and giant puppets, there are also small, intimate reminders that this was, first and foremost, a group of friends who gathered together to make the sort of music they loved.  And the interview about the inflatable pig breaking loose over London and getting into Heathrow airspace is just hysterical.

Their Mortal Remains was originally slated to end at the beginning of October, but it’s been so popular the V&A have extended it until the 15th. So if you’re a fan of Pink Floyd, prog rock or the history of music, do think about going along. It’s not cheap and it’s not a quiet ride, but it’s more than worth both the cost and the effort to see it.

(To give you some idea of scale, the model of the Division Bell cover at the top was over 20 feet tall; Battersea Power Station (below) probably larger still. But then Pink Floyd never did anything, well, small!)

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Dark Side of the… cake?

floydcakeA friend of mine sent me this wonderful photo after a recent trip to London.  It’s cake, but not as we know it… from the Victoria & Albert museum, who are currently hosting an exhibition on Pink Floyd.

The exhibition takes in the history of the band, their sound, and their very iconic ‘look’, from their earliest Syd Barrett incarnation right through, presumably, to the present day.  It includes sound, vision, and interactive elements and sounds absolutely fascinating; although it’s not cheap at a minimum of £20 per head to get in, it’s on my list as a ‘must do’ later this year.

The event ends on 1 October, but I’m assuming the cake won’t last anything like as long.  Apparently it was orange cake with chocolate ganache, and quite delicious!  Ten out of ten to the V&A for a bit of additional, tongue in cheek, advertising for the occasion.

If we get there, I’ll try a bit for myself and let you know what it was like.  And many thanks to Andy for letting me use the photo.

Hipgnosis in pictures

Dark_Side_of_the_MoonTo celebrate the launch of a brand new book about cult design company Hipgnosis, the Guardian is running a picture gallery of some of their album covers.

Their work includes some of the most influential cover designs ever, for a whole range of bands and musicians from the 1970s including Yes, Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, 10cc, and of course, Pink Floyd.  In fact, it’s thanks to Pink Floyd that Hipgnosis existed at all, after they asked two college friends, Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, to design a cover for their album ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’.  Thorgerson and Powell went on to found Hipgnosis together, with the addition of Peter Christopher, and became highly sought-after, particularly in the prog-rock community where their ideas chimed with the themes of the time.

Sadly, album covers became more restrained from the late 70s onwards and work gradually dried up for Hipgnosis, but they are still remembered fondly by fans around the world, in particular for their most iconic work, Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.  Unlike some of their other work this is simple, uncluttered and abstract, but strong enough to have survived as a classic, and one of the most-recognised album covers even today.

The book, ‘Vinyl. Album. Cover. Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue’ by Aubrey Powell himself, is available from Thames & Hudson.  I might just treat myself to a copy.

Pink Floyd – the shrimp

shrimp

Meet the newest member of Pink Floyd – synalpheus pinkfloydi.  Ahem.  Well, maybe not.  But this isn’t a late April Fools joke, because scientists really have named their latest crustacean discovery after the band, as you’ll see from this BBC science news report.

It’s a nice way of honouring the band, and oddly appropriate given that the new shrimp is pink, and Pink Floyd had an album out called ‘Animals’.  Sadly, it didn’t feature shrimps – that would be too much of a coincidence – but it has inspired some amusing artwork showing a giant shrimp above Battersea power station!  Whether it was inflatable or not I don’t know, but I guess someone had to do it…

 

Tickled Pink…

85183245_hi018536501Having been a massive fan of all things Pink Floyd for most of my adult life, on Saturday I was really excited to be heading for a concert by Think Floyd, one of the top British tribute bands featuring their music.

We’d originally been going back in the autumn but the concert was postponed due to a band member’s ill health, and Saturday was the re-scheduled date.  We’d never seen Think Floyd before and weren’t quite sure what to expect, but boy, was it worth the wait!

The concert took the unusual path of playing at least one track from each of Pink Floyd’s fifteen studio albums, from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn all the way to The Endless River.  Along the way the band visited some of the iconic tracks (‘Comfortably Numb’, ‘Breathe’) but also played some less well known stuff – so much so I’d never heard one or two tracks before.

The four main musicians were perhaps a little less comfortable with the earlier music, with its heavy folk influence courtesy of Syd Barrett.  But once they got onto ‘One of These Days’ from Meddle they suddenly hit their stride, and went from playing cover versions of Floyd tracks, to recreating with meticulous detail the whole Floyd sound and experience.  And when they got onto Dark Side of the Moon, from which they played pretty much the whole of the first side, they were a revelation.  Even better, their rendition of ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ was just brilliant – the best I have heard, anywhere including Floyd’s own concerts, with the exception of the original.  Most modern versions include two separate vocalists due to the sheer complexity of the track, but the young lass singing here managed it on her own, note (and perhaps more importantly, emotion) perfect, and got a standing ovation for her efforts.

And I was absolutely delighted when they also treated us to ‘Brain Damage’, one of my favourite tracks and the inspiration behind ‘Raise the Blade’!

Of course, they aren’t Pink Floyd and nobody but Pink Floyd ever will be.  The show also suffered very slightly, in my opinion, from a tiny (if immaculate) venue with a small stage, which couldn’t live up to the massive stadium concerts Floyd themselves put on.  If nothing else, there was no space for an inflatable pig – or any other sort of animal!  But they were a very, very close second, and since Floyd themselves rarely-to-never perform together (all the more so since the death of keyboardist Richard Wright), it’s a wonderful way of experiencing their music, live, all over again.  We would definitely recommend Think Floyd, and definitely go to see them again ourselves.  And it tickles me er, pink, to be able to say that.

Music to write books by…

Raise the Blade FrontToday I’m featured over at Sarah Ward’s excellent Crimepieces blog as part of her regular ‘Music to Write Books By’ series.  Although I don’t often listen to music while I write, that doesn’t mean my work isn’t inspired by it – and here I explain how Pink Floyd in general, and their brilliant track ‘Brain Damage’ in particular, helped to inspire my psychological noir novella ‘Raise the Blade’.

Floyd fans and the keen eyed amongst you will spot the obvious quote in the title, but it went quite a bit deeper than that with all sorts of hidden references (although no actual lyrics, for obvious copyright reasons).  I don’t spill the beans on what the references are (you can have fun spotting them when you read the book) but I do explain more about how the track worked its magic on me while I was writing the book.

You can find the post here, and many thanks to Sarah for taking the time out from Iceland Noir to host me, which can’t have been easy!

Raising the… profile

Raise the Blade FrontIt’s now less than two weeks until my book ‘Raise the Blade’ is due out from Caffeine Nights Publishing, so I thought it was about time I doled out some more information on it.

For starters, it’s a darkly humorous psychological noir novella featuring a serial killer and the idea that people may inadvertently contribute to their own fate.  Phew.  Once you’ve digested all of that, it was inspired partly by a news report of someone finding a dead body in a Birmingham canal, and partly by the wonderful Pink Floyd track ‘Brain Damage’, from their Wish You Were Here album.

Floyd have long been a firm favourite of mine and the Roger Waters lyrics on that particular track grabbed me by the throat years ago and have never really let go.

You can find out more about the book, including the blurb, on a brand new page at my website.  Over the next week or so I’ll be adding other snippets, including pre-ordering information and a decent excerpt, so do keep checking back.

Oh – and don’t forget the elephants.

Latest news on ‘Raise the Blade’

I bet you didn’t think I could turn cartwheels, did you?  Especially not in my compact-and-bijou study, which is just 7ft x 5ft at its widest point?  Well, I can.  The reason I know this?  I’ve had confirmation that my psychological noir novella ‘Raise the Blade’, set in Birmingham and partly inspired by the lyrics of the Pink Floyd track ‘Brain Damage’, has been accepted for publication by Caffeine Nights Publishing.

To say I’m over the moon about this is a complete understatement.  It’s long been a dream to have a book with Caffeine Nights; as a relatively new British indie press specialising in gritty crime and noir they always seemed right up my street, as well as being thoroughly professional, successful, and clearly ‘on the up’.

And now that dream has come true, and I can still hardly believe it.  Hence the dents in the study walls, from those cartwheels.

The book’s due out in 2016, possibly around this time of year.  I’ll be posting more in due course about it: the inspiration behind it, the odd teaser or two; but in the meantime I wanted to share the news with you all, preferably before I explode with the excitement!