Remember Arnold Layne? Neighbourhood crossdresser, or at least women’s clothing aficionado? More deliberately, do you remember “Arnold Layne”, the first single by Pink Floyd, released 50 years ago next March? Fifty years… so, um, no, most of us don’t remember the Top-20 UK single, and certainly not the colourful man that gave the inspiration that started a historic career for the London band. He’s long gone, writer of that track Syd Barrett is dead and as for the rest, they’re barely speaking. But fifty years on, 200 million record sales later, Pink Floyd holds an iconic place in the record books and the history of 20th century music. They will be celebrated next spring with an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Pink Floyd at 50
I say barely speaking, but who knows? The remaining members of the band are all participating in helping curate the displays, digging deep into storage units and spare rooms to provide all sorts of old memories – yellowing laminates, hastily scribbled napkin lyrics, perhaps painstakingly constructed legal injunctions – to flesh out the world of Floyd for the public.
I go back to a behind the scenes doc on the planning of 2005’s Live Eight concert, in which frazzled but determined organizer Bob Geldof somehow brokered a temporary peace to get David Gilmour and Roger Waters, along with Nick Mason and Richard Wright, to be in the same room, or, same massive outdoor London neutral zone, and close the Hyde Park charity show with four heavily negotiated but beautifully performed songs. So perhaps all of the bickering and litigation is long behind?
As well as the expected and some unexpected memorabilia from the personal Floyd collections, the usually sedate galleries at the V&A will be morphed via cutting-edge technology into the “underground psychedelic scene” of the 1960s. This isn’t the museums first step into classic rock expos; in 2013 they explored the world and vision of David Bowie in an award-winning collaboration with Sennheiser.
The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains was announced this week and to mark the occasion, the museum activated the equivalent of the Bat Signal for men of a certain age, flying a giant inflatable pig over the gallery roof. This of course was a recreation of the 1976 incident in which a similar blow up porker was launched, broke free and drifted across the London skyline, grounding flights at Heathrow and incurring the wrath of The Man. Fans still ask, was that an accident or a stunt? Forty years on, almost fifty since the art school kids changed the music landscape, we can only hope this unexpected quasi-reunion heals wounds and spurs a desire to recreate the magic of the past. Do it for Arnold.
The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains opens on 13 May 2017 and runs for 20 weeks.
main photo courtesy of V&A.
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.