I cannot put my hand on my heart and say I was ever a Pink Floyd fan, although it’s fair to say, I do have an album of theirs, and I’m not sure how I got it.
But I was invited to attend a press briefing about the forthcoming exhibition at the V&A Pink Floyd Exhibition – their mortal remains. I’d been to the V&A exhibition You Say You Want A Revolution (last few days, catch it now) – which covered the years 1966-70, and I enjoyed it, although as those who read this blog regularly will know, for me the Real sixties was 1963-66 (at least that’s what my diaries tell me).
The presentation room/cinema in the Mayfair hotel was packed. As I looked up at the rows of seats I counted at least 10 cameras on tripods waiting to film the event. The big event was obviously going to be the moment that Roger Waters (Bass guitarist) and Nick Mason (drummer) came on. I was mainly interested in their early years, what made them do the things they did.
The curator of the exhibition Victoria Broakes explained the chronology of the exhibition, David Sennheiser the grandson of the inventor of the ‘legendary Sennheiser MD 409’ microphone they used and whose sound systems they continue to use, and two old pals and colleagues from Cambridge, where they’d gone to local schools, and who came with them up to London where they were art and architecture students. They talked about how the band had started, the Bedford van they had used to move their equipment around, the risks they took, the wild ideas they had and how they encouraged others to have wild and inventive ideas for sets, and stunts. How their star rose and rose. And then punk came along. I wasn’t a particular fan of punk, but they did occasionally tell a good joke.
Then the guests of honour walked onto the stage.
They talked about their past. Roger Waters said he had wanted to be political in his music, he had wanted to put a message out to the world. They told some good stories, Storm Ferguson, the man who ‘wouldn’t take yes for an answer.’ They spoke about the heady days of psychedelia. When the MC Matt Everit asked which of the two had the better memory Roger Waters said, ‘How would we know?’
Roger Waters described the difficulties for young musicians these days, and the negative effect the internet has had, how singles are given away, and it’s hard for artists to make money. ‘The record industry didn’t make the deals.’
My heart warned towards them in the Q&A session, when a Mexican journalist asked, given that they had made an album The Wall, if Trump’s wall is ever built, would they go to Mexico and sing on the Wall. Roger Waters wasn’t sure. He talked about walls, and said when the Palestinian-Israeli question is resolved and the wall in Palestine is taken down, then maybe there would be a concert as an ‘act of celebration.’ Something to work towards.
As the session ended and Roger Waters and Nick Mason left the stage, a series of photos of the band, rehearsing in the 60s, were flashed up onto the screen. As people left the auditorium, quickly dismantling cameras, rushing to the next shot, Roger Waters turned and watched the images. The past is another country.