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Pink Floyd

I popped back to London for a day, from Cambridge on my way to Cannes, to make a must-do stop at the V & A Museum for their Pink Floyd exhibition, wonderfully titled Their Mortal Remains. It opened on Saturday, and will run until the end of October. 
Let me start by saying that there are many things I do not know about Pink Floyd. But I know enough to know Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright – and of course, Syd Barrett – are the stuff legends are made of: audacious, strong-willed, visionary musicians, who are responsible for some of the most impressive songs ever written. As a child of the 80s, and growing up in South Africa, I never had the chance to see them live, and only ever really knew of the band on records my parents owned.
So, going in, there was much I stood to learn from the exhibition – and Their Mortal Remains does them so much justice.
It outlines the band’s collective trajectory – with a section dedicated to founding frontman, the late Barrett, before mental illness caused him to leave the band. Each album is given careful consideration, with large sections for albums like The Dark Side of the Moon, Animals, The Wall and The Endless River.  And all the while, song snippets and interviews play over the Sennheiser headphones you are given upon entering.
The beauty of this exhibition is relayed in the words of Storm Thorgerson, one of the graphic designers who was so important in the visual representation of the band, that’s written next to a blown up image still from the Learning to Fly music video.
“We often stage these things for real and don’t do them [on] a computer because the reality has its own attributes. What you see is what you get. If you were to do it as a drawing or an illustration, or on the computer, it would always remain a fantasy, not the real thing. And it’s really fun to do the real thing, let me tell you.”
Well, let me tell you how much fun it is to see the “things” that make up Pink Floyd “for real.” The poster for their first show at the UFO, the handwritten lyrics for Another Brick in The Wall, and hilarious rider notes calling for a key to lock away all their food and drink while they were performing – indeed all of these are fun to see. But even more so to stand in front of the animatronic puppets, based on Gerard Scarfe drawings, used in their massive stage shows and feel them tower above you. To see the original clipping from the newspaper about the day a pig flew over Battersea Power Station, down to Kent, scaring the cows on a farm there. Or beds stuck to the ceiling and walls, used to recreate the music video for The Endless River. Or a 3-D rendering of the famous Dark Side cover art. Or a life-size replica of The Division Bell cover, with the two faces, I’ve come to now learn, representing the absence of members Barrett and Waters, in a later-era of Pink.
All of this is superb, a real treat, to be sure, but actually, upon walking into the last room of the exhibition, I found my most jaw-dropping experience of the band in reality, so to speak. A multi-camera, multi-angle, guitar/drums/bass/voice enveloping, wall-to-wall rendition of my favourite song, and one of music history’s best guitar solos, Comfortably Numb, performed in all its glory. 
I came away from this exhibition, not only with a greater sense of appreciation for the band itself, but for Thorgerson and Hipgnosis, the duo he formed with Aubrey Powell, that gave Pink, among so many things, their iconic Dark Side of the Moon cover. And I came away, more in love than ever, with the epic beauty of this thing called music.
The exhibition is on until the end of October, so if you find yourself in London, do yourself a favour and go!

Hello from New York City – where all eyes will be on President Barack Obama more so than usual today. 

* Through giant billboards around the world, Pink Floyd dropped some big news on Monday. The band is releasing its first album in 20 years.  Word about the record came a few months ago via a few tweets here and there but it’s been confirmed The Endless River will be a tribute of sorts to Rick Wright, the band’s keyboardist who died in 2008, and it builds on sessions done for The Division Bell album. The cover art work, of a man in a boat on a river of clouds, is just exquisite. Turns out it was created by an 18-year old Egyptian artist who’s landed himself a pretty sweet gig.

* We know there is an issue with how women are represented in the media, but now, there are figures to back this up. The UN Women organization released the findings of a study done in collaboration with the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media. It found that, although women make up more than half the audience, less than a third of the speaking parts in movies belong to female characters. The study, which looked at a handful of countries with big box offices, also found that behind the camera, only one in four people is female. Fascinating stuff.

* The TV series Gotham debuted on the small screen on Monday night – some critics were delighted, others wonder if enough people will care about the Batman origin story as seen through the eyes of Commissioner Gordon. I found the dialogue a little cheesy but I do like the set design and moody, Nolan-esque mood of the city that the show has created.

Bryan Singer will be making the next X-Men movie, his fourth in the series. There was talk that this might not happen as a result of the director being accused of sexual assault, but that case was dropped last month by the man who brought it. X-Men: Apocalypse will be set ten years after Days of Future Past and will star Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult.

* The Lion King has become the most successful entity in entertainment box office history. More precisely, it’s raked in over $6.2 billion worldwide from ticket sales, making it the highest-grossing title. Even higher than movies like Avatar and Titanic. The Lion King surpassed The Phantom of the Opera to break box office records all round. And to think the song at the heart of the story was created by a South African who died poor.

After a wonderful 4th of July weekend in NYC, it’s back to summer in the city programming, which still means anything can happen!

* Like Pink Floyd telling us they’re releasing a new album – the first in 20 years. Well, the news actually came via singer/guitarist David Gilmour’s wife’s Twitter status. Which is, I guess, the new press release of our modern times. The Endless River is due out in October, and is reported to be based on recording sessions that happened in 1994, when they last released The Division Bell. After all the years of acrimony and record-breaking, the group is still up for releasing more music – minus Roger Waters.

Transformers 4 hasn’t thrilled critics, but it has audiences in China and the film’s producers, as a result. It’s on track to become the number 1 film there, surpassing Avatar. With China growing in importance as a market, this means more of these kinds of blockbuster sequels, prequels et al will no doubt be coming out. Meanwhile in another galaxy, on a higher plane, Star Wars has added two more actors – newcomers – to Episode 7.

* Prince was among the artists who headlined The Essence Fest, giving audiences there a thrill when he teamed up with Nile Rodgers for a cover of Bowie’s Let’s Dance. 

* The much-talked-about Kara Walker exhibition, A Subtlety, or giant “Sugar Baby,” had its last day this past Sunday in Brooklyn. I managed to see it before the installation is destroyed and the historical old sugar mill razed for a new development, and what a sight it was to behold.

* It seems like every day there is an anniversary to celebrate – 10 years of this or that movie or album. But there is one anniversary in particular that’s a delight to rejoice in. Seinfeld‘s 25 years of laughs and one-liners is being marked now, and every one has their own way of celebrating – here’s The Hollywood Reporters’.

[Pic: The Division Bell, Pink Floyd]

World_War_Z

* Brad Pitt continued his “world tour” to promote his latest film, popping up in NYC on Monday night for the premiere of World War Z. The movie opens in the US this week, and by all accounts, the zombie apocalypse is one to look forward to.

* Kanye West did all he could – or so it seems – to prevent his album being leaked. But that it was on Friday. Nonetheless, today it officially drops into the atmosphere, bringing its loud, aggressive, at times vitriolic vibes with it.

* Following on from the success of House of CardsNetflix has announced it is partnering with DreamWorks Animation to provide original kids programming, including new shows and movie releases. There will be more than 300 hours of video added to Netflix through the deal, which begins in 2014. The face of TV never looked friendlier.

* In another big coup for Spotify, the Pink Floyd catalogue has been added to the streaming music service. The band had promised they would post their songs on it if their 1975 track Wish You Were Here hit a million streams. That was too easy!

[Pic: Paramount Pictures]