Following the roaring success of its David Bowie exhibition, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is hosting Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, a startling retrospective on the career of one of Britain’s greatest rock music exports.

By 1965, finger-picking Piedmont blues man Pink Anderson and Floyd Council were an anachronism. Obscure, irrelevant and out of time. And yet, while Anderson and Council had long since been dispatched to the realm of musical obscurity, a young art house musician from Cambridge named Syd Barrett was juxtaposing their first names to form rock music royalty, the likes rarely matched and never bettered.

Having taken up residency at London’s UFO Club, their initial line up, Roger Waters (bass and vocals), Syd Barrett (guitar and lead vocals), Nick Mason (drums), and Richard Wright (keyboards), cemented their reputation as London’s leaders of the burgeoning progressive and psychedelic scene.

By the late 1960s, Barrett’s decline into drugs and mental illness acted as a tragic watershed for the band. From the discomfiture of Barrett’s decline, old

Cambridge friend and guitarist David Gilmour was invited in as a replacement, introducing a more sensitive, considered side to the Pink Floyd sound. Their next few albums traversed the experimental psychedelia associated with Barrett, and blended new technologies with harmonic experimentation. Atom Heart Mother, Obscured by Clouds, and Meddle paved the way for one of rock music’s greatest albums, 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon.

The subsequent disengagement between overwhelming creative force Roger Waters and the remaining members of the band following 1979’s The Wall and 1983’s The Final Cut led to a Gilmour/Mason Pink Floyd. The 1987 reinvention would conquer the world once again, while Waters explored his increasingly acerbic but brilliant expose on the world’s political and social failings.

Though the individual members remained largely anonymous on stage, it was their sense of creative imagery, mustered up by the likes of surrealist Storm Thorgerson, satirical illustrator Gerald Scarfe, and psychedelic-lighting pioneer, Peter Wynne-Wilson that added such rock iconography to

their stunning musical compositions. At the new exhibit, the giant schoolteacher from The Wall, the pink pig above Battersea Power Station and a myriad of other living imaginations confront the viewer at every turn under the roof of one of London’s most impressive museums.

At one point during Their Mortal Remains, we see Johnny Rotten famously claiming he “hated Pink Floyd.” but while this progressive, exploratory submergence might only serve to demonstrate how they were, at turns, both creative and preposterous, even Rotten finally admitted that he loved them.

The casual observer may not be as engrossed in this story as they were with the more diverse, chameleon-like Bowie, but Their Mortal Remains is an absolute must for fans of this quintessentially British of bands.

Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains runs until Sunday, 1 October.

Read Colin’s review of Roger Water’s: The Wall here.