Pink Floyd’s Soul Returns to Pompeii
17 June, 2016
What remains of Pink Floyd 45 years on? In truth, very little. With Roger Waters touring half the world with his 3D show,The Wall,and Richard Wright’s disappearance eight years ago, of the avant-garde rock band which dominated the show scene in the 70s and part of the 80s, only Nick Mason and the lead, David Gilmour, are left from the original group to spearhead the effort.
A Touch of History
Pink Floyd is one of the best bands of all time; no doubt about it. This is attested by their records and their endurance in the top positions among the benchmark groups for decades. Granted, they didn’t invent the concept album – The Who had invented it just before them – but it was they who exploited it to its full expression.
Pink Floyd has some records to its name. Perhaps the most striking one is having had a disc on the Billboard list for 889 weeks (over 17 years) in a row; indeed, their album was on the list longer than any other disc ever. With an estimated 50 million copies sold, The Dark Side of the Moon is Pink Floyd’s most successful album and the top-selling rock disc ever, coming in second in worldwide record sales behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller. But, their success is not limited to that 1973 album. They were famous before that, too. At the end of the sixties, they were the flagship of the British psychedelic scene. Their early records, when Syd Barrett also played in the group, acted as a magnet for a whole seething mass of new ideas and experimentation. Likewise, The Dark Side of the Moon wasn’t their only pinnacle of success – their subsequent albums were on a par, although they weren’t able to match the level of sales. Thus, the decade of the seventies was theirs – with the permission of Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones – thanks to such legendary tracks as Animals, Wish You Were Here and, above all, The Wall, which was made into a film directed by Alan Parker and starring Bob Geldof.
What Happened in Pompeii?
It is a well-known fact that Pink Floyd’s live concerts were in technological terms the most spectacular shows for several decades. They actually reigned supreme until the early nineties, up to the time that U2 staged a tour with their album, Achtung Baby. Live performances were always one of Pink Floyd’s fortes right from the outset, when the original crew delighted the crowds on London’s university and underground circuits. Those were the days of British psychedelics, and their concerts were a veritable sensorial experience, thanks to the support of screenings and performances. To get a better idea of what they were like, it is worth seeing the film, Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London, directed by Peter Whitehead, which includes performances by the London band from those times.
In the seventies, by then without Syd Barrett, the group continued to flourish. Their music shifted from psychedelic to progressive rock, while technological devices became gradually more entrenched in their live shows. But, before becoming one of the stadium bands par excellence, they embarked on a project that ended up becoming one of the great milestones in rock history. They joined forces with the movie director, Adrian Maben, with a view to shaping a film project they were working on. The result was Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii, set in the mythical ruins of the Roman city which was devastated by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in AD 79.
The project was hatched quite coincidentally. The director, Adrian Maben, had simply phoned Stephen O’Rourke, Pink Floyd’s manager, in the early seventies, and suggested making a movie with the group. At that time the idea was to produce a very arty piece and to elicit the participation of artists of the standing of Magritte, De Chirico,Christo and Jean Tinguely who would create on a visual level what Pink Floyd created in sound. But, they never managed to reach an agreement. Months later, Maben went to Italy with his girlfriend of the time and visited the ruins of Pompeii. That evening he discovered he had lost his passport and, thinking back, he decided he must have left it in the Pompeii amphitheatre. He went back to the spot at dusk and there, among the monuments, sculptures and paintings of a place that had frozen in time, Maben experienced his great moment of inspiration – it was the ideal spot to film Pink Floyd. In the near mystic silence of nightfall, he realised that Pompeii had it all – death, sex and oodles of latent life. And there, in that amphitheatre, Pink Floyd could bring it all back to life.
45 Years Later
Last March, Italy’s Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, confirmed in his Twitter account that the 70-year-old British guitarist, David Gilmour, would play in Pompeii on 7 and 8 July. There, you have it – Pink Floyd’s lead will again perform at the legendary archaeological site, forty-five years after having been the leading light in the shooting of the movie, Live At Pompeii. On this occasion, he will be presenting the tracks from his latest release, Rattle That Lock. However, the possibility that he might also play songs by his former band has not been ruled out. Recall that Gilmour and Nick Mason still hold the operating rights to practically the whole of Pink Floyd’s legacy.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
17 June, 2016