The inside story of Pink Floyd’s classic Live At Pompeii
A maverick filmmaker, a band reaching the peak of their powers, an iconic venue steeped in history, and a singing Afghan Hound: this is the inside story of Pink Floyd’s Live At Pompeii
In 2017, to coincide with the release of the DVD of his return to Pompeii, David Gilmour said about the film of his old band’s performance at the same venue 46 years previously: “I find it rather embarrassing. I’m sure it’s a lot of fun for many people, but not much for me.”
Of course, a great deal of what Gilmour says often comes with an inbuilt wink – at times in the past he has been very affectionate toward the film. It’s an antique and a curio, to be sure, but is it embarrassing as part of the band’s legacy? Let Prog take you on a journey back to four beautiful young men, a sultry, historical amphitheatre, and a young film director, brimming with art and ideas…
Although it was grandly billed as “More Than A Movie! An Explosive Cinema Concert”, Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii is a small, personal film, which sets Pink Floyd, then at the tail end of their space rock phase, at the very heart of the European art scene. It crowned the era in which the group were scoring ballets, adding soundtracks to foreign art movies and recording in Paris. With a German-Belgian-French-made film set in an arena at the heart of the origins of Europe, Live At Pompeii represents Floyd as part of a continental musical movement, quite distinct from their American contemporaries.
In its own quiet and archaic way, Live At Pompeii expanded the band’s reputation throughout the 70s, in tandem with the success of 1973’s The Dark Side Of The Moon. As the decade progressed, through one-off and late‑night screenings in the UK and the US, it did their touring for them. For new fans, Live At Pompeii (as with their cut‑price sampler, Relics) catapulted the band back to another era.
The film’s second version, released in 1974, as the Floyd became glacial and removed, showed the band sharing lunch and recording in a moment of seemingly Fabs-type bonhomie. Although today these sequences bear out Gilmour’s view, it was enough for this writer and countless other viewers to be happily taken in.