“Cloudless every day you fall upon my waking eyes, inciting and inviting me to rise…”
~ Pink Floyd, Echoes (1971)
On March 7th, I will be unveiling the March review block. This review block will be 5 reviews (2 in the first week, one every following week) and will contain some of the worst kids films I’ve seen. I figured that before I dove into the cesspool I’d take a nice relaxing swim in the pond of masterpieces (see what I did there?).
In 1971, Pink Floyd released their 6th studio album, “Meddle”. That album brought classics like “One Of These Days” and the 23-minute-long epic “Echoes” to the world, and began Pink Floyd’s ascension into one of the greatest bands of all time. Although the album received poor commercial success in America, the album is now of Pink Floyd’s most famous, well-known, and highly regarded.
That very same year, on October 4th, Pink Floyd and director Adrian Maben began to shoot a film that would capture the raw essence and power that Pink Floyd conveyed, in their musicianship and music alike. That film would be released as “Pink Floyd – Live At Pompeii” in 1972.
Filmed across a span of 3 days in October 1971, with additional footage being shot 14 months later at a TV studio in Paris, “Live At Pompeii” contains some of Pink Floyd’s live staples from the time period, like “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” and “Echoes”. However, there is no audience at the amphitheater where Floyd is playing; only the camera crew, and the film’s audience.
In 1974, the film was reissued with additional footage shot during the recording of “The Dark Side Of The Moon”, to lukewarm reception. The film received minor release and recognition after that, until 2003, when “Live At Pompeii – The Director’s Cut” was released. Now, I haven’t seen this cut; however, I’ve heard that the film was ruined due to crappy CGI and the addition of unnecessary footage. (Once I have bought the film itself, I will review the director’s cut of the film.)
I heard the album for “Live At Pompeii” a few days ago, and loved it. I found the film online (thank you, r/pinkfloyd), sat down, watched it, and, well…it’s all below in the review.
***REVIEW STARTS HERE***
Firstly, I want to mention that this film’s 45th anniversary will be in September. Kind of hard to believe that the film is that old, but it manages to bring the use of bluescreen into the mix surprisingly well. For 1972, the “effects” in the film (fire cutting to a scene from Roger Waters, or Roger and David overlaid onto clips during Echoes Part I) hold up really, really well.
The film opens with a few panoramic shots of Pompeii and the amphitheater itself, set to a strange piece of audio, then cutting to a far-away shot of Floyd and the crew setting up the instruments and equipment. 4 minutes later, the film officially begins, with “Echoes Part I”. This performance of the first 11 minutes of “Echoes” is easily one of the highlights in the entire discography of Pink Floyd. Rarely when a band performs live, do they encapsulate the feeling and intense beauty of the original studo recording of said song. This is an example of when they do. Maben’s 360 degree shots of the band and their equipment, interlaced with clips of statues in Pompeii, compliments the intense nature of the song itself. This was the only segment I’d seen of the film prior to the removal of any trace of the film on YouTube last year after the release of The Early Years boxset.
The band plays Echoes Part I. David Gilmour is on guitar, Nick Mason on drums, Roger Waters on bass, and Rick Wright on organ.
Up next is “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”, an experimental track from 1969’s “Ummagumma” . Roger Waters is the main man on this masterpiece, performing the eerie vocals. Combined with shots of mosaics and volcanoes erupting, Roger whispers and screams his way through the 5-minute piece. One of my favorite parts of the film, having been my first time hearing the song, although I was aware of it prior to viewing the film.
Roger screaming into the mic during “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”. The scene flashes by with shots of erupting volcanoes and disturbing mosaics. David Gilmour also provides instrumental vocals during this scene.
The third segment of the film, “A Saucerful Of Secrets”, is a full group effort, performing the title track to the 1968 album of the same name. Roger beats on large drums (not bongos), and later a gong, David plays slide guitar, Nick plays a hypnotizing mantra on drums, and Rick plays a very nice organ piece near the end. All of these piece combined make a loud, rambunctious, and hypnotizing track. David closes out the song with the piece “Celestial Voices”, an instrumental vocal section. “A Saucerful Of Secrets” is my favorite segment in the film, and is easily one of the best live tracks of all time in my book.
The iconic shot of Roger, just after hitting the gong, during “A Saucerful Of Secrets”.
David singing “Celestial Voices” during “A Saucerful Of Secrets”. The original album track features a chorus; the band improvised and had David provide vocals instead. My preference is of David’s vocals, honestly.
After that, we cut to “One Of These Days”, the creepy instrumental from “Meddle”. This segment focuses on Nick Mason, the drummer, for a few reasons. The first reason being that the piece is primarily his piece, but also due to the fact that all of the remaining footage of the band was lost. This is unfortunate, but Maben is able to work around this by incorporating footage filmed in the Paris studio as well as editing the Mason footage to make it stand out from the repetition of the other clips in the segment. “One Of These Days” is one of my favorite all-time Pink Floyd songs, and I feel that it is represented…well, not poorly, but definitely lackluster. Unlike the “Meddle” version of this track, the song sounds very jammed together and uncoordinated. Maybe that’s just the non-remastered audio showing its age. This isn’t to say it’s not a bad performance, it certainly isn’t. However, I feel like it could’ve been executed better.
Nick Mason playing drums during “One Of These Days”. His section of the footage is the only intact portion of the segment, although David can be seen to the left when Maben films from the side of Mason. He also loses a drumstick near the end of the song and retrieves another without missing a beat.
Up next we have “Set The Controls For The Heart Of Sun”, from “A Saucerful Of Secrets”. Another Roger Waters-centric piece, instead of being filmed in Pompeii, this track was filmed during the Paris trip in 1972. A psychedelic venture, this song has been extended for the film, by an additional 4 minutes. This was my first time hearing “Set The Controls”, so it was definitely a great experience, especially since I’m a huge Waters fan.
Roger singing “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”. Instead of being performed at Pompeii, this was the first performance to be recorded in Paris.
As our second-to-last song, we have “Mademoiselle Nobs”, the only live performance of Meddle’s “Seamus”, a song where David Gilmour performs alongside a dog. This track is named as such due to the person at the Paris studio, Madona Bouglione, who provided her dog, aptly named “Nobs” to perform “vocals” on this track. Instead of David actually singing for this track, he instead plays harmonica. I don’t really know what to say about this one, to be honest. It’s a dog howling into a mic while the band performs.
Rick Wright holds the mic up to Nobs as the song finishes. Roger can be seen on bass, and David is obscured by Nobs, although he is playing on harmonica.
Lastly, we have “Echoes Part II”, the conclusion to “Echoes” and the film. Covering the last 13 minutes of the song and film, the footage is spliced between the group in their standard formation at the amphitheater, the Paris studio footage, and the group walking around Boscoreale, with shots of volcanic mud thrown into the mix as well. I will admit this about the track; it is definitely lesser than “Part I”, I’ll just say that. Once again, not saying it sucks, but compared to the epic that “Part I” was, the quality isn’t as high-brow. Nevertheless, the track is still amazing, showcasing the band in a group effort yet again, with David and Rick’s vocals closing out the track and the film itself.
Yet another iconic shot from the film, the entire band poses near Boscoreale, Italy, next to volcanic mud pits, which are producing the smoke seen obscuring Roger at the bottom.
***REVIEW STOPS HERE***
So, all together, how did I like the film? Well, to put it bluntly; it changed my freaking life. This film kept a smile of awe and joy on my face the entire way through, giving me excitement and invigoration, seeing my favorite band performing some of their greatest songs, all together in a perfect blend of fate and majesty. This film can be looked at as no less than a work of art and piece of film and music history. This was groundbreaking.
There has been no concert film like it since. There never will be a concert film like it ever again. It’s as simple as that.
If you wish to view the film, I cannot provide any direct links online; however, the film is available on video streaming sites such as Vimeo, as any trace of the film was removed from YouTube after the Pink Floyd estate issued the film in surround sound with The Early Years boxset.
I highly recommend that if you are a fan of Pink Floyd, especially their “pre-Dark Side” material, that you check this film out. It is a key part of Pink Floyd’s history.
I give “Pink Floyd – Live At Pompeii” a 10/10, for being one of the most artistic, beautiful, and intricate films I’ve seen to date, and for being such a masterful representation of Pink Floyd in their early days.