Today is the 2,087th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s first show, when they played the opening ceremony of the Amphitheatre at Pompeii. Seeing Floyd play the inaugural gig there (they opened the set with the Latin-named “Astronomy Domine”) must have been fascinating back in 70 BC. Although, of course, they were known back then as Pinkus Floydicus and were fronted by Roger Aqua.
- The last stone in the Amphitheatre was laid 2,087 years ago, shortly after the release of Floyd’s “Ummagumma” LP.
- The support act of Prisoners v Lions was potentially hazardous for anyone with standing or general admittance tickets. That’s probably why the seated tickets up in the stands were much cheaper. It may also account for why there aren’t many people in the audience in the photo at the top of the page…
- Stadium gigs were very popular in Roman times, and summer festivals like Glastonburius and The V Festivus in Chelmsford didn’t appear for at least another 25 years, mainly because July and August – the traditional months for music festivals – had yet to be invented.
- The Romans are well known for their sanitation systems. There is little doubt that the quality of toilet facilities for the audience would therefore have been well up to modern standards, and in the case of Wembley Arena, the ones at the Pompeii Amphitheatre would have been considerably better.
- The traditional band rider was similar to those nowadays, with amphorae of Jackus Danielus, red wine and bowls of olives, albeit the band would generally demand all the green olives be removed just to make sure the promoter was paying attention.
- Another benefit was that cheap warm beer tasting of mouse sick had yet to be invented and sold at concert venues. This didn’t happen until the discovery of Australia with the subsequent importation of Fosters lager.
- Tickets were inexpensive, and priced in Denarius – a single currency that was acceptable in Europe, North Africa and Turkey. The advantages of this system included preventing awkward conversations when trying to convince a chariot driver to accept a Scottish note in payment for your journey.
- Instead of a Pinkus Floydicus t-shirt, fans could buy branded tunics and togas albeit the queues were a nightmare because everyone had to haggle for ten minutes before buying anything.
- Although most amphitheatre are to be found in Italy, one amphitheatre that Pinkus Floydicus might have played has been found in Britain – in Colchester, Essex. Although it has been disused for just under two thousand years, the average gate over that period is still only slightly below that of local football team Colchester United.
- Pinkus Floydicus had to wait before being able to play Pompeii again, after their LP “The Wall” was seen as a criticism of Emperor Hadrian, and they were banned for two millennia, re-appearing in 1972.
So there you are, some actual facts about that historic performance. Hope you enjoyed it.
At the rear of the amphitheatre was a small exhibition celebrating David Gilmour’s re-appearance there in 2016, in front of a huge crowd some forty-odd years after he recorded that mesmerising live film with Pink Floyd in front of just a film crew and a few kids playing in the upper seats in 1972.
Which just goes to show how much more popular Pink Floyd has become in Italy nowadays.
The original 1972 film was proposed as an anti-Woodstock – a reaction to the film of the festival that took a celebratory tone. With no crowd, it presented an alternative to what had already become a cliche of rock gods appearing in front of their adoring fans.
Although Nick Mason was disgruntled not to be spending more time “sampling the local cuisine and wine list” as he put it, the first three days were spent idle, as the producers realised, somewhat belatedly one might say, that whilst the ancient Romans were very good at sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, they weren’t so brilliant at electricity.
Eventually a power cable had to be connected to the Town Hall, and ran through the streets to the amphitheatre, guarded by roadies.
The film, 45 years old this year, is available on DVD at the special price of £4.99 or less for the foreseeable future.