When the promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath a clear blue sky

3 08 2017

I had to have been high when I saw Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii.

I mean, who watches a Pink Floyd concert film sober?

JT and his roommate took me and maybe some of the other freshmen from our floor in Sellery over to the Humanities building, where they showed free films in lecture halls (Harold and Maude was regularly featured). JT & roommate were both sophomores, way into music, and likely to be high whenever it seemed like a good time to be high—and in a classroom watching Pink Floyd play long trippy songs in an empty amphitheater would seem to be a very good time to be high.

I knew Pink Floyd well enough—had a couple of albums, knew songs from a couple more—but was never a super fan. I learned that night in Humanities, for example, that they had a song called “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”, which I thought (then and now) was a great title. And I learned that young David Gilmour was beautiful, and that whatever drug he had taken had turned his pupils into teeny-tiny dots amidst a startling blue.

Anyway, there’s a semi-amusing countdown of Pink Floyd songs over at Vulture penned by someone who seems to hate that he’s a Pink Floyd fan. I didn’t click on the links to the songs themselves (on Spotify, which I haven’t joined), but did watch a number of the vids, many of which were live.

And, oh man, look at those concerts! I never saw Pink Floyd live, and most of the big shows I did see were either at Alpine Valley or at Summerfest, but that concert footage—guys mostly standing around, a few women ahhhhh-ing off to the side, and LASERS! and NONSENSE ANIMATION!—that. was. a concert!

I haven’t seen an arena show in. . . huh, ever, so, again, I can only go by what flashes across my computer, but it seems like most of the big acts touring today put on A SHOW. Plenty of music, yes, but dancing and more dancing and, oh look, another dancing routine. I can’t really say if this is better or worse than the old standing-around-noodling model, but it is a distinct change.

Guessing (again): the Grateful Dead were the premier stand-around-noodling band. Yeah, yeah, the Dead (and their ilk) are called “jam bands”, which, okay, is cooler than “noodling” band, but either way, not my thing. The Dead were still touring when I was in college, and you couldn’t swing a bong in Madison without hitting a Deadhead, but, nope, didn’t do it for me.

Didn’t hate ’em, didn’t love ’em; just thought, Okay.

But Pink Floyd? Yeah, they were all right. Biting, angry, inscrutable lyrics, and long (so very long) songs to play when you got in from a night out and needed to float back to somewhere in the vicinity of sobriety before falling asleep. What more could a teenager want?

One final memory: At one point while hospitalized, J and I were allowed out of the ward for a few hours. We walked down Lakeshore path over to State Street, where some kind of construction was going on outside of Memorial Library, the zone bounded by plywood sheets.

These sheets were, of course, a canvas, and on one, someone had spray-painted shine on you crazy diamond.

Both J and I, day-passed from a psych ward, thought this was pretty great, and I took a picture of her in front of it. J had a lot of bad days, but that was a good day, for both of us.