The Development of Great Rock Sound Systems – Volume 2
Pink Floyd – Live At Pompeii – 50th Anniversary Edition
Celebrating 50 years since the release of Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii, Chis Hewitt, the obsessed collector of PA systems and recording equipment, has organized a fascinating celebration of the event, as well as the definitive recording of the greats public address systems, their development and use. .
The book covers a recreation of the original amphitheater show by members of The Australian Pink Floyd, performing through the actual equipment used in the film. The band, led by Steve McElroy, performed 4 tracks in a field at Chris’ base in Cheshire and was filmed using 4 cameras and a drone!
Chris’s attention to detail is legendary – as Mark Radcliffe, who witnessed the event, says in the book: “Chris has a reality. He wanted to build this system and he did it and I admire him”.
As a lifelong Pink Floyd fan, I’ve always considered The Pompeii movie one of the highlights of their career. Meddle, my favorite Floyd album, which came out in 1971 and like I said in LTW’s article on iconic albums of that year, that was probably the last time the band had fun in the studio, before Water’s dominance, and slipped into self-obsessive writing. The album is at the heart of the performance, with Echoes forming the centerpiece of the film. Cuts to twisted stone faces and gurgling hot springs give an allegorical nod to the city’s tragic end.
The performance is hypnotic in its delivery and effect on the viewer. The late Peter Watts, Road Manager of Pink Floyd, explains the blue parasol used in the original film, which seemed to mark time by acting like a sundial. “It is a kind of mystical catalyst that concentrates the energy of the earth, that of the sky, as evidenced by the blue color, which explains the transcendental state so deep in which the spectator falls while listening. You guessed it! A blue umbrella was also part of Chris’ recreation!
Oddly, but of course just as important to Chris, is the passenger van section, with scale models and a life-size recreation of a red Avis van used by Pink Floyd! There is even more coverage of WEM components used at Pompeii and Pink Floyd equipment after WEM.
The section on the development of parabolic reflectors is exciting. Evolving from the spherical sound or acoustic “mirrors” used to eavesdrop on enemy aircraft in the 1930s, these massive WEM dishes could project 1 to 3 Hz over a distance of five miles! You can find more information on this topic and in-depth interviews in Volume 1 of this book which we covered in August 2020.
The book then explores the relationship between Led Zeppelin and WEM, Chris’s journey to major PAs and festivals, Mega PAs, RSD PA rental and manufacturing, Mitex PA rental and amplifier manufacturers, ASS – acoustic sound systems (so many acronyms!), and ends with a section dedicated to rental companies in the 1970s. There are also a few paragraphs on the essential role of Roadies, an important link between rental companies and their customers !
The book contains fascinating interviews, not only with Peter Watts, but also with Scottish/French director Adrian Maben, who shares anecdotes from the filming of Pompeii, describing it as “A visual album of music and trivial conversation. A record of passing time.
This lavishly produced coffee table style book, a labor of love, is 180 pages and packed with incredible detail and many related photographs spanning the decades. What stands out is how passionate Chris really is.
Chris Hewitt Website CH Vintage Audio Website
Chris’s Deeply Vale Website
Chris is on Facebook
CH Vintage Audio is enabled Twitter
The book is published by Dandelion Records and is available for purchase here: https://www.deeplyvale.com/wem-pa-book
Chris is the guest of my Incoming Show on Wednesday January 26, 2022 at 9 p.m. You can listen live here: https://s2.radio.co/sab795a38d/listen via free apps and Alexa.
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All the words of Nigel Carr. More of Nigel’s writings on Louder Than War can be found in his author’s archives. You can find Nigel on Twitter and Facebook Listen to Nigel’s show on Radio Alty – Wednesday 9pm-11pm!