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Home arrow Reviews arrow Concerts arrow Pink Floyd - Piper Club, Rome, Italy - April 18th 1968
Pink Floyd - Piper Club, Rome, Italy - April 18th 1968 Print E-mail
Written by Stefano Tarquini and Marco Sersale   
Monday, 22 January 2007

piper clubThe following review shares the memories of Marco Sersale, a lucky Pink Floyd fan who, at the age of 15, saw the band's first show in Italy that afternoon on April 18th 1968 at the Piper Club, Rome.

The research by Tarquini Stefano unearthed many details of the four shows at the Piper Club, but the greatest thing is this impressive and true review of the afternoon show...

ROME, PIPER CLUB, april 18, 1968 (afternoon show)

notes by Stefano Tarquini, review by courtesy of Marco Sersale, pics by courtesy of Marina Poletti.

It was the period of the Passion on April 1968, in which my school used to give many more days off for vacation than others, so it could have been the week after the Passion or even the week after that. My brother, five years older than me, was always very informed about the Roman events and told me: "...Marco, you should try to go to the Piper today, there’ll  be a light show, it might be nice to see". So I phoned my dear friend Lanfranco and in the early afternoon we travelled by tram to reach the Via Tagliamento area. We arrived to the Piper completely unaware of whom or what we were going to see.....

As usual there were some local groups playing before the announced program of "sounds and psychedelic lights"; I can’t remember all the names of these groups, maybe there were the Fholks (a great and interesting roman band of that age). I am sure that the announcer was Eddie Ponti, because I spoke to him.

 

Pink Floyd Piper Club italy 1968

 

After the Italian groups, it was a long wait for this “unknown English band” to set up all their equipment. My friend and I were seated right under the stage located in the right side... the Piper in fact had two stages, one on the right and on the left.

During this long wait, Eddie Ponti came and sat beside me and we chatted for a bit.  He often repeated the following sentence: "...I do not like the psychedelic style...". I tried to listen to what he was saying, but, to be honest,  I was rather distracted by a young dark-hair girl seated near to us. with whom we had started a nice and promising conversation.

The wait lasted approximately three quarters of an hour, during which great amplifiers were set up on the stage. Amplifiers and loudspeakers were covered by an unusual characteristic large white curtain applied to the grates of the cones, in order to give emphasis to the coloured images and effects that were going to be projected on the stage.

At that point nobody knew or could imagine what was going to happen... so all was ready and the show begun...

 

Pink Floyd Piper Club italy 1968

 

 

The show started with the pursuing, intermittent and spatial sounds of "Astronomy Dominé", to open this new, unknown and mysterious world, full of sweet atmospheres; mixing what sounded like traditional harmonies to dissonant, shrilling sounds. The air was electric and full of tension... the audience was all standing up, like ravished, enchanted, hypnotised.. I’d say conquered. The audience looked at first like incredulous, amazed and surprised... but note by note they seemed to be “unconsciously getting conscious” of what was really happening and to start understanding what significance the music of those unknown 4 guys had to offer in the following years.

I will try to write down a probable list of the songs that were played there, but it not be easy. A long time has passed, and I didn’t know the band during that period or the song titles - probably like the rest of the people there that evening. I perfectly remember some songs and I can say for sure they were played there, while others,  I can only guess at if they were played or not. 2 or 3 months later, I managed to obtain the first two LPs of the band, when someone bought them to me from England. Listening to them I soon recognised some of the songs of that afternoon’s set. I only can be sure about a few though - "Astronomy Dominé" and "Interstellar Overdrive" were definitely performed, but as for the rest, they are very vague in my memories - I only remember a few fragments of sounds and images.

piper club"Astronomy Dominé", according to my memory, was the first song of the gig, I immediately liked that song and it’s still one of my favourite songs ever. A perfect performance, I remember in particular Gilmour in the introduction, he played a telecaster, a blonde telecaster with the rosewood neck, simulating a vibrating effect in the passage between E and E-flat major, acting on one of the two knobs of the telecaster. The volume was high, so powerful, but the vocal parts were pretty clear (that’s something rare at the Piper).

At the beginning of the show we were still seated at the bottom of the stage, on the left, below Wright; then we came down standing up with the others practically in front of the stage, below Waters. There were no chairs in the hall as far as I can remember.

"Interstellar Overdrive" was played at the end of the set, a great performance. Waters went to smoke one cigarette behind the amplifiers, during the "free form", sitting on the ground. He was dressed in red trousers with white fringes at the leg hems. I remember him well because I also went behind there to see what he was doing. He then came back on the stage to finish the song.

I’ve still got  printed on my mind the great spirit Roger put in performing "Interstellar Overdrive" - it moved me a lot: the way he grinded his teeth and his face expressing a great energy, he played with a Rickenbacker 4001S (it was a bass model, imported into England from Morris Roses with the mark '1999').

I also believe that they performed "The Scarecrow". I can’t say for certain that they played this but I do have a vague memory of Waters or Wright playing the flute during the song’s introduction. But the flute is also played in "Flaming", so who knows what song it was.

The day after the gig I went to Radiovittoria, a record store near the Flaminio Square.  There I asked if they had something of the Pink Floyd and gave me a single 45rpm: "See Emily Play" (I still have it, but unfortunately the cover was lost). I came back home, I did not recognise the side A (the splendid "Emily"), but listening to the Side B I thought that could have been one song from the show ("The Scarecrow"). Another possible song could have been "Matilda Mother".

I’m also sure they played one or two pieces from the album "A Saucerful Of Secrets", "Remember The Day" perhaps and definitely "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun".

I’ve got 2 things supporting this: firstly, I remember that Mason on one or two pieces played the toms with the felts. Secondly, listening to "Remember The Day" on the LP, a few months after, I got the impression I’d already heard it before; and where could I have heard it if not there at the Piper? I had a similar impression when I listened to "Let There Be More Light", but I’m sure that they didn’t play "A Saucerful of Secrets" that afternoon.

Another possible song of the set is one having a sound that is like a "C" with echo, I remember a rhythmic sound like "...C-C-C-C...", it could’ve been "Pow R. Toc H.". I can’t exclude that, but it could also have been “The Gnome”.

Of the band’s sound, I remember it was somewhat aggressive, bitter, tense, still influenced by the “beat” period, but different – definitely different from the sound the Floyd had in the 70’s. It was like a "Barrett" sound.

Gilmour sang the Syd vocal parts and played the guitar perfectly, for years I was convinced to have seen Syd Barrett that day at the Piper - news was late arriving here! I was young (15 years old), but I had already seen the Stones the previous year and, again at the Piper that same winter, the Pretty Things, the Spencer Davis Group and Small Faces, and, in the next May, Hendrix at the Brancaccio Theatre. But I remember I felt that I only got such a  deep emotion only when I saw the Pink Floyd at the Piper! That show literally blew me away.

Perhaps it was all those new sounds and lights, but that afternoon I had the feeling that I took part in and listened to something truly special and epic. I can only perhaps compare it to when I heard the Beatles’ "Please Please Me" on the radio in 1963 for the first time. The Pink Floyd stayed almost unknown in Italy until "Atom Heart Mother" came out; I often tried to explain to my friends the great quality of their music without success until then.

I remember very little of the Light Show, apart from moving images, like colourful bubbles floating in a fluid. I don’t have any specific memory about the famous Azimuth Coordinator, probably because they never used it, but I do remember seeing them using it at the Palasport show in Rome in 1971. 

Another interesting point  was that at the end of the show the Pink Floyd did not go to the backstage, they came out of the Piper with the crowd on the stairs that leads to Tagliamento. I was right behind Waters on the stairs, I can’t remember if it was common for musicians  to come out of the Piper the same way as the crowd at that time.

So we made our way home. We were excited, amazed and enthusiastic for that memorable and incredible show. We were so euphoric that I had the desire to come back to the Piper to see again them, but I don’t remember if we knew of another performance the same evening or the following day. We took the tram and went to a large square where we found the Piper Show poster advertisement to promote the concert. We took one of them, taking care not to tear it.  The poster was very large (1m x 1.5m approximately), showing pink waved strips on a white background, with the silhouette of a girl with long hair in the centre. The text was: "Pink Floyd e il suo complesso di luci e suoni psichedelici" ("Pink Floyd and their lights and psychedelic sounds band"). That poster hung on the walls of my room for so many years, but I lost it some time ago!

More details on the Piper Club shows can be found at digilander.libero.it/pinkside. Our grateful thanks to Stefano, Marco and Marina for their generosity.

 
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