Totally inspired by a twitter conversation with @CharlieCoffee, where we started musing about gigs that we went to as youngsters, I’ve been using my dogwalking time to gently step down memory lane.
Charlie’s list is interesting, and I’ll put them here for fun.
But just before Charlie’s much more impressive list, and composed on yet another voyage of whimsy arrived at during random dogwalking moments is, in reverse order…
My Top Gigs Before I left home:
3. Ashton Gardner & Dyke
I don’t know how it happened, but somehow, someone managed to book Ashton, Gardner, & Dyke into Abergavenny Town Hall. I went for the first half (remember when gigs came in halves?), but had to leave to get the bus back home because public transport (like almost everything else in Abergavenny) closed down at 9.30pm in those days. Probably still does to be honest. Missing the second half meant that I missed the big finale including their famous hit. Timing notwithstanding, it was a really odd gig. Bad sound system, unclear accoustics, and sound engineering out of the ark. Oh, and a very poor lightshow. But they were professional musicians and they didn’t let such minor issues get in the way of showing us what they were capable of.
2. Mott The Hoople
Redhill Hostel on the Ross Road, Hereford. This was way before they even graduated to being support artists to bands such as Queen, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac or Nazareth. And therefore this was way before Mott The Hoople became a band in their own right with their own support acts. At this time Mott The Hoople were still getting to grips with their most recent personnel change. Ian Hunter had recently taken over the lead vocal from Stan Tippins. The band had only just recently begun to develop their repertoire, and I felt that they were still looking for their ‘sound’ (which didn’t come along until David Bowie began working with them). Hereford, for Mott The Hoople, was a local gig. So there were a lot of Friends Of Mott The Hoople in the audience. And a lot of those were Drunken Friends of Mott The Hoople. I can’t remember who got me there, but I can remember a joyous night full of stage-to-audience banter, and music so loud that my ears buzzed for days afterwards.
1. Croeso Blues Festival
June 1969 was the first Bath Festival of Blues, held on the Rec in the middle of town (later moved to the Royal Bath and West Showground in Shepton Mallet, a mere 21 miles distant or 2h 18m travel time away by 174 bus). Headlining in the Rec was Fleetwood Mac supported by John Mayall, Ten Years After, Led Zeppelin, The Nice, and loads of others, all compered by John Peel. Two months later, in August 1969, the first Isle of Wight Festival had Bob Dylan, The Band, The Who, Free, Joe Cocker, The Bonzo Dog Band and The Moody Blues. The following year, September 1970, Pilton (later rebadged to ‘Glastonbury’ because it was more mystical, probably) had its first festival. It starred Tyrannosaurus Rex (later known as T. Rex), Steamhammer, Quintessence, Stackridge, Al Stewart and Keith Christmas. But before all of these, back in May 1969 there was the Croeso Blues Festival. I shouldn’t have been there. I may have told my mother I was camping out for the weekend on one of my Duke Of Edinburgh Award orienteering and camping weekends (to be fair I did those too, and my Bronze Award orienteering and camping weekend was so epic it quickly passed in to folklore back at school. Maybe I’ll revisit it here one day). But Croeso Blues Festival was my very first music festival, if for no other reason than I could actually walk to it (but I hitchiked to Pandy and walked from there). I shouldn’t have been there. I was far too young to be out by myself (Duke of Edinburgh scheme notwithstanding). I was certainly far too young to be at a music festival by myself. But I couldn’t get any of my friends to go. So I went solo. It was a brilliant experience. It was doubly brilliant given that I should have been at home and tucked up in my bed by 9pm. There was no misbehaviour on my part at all. But just to experience live music, in the countryside, and to hear names that I only knew off the TV and the radio. And to be deafened. And to dance – and to dance with strangers – all that was beyond brilliant.
And now, here’s Charlie’s much more comprehensive list:
Peter Gabriel, custume changes, etc, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Prog Rock heaven
One of the final gigs by Traffic at the Rainbow (we virtually lived there). Steve Winwood, able to play every instrument, apparently
8. Steely Dan
At the Rainbow (again). An immaculate performance from the coolest of bands
7. Stevie Wonder
At the Rainbow (once more). I’ll never forget his drumming
6. Benefit concert
For the recently paralysed drummer Robert Wyatt at the Rainbow (again), Finsbury Park. Pink Floyd. Only Pink Floyd
5. Stéphane Grappelli and Yehudi Menuhin
Two college friends and I nursed our drinks for three hours at Ronnie Scott’s. Magic
5. Rory Gallager
Solo at the Marquee Club. Total virtuoso blues rock guitarist
4. The Who
Charlton. But this time for Bad Company. Paul Roders’ voice was sublime
3. T. Rex
At the Boston Gliderdrome. Crowd way more than the safety limit. I watched from a table that broke a leg in the encores. What I should imagine a 60s Beatles gig must have been like
2. The Who
Lyceum. Townshend in his white boiler suit. Daltrey’s cowboy tassle days. A small venue.
A first-place tie: at Boston Gliderdrome and tying with Lindisfarne at Charlton with The Who, Bad Company, Lou Reed and Humble Pie