Queen Hyde Park 18th September 1976
Support from Kiki Dee, Steve Hillage, and Supercharge.
The last open air festival event I went to in the long hot summer of 1976 was Queen in Hyde Park. A group of us went down to London by train on a day return ticket, returning straight after the concert on the mail train which pulled out of Kings Cross at midnight. This was a free concert, which drew a crowd of over 150,000, and was organised by Richard Branson. The line-up consisted of Supercharge, Steve Hillage and Kiki Dee. Kiki Dee had just been No 1 in the charts with Elton John and their massive hit Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. There were lots of rumours about that Elton would join her onstage for the song, but he didn’t; instead she was accompanied by a life-size cardboard Elton figure, and we all had to sing the Elton parts with her. Steve Hillage was quite popular at the time, and was great on the day, lots of glissando guitar, and amazing psychedelic trippy versions of the Beatles’ All Too Much, and Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man. There was a big fight in the crowd during his set. But the day belonged to Queen. It was quite a brave move headlining such a major event at what was still a relatively early point in their career, but they pulled it off and were as majestic as ever. Their set was relatively short, around an hour, because of curfew and time restrictions. Apparently Queen were prevented from returning for their usual long encore by the Police. This was just before they released the Day At The Races album. Freddy was amazing, although from where we were standing he was a tiny white figure shining across the massive sea of people (no big screens to watch in those days).
Setlist: A Day At the Races Intro; Bohemian Rhapsody; Ogre Battle; Sweet Lady; White Queen (As It Began); Flick of the Wrist; You’re My Best Friend; Bohemian Rhapsody; Killer Queen; The March of the Black Queen; Bohemian Rhapsody (Reprise); Bring Back That Leroy Brown; Brighton Rock; Son and Daughter; ’39; You Take My Breath Away; The Prophet’s Song; Death on Two Legs; Stone Cold Crazy; Keep Yourself Alive; Liar; In the Lap of the Gods… Revisited
Queen Hyde Park 18th September 1976
Queen Newcastle City Hall 11th December 1975
A bit of an adventure involving a ladder and a night at the opera.
In late 1975, Queen recorded and released A Night at the Opera, which was at the time, the most expensive album ever produced. The album was a massive success, and featured the hit single “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which was No 1 in the UK charts for nine weeks and is the third-best-selling single of all time in the UK. This propelled Queen to megastar status, their late 1975 tour sold out in record time, and they were No 1 in the charts at the time of the concerts. For some crazy reason I didn’t get tickets for the City Hall gig, but as the day of the Newcastle concert approached, I became more and more determined to go.
So on the night of the gig I turned up outside the City Hall determined to blag a ticket somehow. Now I had done this several times, and had always managed to buy a ticket, sometimes paying a little more than face value. But that night was different. Demand had been huge, and no-one was selling any tickets. No touts and no spares. A group of us were hanging around with the same idea, all desperate to get in to the show. Time was passing and we could hear the support act, Mr Big, take the stage. Soon they finished their set, and things were getting desperate. Then one guy had an idea. He spotted a ladder around the back of the venue, and looking around, he also spotted an open window. So he climbed up the ladder and squeezed through the open window. A couple of us followed. The window was tiny, but I managed to squeeze through, finding myself above a sink in the upstairs ladies loo. Luckily there was no one in the ladies I quickly sneaked out, and found myself in the circle, just as Queen took to the stage, exploding into Bohemian Rhapsody. Queen were amazing that night, although I must admit that my enjoyment of the gig was hampered to some extent as I remained on edge throughout the concert, in constant fear of being approached by a steward, and ejected from the venue. I stayed upstairs standing at the side throughout the gig. Luckily everyone was standing, so I easily blended into the crowd. The crowd went crazy for Queen that night; they had now actually become stars; it seemed to me that they always knew they could and would.
Setlist: Bohemian Rhapsody, Ogre Battle, Sweet Lady, White Queen (as it began), Flick Of The Wrist, Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, The March Of The Black Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Bring Back That Leroy Brown, Son And Daughter, The Prophet’s Song, Doing All Right, Keep Yourself Alive, Seven Seas Of Rhye, Liar, In The Lap Of The Gods…revisited. Encore: Now I’m Here, Hey Big Spender, Jailhouse Rock, God Save The Queen
Thanks again to Mitch for his photo which was taken by him that night.
Ultimate Rhythm and Blues show Sage Gateshead 4th March 2014
The Zombies, The Yardbirds, The Animals, Maggie Bell, Dave Berry
A great concert with a host of acts from the 60s. Much more enjoyable than I expected. Two things stick in my mind from last night, and will be the themes of my blog entry today. The first is the subject of authenticity and the question “when is a band not a band?” (if you see what I mean ), and the second is just how powerful a performer Maggie Bell is.
First up were The Animals and Friends which features original Animals drummer John Steel, keyboards player Mickey Gallagher (who replaced Alan Price in 1965), Danny Handley on guitar and Pete Barton on bass and lead vocals. Now you have to admire Pete Barton, he is an amazing front man, and has a growling, powerful voice which actually matches and rivals the original vocals of Eric Burdon. He also has the unenviable position of not only taking the position of the powerhouse Burdon, but also making announcements like “We’re going back to the Club A’Gogo” and introducing songs from 1964 (when he was actually 2 years old at the time). Amazingly, he pulls it all off and leads the band in authentic (there’s that word) renditions of all those great songs: We Got To Get Out Of This Place, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, and of course House of the Rising Sun. So although on the one hand, this version of the Animals features only one original member, on the other hand, the spirit and passion remains true to the roots of the ’60s band, and the performance comes over as authentic, true to the rich legacy and is delivered with passion and humility. A great start to the evening.
The Animals were joined first by Dave Berry, who has replaced Spencer Davis on the tour, as Spencer is not well at the moment. I wondered at first whether Dave would fit well with this bill. In my mind I link him with the ’60s revival package pop tour, rather than a R&B package. But, as Dave reminded us, his roots lie in the Sheffield (and UK) R&B scene in the early ’60s, and he geared his short set towards this. He sang a few R&B classics and finished with an excellent version of “The Crying Game”. His performance was professional and slick, and he came over as a pretty cool guy.
Now when I was a young teenage kid, I stood a few feet in front of Maggie Bell and Les Harvey at Sunderland Locarno at a Stone the Crows gig. My mate and I were totally blown away by her voice and her performance that night. The lady simply oozed the blues, and sang with a passion and authenticity which came from deep in her soul. Now I haven’t seen her since the ’70s and wasn’t expecting what I saw last night. Maggie was simply sensational in every way. Much better than I could have hoped. Her voice remains strong, her performance electrifying, and she looks great. She sang a few blues classics including I’d Rather Go Blind, and finished with a an amazing duet with Pete Barton (by now I was starting to really admire that guy) of P J Proby’s “Hold Me”. I’d forgotten that Maggie hit the charts with a version of this on which she dueted with B A Roberston. Stunning.
After a short interval, next up was the latest line-up of the Yardbirds. Again the subject of authenticity comes to mind. This line-up features original drummer Jim McCarty and, back in the band after 50 years (!), original guitarist Top Topham who was in the band in the very early years and was replaced by Eric Clapton. The rest of the line-up are all relatively new: Ben King on lead guitar, Andy Mitchell on vocals and mouth harp, and David Smale on bass. Original rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja has recently left the band because of ill health. Like The Animals, this line-up remains true to the roots of the music and delivered pretty flawless versions of all those classics; “For Your Love”, “Heart Full of Soul”, “Over Under Sideways Down” “Shapes of Things” and an amazing version of “Dazed and Confused” (I’d forgotten that this was a Yardbirds song which Page took with him into Zeppelin).
The evening closed with a performance by the Zombies, who remain pretty authentic in that they feature two of the main originals in Colin Blunstone (vocals) and Rod Argent (keyboards, or was in “organ” in those days? ). The Zombies took us through all the hits, including Argent’s Hold Your Head Up, Blunstones’ Say You Don’t Mind, and the classis Time Of the Season. The closed the evening with She’s Not There. Great stuff.
From the promotional material: “Relive the musical revolution of 1964 as the chart-topping stars of the 1960s, including The Zombies, The Animals, The Yardbirds, Dave Berry and Maggie Bell perform some of their greatest hits. This amazing line-up have collectively, over 50 years, delivered 37 hit records and held chart-topping positions for more than 300 weeks.”
Queen gigs in 1973 and 1974
I will spend the next few days reflecting on the occasions that I saw the mighty and majestic Queen in concert.
I first saw Queen when they played as support for Mott the Hoople at Newcastle City Hall on 22nd November 1973. They had just released their first album, the single “Keep Yourself Alive” was out, and there was already a great buzz about this new band. This was one of the few times where everyone wanted to see the support act, and the hall was full for Queen’s performance. They were excellent, much better than many of the bands who would support major tours, and gave Mott a hard act to follow. It was clear, even then, that this was a band who could well make it big, although few would have predicted just how successful they would ultimately become. Freddy Mercury was already a star in his head and in his stage presence, and Brian May’s guitar playing was excellent, his unique custom(self)-made guitar adding an extra dimension of interest.
My friend’s John’s views on Queen at the time of their support slot at Newcastle City Hall: “This was the first and only time I saw them, and I though they were sensational. Really a glam version of Led Zeppelin with some great straight ahead rock songs in Keep Yourself Alive, Liar and Son and Daughter. I immediately went out and bought the album – I had to order it from Bergs [a local record shop at the time]. I told everybody I knew how great they were and that they would be a big success. I felt a very personal connection with them. I can recall being very confused by Seven Seas of Rye as a single, but when Killer Queen was released I was so disgusted that I gave my album away and vowed never to see them again. I lived up to that promise. Aaah the impetuousness of youth.”
A few months later and Queen were back in the region, playing to a packed Sunderland Locarno on 8th March 1974. This, their first headline tour, was at the time of the Queen II album, which was released in the UK on the very same day as the Sunderland gig. The single “Seven Seas of Rhye” had been released a few days earlier, and became the band’s first hit, reaching No 10 in the UK charts. The big show-stopping number was “Liar” which extended to around 10 minutes live and was a massive favourite at the time. This was a great gig, that everyone I knew attended and talked about for months, if not years, afterwards. Queen were amazing, and starting to make a big name for themselves.
Setlist from Sunderland 1974: Procession; Father To Son; Ogre Battle; White Queen; Great King Rat; Doin’ All Right; Son And Daughter; Keep Yourself Alive; Liar. Encore 1: Jailhouse Rock; Shake Rattle And Roll; Stupid Cupid; Jailhouse Rock (reprise). Encore 2: Big Spender; Modern Times Rock’n'roll
By the end of the year, Queen had released their third album “Sheer Heart Attack” and moved up from headlining ballrooms to a tour of concert halls. I next saw them on 7th November 1974 at Newcastle City Hall. Support came from Hustler. The single “Killer Queen” had just been released and became the band’s biggest hit to date, making No 2 in the charts. Queen were now a confident, major band, and the sold-out City Hall crowd gave them a great reception. Freddy’s performance was simply rivetting, and his vocal range outstanding. We had seats up in the balcony looking down on the stage. I remember very heavy use of dry ice, to the extent that at one point the entire stalls disappeared from our view, completely shrouded in a massive white cloud. Another great gig, with Freddy resplendent in a massive fur coat.
Setlist from Newcastle City Hall 1974: Procession; Now I’m Here; Ogre Battle; Father To Son; White Queen; Flick Of The Wrist; In The Lap Of The Gods; Killer Queen; March Of The Black Queen; Bring Back That Leroy Brown; Son & Daughter; Keep Yourself Alive; Seven Seas Of Rhye; Liar; Stone Cold Crazy; In The Lap Of The Gods… revisited. Encore 1: Big Spender; Modern Times Rock’n'roll. Encore 2: Jailhouse Rock; God Save The Queen
Queen line-up: Freddie Mercury – lead vocals, piano; Brian May – guitar, vocals; Roger Taylor – drums, vocals; John Deacon – bass guitar, vocals.
Thanks to Mitch for sending his pictures, one of which I have included here. This one of Brian May was taken by Mitch at the Queen gig at Newcastle City Hall in 1975, which I will write about next, in a day or so.
Q-Tips Redcar Coatham Bowl 21st December 1980
Q-Tips were an English blue-eyed soul and new wave band, who formed in 1979 from the remnants of 1970s pop outfit Streetband. Streetband had hit the UK charts in 1978 with the novelty song “Toast”, which had become a success as a result of heavy airplay by Kenny Everett. The band was fronted by Paul Young who was to go on to major solo success after leaving Q-Tips. “Toast” was as much a hindrance as a help in the career of Streetband, and they folded soon after it was in the charts, with members Paul Young on vocals, Mick Pearl on bass guitar, and guitarist John Gifford forming Q-Tips. The ex-Streetbanders added new recruits Dave Lathwell on guitar, Ian Kewley on keyboards and Baz Watts on drums. The band wanted to create a soul review format and so added a four piece brass section of Steve Farr (baritone saxophone), Richard Blanchchard (tenor saxophone), Oscar Stuart Blandamer (alto saxophone) and Tony Hughes (trumpet) who all hailed from North London. I saw Q-Tips a few times in the late 70s and early 80s including this gig at the great Redcar Bowl, an earlier (and very empty) gig at Middlesbrough Rock Garden, and supporting The Who at Newcastle City Hall during their 1981 tour. The band were great live, all suited and looking the part, with great performance and vocals (as you would expect) from Paul Young; they were very much a full soul revue show. However, they had little commercial success, and folded in 1982 with Paul Young going solo.
Classic Legends of Rock and Folk Newcastle City Hall 1st March 2014
Martin Turner plays the music of Wishbone Ash
So the Classic Legends of Rock (and Folk) came to The City Hall, the spiritual home of rock in the North East of England. This was an evening of mixed emotions for me. I’ve seen all of these bands headline the City Hall to packed houses. It was great to see them back on the big City Hall stage again, but also a little sad to see such a small crowd (I would guess there were a few hundred people there) which filled the front part of the stalls (the circle wasn’t open). So I enjoyed seeing the bands perform last night, but the memories of 40 years ago, when I stood in a capacity crowd cheering and singing along to “Blowin’ Free” (or on even earlier tours “Jailbait”), “Back Street Luv” or “Lay Down” are forever etched in my mind, and bring back memories of just how great all these acts were; back in those days which are now beginning to seem such a long time ago (which is because it was a long time ago ). Anyway, back to the show.
Strawbs were on stage when I arrived just after the advertised start time of 7.30pm. This was the three piece acoustic version, which features David Cousins, Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk, all of whom have been with the band since 1973, and in Cousins’ case from the very start. Their short 30 minute set featured (among a few others songs) the excellent “Hangman and the Papist” (Cousins commented on the fact that old band-mate Rick Wakeman is coming to the City Hall soon, and recalled how they played this track on Top of the Pops during a period when the show featured a regular “album spot”), “Ghosts” and finished with the hit single “Lay Down”. A few minutes to change the gear and Curved Air appeared on stage. The first track was instrumental, with Sonja Kristina joining the band for “It Happened Today”. The latest version of Curved Air features Sonja (vocals), fellow original member Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums), Kirby Gregory (guitar), Paul Sax (violin), Chris Harris (bass) and Robert Norton (keyboards). We were treated to the beautiful “Melinda (More or Less)” (a favourite of mine), a couple of new songs, a shortened “Vivaldi” and closer “Back Street Luv”. They were on stage for around an hour.
After a short break, Martin Turner and his band took to the stage. Those of us who follow both Martin’s band and Wishbone Ash (featuring Andy Powell) will know that the outcome of a recent court case means that Martin is no longer allowed to use the name Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash and is hence now touring as Martin Turner plays the music of Wishbone Ash. I’ve seen both bands several times over the past few years; Martin in particular has been touring a lot. Because of this I wasn’t really too bothered about staying for their set; I’d come more to see Curved Air. As it happened, I was really impressed by Martin and his band last night, and staying through to the encore of “Blowin’ Free”. He has assembled a line-up which faithfully recreates the music of classic ’70s Wishbone Ash with himself as front man, vocals and bass; Ray Hatfield and Danny Wilson having the unenviable task of reproducing the twin-guitar sound, which they do amazingly well, and Tim Wilson on drums. The set included well-known Wishbone Ash songs such as “King Will Come”, “Warrior” and “Pheonix” alongside less often played tracks like “Lullaby” from the “Pilgrimage” album and Laurie Wisefield’s “Goodbye Baby Hello Friend”. A great set with a nice mix of songs; Martin and his band deserved headline status last night.
Looking back this morning on the concert last night, I enjoyed seeing all those classic songs performed again, but for me the evening was tinged with a little sadness and a wish that I could turn the clock back and relive the concerts of the early ’70s. Never mind; I’ve just watched “Hangman and the Papist” from Top of the Pops 1971 on YouTube; powerful; amazing stuff; Cousins is wearing a great coat .
Is it really 43 years ago..? I couldn’t print my e-ticket at home then.
“Who will be the hangman in the dawn?”
In writing this blog, I can usually remember something of each gig. However, I am defeated by this one. This is one gig of which I have no memories at all of even being there. I can remember going to many gigs at Dunelm House, the home of Durham University Students’ Union, throughout the ’70s; but this one just doesn’t ring any bells at all. I have two ticket stubs (which are conveniently opposite halves and I have put together to form one in the picture here) so I must have attended and Marie must have come along with me. I do, of course, recall seeing the excellent Punishment of Luxury several times in 1978 including a packed gig at Newcastle University Canteen, and supporting local punk heroes Penetration at the City Hall. Punishment of Luxury (or Punilux as they were often called) were quite quirky and unique in their approach. Although their music undoubtedly grew out of punk, their spiky staccato art-rock had much more depth to it, and their performances were very theatrical (they had previously been members of a local theatre group) strange and in some ways scary, with use of masks and dance, lead by front men Brian Bond on vocals and Neville Luxury on guitar. They released the single “Puppet Life” in Summer 1978, and had some significant success, gigging around the UK, and becoming a favourite of John Peel. This gig at Dunelm house came quite early in their career, before they had released any recorded material, and was probably one of the first times I saw them. I googled and found that Buzz and The Period were local punk bands of the time; I’m not sure what O.H.C. was, or what the benefit gig was for. Hope someone can enlighten me