The Who Charlton Athletic Football Club 31st May 1976

The Who Charlton Athletic Football Club 31st May 1976whotix76
Support from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Little Feat, The Outlaws, Chapman and Whitney Streetwalkers, and Widowmaker.
In 1976 The Who played three massive U.K. shows at football stadiums in Charlton, Glasgow and Swansea. The short tour was billed as “The Who Put the Boot In”. I attended the Charlton gig which was rated at the time as the loudest concert ever by the Guiness Book of Records. These were also The Who’s final UK concerts with drummer Keith Moon, apart from a couple of low key gigs filmed for “The Kids Are Alright” movie.
The Charlton concert took place on May bank holiday Monday 1976. A car load of us, with me driving, made the journey down to London on Sunday. We stayed at the flat of a mate who was studying in London, and on Monday morning we drove across London to Charlton and parked in a street somewhere close to the ground. When we got to the gates of the stadium it was very clear that something was wrong. There was a massive crush around the gate, a heavy police presence, and loads of fans being turned away, because they had counterfeit tickets which had been circulating in London for some days before the show. Our tickets were fine, and we eventually made our way through the crowds and into the stadium. When we did manage to get in, we found the place completely ram packed; even more so than for the previous Who concert in 1974. Reports suggest that more than 80,000 people were crammed into a stadium with a concert crowd limit of 50,000. Eventually the police stopped letting anyone in for safety reasons, and many fans with real tickets were not admitted. As compensation, they were given a free ticket to the Swansea show instead, and free buses were laid on to take them there.
Support came from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Little Feat, The Outlaws, Streetwalkers, and Widowmaker, featuring Steve Ellis and Ariel Bender, who opened the proceedings and were pretty good too. Streetwalkers were also great, and SAHB were excellent, with Alex on top form; they almost (but not quite) stole the show from the Who.
who74hatIt was wet, with rain falling throughout the day. Not much use for the sun visors which were given away free by Sounds magazine (I still have mine unworn, see left). There was some violence within the crowd, as there was at the 1974 concert, with fights breaking out on the pitch and the terraces. We waited patiently during a long delay before the Who came on, caused by a few fans who had scaled the lighting towers in the hope of gaining a better view. The couple of guys who made it up there were told, over the PA, that the show wouldn’t start until they came down. Some fans on the pitch started to chant “get down” and eventually the guys did so. Shortly afterwards the Who ran out onto the very wet stage, and Roger Daltrey slipped over, going his full length, sliding from one end of the stage to the other. He got up and introduced the band as “The Who On Ice”. They started, as usual, with “I Can’t Explain” followed by “Substitute”. Townshend taunted us all “thank you for waiting for us and getting so wet”. Pete continued to make cracks to the audience throughout the evening, and at one point shouted out to stop a fight at the front of the crowd. An audience recording exists, on which you can also hear Keith Moon shouting at Townshend: “Shut up! ….. You’d think you’ve got some kind of vested interest. I’ve seen your vests, and they stink…underneath this I’m totally nude, Peter! I don’t need any of your great flowing poncey robes. I don’t need all your glittering sequins to be a star! I don’t need to jump in the air, flash what little crotch I’ve got. And I must admit I’ve had no complaints.”
whoprog76The set was similar to that which they had been playing since 1975, with several of the old ’60s classics, a couple from Quadrophenia, a couple from their current album “The Who By Numbers”, and a “Tommy” segment, with Keith playing his parts as “Uncle Ernie” in “Fiddle About” and “Tommy’s Holiday Camp.” The laser light show, first seen during the 1975 tour, was revealed during “See Me Feel Me”, by which time it was dark. The lasers shot through the smoke to mirrors on the light towers, with blue beams bouncing around the entire stadium, and red laser beams cutting through them. Im sure it would seem quite primitive now, but it was impressive at the time. I remember the entire stadium singing along to “Listening to you”: “Listening to you I get the music. Gazing at you I get the heat. Following you I climb the mountain. I get excitement at your feet!” with laser beams criss crossing the crowd in the darkness. An amazing moment. The Who finished with “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, ending with an incredible scream from Roger. We chanted “We Want The Who” for 5 or 10 minutes, but there was no encore, as was often the case for a Who concert at the time.
It took ages to find the car. We walked from street to street; each one looked the same, and I hadn’t noted the street name. After what seemed like hours, but probably wasn’t, we located my car and set off through the crowded streets. At one point we were sat stationary in a queue of traffic, when a big black limo pulled up alongside. Sitting alone in the back seat was Pete Townshend. We waved but he didn’t respond.
It’s a long drive from London to the north east, and the dawn was breaking as I drove up Houghton Cut. My mates were all asleep around me. A couple of them went straight to work. Happy days. I think I’ve just decided that The Who actually were the greatest rock band of the 70s. 🙂
Setlist: I Can’t Explain; Substitute; My Wife; Baba O’Riley; Squeeze Box; Behind Blue Eyes; Dreaming From The Waist; Magic Bus; Amazing Journey; Sparks; The Acid Queen; Fiddle About; Pinball Wizard; I’m Free; Tommy’s Holiday Camp; We’re Not Gonna Take It; Summertime Blues; My Generation; Join Together; My Generation Blues; Won’t Get Fooled Again
The Who stopped touring after 1976, largely as a result of Keith Moon’s failing health, caused by alcohol issues. Keith Moon died on 7th Sept 1978 of an overdose of heminevrin, prescribed to combat alcoholism. The Who’s 1978 album “Who Are You” was released two weeks before his death. Keith Moon was one of rock’s finest drummers, but he was so much more. Moon was the crazy, manic, childish fun side of The Who; the perfect foil to Townshend’s moods, and although The Who would continue as a strong rock force, a Who concert could never be quite the same again.
Tomorrow I will write about the first time I saw The Who without Moon, at a low key comeback show at Edinburgh Odeon in 1979.


22 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Hockey on December 30, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    Great blog Peter, I didn’t know there was trouble at this show. I went to the slightly later Swansea gig on 12th June with two School mates, having been driven down from Huddersfield by one of our dads. Our first Who gig, and Daltrey later recalled it to be one of their best ever. The supporting acts were all really great too, especially Alex Harvey. Little Feat were a bit disappointing despite critical acclaim (check out a recent live CD/DVD from Holland ’76). The Who were amazing though with that record breaking 76,000 watt PA system and with the climactic lasers, we were blown away, and would see them many more times up to the recent farewell tour in December 2014. Happy days! regards, Mike


  2. Posted by Pete on January 27, 2016 at 7:40 am

    Excellent I was at both the Charlton gigs , they were the first I ever went to it was great to read your account and be reminded of a lot of things I’d forgotten about it


  3. Posted by Chrissie on May 7, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    Couldn’t remember what year I went which is how I found this, (’76) I don’t remember how I did it, but I got in for free. Remember the SAHB being truly sensational, don’t remember the rain though, it just didn’t feature for me.

    The laser show was magnificent, or so it seemed to me at the time.

    Off to see them again this year at the Isle of Wight, 40 years since I last saw them live. Not paying this time either, but that’s because I’ve got a free ticket 😊


  4. Posted by Kevino on July 30, 2016 at 10:43 am

    I was there, and this description is perfect. In fact it bought back some bits I’d forgotten.
    It was rock history in the making!


  5. Posted by matey on August 23, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I was at Charlton for the Who concert with Alex Harvey and Little Feat, and remember the drizzling rain most of the day until the Who appeared. I thought they started with something like Barbara O’Reilly and the laser show which coincided with the rain stopping. I was pretty much out of it so memories are hazy and the Who set seemed to be over quickly as I drifted into a dream like experience. Goodness knows what someone had given me! They were amazing !


  6. Posted by Rigoberto Gruner on December 30, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    I’m brazilian and was there.
    Great show!


  7. Posted by Ivar Hamilton on June 19, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    One of my greatest concert memories ever!


  8. Posted by neil on October 12, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    I was there with my wife. I became a fan of Little Feat a few years later, and I was gutted that I’d seen them at this gig but never realised their awesomeness. I remember the rain, Roger slipping, the floodlight climbers. Regret not getting a tee-shirt, but I did get the program! One of the best days in my life.


  9. Posted by Michael on October 22, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    As one of the comments already on here I couldn’t remember which year I went to Charlton (76), so ended up searching the net – although pretty sure not 74 due to age/think I would have remembered seeing loopy Lou. Who were awesome + SAHB – massive fan, so a great day. Remember the rain + lasers bouncing around the floodlights (cutting edge at the time/the future had come to South London). Happy days. M


  10. Posted by Rigoberto Gruner on November 15, 2017 at 3:33 am

    Thanks God. I was there, 31st May 1976.
    I’m from Brazil.


  11. Posted by Jacquie Flynn on February 25, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    Great memories. I was also there with my best friend Kim. It was the day before my 15th birthday – looking back I can’t believe my dad let me go – first time we had travelled to that part of London on our own but we went and had a fabulous day. I also remember the laser show and was blown away by it all – talking about it for months to come. I’ve still got my program and tickets. Happy days


  12. Posted by John Sark on March 1, 2018 at 1:03 am

    I went with some mates. I remember it was hot and sunny in the early part of the day and fairly chilled but it did get very crowded. People were sitting in the sun watching the early acts. The beer was flowing. I cant remember if we brought our own or they were selling it there. The first trouble i saw started when a local guy who looked a bit like jesus stood up and started dancing. About a hundred cans and bottles were thrown at him. Some people were hurt i remember the st johns ambulance people helping out. All calmed down till the bassist of little feat had the brilliat idea of gifting maraccas to the crowd by baseballing them from the stage. Bottles and cans were returned and their set ended. I agree there was some delay with the guy on the lights but the main delay was caused by sahb using a stage set which looked like the side of a warehouse. This took about an hour to erect. During which time capital radio dj nicky horne did his best to keep the crowd amused. If you think youre wet you should see this next record im playing. Sahb were superb remember alex bursting through the wall dressed as Hitler to do a cover of framed. It took about thirty minutes to dismantle their set. The who didnt get on till around nine due to this. They were superb it was the only time i ever saw them. I got hit on the back of the head by a hurled half full can and as was to the right of the stage suspect thats why i now have tintinus in my right ear. My ears rang for three days after the show.


    • Posted by Adam Primus on June 14, 2018 at 12:14 pm

      “My ears rang for three days after the show”

      You know that is one of the things I’d entirely forgotten, but the Who’s (record-breaking) cranked up volume levels left our heads ringing for days afterwards


  13. Posted by Bob on March 1, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    I was there. I wax15. We slept outside the night before. There were fights outside with locals when the pubs closed. We saw them practicing with lasers, the first time we’d ever seen them. Remember the rain during the Who set. The lasers were amazing. Brilliant performance.


    • Posted by Adam Primus on June 14, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      “Remember the rain during the Who set”

      The mists of time seems to have caused you to misrecall, because in fact the incessant teeming rain stopped – almost miraculously – just as the Who were about to take to the stage.


  14. Posted by Steve Merchant on March 14, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    I too remember Roger’s slip, the lasers etc. Anyone else verify {from the music press in the run up to the show} the specially reinforced snare drum that Keith had commissioned and which he did indeed stand on after Pete announced that “Keith Moon is going to talk to you” or words to that effect. I also remember Alex halting the band and glaring down at the fight bellowed “Stop that fucking fighting!” It got a huge cheer from the stadium and It worked too. Temporarily I suppose. Another mental image is of the state of some people, utterly wasted in the mud and rain, one guy face down I remember.


    • Posted by Andy on March 15, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Ha ha! You’ve reminded me of a couple of things which because of my wasted state I’d forgotten.
      I do remember the fight but the main attraction seemed to be the lunatic climbing the floodlight tower. I completely drifted into an alternate world when The Who came on, the laser show started and it stopped raining. Their session seemed to pass at lightning speed.
      Anyway, I survive with some memories!


  15. Posted by Adam Primus on June 10, 2018 at 12:14 am

    My word this brings back memories!
    I didn’t have a ticket, but I never used to let things like that stop me back in the day…
    Charlton proved to be an impossible nut to crack however, with heavy security locking down the estate behind the ground and parking their men in the gardens of any the vacant terraced houses that backed onto the ground, and even paying some householders to have security men in their back gardens!
    The weak spot however turned out to be just 50 yards from the main entrance, where just over the grounds front wall, topped by nothing more than a flimsy strand of barbed wire (not razor wire!) a temporary woman’s toilet had been erected and had canvas screens erected around the facility, very helpfully screening the flow of rascals pouring over the wall and out into the ground!

    Anyway, I have to say that the next few hours hardly seemed worth the torn jeans (It may not have been razor wire, but the regular barbed wire can still do a fair bit of damage to a set of well-worn Levis!) as I endured the monotonous American cowboy band in the seemingly endless rain.
    But then The Sensational Alex Harvey Band took to the stage, and the dial was turned up all the way to Outstanding… they really had their mojo working overtime and the tedium of the previous bands was forgotten.

    The gig could have ended after their set and it still would have been an awesome day. Nonetheless, the best was yet to come. After, of course, those antics up the floodlight pylons…

    I distinctly recall the MC begging some guy to come down from high up on the pylon; it was wet and slippery and he was playing to the gallery. A copper went up there after him, which caused him to move up even higher… I guess it was resolved without him falling to his death, I’m sure I would have remembered that, but I have no recollection of how or when he eventually came down.

    I have to dispute one contributor’s assertion about the reason for the Who’s late entrance however. The fact is they were waiting for Princess Margaret to turn up, as she was late (as usual). That pissed me off no end. But then the sun came out, The Who bounded onto the stage (with Daltrey promptly falling on his jacksie – i’d thought it was Moon, but everyone else says it was Daltrey so…) and then it all went into overdrive.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen the Who – with both Keith Moon and Kenny Jones – on several occasions both before and after Charlton, but I am in no doubt that this show was easily the best; it really was the canine’s reproductive organs, the leg joints of the social honey-gathering insects… and the laser light show (The Who had the first commercial laser system in the UK) was quite astonishing, as basic as it may seem now. It only added to the spectacle when it started a small fire on one of the pylons – the thick smoke billowed over the stadium, pierced only by the laser lights, making it seems as though there was a nebulous roof over the whole place. I remember being absolutely transfixed, it was an entirely novel experience.
    And then everyone singing “Listening to you, I get the music…”, and then of course “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and that… well I’ve run out of superlatives, I don’t know how to describe that scream… you know the one…

    Yes, despite the rain, despite the boring bands on the undercard (notable exception being Alex Harvey), despite the interminable wait for The Who to take the stage, it turned out to be one of the greatest and most memorable gigs I’ve ever attended, with The Who being at the very top of their game, never to be bettered.


  16. Posted by Rigoberto Gruner on June 11, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Congrats for you father too.
    It was first time I saw the lasers.
    I’m writing from Porto Alegre, Brazil and still loving the british music.


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