Steeleye Span & Amazing Blondel Newcastle City Hall 26th October 1972
Steeleye Span, along with Fairport Convention, are pioneers of British folk rock. Their music successfully marries traditional English folk music with a harder, electric sound. In their early days, Steeleye Span played almost exclusively traditional folk songs. I first saw them as the support act for the mighty Jethro Tull on their spring 1971 tour when it called at Sunderland Empire. Steeleye Span’s line-up was, at that time, Tim Hart (guitars, vocals), Maddy Prior (vocals and twirling skirt dancing), Ashley Hutchings (bass), Martin Carthy (guitars, vocals) and Peter Knight (strings, keyboards, guitars, vocals). Note, the band had no drummer, which made the line-up seem somewhat different.
By the time of this 1972 headlining concert at Newcastle City Hall, Ashley Hutchings and Martin Carthy had both departed and had been replaced by Bob Johnson (guitars, vocals) and Rick Kemp (bass, drums, vocals).
This was a strong double bill, and I remember that my reason for going along to the concert was partly to see support act Amazing Blondel. Some of my friends had seen Amazing Blondel supporting Free, and came back gushing with glowing reports of these three crazy guys with amazingly long hair who played strange quaint medieval instruments. Amazing Blondel were indeed “amazing”. They were reportedly influenced by their childhood memories of the Robin Hood TV series, and its mediaeval soundtrack. Indeed, they named their band after Blondel de Nesle, a musician in the court of Richard the First. Their Medieval brand of folk rock was, in fact, an authentic attempt to recreate Renaissance music, using genuine period instruments such as lutes and recorders, and interlacing their songs with old English banter and bawdy jokes. Great stuff!
Steeleye Span were starting to gain their own following, and their version of the 16th Century Christmas carol “Gaudete” was becoming a big live concert favourite. The City Hall was full and both bands went down well. Steeleye Span’s set also featured some quite dark folk songs which told stories of medieval goings on, murders, affairs, etc. and a great version of “John Barleycorn”.
I had a double dose of Steeleye Span, having seen them just a month or so before when they featured on the bill at the Grangemouth pop festival. Happy days.
Christus est natus
Ex Maria Virgine