Joe Cocker and many others Great Western Express Festival Lincoln May Bank holiday weekend 1972
I was 15 at the time and so excited about going to a real pop festival. My dad drove me and a couple of mates down on the Friday night, after we’d been to the local Mecca ballroom. We arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning, having missed the Friday night bands, and slept in a big crash tent for a few hours. We soon ran into a group of other lads who had also come down from Sunderland, and between us we built a cabin out of bails of hay and planks of wood which were lying around in the fields. I swear there were around 20 of us sleeping in there. We were quite close to the stage, and I pretty much stayed in that cabin all weekend. We could also stand on the roof and watch the bands. There was a massive (and very empty) press enclosure which divided the crowd from the stage, so no-one could get that close, which was bad planning. The weather was wet, with rain for most of the weekend. But I didn’t care; this was a real pop festival, and I was determined to enjoy every minute. The line-up for the remaining three days of the event was really strong. I’ll try and recall as much as I can.
Saturday. Nazareth opened the day around noon. I remember them playing Morning Dew, and thinking that they were ok. They were followed by Locomotive GT, Roxy Music who were playing their first major gig and Heads, Hands and Feet, featuring the great Albert Lee, who I remember playing “Warming up the band”. The first band I have strong memories of was Wishbone Ash. They hd just released “Argus” and their set consisted of all the classic Ash songs: Time Was, Blowin’ Free, Jailbait, The King Will Come, Phoenix etc. They were just wonderful at that time. Helen Reddy did not perform, and was replaced by Rory Gallagher, who had stayed on from the Friday to play again, as I understand his Friday set was cut short because of the weather. The Strawbs featured the classic Cousins/Hudson/Ford line-up at the time. This was before any of the hits. Pretty sure they played “The Hangman and the Papist” and “The Man who called himself Jesus”. Stone The Crows were next up. This was their first performance after Les Harvey’s death, and Steve Howe from Yes stood in on guitar. Maggie Bell’s performance was highly emotional and the crowd gave her the strongest reception of the day, sensing how real the blues was to her that night, coming only a few weeks after she had lost her boyfriend. Rod Stewart and The Faces closed Saturday night. I remember Rod wearing a silver lame jacket and that they were pretty ramshackle, but good.
Sunday. The Natural Acoustic Band started the day, followed by Focus who warmed the crowd up with Sylvia, and Brewers Droop who were a raunchy boogie band who popped up at a few festivals in those days. Spencer Davis played with his new band, which was heavy on steel guitar and country oriented, followed by The Incredible String Band. Lindisfarne were the first band to get the crowd going and were a big hit of the weekend. We were all on the roof of our cabin, singing along to Fog on the Tyne. Average White Band were followed by The Persuasions who were an a cappella soul band, and were impressive. The next big hit of the day were Slade, who just tore the place apart. They started this performance with a lot to prove to a “Hippy” crowd, who viewed slade as a pop act. By the end of the performance everyone was singing along and converted. They were just great. Monty Python’s Flying Circus, with the entire cast, did all their great sketches: Dead Parrot, Lumberjack Song, Argument; great fun. The Beach Boys closed the evening and were wonderful singing all the hits. Great end to a great day.
Monday. The morning featured some folk acts, who had been moved to the main stage because the folk tent had been damaged by the weather. I remember Jonathan Kelly performing and singing “Ballad of Cursed Anna” which is a favourite of mine to this day. Jackson Heights, featuring Lee Jackson from the Nice started the main part of the day off, followed by Atomic Rooster, Vincent Crane collapsing (as he normally did) during Gershatzer. Vinegar Joe with Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer were next up, followed by the Sutherland Brothers. The next two bands were both up and coming at the time: Genesis and Status Quo. They were both festival favourites, Peter Gabriel with his shaved forehead, telling those great stories to introduce beautiful songs such as Musical Box, and Quo were still trying to establish themselves as a proper rock band and shake off the pop image, which they were doing very well with tracks such as Someones Learning and Is It Really Me? Don McLean sang American Pie and the rain stopped for him. Humble Pie were something else. Steve Marriott was at the top of his game and was fully into his “My skin is white but my soul is black” routine. I Don’t Need No Doctor!! Just great. Sha Na Na, still featuring in all our minds from the Woodstock movie, had us all singing along. Joe Cocker closed the festival. He came on very late as I recall. There was a long wait and he took to the stage in the early hours of the morning. I remember him singing The Letter and Cry Me a River. He was good, but I was tired and cold by that time. All my mates had gone to sleep.
Other memories of the weekend. A large black and white screen above the stage, which worked some of the time. They showed movies on it throughout the night. I watched Marlon Brando in The Wild One, which was banned in the UK (!) at the time. Lots of chants of Wally. People openly selling dope with price lists on their tents. Hari Krishna’s giving out free food. A straw fight during (I think) Lindisfarne’s set. Everyone around me had also been to the Bickershaw festival a couple of weeks before, and were taking about how great The Grateful Dead and Captain Beefheart were. I was dead jealous.
I caught the train back on Tuesday. My mates variously hitched and scored lifts. I arrived home tired, unwashed, and determined to go to as many festivals as I could in the future, which I sort of stuck to for the remainder of the 70s.
Archive for the ‘Average White Band’ Category
Average White Band 1976 and 1980
PIck Up The Pieces! The Average White Band were great favourites of some of my mates in the 70s. Their blend of funk and rock would fill the dance floor in discos. I saw them in concert a couple of times, at Newcastle City Hall in 1976 and again in 1980. I remember that as a tight rock/jazz outfit, great at what they did, but to be honest they were never really by cup of tea. I went to see them along with friends who were more into them than me. The Average White Band split up in 1982 but regrouped after some years and are still playing today. They played recently at the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall as part of the Celtic Connections festival. Looking back through the programmes, which are pictured here, from those gigs did bring back some memories. The support act on one of those tours, I owuld think 1976, was Kokomo. Now there was a band, who are all but forgotten now, and much under-rated. Their blend of soul and funk was much more to my liking. Kokomo drew its musicians from a number of UK bands including The Grease Band, Arrival, and King Crimson. I recall seeing Kokomo quite a few times: a great gig in Newcastle Poly and at the Reading Festival, but can’t recall any of their songs. I must try and find one of their lps.Bands like Average White Band and Kokomo represent a particular time and period to me; in fact I’d almost forgotten them. I’m finding the exercise of working through my programme and ticket collection very interesting. Its bringing back old memories, and reminding me of bands and times that I had forgotten. Its taking longer than I thought, however; I’m working through them, at least in part, alphabetically, and I haven’t yet completed the letter A…..
The Grangemouth Pop Festival
Line up: Beck Bogert Appice; Status Quo; Steeleye Span; Lindisfarne; The Everley Brothers; Beggars Opera; Average White Band; Sunshine; Billy Connolly; The Chris McClure Section; MC: John Peel. All for £1.50!
I’m going to see Billy Connolly at Newcastle City Hall on Thursday night. I’m looking forward to the gig, and it made me think about the couple of times I’ve seen Billy Connolly in the past. The first time I saw him was at The Grangemouth Pop Festival in Scotland in 1972 (see ticket right). At the time he was unknown outside Scotland and, as he delighted in telling us, he was scared shitless about this gig, as it was his biggest to date. The festival was organised by Great Western Festivals, who had also run the excellent Lincoln Festival which I attended earlier in 1972, and was billed as Scotland’s first pop festival. My friend Nicky and I went by train to the gig. Grangemouth is north west of Edinburgh. The festival took place on Saturday 23 September 1972 and was part of the Grangemouth centenary celebrations. It was held in a sports stadium, which was in an industrial area, next to a gasworks, which spewed smoke over us at various times during the day. It wasn’t that well attended as I recall, with quite a heavy atmosphere, drunkenness, and some fights as the day went on. The promised line up was good, however a few of the bands who were billed did not play; a not uncommon occurrence in those days. Billy Connolly (see left from the programme of the festival) delivered a set pretty early during the day which was a mix of comedy and folk songs, and was one of the hits of the day for me. He’d just had a success at the Edinburgh festival and was just starting to make a name for himself.Other highlights of the day were Beggars Opera who were also local heroes with great swirling Hammond organ, The Everley Brothers who sang all those timeless hits, and Steeleye Span, who were still playing quite traditionally-based elecric folk at that time, before the days of All Around My Hat. Status Quo were at the top of their game in the early 70s, and were great favourites of Peel, who was DJ/MC for the day. Marsh Hunt was to seen wandering around the crowd. The extract to the right, which is taken from the newspaper programme (also see below) shows the line up and timings. Chris Mclure, who was another local hero, also played. Unfortunately, neither Uriah Heep or The Electric Light Orchestra played. Beck, Bogert and Appice were the main reason we went along, and Beck was a revelation. His guitar playing eclipses Clapton in my view, and I was in awe of him that night. I remember him playing Superstition and am pretty sure that he used a mouth-tube, which was the first time I’d seen suc a strange contraption, and was a few years before Peter Frampton used one on Show Me The Way. I can’t remember much of the set, but I’m pretty sure it contained Morning Dew, a new song called Black Cat Moan, Going Down, and an epic version of Keep Me Hanging On, which Bogert and Appice will have brought with them from Vanilla Fudge. After the gig we got the train back to Edinburgh, where we spent the night trying, and failing, to sleep on some pretty hard and uncomfortable benches, until it was time for the first train back to Newcastle on the Sunday morning.