Leo Sayer Newcastle City Hall 23rd April 1976 and 5th October 1977
I saw Leo Sayer on two further occasions before I started to loose faith. The first was on 23rd April 1976 at Newcastle City Hall. Support came from Glyder, a band that featured Dave Bronze on bass, who would go on to play with Eric Clapton and many others. Sayer was becoming more and more popular, both in the UK and the USA, and was starting to transform into a middle of the road family entertainer. He was soon to have a massive No 1 hit which would take his career in a new direction and would enable Leo to front his own TV show on BBC every Friday night, guest on The Muppet Show, sing a duet with Miss Piggy, and appear with his idol, Fred Astaire on TV in Hollywood. There was no new album or single to promote for Leo’s Spring 1976 tour; he released his fourth album “Endless Flight” later in 1976. “Endless Flight” featured two US No. 1 hit singles, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” and “When I Need You”.
The setlist for the 1976 was something like this: Giving It All Away; I Hear the Laughter; Hold on to My Love; One Man Band; Train; How Much Love; Endless Flight; No Business Like Love Business; You Make Me Feel Like Dancing; When I Need You; Reflections; Long Tall Glasses; The Show Must Go On. No performance of “The Dancer” which will have disappointed me 😦
My final Leo Sayer experience took place at Newcastle City Hall on 5th October 1977. Leo’s 1977 UK tour came after massive No 1 success with the single “When I Need You”. “When I Need You” was written by Albert Hammond and Carole Bayer Sager, and first appeared as the title track of Hammond’s 1976 album. Leo Sayer’s version was a big hit worldwide, reaching No 1 on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in February 1977. Leo Sayer performed it on the second show of the third season of The Muppet Show, and his transformation to a successful middle of the road artist was complete. Leo’s 1977 tour was hugely popular, and sold out very quickly. A whole new audience were clammering to see Leo perform “When I Need You”. I went along to the concert with a mate, and we both knew that we had lost the singer-songwriter who created the wonderful “Silverbird” album. The tour was to promote Leo’s fifth album “Thunder in My Heart”, which featured the hit single of the same name. Support came from singer-songwriter Aj Webber, who popped up supporting several acts during the ’70s, played the Reading festival and had a great song “Magnus the lonely gnome”, and Blue, who were a soft-rock band fronted by ex-Marmalade Hugh Nicholson, had a great catchy single “Little Jody” and should have had more success. We saw a different, new Leo Sayer at the City Hall that night in 1977. The transformation had been coming about for some time, but it became very apparent at that concert. Gone were the serious, dark, moody early songs, replaced by singalong hits. Leo had become a song and dance man. Just look at the covers of his albums and you can see how his persona has changed. The sold out audience was also different. Gone were the rock fans who had followed him in the early days, replaced by a crowd who came to sing along to “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” and “When I Need You”.
Thinking back about Leo Sayer, his first album, those early hit singles, and his early tours, I remember how much I enjoyed the guy’s music, and how he was respected as a serious singer-songwriter. I think I’ll dig out my vinyl copy of “Silverbird” and play it one more time. I’ll play “The Dancer” first.
Archive for the ‘Blue’ Category
Leo Sayer Newcastle City Hall 23rd April 1976 and 5th October 1977
Small Faces Newcastle City Hall 19th April & 17th September 1977
Small Faces are one of the most important bands ever. As well as being central to the mod movement they also produced some of the best 60s pop in Lazy Sunday and Itchycoo Park, pioneered blues-rock and presented a blue-print that Zeppelin would model themselves on (listen to You Need Loving from their 1966 album) and experimented with mixing soul/blues/pop with psych on Tin Soldier and the wonderful Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake album. I have written before about how I believe that Steve Marriott was one of our greatest ever singers and performers. The more I watch old videos of Marriott in Small Faces and Humble Pie, the more I realise just how sensational and unique he was.
I never got to see Small Faces in the 60s, they split up before I got into concert going. I did see Humble Pie several times, and was always totally blown away by Steve Marriott’s soul, emotion and power. So when Small Faces reunited after the Faces broke up in 1975, I was totally up for seeing them. The guys first reformed briefly to film videos miming to the reissued “Itchycoo Park” which hit the charts again. Ronnie Lane left after the first rehearsal due to an argument. Although the others didn’t know he was already unwell and was beginning to display the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. McLagan, Jones and Marriott decided to stay together as Small Faces, recruiting ex- Roxy Music bassist Rick Wills to take Lane’s place. As well as touring they also recorded two albums: Playmates (1977) and 78 In The Shade (1978) neither of which were very successful.
The Small Faces played at Newcastle City Hall twice in 1977; in April and September. The first show was pretty full, perhaps even sold-out, but the second gig was quite poorly attended. Perhaps it was just too soon after the first (there was after all only 5 months between the two gigs). I was near the back for the first concert and right down the front for the second gig. They were supported by cockney punks Cock Sparrer at the first concert. Cock Sparrer would go on to pioneer the skinhead Oi movement. I remember thinking that they were incredibly raw, very like the Jam and old Small Faces. Ace young guitarist Jimmy McCulloch also briefly joined Small Faces after leaving Wings, and was with them at the second of the City Hall gigs. I think old mate P P Arnold was also with them, providing backing vocals. Blue (fronted by ex-Marmalade Hughie Nicholson) were support at the September concert. Unfortunately for Small Faces, music in Britain was rapidly changing and punk rock was becoming firmly established. The reunion concerts and the albums didn’t result in the success and adoration that, in my view, they should have. At the time, this reunion wasn’t recognised for what it was, another chance to experience one of our greatest ever bands and one of our greatest ever front men. The time just wasn’t right for this reunion and Small Faces broke up again in 1978. For me, it was amazing to see Small Faces live at the City Hall. The shows were incredible, and I simply marveled at actually seeing Marriott perform Tin Soldier and All or Nothing, both of which remain two of my all time favourites. Their like will never be seen again.
The set for the concerts consisted of old faves and a few new songs including: Whatcha Gonna Do About It; Everybody Needs Somebody to Love; High and Happy; All or Nothing; Find It; Itchycoo Park; Smiling in Tune; Tin Soldier; Playmates; Looking for Love; Lazy Sunday
Reading Festival 26th – 28th August 1977
Reading 1977 was notable for a couple of reasons. First, the line-up finally (and sadly in my view) lost all traces of the festival’s jazz and blues roots. Instead we had lots of classic rock, with a (small) smattering of punk and new wave. Although 1977 was the year of punk, it was another year before the new music finally started to make its mark at Reading. And second, the main feature of the 1977 festival was MUD. Lots of it. Possibly the worst I have ever seen at a festival. It had been raining heavily for weeks before, which resulted in most of the site becoming a quagmire with rivers of mud, and a large mud lake right in front of the stage. Wellies were at a premium and were being sold for incredible prices in the town.
Friday’s line-up: Staa Marx; S.A.L.T; Woody Woodmansey’s U Boat; Kingfish; 5 Hand Reel; Lone Star; Uriah Heep; Eddie and the Hot Rods; Golden Earring.
A strange mix of bands on the first day. Woody Woodmansey’s U Boat (ex Bowie’s Spiders from Mars) closed their set with Suffragette City. A highlight for me was Uriah Heep; now with John Lawton on vocals. Heep were always one of my favourite bands, and still are; I was a little sad to see them third on the line-up; they would have headlined a few years earlier. Lone Star were also good; showing lots of promise at the time, and Eddie and the Hot Rods went down well with the crowd. Golden Earring closed the day with a strong performance (Radar Love!).
Saturday’s line-up: Gloria Mundi; Krazy Kat; No Dice; George Hatcher Band; Ultravox!; Little River Band; John Miles; Aerosmith; Graham Parker and the Rumour; Thin Lizzy.
I remember being impressed by Ultravox!; this was the early version with John Foxx on vocals. Aerosmith seemed a big band to feature third on the bill, drew a large crowd, and were excellent. “Dream On” from those days remains a favourite song of mine. But the stars of the day were Graham Parker (the whole crowd sang along to (Hey Lord) Don’t Ask Me Questions) and of course, headliners Thin Lizzy. Lizzy were massive at the time and played a classic set including: Jailbreak; Dancing in the Moonlight; Still in Love With You; Cowboy Song; The Boys Are Back in Town; Don’t Believe a Word; Emerald and closing with The Rocker as encore. A good way to spend a Saturday night.
Sunday’s line-up: Widowmaker; The Motors; Tiger: The Enid; Blue; Racing Cars; Wayne County and the Electric Chairs; Hawkwind; Doobie Brothers; Frankie Miller; Alex Harvey.
The Enid were a big Reading favourite and Robert Godfrey got the tired crowd going with versions of classics like The Dambusters March. The Motors and Widowmaker got the day off to a good start. Steve Ellis had left Widowmaker by this point and had been replaced by John Butler, and they still featured that crazy showman Ariel Bender. Tiger featured the excellent guitarist Big Jim Sullivan (I used to love watching him play on the Tom Jones show in the ’60s), and Blue had some neat songs (try listening to “Little Jody”) and deserved bigger success. They were fronted my ex-Marmalade Hughie Nicholson. Racing Cars went down well with the crowd; this was the year that they had a massive hit with “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” Wayne County was greeted by a hail of cans from a tired and twitchy crowd who didn’t take well to his punk songs, including the classic “If you don’t want to F**k me, F**k Off! Hawkwind were OK, as were the Doobies and Frankie Miller, but we were all there to see Alex Harvey. SAHB played the usual set and Alex told his quirky stories: Faith Healer; Midnight Moses; Gang Bang; Last of the Teenage Idols; Giddy-Up-A-Ding-Dong; St. Anthony; Framed; Dance to the Music. Alex hadn’t been well and this was their first gig for a few months. It was good to see them, but it wasn’t one of their best performances, and sadly it was the last time the band would play together. The end of an era.
By Sunday many people had given up and left because of the atrocious conditions. Poor John Peel tried to keep the crowd amused, partly be starting the famous “John Peel’s a C***” chant which continued into the next few years.
One final note. I had been to see The Sex Pistols play at Scarborough Penthouse club the night before the festival, and I was still buzzing with the memories of that gig. It had opened my eyes to the raw energy of punk, and that, coupled with the mud and awful conditions at Reading, meant I didn’t enjoy the weekend as much as usual. And just to make the experience complete, the alternator on my car packed in on the way back up the M1, and the car finally ground to a halt somewhere near Nottingham. After a wait of an hour or so, a kind AA man towed us back to Barnard Castle, where we waited (a few hours) for another AA relay van to pick us up and take us home. We arrived back after midnight on Monday, tired, hungry and very muddy, soggy and scruffy….the joys of festival going. Happy Days 🙂
Focus Newcastle City Hall 1974
Support from Blue Focus were back at Newcastle City Hall in 1974, a year after their last gig at that venue. They had a new album out at the time, which was called “Hamburger Concerto” and a single “Harem Scarem” was released from the album. Their set at the time featured tracks from the new album and old favourites such as “Sylvia” and “Hocus Pocus”. This was another good gig, with amazing performances by Thijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman. I blogged about Focus quite a bit yesterday, so today I will focus (no pun intended 🙂 ) on the great support act Blue. Before Blue were a boy band, there was this outfit from the early 70s. Blue were fronted by ex-Marmalade guitarist Hughie Nicholson. Nicholson was a member of Marmalade between 1971 and 1973, writing their hits, “Cousin Norman”, “Back On The Road”, and “Radancer” before forming Blue in 1973. Blue’s most well known number is probably “Gonna Capture Your Heart”, but my favourite is “Little Jody”, which is a great song and got a lot of airplay at the time, although it didn’t chart. The late, great Jimmy McCulloch was also a member of Blue for a short period of time; however, by the time of this gig in 1974, Jimmy had left to join Paul McCartney and Wings. Blue made some good music, blending pop with soft rock, and some strong melodies. I still have their first album, which is a classic and gets played every now and then. It was to be a couple of years before I saw Focus again, by which time Jan Akkerman had left the band.
Kiki Dee Middlesbrough Town Hall 1976
Support from Vapour Trails and Blue
1976 was a big year for Kiki Dee. She stayed at the No 1 spot in the charts for several weeks, with her deut with Elton John: “Don’t go breaking my heart”. I guess it was that success that drew me and my mate Ian to this gig at Middlesbrough Town Hall. A group of us also saw her support Queen at their free concert in Hyde Park of the same year. She dueted with a cardboard cut-out of Elton at that gig! The Town Hall was sold out for this concert, and Kiki took us through her hit singles and a selection of album tracks. She was on Elton’s Rocket Records at the time, and enjoying great success, at a level that she had never reached during the 60s. Kiki is an artist with a massive musical track record, and their is a great depth to her career. From 60s Northern Soul classics such as “Why don’t I run away from you?” through the beautiful and soulful “Amoureuse”, via the pop delights of “Don’t go breaking my heart” to the more rocky “I’ve got the music in me”, this northern lass is some class act. Although I’m not familiar with her more recent material with Carmello Luggeri, their website suggests that their new music is equally eclectic and interesting. Anyway, back to the 1976 Middlesbrough gig. It is “Amoureuse” that sticks in my mind as a memory of that night. It was a beautiful song then, and remains so to this day. I haven’t seen Kiki in concert since that night. She is another act to add to my list of people I would like to see again. Vapour Trails were Kiki’s backing band at the time, and support for this tour came from Blue, who are not to be mistaken for the more recent boy band. This Blue were formed and fronted by ex-Marmalade guitarist Hugh Nicholson, and had a great debut single “Little Jody” and a chart hit with “Gonna Capture Your Heart”, and were pretty good.