The Reading Festival 27 – 29 August 1976
It was August Bank Holiday 1976 and I was back at Reading for the annual festival. By now a group of us went every year, usually traveling down in the back of a hired transit van. The line-up for this festival wasn’t as strong as previous years, and included a mix of reggae, classic rock, underground and heavy metal bands. Punk was on the horizon, but yet to break through. The other memories I have are of rain (some, but not lots in 1976, as I recall), mud, lots of drunkenness (by us, and every one else as I remember), and lots (and I mean lots) of can fights, which seemed fun at the time, but were probably actually pretty dangerous. If you got a half-full can of Watney’s Red Barrel on the back of your head, you really knew about it, and several people must have come home from the festival with pretty nasty cuts and scars. The festival was moving from a friendly, hippy vibe to a drunken, laddish, almost aggro vibe. This also matched the way the line-up and the music would develop, as it moved more to heavy metal in the late ’70s. The main attraction for us this year was Rory, who was the man, and a hero to us all.
Friday’s line-up consisted of Stallion (don’t recall who they were), Roy St John (American pub rock), U Roy (reggae), Supercharge (a Liverpool band fronted by singer and sax player Albie Donnelly, who had quite a bit of success in the mid-70s and played a lot up and down the country; I remember seeing them several times), Mighty Diamonds (reggae), Mallard (Cpt Beefheart’s original Magic Band, and pretty good too) and headliners the hippy, trippy and quite weird Gong. I remember watching Mallard and Gong, who were both pretty good.
Saturday had Nick Pickett (a folk singer, who I’d seen supporting Curved Air a few years earlier), Eddie & The Hot Rods (classed as pub rock as much as punk at this stage), Moon, Pat Travers (ace guitarist), Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum, Sadista Sisters, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Van Der Graaf Generator, Phil Manzanera and the 801 band, Camel and Rory Gallagher. Stand outs for me were Van Der Graaf who played an amazing extended version of Killer (John Peel: “Bloody marvellous, Van der Graaf Generator. Come on let’s here it for them”), Manfred Mann, and Phil Manzanera and the 801 band, which was seen as a pretty big deal at the time as Phil had assembled a stella line-up of himself (guitar), ex-Roxy compatriot Brian Eno (keyboards, synthesizers, vocals), Bill MacCormick (bass, vocals), Simon Phillips (drums), Francis Monkman (ex-Curved Air, piano and clavinet) and Lloyd Watson (ace slide-guitar, vocals). The 801 band released one album, and a live lp which was recorded at one of three gigs that they played, at the Festival Hall. They played a great version of the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows. But Rory was the highlight of the weekend. We were all massive fans, and made our way to the front of the crowd for his set, which was just amazing. A recording of Rory’s set that night exist which shows that he played: Take What I Want; Bought and Sold; Everybody Wants To Know; Drinkin’ Muddy Water; Tattoo’d Lady; Calling Card; Secret Agent; Pistol Slapper Blues; Too Much Alcohol; Souped-Up Ford and Bullfrog Blues. The Rory Gallagher band was Rory (guitar, vocals), Lou Martin (keyboards), the great Gerry McAvoy (bass) and Rod de’Ath (drums).
Sunday featured: Howard Bragen; Aft; The Enid (who got the crowd singing along with Land Of Hope And Glory and became a festival favourite), A Band Called ‘O’; Back Door (very jazzy); Sassafras; Brand X (featured Phil Collins on drums); AC/DC (one of their early UK appearances, and just blew everyone away; Angus and Bon Scott on top form); Sutherland Bros & Quiver; Ted Nugent (had some arguments with the crowd who were throwing cans at him); Black Oak Arkansas (Jim Dandy to the Rescue 🙂 ) and Osibisa (who were billed as special mystery guests, which seemed a bit of a let down, but got the crowd going and went down well).
Another fun time had by all 🙂
Note; for the first time there was an official glossy programme, as well as the newspaper programme, produced by the local Evening Post. Both are pictured here.
Archive for the ‘Camel’ Category
The Reading Festival 27 – 29 August 1976
Camel Harrogate Royal Hall Oct 19th 2103
Last night I renewed my acquaintance with the band Camel, who opened their UK tour with a concert at Harrogate Royal Hall. I saw Camel 5 or 6 times in the 70s, but can’t claim to be a massive fan. The last time I saw them was in 1979 at Newcastle City Hall. Camel guitarist front Andrew Latimer has been battling illness for many years, and for that reason the band have not performed for 10 years. He has regained his health and is taking Camel out on the Road, playing their epic Snow Goose album in full in tribute to his friend and former Camel original member Peter Bardens who died of cancer some years ago, and in celebration of a career spanning more than 40 years. The current line-up of the band is: leader and original member Andrew Latimer (guitar, vocals), long time band member Colin Bass (bass vocals), with Denis Clement (drums), Guy LeBlanc (keyboards) along with keyboardist and special guest Jan Schelhaus. A statement explains: “The evening pays tribute to former band member Peter Bardens, who died of cancer at the same time as frontman Latimer was battling a terminal illness. Ten years later, Latimer has regained health and is willing to celebrate a career that spans over four decades. This two-set show will also embrace compositions recorded throughout those years in a personal covenant of appreciation for a deeply rewarding life of music.”
The entire tour is sold out; the band retains a strong and loyal fan base.
My mate Norm decided to come along for the ride, and we drove down the A19; arriving around 7.30. I went straight into the Royal Hall, which is a beautiful restored old venue, and took my seat in the front row. The band had just taken the stage and were playing their classic Snow Goose album. Norm walked up the road to a local hostelry. I’ve been playing the Snow Goose for the past couple of weeks to familiarise myself with the tracks. This concept album is based on the short story by Gallico, and is classic 70s progressive rock; led by Latimer’s soaring guitar, and with the highs, lows, and intricacies that you would expect of the genre. Purely instrumental it stands as a great example of the period and of orchestral rock. Last night Camel performed the piece perfectly to the delight of the crowd who sat intently throughout, giving the band a tremendous ovation at the end of each section.
“The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk is a short novella by the American author Paul Gallico. It was first published in 1940 as a short story in The Saturday Evening Post, then he expanded it to create a short novella which was first published on April 7, 1941. The Snow Goose is a simple, short written parable on the regenerative power of friendship and love, set against a backdrop of the horror of war. It documents the growth of a friendship between Philip Rhayader, an artist living a solitary life in an abandoned lighthouse in the marshlands of wartime Essex because of his disabilities, and a young local girl, Fritha. The Snow Goose, symbolic of both Rhayader (Gallico) and the world itself, wounded by gunshot and many miles from home, is found by Fritha and, as the human friendship blossoms, the bird is nursed back to flight, and revisits the lighthouse in its migration for several years, as Fritha grows up. Rhayader and his small sailboat eventually are lost in the British retreat from Dunkirk, having saved several hundred men. The bird, which was with Rhayader, returns briefly to the grown Fritha on the marshes. She interprets this as Rhayader’s soul taking farewell of her (and realizes she had come to love him). Afterwards, a German pilot destroys Rhayader’s lighthouse and all of his work, except for one portrait Fritha saves after his death: a painting of her as Rhayader first saw her—a child, with the wounded snow goose in her arms.” (Wikipedia).
During the interval I popped out and met up with Norm, for a swift drink. In the second half of the show Camel played a selection of tracks from their large back catalogue. I should have invested more time listening to their material before the show, as most of the tracks were unfamiliar to me. Vocals were shared between Colin Bass and Latimer, but it was the latter who shone as the star of the show. His guitar playing was outstanding; I’d forgotten just how good he is. It looked like he was really enjoying himself, and that he couldn’t believe the crowd reaction. The stand out track for me was Mystic Queen from their first eponymous lp. Other tracks played included: Never Let Go, Echoes, Fox Hill (which was quite amusing) and closing song For Today. Encores were: Lady Fantasy and Never Let Go. After the gig I met up with Norm and we drove home, getting back around midnight. It was good to see Camel again. I need to spend some time listening to their early lps, as there are surely some gems therein.
Camel Newcastle City Hall 1979
The last time I saw Camel in concert was in 1979 at Newcastle City Hall. By this time the late Peter Bardens had left the band, and had been replaced by two keyboard players. I remember wondering how the band would survive the departure of such a key founder member, and was a little unsure whether to go along to the concert this time around. However a few of us did go along, and the band performed as consistently as ever. The tour was to promote the new album “I Can See Your House from Here”, which was quite controversial as a result of its cover which features a crucified astronaut looking down on the earth. I haven’t seen Camel since 1979, although versions of the band have toured up until 2003; with Andy Latimer at the helm. Andy’s poor health has restricted Camel activity in recent years, however the good news is that the Camel website suggests that a new album is under development. Setlist from the London show of the tour: Echoes; Unevensong; Song within a Song; Neon Magic; Rhayader; Rhayader Goes to Town; Migration; Rainbow’s End; Wait; Ice; Hymn to Her; Announcement; Who We Are. Encore: Your Love Is Stranger Than Mine; Never Let Go
Camel Newcastle City Hall 1978
Support Michael Chapman
I was back in the City Hall again in 1978 to see Camel, with support from Michael Chapman. This tour was to promote the Breathless album, and the set included tracks from the new album, as well as a medley of tracks from the Snow Goose album. I remember being quite pleased to hear the Snow Goose material. This was to be the last tour with founder Peter Bardens in the line up. Support Michael Chapman seemed to be gigging constantly throughout the 70s. I must have seen him support many different artists. Michael deserves a separate mention: I’ll blog on him tomorrow. Setlist: Earthrise; Unevensong; Song within a Song; The Sleeper; Summer Lightning; Tell Me; La Princesse Perdue; Skylines; Echoes; Never Let Go; One of These Days I’ll Get an Early Night; Lunar Sea. The Snow Goose Medley: Rhayader Goes to Town; Sanctuary; The Snow Goose; Flight of the Snow Goose; Preparation; Dunkirk; Epitaph; La Princesse Perdue; The Great Marsh. Encore: Air Born
Camel Newcastle City Hall 1977
I didn’t get fully into Camel until after their breakthrough Snow Goose album. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick up on them earlier; I did see them at the Reading Festival in 1974 and 1976 but they weren’t fully on my concert-going radar until 1977, when a group of us went to see them at Newcastle City Hall. This tour was in support of Rain Dances, which was their fifth album. Although I always enjoyed seeing Camel in concert, I was never as familiar with their material as I was with that of contemporaries like Yes and Barclay James Harvest. My recollections of Camel are of a progrock band with excellent musicianship; and sets which were largely instrumental, and quite orchestral in nature. My other recollection was that I sometimes confused them in my own mind with Frampton’s Camel, who I saw supporting Humble Pie around the same time. Setlist: First Light; Metrognome; Unevensong; Rhayader; Rhayader Goes to Town; Preparation; Dunkirk; Fritha Alone; La Princesse Perdue; Tell Me; Song within a Song; Skylines; Highways of the Sun. Encore: Lunar Sea; Rain Dances. Encore 2: One of These Days I’ll Get an Early Night; Never Let Go