Archive for the ‘Don McLean’ Category

Don McLean Newcastle City Hall 1980

Don McLean Newcastle City Hall 1980 dontix American Pie is an epic song in several senses. The album version runs at an incredible 8 minutes, although it was shortened to four minutes for the single release. Much has been written about the meaning of its cryptic lyrics, with the general consensus seeming to be that the song is about the tragic death of McLean’s hero Buddy Holly in a plane crash. McLean has been reluctant to explain the song’s meaning and is on record as joking: “It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.” or more seriously “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me…. Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.”. donmclean
My enduring memory of the song is seeing Don McLean perform it at the Lincoln Festival in 1972. The weather at the festival was awful, and the heavens opened during Don’s set. However when he sang this song the rain stopped, almost as if by magic, and we all sang along.
I saw Don McLean again in 1980 at a concert at Newcastle City Hall. The tour was to support a “Greatest Hits” compilation and the support act was local folk trio Prelude. As well as “American Pie” you could be sure that Don McLean would sing his other hits “Vincent” and “Crying”, as well as less known, but just as beautiful, songs like “And I Love You So” and “Castles in the Air”. He would also include one or two Buddy Holly songs such as “Everyday”, perhaps some Elvis or Bob Dylan, and some rock’n’roll. donprog From the programme: “Don McLean is without doubt one of the most influential singer songwriters in the history of popular music. He has inspired many of his contemporaries and his classic song “American Pie” (released in 1971) has become a perennial on radio all-time Top Ten request lists. Another song “Vincent” – which is played every single day at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Holland – was cited recently by Stevie Wonder as one of his all-time favourites. And another – “And I Love You So” – has become a standard. It is also one of the most sung and recorded songs in history with versions by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Perry Como and Helen Reddy leading the way.”
Thanks to John for the scan of an early tour programme. The lower image is the front cover of the 1980 UK tour programme.

Joe Cocker and many others Great Western Festival Lincoln 1972

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.