Wishbone Ash Live in 1972
I’ve been putting off writing about Wishbone Ash, partly because I knew this was going to take some organising (I have seen the band 20+ times), but also because I wanted to be sure to do as good a job as possible, as the band and their music mean a lot to me. So this is going to be a bit of a marathon, but I promise to combine some of the concerts. It will still probably take me a week or so.
I was, for some reason, slow in getting into Wishbone Ash, and missed some of the early chances I had to see them. The first real memory I have is of a group of friends coming into school one Monday morning, raving about this new up and coming band that they had been to see at Newcastle Mayfair the previous Friday night. It was late 1971, and that band was Wishbone Ash. We were all aspiring guitarists, so guitar bands were “our thing”, and they were telling me how Wishbone Ash had twin guitarists, who played carefully worked out guitar parts which complemented each other. I was so jealous, and from then on I made it my business to listen to their music, and committed to go and see them the next chance I got. That chance came in early 1972 when Wishbone Ash next played the City Hall.
Roll on to 12th February 1972, and I was at the City Hall to see Wishbone Ash. The venue was probably around 75% full, and support came from the excellent Glencoe who featured Norman Watt Roy on bass and John Turnbull (from Newcastle) on guitar. I’d see John before in Bell and Arc, and he and Norman went on to be members the Blockheads, with Ian Dury. Tickets were 50p. Wishbone Ash had just finished recording their third, classic, album “Argus”, which was released in April 1972, and their set featured new songs which were to feature on that lp. Seeing Wishbone Ash around this time was watching a band at the peak of their creativity, and with a set of classic rock songs which no-one could match. They would start with “Time Was” which was the perfect opener, starting quiet and melodically and slowly building into a rockier song, Martin Turner centre-stage, Gibson Thunderbass bass hung low, singing the lead vocal, and the others adding those gentle harmonies. They would, of course, always play “Blowin’ Free” with its intricate (and tricky to play, at least for me 🙂 ) twin guitar opening riff and its catchy singalong, almost pop, chorus. The first time I heard “Jail Bait” I thought its thumping beat and screaming guitar riffs sounded so fresh and so different; in concert it was a great rocker, often reserved for later in the set. New tracks “The King Will Come”, “Warrior” and “Throw Down the Sword” usually featured and remain prog-rock classics. “The King Will Come” is classic Wishbone Ash from that period. And then they might play the “The Pilgrim” with its duelling guitars, and the epic “Phoenix” building to a crescendo as the mythical bird is reborn, rising from the ashes and the flames. At first I found “Phoenix” too long, with too many twists, but over time it too has become a favourite. There were also straight rockers like “Lady Whiskey” and “Where were you tomorrow”. My favourite at the time was the jazzy “Blind Eye” from their debut eponymous album. Andy Powell would have his signature Gibson Flying V and stand stage left, while the longer haired, quiet Ted Turner would be stage right with his Fender Strat. They were excellent, and musical perfection.
The next time I saw Wishbone Ash was on 27th May 1972. I was standing on a rainy Saturday afternoon, in a windswept field at the Lincoln Festival, watching them battle against poor sound, and an audience who were cold, wet and tired. The Sounds poster of Andy Powell which I have on my wall, and which is pictured here, was photographed at Lincoln.
I saw once more in 1972, when they called at Sunderland Locarno on 16th September. By now everyone had heard and bought Argus, and the placed was packed. Everyone I knew went, and Wishbone Ash were excellent. Support came from American folk-rock group FF & Z (Fishbaugh, Fishbaugh and Zorn). Pete Zorn from the band is now a longstanding member of Richard Thompson’s touring band and was also a member of Driver 67 who had a 1979 UK Top 10 hit with “Car 67”.
Thanks to Mitch for sending me a photo of his Wishbone Ash programme which comes from an earlier gig, with a great line-up, although Mitch tells me that only Stackridge supported, and Renaissance did not appear. Note the price of the programme: 10p!
Newcastle February 1972 set list (thanks Mitch): Time Was, Jail Bait, Warrior, Throw Down The Sword, The Pilgrim, The King Will Come, Phoenix.
Encores – Blind Eye, Where Were You Tomorrow.
More Wishbone Ash tomorrow.
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Wishbone Ash Live in 1972