Archive for the ‘Focus’ Category

The Reading Festival 23rd – 25th August 1974

The Reading Festival 23rd – 25th August 1974
readingprog74This was my third visit to the Reading Festival; I felt I was a seasoned festival goer 🙂 . By now a large crew of local people were going to the festival, so there were lots of mates there, and we spent much of the weekend in the pubs in town, and down near the Caversham Bridge; particularly The Griffin. We would nip back to the festival site to catch the bands we wanted to see. The line-up in 1974 wasn’t particularly strong in comparison to the previous couple of years, and quite a few bands who had been advertised didn’t show (notably Eric Burdon, Ronnie Lane and Blodwyn Pig, all of whom I was looking forward to seeing). The Friday line-up was : Nutz, Johnny Mars, Hustler, Beckett, Camel, 10c, Fumble, Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
The first night of the festival saw the triumphant headlining return of the Alex Harvey band, who lived up to their name and were truly sensational. SAHB had appeared low down on the bill the previous year; there will have been many in the crowd who saw that performance, and knew how good they were. Johnny Mars and his Sunflower Blues Band gigged a lot in the early 70s; they played traditional blues; I remember seeing them at Sunderland Poly a few times; pretty good too. Fumble were a rock’roll revival band who also gigged a lot. Beckett were local North East heroes, featuring singer Terry Slesser. The SAHB setlist was something like this: Faith Healer; Midnight Moses; Can’t Get Enough; Give My Regards To Sergeant Fury; The Return of Vambo; The Man in the Jar; Money Honey; The Impossible Dream; Schools Out; Framed.
readingtrafficSaturday line-up: Jack the Lad, G T Moore and the Reggae Guitars, Trapeze, Sutherland Brothers, JSD Band, Procol Harum, Thin Lizzy, Long John Baldry, Heavy Metal Kids, Greenslade, Georgie Fame, Traffic.
Two bands stick in my mind from Saturday: Thin Lizzy who were excellent, and about to break through a year or so later, and Traffic. This was the classic Lizzy line-up featuring front-man Phil Lynott, the twin guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, and Brian Downey on drums; at the time of the Nightlife album; they were at the top of their game. Traffic were excellent. They had just released their album When the Eagle Flies, and their set at Reading featured a few songs from that album, plus some old classics. The line-up at the time was Steve Winwood (guitar, vocals, keyboards); Chris Wood (flute, sax); Jim Capaldi (drums, vocals); Rosko Gee (bass); Rebop (percussion). Stand-outs were Steve singing John Barleycorn, simple and beautiful with acoustic guitar, and Rebop’s congas and percussion throughout. I found a published setlist for Traffic, which shows they played: Empty Pages; Graveyard People; Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring; John Barleycorn; 40,000 Headmen; Love; When the Eagle Flies; Walking in the Wind; Dream Gerrard. I also have it in my mind that they performed Feelin’ Alright, but maybe that’s my memory playing tricks again. Also worthy of mention are Procol Harum (great version of Whiter Shade of Pale and a big success during the late afternoon), the late great Long John Baldry (excellent voice and a hero of mine), Heavy Metal Kids (the late Gary Holton as crazy and manic as ever), and Georgie Fame who seemed a bit out of place as part of the Saturday night line-up, but carried on the jazz and R’n’B tradition of the festival and went down pretty well.
readingtixSunday Line-up: Gary Farr, Chilli Willi and the Red Hod Peppers, Esparanto, Strider, Barclay James Harvest, Chapman & Whitney Streetwalkers, Kevin Coyne, George Melly, Winkies, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Harvey Andrews, Focus.
My main memories of the final day are of Steve Harley. Cockney Rebel had split a few months before the festival, and this one of Steve’s first appearances with his new band. They stole the show; appearing just as it was getting dark; the audience was with Steve from the start, and the performance was a triumph. Tumbling Down closed the set with a mass crowd singalong of “Oh dear, look what they’ve done to the blues, blues, blues”. It was clear that Steve was back, as cocky as ever; 1975 would bring him massive success with Make Me Smile.
I also remember watching Kevin Coyne (Marjory Razorblade), George Melly (a return after his success the previous year) and Focus who closed the show, and were also great, but seemed a little of anti-climax after Steve Harley’s performance.
DJs for the weekend were John Peel and Jerry Floyd. Oh and there were lots of cheers of “Wally”, “John Peels a c**t” (not sure how that one started), and a revolt at the prices of food in the arena, which resulted in a fish and chip van being trashed. Crazy, happy days.

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The Reading Festival 11th – 13th August 1972

The Reading Festival 1972
readingprog I first went to the Reading Festival in 1972 (is it really over 41 years ago 🙂 ?), and continued to go every year until 1980. I missed 1981 as it clashed with a local “Rock on the Tyne” Festival, and have never returned, although I did think of doing so on several occasions. I’m aiming to reflect on one year each week for the next few weeks, starting today with my first Reading experience.
I’d already been to the Lincoln Festival in May 1972 so I felt, as a 15 year old, I was already a hardened festival goer. I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go to Reading, so decided to go along myself. My parents weren’t keen on my idea of hitching so I agreed to go by train. The festival took place over the weekend of August 11th to 13th, 1972 starting on Friday afternoon. For some reason I decided to get the train down to London early on the Thursday night, arriving around midnight. Having nowhere to spend the night I took a tube to Piccadilly Circus and found an all-night cinema. It was showing Elvis films all night; I paid my money and sat close to the front. The cinema was quite empty, the audience was a few couples, some Elvis fans and several people alone like me, and just looking for somewhere to spend the night. I don’t recall which films were shown, I think there were six, and I’m pretty sure one was “Kid Galahad” (which, by the way, is a good movie), and I think another may have been “Fun in Acapulco” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” (not so good). I emerged, very tired, from the cinema in the early hours of the morning, and went across London to get the train to Reading. I didn’t have a ticket for the festival, so when I arrived I joined the queue and bought a weekend ticket. In those days it was all about seeing the bands, so I stayed in the queue to get a good spot in front of the stage. All I had taken was a sleeping bag; no tent; no change of clothes (I told you that I thought myself a hardened festival goer).
reaidnglistThe Friday line-up was: Good Habit, Nazareth, Cottonwood, Steamhammer, Jackson Heights, Genesis, Mungo Jerry, Curved Air. The music started at 4pm and there were two stages set alongside each other to make for quick changeovers. I positioned myself close to the front somewhere between the two stages so I had a good view of both. There was a press enclosure right down front, and an area where the Hells Angels would encamp, so you couldn’t get that close to the stage. I got talking to a guy next to me; he was also alone, still at school and a similar age. We stuck together throughout the weekend, keeping each others place in the crowd, and sleeping there on a night in our sleeping bags. This seems crazy now, but hey I was young and just so excited about seeing the bands. You could sleep in the main enclosure in those days; you had to leave in the early morning so that they could clear up and get ready for the next day. Some clearing happened during the night; this didn’t make for a good night sleep as there was a danger that someone stood on you (this happened to me several times). The organisers stopped letting people sleep in the main enclosure a few years later; a punter was run over by a vehicle that was driving around collecting litter….The bands I recall on Friday were: Good Habit (saw them a few times, they used to were monks habits on stage), Nazareth (this was before “Broken Down Angel”; they played a great version of “Morning Dew”); Genesis (Simply amazing. I was a big fan at the time and have written separately about their set which included The Knife, Twilight Alehouse, Watcher Of The Skies, The Musical box, and The Return Of The Giant Hogweed. Classic); Mungo Jerry (got the crowd rocking), and Curved Air (also amazing; It happened today, Backstreet Luv, Sonja Kristina).
readingtix The Saturday line-up was: Jonathan Kelly, Solid Gold Cadillac, Man, Linda Lewis, Focus, Edgar Broughton, Jericho, If, Johnny Otis Show, Electric Light Orchestra, The Faces. I watched all of the bands, and also took some time to have a look around the stalls in the arena. I didn’t see any need to venture into town (that would come in later years) and spent the entire weekend within the confines of the festival. The weather was quite warm, sunny with a little drizzle now and then but nothing major, and certainly nothing compared to the rain I experienced at the Lincoln festival earlier in the year. Highlights I can dimly recall now are: Jonathan Kelly (Ballad of Cursed Anna simply wonderful), Solid Gold Cadillac (very jazzy), Man (very long guitar solos; Spunk Rock; great!), Linda Lewis (she looked so tiny on that stage and admitted to being scared), Focus (went down well with the crowd and were one of the successes of the weekend), Edgar Broughton (amazing, I was already a fan. Edgar very unspoken as always. Out Demons Out!!), If (jazzy, great guitarist), Johnny Otis Show (just blogged on them), Electric Light Orchestra (this was a very early performance and one of their first since Roy Wood’s departure. Wasn’t sure what to expect; they were good), The Faces (Rod and the guys on great form, lots of footballs kicked into the crowd, Twisting the Night Away and I’m Losing You were big live favourites of mine at the time).
readingposterThe Sunday line-up was: Sutherland Brothers, Gillian McPherson, String Driven Thing, Matching Mole, Stackridge, Vinegar Joe, Status Quo, Stray, Roy Wood’s Wizzard, Mahatma Kane Jeeves, Ten Years After, Quintessence. John Peel and Jerry Floyd were comperes for the weekend. Jerry was the regular DJ at the Marquee Club, who organised the festival at the time. I spend much of the weekend chatting about music to the guy that I met on the first day and we struck up quite a friendship. I made a few friend at festivals in those days and would see some people every year but I never ran into this guy again. Wonder where he is now. Highlights of the day were: Matching Mole (featuring Robert Wyatt), Stackridge (“Slark” was a favourite of mine at the time), Vinegar Joe (Elkie just stunning), Status Quo (this was one of the shows that helped them break back. Peel was a big champion of theirs at the time; I think he introduced them as the “Finest rock’n’roll band in the world”, or something like that. They were playing amazing boogie at the time, with Francis giving it some cheeky banter. Someones Learning was a favourite), Stray (excellent, Del in mirror suit), Roy Wood’s Wizzard (pretty good, very retro rock’n’roll. Ballpark Incident had just been released), and Ten Years After (Alvin’s guitar playing was stunning, I’d just seen “Woodstock” and was a big fan). I left as Quintessence’s took to the stage as did many others (TYA were official headliners) to catch the last train to London. The tubes had stopped so I walked across London. I’d missed the midnight train so I spent the night in Kings Cross station.
Monday morning: I was stiff, tired, and scruffy. I got the first train home and went straight to bed 🙂
Wow! that took longer than I thought it would! The scans come from the newspaper style programme which was produced by the Reading Evening Post. The poster (it looks like a cartoon of Leo Lyons from TYA to me?) is from the middle of the programme. Oh and I forgot to mention the “Wally!” chants, which seemed to go on all night.

Focus Newcastle Mayfair 1976

Focus Newcastle Mayfair 1976
Jan Akkerman left on the eve of Focus’ 1976 UK tour. His last minute replacement was Belgian jazz-fusion guitarist Philip Catherine. Marie and I had been planning to go along to see them at Newcastle Mayfair, and to be honest, we hesitated and thought twice before attending. I just couldn’t imagine how Focus could continue without Jan Akkerman; he was such an important part of the band. However, several bands have continued successfully after the departure of a key member; Genesis, Deep Purple come to mind for example. So we did go along to the gig, to see what the new version of Focus were like. A respectable crowd turned out that night, but the place was by no means full. The concert was great, and the new guitarist was a fine replacement. However, Focus were soon to disband. However before they did they recorded one further album, “Focus con Proby” along with singer P J Proby. This was an unlikely pairing, and the album did not sell well. Focus were to lie dormant for many years until Thijs reformed the band in more recent times. Today they tour the UK pretty regularly; I’ve blogged on them a couple of times in the last couple of years. I really must try and find a copy of Focus con Proby on ebay; I’d love to hear what it sounds like.

Focus and Blue Newcastle City Hall 1974

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.

Focus Newcastle City Hall 1973

Focus Newcastle City Hall 1973
Support: Programme says Harvey Andrews and Graham Cooper; Ticket says Snake Eye!
I first saw Focus at a couple of festivals (Lincoln and Reading) in 1972. They were virtually unknown at the time, but were a big success with the crowd. They were (and still are!) a crazy, fun band. They had all the right ingredients, a crazy front man in Thijs van Leer, who was also a very accomplished and classically trained musician, an excellent, fluent guitarist in Jan Akkerman, some complex and beautiful instrumental pieces, and lots of crazy, mad fun. Highlights at the time were Hocus Pocus, House of the King and Sylvia. By 1973, Focus were well known enough in the UK to headline their own tour of concert halls. Thijs is a magnetic performer and dynamic guy on stage. He mixes first class musicianship (on organ and flute) with some very strange nonsensical lyrics, yodelling and very high falsetto singing. Jan Akkerman was the perfect foil; he seemed quiet and shy on stage, and his guitar playing was slick, beautiful, restrained; just perfection. A great gig. The programme says Harvey Andrews and Graham Cooper were support, while the ticket says Snake Eye! My memory doesn’t stretch to confirming who actually supported Focus that night. I certainly remember seeing Harvey Andrews on a number of occasions, but don’t recall when. I have no recollection of ever seeing Snake Eye, or who they were. Based on live recordings from the time, I would think that the set is likely to have contained a selection taken from the following Focus tunes: Focus; Focus II; Focus III; Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!; Eruption; Sylvia; Hocus Pocus; Anonymous; House Of The King.

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.

Classic Legends of Rock Tyne Theatre Oct 28th 2009

Classic Legends of Rock Newcastle Tyne Theatre October 28th 2009

Featuring Focus, Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash, The Strawbs

Went along with Will and Norm  on Wednesday night for our second dose of Classic Legends Rock. We saw the tour last year in Harrogate; this year it came closer to home at the Newcastle Tyne Theatre. The only change from last year was that the Groundhogs have been replaced by Strawbs. This is sadly because Tony McPhee has recently suffered a stroke, and although reports are that he is recovering well, he is not yet well enough to join the tour.

First up was the Strawbs who delivered a short set of classic folk-rock. Dace Cousins is, as always, the showman of the band delivering the songs with his own very characteristic vocals. After a short break Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash take to the stage. Tonight they deliver the enitre classic Argus album, followed by a great version of Jailbait. Focus keyboard and all-round character Thys Van Leer joins them on organ for one song. I find it hard to decide which of the current versions of Wishbone Ash is truer to the original. In my view they both deliver and are well worth seeing. If anything Martin Turner’s band are closer to the original albums; tonight they could have done with a being a little louder for me. Coincidentally Andy Powell’s Wishbone Ash were playing the night before at Newcastle Academy. I decided to give them a miss this time, but have promised myself that I will catch up with them next time  they come to the North East.

Closing the show was Focus. Last time I thought their set was a little too long and some of the solos a little too drawn out. Tonight I felt it was just the right length. Thys is as eccentric as ever and plays his Hammond organ wonderfully. The guitarist is spot-on; musically this band can’t be faulted. We get great versions of House of the King, Hocus Pocus and Sylvia.

Verdict: Three great bands; all playing well and playing the songs we  wanted to hear. A good night.

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