The Reading Festival 24th – 26th August 1973
August 1973 and I was back at the Reading Festival. This year I hooked up with a large group of mates from town who had traveled down in a Transit van. I discovered Reading town centre, and the local pubs for the first time this year, and as a result missed some of the bands. The line-up was pretty mixed, with a clear attempt to become international; featuring bands from France, Italy and the USA, and also retaining jazz elements with appearances by Chris Barber and George Melly (who was great and a surprise success).
Friday line-up: Embryo (Germany), Alquin (Holland), Stray Dog (USA), Greenslade, Capability Brown, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen (USA), Jo’Burg Hawk (South Africa), Rory Gallagher. The successes of the day were Commander Cody and of course Rory, who was just amazing. This was classic Rory at his best: Messin’ With the Kid; Laundromat; Walk on Hot Coals; Pistol Slapper Blues; Going to My Home Town; and Bullfrog Blues. The crowd loved him. Capability Brown grew out of the ’60s band Harmony Grass; prog rock with great harmonies. The other thing I discovered was the bridge over the Thames, and we spent many an hour watching people dive off and down into the river (which seemed crazy and dangerous to me).
Saturday line-up: Dave Ellis, Clare Hamill, Tasavallan Presidentti (Finland), Riff Raff, Fumble, Magma (France), Lindisfarne (Mk II), Chris Barber band, Status Quo, Sensation Alex Harvey Band, Strider, Andy Bown, The Faces.
My memories of the Saturday are of Status Quo going down a storm, and the Faces being OK, but the real success of the day being the Sensation Alex Harvey Band. SAHB were just about to release “Next”; I think they started the set with “Faith Healer” which sounded incredible, the intro throbbing across the field. Alex was electric and made a lot of new friends that day. The Faces set was nowhere near as strong as the previous year. This was one of their first gigs after Ronnie Lane had been replaced by Tetsu (who was great by the way); you could sense that the band were losing their enthusiasm and a Rod would soon be on his way. Lots of footballs into the crowd again. Oh and Jesus dancing naked during the afternoon. I don’t recall Andy Bown’s set and didn’t know much about him at the time, other than he was in The Herd with Peter Frampton. I do remember being surprised as how high up on the bill he was. I think this was where he made friends with Quo; he joined them shortly afterwards on keyboards. Fumble were a rock’n’roll revival band who played a lot of gigs at the time; I recall seeing them several times at local student union dances.
Sunday line-up: Aj Webber, John Martyn and Danny Thompson, Ange (France), Tim Hardin and Lesley Duncan with the Tim Horovitz Orchestra, PFM (Italy), Jack the Lad, Medicine Head, Stackridge, George Melly and the Feetwarmers, Jon Hiseman’s Tempest, Mahatma, Jimmy Witherspoon (USA), Spencer Davis, Genesis. I think Roy Buchanan may have played also; he was advertised in early flyers, but doesn’t feature in the programme; I think I recall watching him. The stand-outs on Sunday were (surprisingly) George Melly who wore an incredibly sharp suit and totally engaged the crowd with his crazy jazz campness, and of course Genesis, with Peter Gabriel appearing with a strange pyramid arrangement on his head. Stackridge were good as always (Slark still a favourite of mine); Spencer Davis played all the hits, and had a great band featuring Charlie McCracken, Pete York, Ray Fenwick and Eddie Hardin. Tim Hardin sang his beautiful moving songs (If I was a Carpenter, Reason to Believe) and John Martyn went down well in his early slot, accompanied by the excellent Danny Thompson on double bass. The weather was pretty good as I recall, I don’t think we got much, if any, rain. Not one of the strongest Reading line-ups, but still a good weekend of music and fun, with excellent performances by Rory, George Melly, Alex Harvey, Quo and Genesis. Thanks to Ben Sutherland for making his photograph of the Reading Bridge available through WikiMedia Commons. The programme was once again produced by the local newspaper and cost all of 10p 🙂 . The poster of the Faces comes from the centrepages of the programme.
Archive for the ‘John Martyn’ Category
The Reading Festival 24th – 26th August 1973
John Martyn in concert
I saw the great John Martyn several times in the 1970s. The first time was at festivals; the Lincoln Festival in 1972, and then Reading 1973. I remember the Reading appearance well; John appeared early on the Sunday afternoon with the great Danny Thompson on bass. At that time John was very much the folk hippy troubadour, and the song that we all knew was “May You Never” which appeared on the “Solid Air” album. I also saw John Martyn at a concert upstairs in the Londonderry pub in Sunderland; it must have been in 1972 or 1973. By that point John was beginning to experiment with his echoplex, and he was just amazing. The sound of his voice and guitar echoed again and again, filling the room with layers of sound. It was tremendous and not what I was expecting at all. John was exploring the use of his voice as an instrument, intertwining it with his echoing guitar, and creating sounds unlike anything I have ever heard before. I googled to see if I could find any record of that gig, as it doesn’t appear on his gigography. The only thing I could find was a blog report by a guy who was also at the gig: “Saw JM only once – in Sunderland at the Londonderry Hotel. Brilliant evening where he wasn’t paid a lot but promised to come and play and kept his word. Arrived in Newcastle station from London and was picked up by John …. somebody and driven through to Sunderland. Walked in – set up in a flash an started to play. I sat 8 feet away and could not believe that he was better live than on disc. Rolled the guy a j and shared it while he played. Very quiet – came into our lives and went in a couple of hours – back on the train to London…..Singing in the rain will never sound the same as when he played it live – brilliant guitar playing accompanying as always. Doo doo doo doo doo dee doo doo doo dee do dee doooo!!!!”(John B) I’d almost forgotten that he played a great version of “Singing in the Rain”.
After that great gig at the Londonderry my memories are a little vague, I’m afraid. I remember going to a gig at Newcastle University in the lateish 70s and possibly one at Sunderland Poly and Newcastle Poly? I also found a report of a gig at Redcar: “1979-11-18 UK, Redcar (Teesside), Coatham Bowl. The place wasn’t full and he was swearing (like bigtime!)” (Ian Hepplewhite). “He came on stage pissed, then smoked the biggest spliff seen by mankind and was then too out of it to play. My friend ended up crying at our table because he was so disappointed with the performance..” (Ian Wallis). I also though I saw John at Redcar, but don’t recall the gig being as poor as that. All of those 70s gigs seem to blend into one now…..
The next time I definitely saw John Martyn was at a gig at Newcastle City Hall on the Glorious Fool Tour. His band was Jeff Allen, Drums; Danny Cummings, Percussion; Max Middleton, Keyboards; and Alan Thomson, Bass. The programme sums the gig up well: “Who can fill a hall with sound using just a guitar and an echoplex? Who wears natty suits, complete with braces? Who has gained ecstatic reviews for every album he has released in the last ten years? The answer to all these questions is John Martyn. His new album “Glorious Fool” will be eagerly awaited by rock fans, not least because producer and drummer is Phil Collins, with whom Martyn collaborated on his last album Grace and Danger, his final album for Island, after an eleven album run with that label.” The Support Act that night was a band called Bumble And The Beez.
I saw John once more before he sadly passed away. That was at a concert at the Sage Gateshead in 2007. John was playing the Solid Air album, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. By then his health was poor, and he had lost part of his right leg and was in a wheelchair. But his spirit and voice were still great, and the concert was simply spell binding. John sadly passed away two years after that gig, and we lost a unique spirit and talent.
Setlist from John Martyn’s 2007 Solid Air tour: Cooltide; Looking On; Dreams by the Sea; The Man in the Station; Over The Hill; The Easy Blues; Gentle Blues; Don’t Want to Know; May You Never; I’d Rather Be the Devil; Go Down Easy; Solid Air; Rock Salt and Nails; Never Let Me Go