Reading Festival 26th – 28th August 1977
Reading 1977 was notable for a couple of reasons. First, the line-up finally (and sadly in my view) lost all traces of the festival’s jazz and blues roots. Instead we had lots of classic rock, with a (small) smattering of punk and new wave. Although 1977 was the year of punk, it was another year before the new music finally started to make its mark at Reading. And second, the main feature of the 1977 festival was MUD. Lots of it. Possibly the worst I have ever seen at a festival. It had been raining heavily for weeks before, which resulted in most of the site becoming a quagmire with rivers of mud, and a large mud lake right in front of the stage. Wellies were at a premium and were being sold for incredible prices in the town.
Friday’s line-up: Staa Marx; S.A.L.T; Woody Woodmansey’s U Boat; Kingfish; 5 Hand Reel; Lone Star; Uriah Heep; Eddie and the Hot Rods; Golden Earring.
A strange mix of bands on the first day. Woody Woodmansey’s U Boat (ex Bowie’s Spiders from Mars) closed their set with Suffragette City. A highlight for me was Uriah Heep; now with John Lawton on vocals. Heep were always one of my favourite bands, and still are; I was a little sad to see them third on the line-up; they would have headlined a few years earlier. Lone Star were also good; showing lots of promise at the time, and Eddie and the Hot Rods went down well with the crowd. Golden Earring closed the day with a strong performance (Radar Love!).
Saturday’s line-up: Gloria Mundi; Krazy Kat; No Dice; George Hatcher Band; Ultravox!; Little River Band; John Miles; Aerosmith; Graham Parker and the Rumour; Thin Lizzy.
I remember being impressed by Ultravox!; this was the early version with John Foxx on vocals. Aerosmith seemed a big band to feature third on the bill, drew a large crowd, and were excellent. “Dream On” from those days remains a favourite song of mine. But the stars of the day were Graham Parker (the whole crowd sang along to (Hey Lord) Don’t Ask Me Questions) and of course, headliners Thin Lizzy. Lizzy were massive at the time and played a classic set including: Jailbreak; Dancing in the Moonlight; Still in Love With You; Cowboy Song; The Boys Are Back in Town; Don’t Believe a Word; Emerald and closing with The Rocker as encore. A good way to spend a Saturday night.
Sunday’s line-up: Widowmaker; The Motors; Tiger: The Enid; Blue; Racing Cars; Wayne County and the Electric Chairs; Hawkwind; Doobie Brothers; Frankie Miller; Alex Harvey.
The Enid were a big Reading favourite and Robert Godfrey got the tired crowd going with versions of classics like The Dambusters March. The Motors and Widowmaker got the day off to a good start. Steve Ellis had left Widowmaker by this point and had been replaced by John Butler, and they still featured that crazy showman Ariel Bender. Tiger featured the excellent guitarist Big Jim Sullivan (I used to love watching him play on the Tom Jones show in the ’60s), and Blue had some neat songs (try listening to “Little Jody”) and deserved bigger success. They were fronted my ex-Marmalade Hughie Nicholson. Racing Cars went down well with the crowd; this was the year that they had a massive hit with “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” Wayne County was greeted by a hail of cans from a tired and twitchy crowd who didn’t take well to his punk songs, including the classic “If you don’t want to F**k me, F**k Off! Hawkwind were OK, as were the Doobies and Frankie Miller, but we were all there to see Alex Harvey. SAHB played the usual set and Alex told his quirky stories: Faith Healer; Midnight Moses; Gang Bang; Last of the Teenage Idols; Giddy-Up-A-Ding-Dong; St. Anthony; Framed; Dance to the Music. Alex hadn’t been well and this was their first gig for a few months. It was good to see them, but it wasn’t one of their best performances, and sadly it was the last time the band would play together. The end of an era.
By Sunday many people had given up and left because of the atrocious conditions. Poor John Peel tried to keep the crowd amused, partly be starting the famous “John Peel’s a C***” chant which continued into the next few years.
One final note. I had been to see The Sex Pistols play at Scarborough Penthouse club the night before the festival, and I was still buzzing with the memories of that gig. It had opened my eyes to the raw energy of punk, and that, coupled with the mud and awful conditions at Reading, meant I didn’t enjoy the weekend as much as usual. And just to make the experience complete, the alternator on my car packed in on the way back up the M1, and the car finally ground to a halt somewhere near Nottingham. After a wait of an hour or so, a kind AA man towed us back to Barnard Castle, where we waited (a few hours) for another AA relay van to pick us up and take us home. We arrived back after midnight on Monday, tired, hungry and very muddy, soggy and scruffy….the joys of festival going. Happy Days 🙂
Archive for the ‘Lone Star’ Category
Reading Festival 26th – 28th August 1977
Mott Newcastle Mayfair 1976
Rock bands often start out with a common vision, purpose, image and set of values. They slog it out playing up and down the country and that vision evolves and changes as the band finds its own niche. Success may follow, and that may also change things. And then members start to depart, and sometimes things fall apart. When Ian Hunter jumped the Mott ship, the remaining original members bassist Overend Watts, and drummer Buffin, along with relatively recent recruit Morgan Fisher decided to continue as a band. They recruited guitarist Ray Major (formerly of Hackensack, who supported Mott on the Circus tour) and vocalist Nigel Benjamin. The guys shortened their name to Mott and recorded a new album “Drive On” (1975).
Now some bands have survived the turmoil of losing one or more key members. Genesis and Deep Purple come to mind. Indeed, in both of those cases the band continued to go from strength to strength. In the case of Mott, however, things were never quite the same after Hunter left. The new album wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t up to the standard of previous triumphs. I saw the new line-up of Mott once, at a gig at Newcastle Mayfair in 1976, with Lone Star in support. By then they had released their second album “Shouting and Pointing” (1976), and their set included songs from that record and “Drive On”. I don’t recall if they played any old favourites.
It was more than 30 years before I saw Mott the Hoople again, at their triumphant reunion concert at Hammersmith in 2009. I blogged about that concert at the time; it was a great occasion and they lived up to all our expectations.
Mahogany Rush and Lone Star Newcastle City Hall 1977
This was a pretty hot double bill by any standards. Lone Star were an up and coming UK band who had only recently headlined the City Hall themselves and Mahogany Rush, featuring Frank Marino, were the new US power trio cum Hendrix-style guitar sensation. Legend is that when Marino was a teen he was “visited by an apparition of Jimi Hendrix after a bad LSD trip, which led to the spirit of Hendrix entering Marino’s body and bestowing his ability to play the guitar.” Marino denies this today, but its a pretty good story. There’s no denying that Frank Marino plays guitar like Hendrix, although in interviews at the time he would always try and downplay this. The programme talks about his drug fueled dream and how he picked up guitar after coming out of hospital, suffering from the effects of a drug overdose, aged only 14!: “the guitar became a kind of therapy, some way to express and perhaps exorcise his recurring dreams, which sometimes consisted of a rock music soundtrack accompanying a visual image of each instrument personified in an everyday object. ‘Picture the vocals’ says Frank ‘coming out of a little plastic clothespin, with choruses of them coming out of the corner, thistles and reeds coming up with the bass. Legs turning into bicycle pedals, going around so they make percussive noises” and it goes on to refer to the Hendrix “experience”: “Particularly when you have the distinct idea that the spirit of the late Jimi Hendrix has become much more than an influence, and sometimes seems to have become permanently embedded in you to the extent where you seem to be his living personification….” Now come on Frank. Unless you had no input into the tour programme and no control over it, it would be difficult for you to deny that you had a hand in the crazy Hendrix stories and comparisons.
Putting aside the question around whether Frank Marino is the “living personification” of Jimi Hendrix; Mahogany Rush were a hot live rock trio. Their set included at least one Hendrix cover maybe more, I don’t entirely remember, and was a showcase for Franks’ astonishing guitar wizardry. Lone Star also performed well, and went down a storm with the Newcastle crowd, although I seem to recall that the Hall was only around half full for this gig.
I would imagine that the set I saw at the City Hall in 1977 will have been something like this: The Answer, Dragonfly,I’m a King Bee, Excerpt form Back Door Man, A New Rock and Roll, Johnnie Be Goode, Talkin Bout a Feelin, Excerpt Who Do Ya Love, Electric Reflections of War, The World Anthem, Look at me, Strange universe, Voodoo Chile, Purple Haze. This is from the official live album recorded on a US tour in late 77 and released in 78, and an update from Damian. This was the only time that I’ve seen Mahogany Rush. They continue to play to this day, but their visits to the UK are few and far between now. My friend John has seen them in the States a few times and tells me how good they still are. He sent me a signed CD (pictured here). Thanks also to John for the scan of the poster from this gig.
That early acid experience clearly had a profound effect on Frank Marino. He still talks of it today, and says on his official website: “This experience became the basis of everything that I was to do in music, including the name Mahogany Rush, which was a description I would use to describe a certain sensation that I was having on the trip. The artwork on the albums, Child of the Novelty and Strange Universe are an artist’s rendition of my trip as told by me to the artist, Ivan Schwartz, who has since passed away”. John saw Frank Marino four times between 2006 and 2011. His views on those recent shows: “I thought he was just absolutely fantastic and he had the same effect on me as the first time I saw Robin Trower in 1975. An exceptional player with a good voice, he plays a lot of covers which is fine with me and has some exceptional songs in He’s Calling and Hometown Hero. Electric Reflections of War is too much for me but other than that song; its all just great.” Frank Marino last toured the UK in 2005 and he played the City Hall in 2002 as part of a package called Legends of Rock; featuring him as the opening act, followed by Uli John Roth, then Glenn Hughes and with Jack Bruce headlining. Now there’s a gig I shouldn’t have missed.
Lone Star Newcastle City Hall 1977
Lone Star (not to be confused with the more recent band Lonestar) were a mid to late 70s Welsh rock band formed in Cardiff. Their line-up featured ace guitarist Paul “Tonka” Chapman, who had impressed me when I saw him in the early 70s playing in Skid Row (he replaced Gary Moore), and UFO, where he played alongside Michael Schenker. I saw Lone Star a few times; as support act on the Mahogany Rush and Mott (post Hoople) tours, at the 1977 Reading Festival, and on this (I think it was their only) major headline tour. They were a pretty classy heavy rock band. Their music was much more than straight heavy metal; they were quite melodic with shades of UFO and Zeppelin, and hints of jazz, blues and prog. This UK tour was in support of their second, and final, studio album “Firing on All Six”. It was a pretty epic rock gig, Lone Star displaying a level of confidence and a stage show that you would normally associate with a much more established band. However, the City Hall was by no means full; the band were still not that well known. Lone Star performed an awesome extended rock version of the Beatles’ “She Said She Said’, which features on the album. “Bells of Berlin’ was another live favourite. I must dig out my copy of “Firing on All Six”. Young new-comer John Sloman had just joined on vocals, replacing original singer Kenny Driscoll. This was Lone Star at their peak, and 20 year old John was (quite rightly) being compared with Robert Plant. The word on the street at the time was that Lone Star were going to be the next massive rock band. Sadly this was not to be. The band split shortly after this tour, John Sloman went on to join Uriah Heep, and Tonka Chapman rejoined UFO. Support came from Stranger (thanks to Mitch).