Archive for the ‘Medicine Head’ Category

Medicine Head live in the early to mid 70s

Medicine Head live in the early to mid 70s. medicinehead ticket Medicine Head were one of several hippie/underground bands who played their own unique blend of the blues and broke through to the mainstream, hitting the charts in the early 70s. Championed by John Peel, they featured on his Dandelion record label and would often pop up at festivals “back in the day”. The core of Medicine Head were John Fiddler (guitar and vocals) and Peter Hope-Evans (mouth harp, jaw harp, and crazy bushy hair). In the early days they played as a duo, although they were augmented by additional musicians in some later incarnations. I saw them at least four times: at the Buxton 1973 festival (which was the duo), at Sunderland Locarno (during a period where ex Yardbird front man Keith Relf was singing and playing bass with them, and Peter Hope-Evans had left the band for a spell), at a great gig at Spennymoor Top Hat Club (back to the duo), and at a gig at Newcastle City Hall (where they were joined by a full band). The City Hall seemed a big venue for Medicine Head to play, and the venue was pretty sparsely attended, even though they had hit the charts with their single “One and One is One”, which reached No 3 in 1973. My ticket is pictured here, and tells me that the support act was local band Beckett, featuring singer Terry Wilson Slesser who went on to play in Back Street Crawler with Paul Kossoff. The Medicine Head band for the City Hall show featured Rob Townsend (ex Family) on drums, and possibly Tony Ashton (Ashton, Gardner and Dyke) on keyboards.
medicienheadpostyerThe gig I have the strongest memories of is when I saw Medicine Head at Spennymoor Top Hat Club. The Top Hat was a great little club in a village near Durham. It seemed very modern at the time, with golden cages where dancing girls would entertain the crowd. The Top Hat played host to many rock concerts in the early 70s. I remember seeing Stray, the Groundhogs, and the Edgar Broughton Band play there. Marie and I went to the Medicine Head gig. It must have been in 1976, as I remember it being on the same night as the Eurovision Song Contest, and that we kept popping downstairs to the bar to watch the TV and see how we were doing. We won that year, of course, with Brotherhood of Man and “Save your kisses for me” 🙂 Anyway enough of my guilty past, and back to Medicine Head. They were back to the duo format, and were just great fun. John Fiddler would sit playing guitar and singing, and banging a bass drum with a foot pedal. But the star of the show for me that night was mouth harp player Peter Hope-Evans. He is quite a little guy, and I’ve never seen anyone put so much power and passion into playing a mouth organ. He would blow it as if his life depended upon it; I was almost expecting his head to explode. Peter had a massive round ball of curly hair which would fly about as he played, and he would run around the crowd at the same time. At the Top Hat gig, Peter ventured into the audience as was his style, running up and down the stairs, around the tables, and squeezing unbelievable bluesy howls out of his instrument. Marie and I were just amazed by his performance. Unforgettable.
That gig at the Top Hat was the last time I saw Medicine Head. They split shortly afterwards, and are largely forgotten. John Fiddler has been promising a reunion on his website, and a couple of dates were set up, but never took place for some reason. It would be good to see them again.
Thanks to John for the scan of the amazing poster from the City Hall gig.

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Buxton Festival 1973

Buxton Festival 1973 Line-up: Chuck Berry; Canned Heat; Nazareth; Edgar Broughton Band; Sensational Alex Harvey Band; Medicine Head; Brewers Droop
Billed to play, but didn’t: Groundhogs; Roy Wood and Wizard
This was a pretty crazy event. The weather was miserable, but what really sticks in my mind is the Hells Angels who took control of the entire day and had us all in fear. I hitched there with my mate Gilly and arrived around lunchtime. This was a one day event with a pretty strong line-up. I was a big fan of the Groundhogs at the time, and went along largely to see Tony McPhee and the guys; sadly they didn’t play. When we arrived we found the festival which was right up on a cold moor, and the weather wasn’t great with wind and rain, and lots of mud throughout the day. A large group of Hells Angels had taken their place at the front of the crowd, bikes and all. They were all very drunk and stoned and got worse as the day went on. Every so often they would rev their bikes up and ride them through the crowd. How no-one was hurt, I don’t know. When they ran out of money for beer they came through the crowd asking for 10p from each of us. Almost everyone gave them something; we were all frightened not to. As the day went on they started to go up on stage and take control. John Peel was DJ for the event but at some point half way through the day a Hells Angel took over the mike and John left. A couple of the bands, Roy Wood and Groundhogs, arrived and saw what was going on, and left without playing. I was particularly disappointed that the Groundhogs didn’t play. Gilly and I had made a flag saying Groundhogs, which we were planning to wave during the set (that seems so sad now, but yes we really did do it). We threw the flag away in disgust when they didn’t play. All of the bands who did play were great. buxtonEdgar Broughton always gave value for money at such outdoor events, and that day was no exception. The Poppy was a favourite of mine at the time, and I remember him playing that song, in the white judo suit that he tended to wear at the time. Medicine Head were good: One and One is One was out then. Alex Harvey and his band started with the Osmonds’ Crazy Horses, which seemed a bizarre song choice for a rock band, but worked well. I also remember a great version of Del Shannon’s Runaway being another surprise that day. Alex jumped into the crowd at one point and faced up to a Hells Angel who was trying to beat up another guy, and stopped the violence. Alex had no fear; I had deep respect for the guy. Zal was crazy as ever and looked evil in his clown suit. Canned Heat gave us some great boogie, with Bob the Bear pumping away on his mouth harp. Nazareth were also excellent with Dan singing with a Hells Angel alongside him. By the time Chuck Berry took to the stage it was full of Angels, all dancing round him and trying to copy his duck walk. Chuck joked with them, and just got on with his set, he didn’t seem at all phased by what was going on. Chuck’s set was short, and he left to no encore and a hail of cans from the crowd. Brewer’s Droop came straight on and calmed the crowd down. We left in the early hours, as we didn’t fancy spending the night in the field with the Angels. We tried to walk to the main road, which was a long way. We got so far down a country road and were so tired that we lay down and slept on the steps of a house. When we awoke we were soaked and found ourselves lying in a puddle. We somehow managed to hitch home, getting back around Sunday evening. An experience never to repeated (thankfully). Having said that; reflecting on the event; I’m pleased I went. We saw some great bands and heard some amazing music that day. The ones that stick in my mind most are Edgar Broughton, and Alex Harvey, then Chuck Berry and Canned Heat. Great memories. 39 years is a long time ago.
Many thanks to Ian Johnson for sending me his photo of the event, which is of band Chopper, who I recall playing in 1974, and Ian is sure also played in 1973. What do others remember?