Reading Festival 22nd – 24th August 1980
DJs: John Peel, Bob Harris & Jerry Floyd
By 1980, the Reading Festival had become a heavy metal extravaganza. Headliners were Whitesnake, UFO and Rory Gallagher, with a full supporting heavy rock cast including new up-and-coming NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) bands Def Leppard and Iron Maiden. It was the 10th anniversary of the festival being at Reading, and the 20th anniversary of the national jazz and blues festival.
Friday line-up: Red Alert (a heavy rock band, I think and not the North East punk band of the same name); O1 Band; Hellions; Praying Mantis; Fischer Z; 9 Below Zero (a great R&B set); Krokus; Gillan (always a good solid set); Rory Gallagher.
The highlight of Friday was, without a doubt, the reappearance of Rory Gallagher. Rory was a hero of mine, a class act, an amazing guitarist, and always came over as a regular down-to-earth guy. By 1980, Rory had moved to a harder rock sound, dropping many of the classic bluesy tracks which had been staples of his set throughout the 70s. So he was no longer playing Bullfrog Blues or Messin’ with the Kid, as part of the main set, although he would sometimes play one or two of them during the encore. Instead his set was focussing on tracks from his most recent albums; Top Priority, Calling Card and Photo-Finish. But these are minor quibbles; Rory’s performance at Reading in 1980 was, as always, outstanding.
Rory setlist: I Wonder Who; Follow Me; Wayward Child; Tattoo’d Lady; Bought And Sold; Country Mill; Hellcat; Out On The Western Plain; Too Much Alcohol; Going To My Hometown; Moonchild; Shadow Play
Saturday line-up: Trimmer and Jenkins, Quartz; Writz; Broken Home (featuring Dicken from Mr Big); White Spirit (North East NWOBHM heroes featuring Janik Gers); Grand Prix; Samson (the drummer played from inside a cage!); Pat Travers Band; Iron Maiden; UFO
Highlights were Pat Travers who played an intense set, Iron Maiden with original singer Paul Di’Anno at the time of the anthemic “Running Free” and headliners UFO. UFO had released their eighth album “No Place to Run” and the line-up was Phil Mogg (vocals), Paul Chapman (guitar), Paul Raymond (keyboards), Pete Way (bass) and Andy Parker (drums). I was a fan at the time and it was good to see them headlining, and hear heavy rock classics like “Doctor Doctor” and “Lights Out” and more gentle tracks like “Love to Love”.
UFO setlist: Lettin’ Go; Young Blood; No Place to Run; Cherry; Only You Can Rock Me; Love to Love; Electric Phase; Hot ‘n’ Ready; Mystery Train; Doctor Doctor; Too Hot to Handle; Lights Out; Rock Bottom; Shoot Shoot
Sunday line-up: Sledgehammer; Praying Mantis; Angelwitch; Tygers Of Pantang; Girl; Magnum; Budgie; Slade; Def Leppard; Whitesnake
Sunday belonged to two bands: Slade and Whitesnake. Slade first. Metal legend Ozzy Osbourne was billed to play on the Sunday with his new band Blizzard of Oz, but he pulled out at the last minute and was replaced by Slade. I have already written about Slade’s amazing performance, and have reproduced some of my previous post here. Slade appeared after glam heavy metal band Girl, and just before NWOBHM heroes Def Leppard. The field wasn’t that full as Bob Harris announced that Slade were taking the stage. Their entrance was greeted with a hail of cans. Noddy wasn’t phased at all by that, and asked everyone if they were “ready to rock”. And then they launched straight into “Dizzy Mama”. And then it started to happen. Slowly at first, the crowd began to cheer. People wandering around the outskirts of the site started to run towards the stage. Slade knew they had to win the crowd over and were working so hard, rocking so hard, and playing the hits. The area around the stage was soon completely rammed and the whole field was going crazy. Amazing. Slade nailed it, and in the space of one hour made sure that they were well and truly back. Dave Hill: “One heck of an experience, ‘cos I wasn’t going to do that gig. Slade manager Chas Chandler talked me into it…the confidence came when there was a reaction, as it built and built, sort of got bigger and bigger. I mean getting that lot to sing “Merry Xmas Everybody” was amazing.” The event was recorded and a few tracks were released as an EP.
Def Leppard appeared after Slade and didn’t go down too well with the crowd. Joe Elliott: “The legend about us getting bottled off at Reading 1980 is a myth really – we got an encore at Reading. We probably had six or seven bottles of piss thrown up – and maybe a tomato – but it didn’t put us off. That ‘backlash’ was all blown out of proportion. We’re living proof that bad reviews make no difference.” Actually they were pretty good.
Whitesnake consolidated their position as worthy festival headliners. They’d closed the festival the previous year, despite not receiving top billing in the pre-festival publicity. This year, however, their headline status was clear, and they deserved it. They had just released Ready an’ Willing their third studio album, which reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart, and featured the hit single: “Fool for Your Loving”. This was a great Whitesnake performance; their set now included classic Purple tracks “Soldier or Fortune” and “Mistreated” and new favourites the aforementioned “Fool for Your Loving”, along with “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues” and “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City.”
Whitesnake setlist included: Sweet Talker; Walking in the Shadow of the Blues; Ain’t Gonna Cry No More; Love hunter; Mistreated; Soldier of Fortune; Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City; Fool for Your Loving
I got back to the camp site after Whitesnake and discovered that someone had nicked my tent 😦 Oh well, you can’t win them all. It was a cheap crappy tent anyway. This my last visit to Reading. The following year my mates and I decided to stay up North and attend the Rock on the Tyne festival, and once the annual cycle of attending Reading was broken, we never returned. For me, family and the pressures of parenthood kicked in, and the heavy metal dominance within the line-up made the Reading festival seem a little less attractive. I’d been 9 years in a row, seen the emergence of Quo, Genesis and Thin Lizzy, the re-emergence of Slade, great sets by the Faces, Rory and Yes, festival favourites like Edgar Broughton and Hawkwind, my personal favorites like Stray, the introduction of punk and new wave to the bill, and the recent growth in popularity of (new) heavy metal. Over the years I have toyed with the idea of returning to the Reading festival, or going to the more local Leeds festival, but have never got round to doing so. I suppose I fear that if I do, I will feel too old, and too out of place 🙂 I had some great, crazy times at Reading; maybe it’s best to leave the memories as they are. If I did go along, it could never be the same as when I was young.
Archive for the ‘Nine Below Zero’ Category
The Who Newcastle City Hall 24th Feb 1981
The Who went out on a full UK tour in 1981, their first since 1975. They called at Newcastle City Hall for two nights, I went along with a group of mates to the first night’s concert. The Who were on top form, playing a set which consisted of classics, a couple of covers, and a few new tracks from “Faces Dances” including “You Better You Bet”. Support came from R&B band Nine Below Zero. The brass section which had been with the band at Wembley didn’t feature; this was the four piece Who plus Rabbit on keyboards. Daltrey retained his short hair style, and seemed fitter than ever. Townshend was in good spirits and on top form. An amazing concert, it was great to see The Who close up in such a small venue again. We had seats close to the front, to the side of the stage.Their new album “Face Dances” was released the following month. “Face Dances” received rather luke warm reviews and it is generally recognised as not being one of their best albums. Trouser Press magazine said at the time: “Face Dances is a pleasant and rather meaningless album that proves, not the Who’s continuing genius, but rather their ability to churn out “product,” watered down from their days of glory.” But the Who live was a different thing altogether, the band was still firing on all cylinders. However, things weren’t so good in The Who camp. Pete Townshend was drinking a lot, and taking cocaine, and Roger Daltrey and Kenney Jones weren’t getting on. This was to be the Who’s last full UK tour for a long time. The next time I saw The Who was at Live Aid in Wembley Stadium in 1985, where they played a short, but excellent set. It was then 11 years until I saw them again, this time in Hyde Park, where they performed Quadrophenia, sharing the bill with Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. By then the drum seat was taken by Zak Starkey. I’ve already posted about those two performances. For my next Who blogging, I’m going to roll forward to the year 2000, when the band returned to Newcastle to play the Arena.
The Who 1981 Setlist: Substitute; I Can’t Explain; Baba O’Riley; The Quiet One; Don’t Let Go the Coat; Sister Disco; Dreaming From the Waist; You Better You Bet; Drowned; Another Tricky Day; Behind Blue Eyes; Pinball Wizard; The Punk and the Godfather; Who Are You; 5:15; My Generation; What’cha Gonna Do About It (short snippet of Small Faces song); Won’t Get Fooled Again.
Encore: Young Man Blues; Dancing in the Street (Martha and The Vandellas cover); Dance It Away (Pete Townshend solo song); The Real Me
Nine Below Zero Redcar Coatham Bowl 4th April 1982.
Nine Below Zero were formed at the end of the ’70s, playing fine slices of bLues and R&B around the pubs and clubs of London. The band was led by guitarist and lead vocalist Dennis Greaves, and also featured vocalist and excellent harmonica player Mark Feltham. In fact, Dennis and Mark remain in the band to this day. Nine Below Zero were originally called Stan’s Blues Band, and for two years they played constantly, building up a loyal local following in London clubs, before changing their name to Nine Below Zero in 1979. In 1980 they signed to A&M Records and released their first album, Live At The Marquee. By this time they had built up such a sizable and strong following in the capital, that they headlined and sold out Hammersmith Odeon. Their second (and first studio) album Don’t Point Your Finger, was released in 1981; followed by Third Degree in 1982. So by the time I saw them at this concert at Redcar Coatham Bowl, they were well established, with a set of their own songs and a wealth of classic R&B tracks to draw from. Nine Below Zero are an excellent R&B / blues band, who continue to play up and down the country. At the time of the Redcar gig they were playing a lot of songs from the Third Degree album, self-penned by Dennis Greaves, alongside a selection of old blues classics. I recall that they were all dressed very neatly, very much the ace face mods in sharp suits and ties, and that they played a blistering set of new wave tinged R&B.