The Who Charlton Athletic Football Club 31st May 1976
Support from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Little Feat, The Outlaws, Chapman and Whitney Streetwalkers, and Widowmaker.
In 1976 The Who played three massive U.K. shows at football stadiums in Charlton, Glasgow and Swansea. The short tour was billed as “The Who Put the Boot In”. I attended the Charlton gig which was rated at the time as the loudest concert ever by the Guiness Book of Records. These were also The Who’s final UK concerts with drummer Keith Moon, apart from a couple of low key gigs filmed for “The Kids Are Alright” movie.
The Charlton concert took place on May bank holiday Monday 1976. A car load of us, with me driving, made the journey down to London on Sunday. We stayed at the flat of a mate who was studying in London, and on Monday morning we drove across London to Charlton and parked in a street somewhere close to the ground. When we got to the gates of the stadium it was very clear that something was wrong. There was a massive crush around the gate, a heavy police presence, and loads of fans being turned away, because they had counterfeit tickets which had been circulating in London for some days before the show. Our tickets were fine, and we eventually made our way through the crowds and into the stadium. When we did manage to get in, we found the place completely ram packed; even more so than for the previous Who concert in 1974. Reports suggest that more than 80,000 people were crammed into a stadium with a concert crowd limit of 50,000. Eventually the police stopped letting anyone in for safety reasons, and many fans with real tickets were not admitted. As compensation, they were given a free ticket to the Swansea show instead, and free buses were laid on to take them there.
Support came from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Little Feat, The Outlaws, Streetwalkers, and Widowmaker, featuring Steve Ellis and Ariel Bender, who opened the proceedings and were pretty good too. Streetwalkers were also great, and SAHB were excellent, with Alex on top form; they almost (but not quite) stole the show from the Who.
It was wet, with rain falling throughout the day. Not much use for the sun visors which were given away free by Sounds magazine (I still have mine unworn, see left). There was some violence within the crowd, as there was at the 1974 concert, with fights breaking out on the pitch and the terraces. We waited patiently during a long delay before the Who came on, caused by a few fans who had scaled the lighting towers in the hope of gaining a better view. The couple of guys who made it up there were told, over the PA, that the show wouldn’t start until they came down. Some fans on the pitch started to chant “get down” and eventually the guys did so. Shortly afterwards the Who ran out onto the very wet stage, and Roger Daltrey slipped over, going his full length, sliding from one end of the stage to the other. He got up and introduced the band as “The Who On Ice”. They started, as usual, with “I Can’t Explain” followed by “Substitute”. Townshend taunted us all “thank you for waiting for us and getting so wet”. Pete continued to make cracks to the audience throughout the evening, and at one point shouted out to stop a fight at the front of the crowd. An audience recording exists, on which you can also hear Keith Moon shouting at Townshend: “Shut up! ….. You’d think you’ve got some kind of vested interest. I’ve seen your vests, and they stink…underneath this I’m totally nude, Peter! I don’t need any of your great flowing poncey robes. I don’t need all your glittering sequins to be a star! I don’t need to jump in the air, flash what little crotch I’ve got. And I must admit I’ve had no complaints.”
The set was similar to that which they had been playing since 1975, with several of the old ’60s classics, a couple from Quadrophenia, a couple from their current album “The Who By Numbers”, and a “Tommy” segment, with Keith playing his parts as “Uncle Ernie” in “Fiddle About” and “Tommy’s Holiday Camp.” The laser light show, first seen during the 1975 tour, was revealed during “See Me Feel Me”, by which time it was dark. The lasers shot through the smoke to mirrors on the light towers, with blue beams bouncing around the entire stadium, and red laser beams cutting through them. Im sure it would seem quite primitive now, but it was impressive at the time. I remember the entire stadium singing along to “Listening to you”: “Listening to you I get the music. Gazing at you I get the heat. Following you I climb the mountain. I get excitement at your feet!” with laser beams criss crossing the crowd in the darkness. An amazing moment. The Who finished with “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, ending with an incredible scream from Roger. We chanted “We Want The Who” for 5 or 10 minutes, but there was no encore, as was often the case for a Who concert at the time.
It took ages to find the car. We walked from street to street; each one looked the same, and I hadn’t noted the street name. After what seemed like hours, but probably wasn’t, we located my car and set off through the crowded streets. At one point we were sat stationary in a queue of traffic, when a big black limo pulled up alongside. Sitting alone in the back seat was Pete Townshend. We waved but he didn’t respond.
It’s a long drive from London to the north east, and the dawn was breaking as I drove up Houghton Cut. My mates were all asleep around me. A couple of them went straight to work. Happy days. I think I’ve just decided that The Who actually were the greatest rock band of the 70s. 🙂
Setlist: I Can’t Explain; Substitute; My Wife; Baba O’Riley; Squeeze Box; Behind Blue Eyes; Dreaming From The Waist; Magic Bus; Amazing Journey; Sparks; The Acid Queen; Fiddle About; Pinball Wizard; I’m Free; Tommy’s Holiday Camp; We’re Not Gonna Take It; Summertime Blues; My Generation; Join Together; My Generation Blues; Won’t Get Fooled Again
The Who stopped touring after 1976, largely as a result of Keith Moon’s failing health, caused by alcohol issues. Keith Moon died on 7th Sept 1978 of an overdose of heminevrin, prescribed to combat alcoholism. The Who’s 1978 album “Who Are You” was released two weeks before his death. Keith Moon was one of rock’s finest drummers, but he was so much more. Moon was the crazy, manic, childish fun side of The Who; the perfect foil to Townshend’s moods, and although The Who would continue as a strong rock force, a Who concert could never be quite the same again.
Tomorrow I will write about the first time I saw The Who without Moon, at a low key comeback show at Edinburgh Odeon in 1979.
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The Who Charlton Athletic Football Club 31st May 1976