Archive for the ‘Reading festival’ Category

Reading Festival 22nd – 24th August 1980

Reading Festival 22nd – 24th August 1980
readingpaper80DJs: 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
readingprog80Sunday 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.

Reading Festival 24th – 26th August 1979

Reading Festival 24th – 26th August 1979readingprog79
This was my 8th visit to Reading. The line-up was a predictable mix of new wave and heavy rock. It was also a year of line-up changes. Two of the main bands who were billed to play: Thin Lizzy and The Ramones did not appear. Thin Lizzy pulled out at a few days notice due to Gary Moore’s departure from the band. Lizzy were replaced by Scorpions and The Ramones by Nils Lofgren. Both of these changes were major disappointments. The weather wasn’t bad and the event was well-attended, but didn’t sell out. My recollections of the weekend are below:
Friday line-up: Bite the Pillow, The Jags, Punishment of Luxury, Doll by Doll, The Cure, Wilko Johnson, Motorhead, The Tourists, The Police.
Friday was the “new wave” day. I watched all of the bands from Punilux onwards. Highlights were The Cure who impressed me even though the only song I had heard before was “Killing an Arab”, and Wilko and Motorhead, both acts going down a storm with the crowd, who preferred their rock heavier and more traditional. The Police were riding on the crest of a wave of success, and were amazing, Sting had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and the entire field sang along to the hits. It was great to witness a band at their peak.
The Police setlist: Deathwish; Next To You; So Lonely; Truth Hits Everybody; Walking On The Moon; Hole In My Life; Fall Out; Message In A Bottle; The Bed’s Too Big Without You; Peanuts; Roxanne; Can’t Stand Losing You; Landlord; Born In The 60s
Saturday line-up: Root Boy Slim; Fame; The Yachts; Little Bo Bitch (not sure that they played?); The Movies; Bram Tchaikovsky; Gillan; Steve Hackett; Cheap Trick; Inner Circle; Scorpions
reading79badgeWe spent much of Saturday enjoying the delights of local hostelries and didn’t venture into the arena until later in the day. To be honest, looking at the line-up now, it was pretty uninspiring. We made it into the festival for Gillan onwards. Gillan seemed to play everywhere at the time, and were always good fun. I’d seen them so many times that I was getting to know the new songs, but I also always looked forward to hearing Purple classics, which they did including ‘Smoke on the Water”. Steve Hackett played “I Know What I Like” which prompted a mass crowd singalong. The highlight was Cheap Trick with crazy antics from Rick Nielson and an exquisite performance by Robin Zander. A video of their performance that night is on YouTube. You can find “I Want You To Want Me” here, a bit rough, but still amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTLEYcO2VnE
For the encore Cheap Trick were joined onstage by Dave Edmunds and Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs for a rendition of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper”. Classic 😄
Inner Circle’s reggae rhythms went down well. Scorpions were great (I really liked “Loving You Sunday Morning” at the time), but we were disappointed that we weren’t seeing Lizzy who had become a Reading favourite and were massive at the time.
readingpaper79Sunday line-up: The Cobbers; Terra Nova; Speedometers; Zaine Griff; Wild Horses; The Members; Molly Hatchett; Climax Blues Band; Nils Lofgren; Peter Gabriel; Whitesnake.
Sunday highlights for me were The Members who were in the charts with “Sounds of the Suburbs” and got a mixed reaction from the crowds with some people liking them, and others lobbing cans, and Peter Gabriel who started with “Biko” and played classic solo tracks like “Moribund The Burgermeister”, “Solsbury Hill” and “Here Comes The Flood”. Phil Collins joined Gabriel for the end of his set for “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”. Whitesnake closed the evening and were worthy headliners (although they weren’t billed as so, with Peter Gabriel and non-showers The Ramones having shared top billing in the pre-festival publicity). They started with an amazing new song “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues” which set the tone for the evening. Ian Paice had just joined on drums and Whitesnake now had three former Purple members (Coverdale, Lord and Paice).
Whitesnake setlist: Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues; Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City; Steal Away; Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick; Mistreated; Soldier Of Fortune; Love Hunter; Breakdown; Whitesnake Boogie.
An enjoyable Reading weekend, if not one of the strongest line-ups.

Slade become heavy metal heroes at the Reading Festival 24th August 1980

Slade become heavy metal heroes at the Reading Festival 24th August 1980
SladeReadingFestival1980
Their singles weren’t selling, and their concerts were no longer drawing in the crowds. In fact, at the time of that they took a last-minute call asking them to appear at the 1980 Reading Festival, Slade were on the verge of packing it all in. “We had to pay to park in the public area,” recalls Jim Lea incredulously. “With no roadies, we had to carry our own gear and there was even trouble getting into the backstage area!” From the SladeInEngland site” “Reading Rock 1980 was without a doubt one of the bands finest hours….As far as their history was concerned, perhaps only their groundbreaking appearance at the Great Western Festival at Lincoln in 1972 had as much impact on their standing with the music going public, and the music writing press, as the Reading Festival in 1980.”
By 1980, 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 bands Def Leppard and Iron Maiden. Metal legend Ozzy Osbourne was billed to play on the Sunday with his new band Blizzard of Oz, but rumours started to go around the festival site, that Ozzy wasn’t going to show. Soon those rumours started to hint at who might replace Ozzy, and the name in the frame was…wait for it….Slade. At first this seemed implausable. Slade were out in the “wilderness”, playing in small clubs. How would a staunch heavy metal crowd react to them? The festival organisers wouldn’t take the risk, would they? But the more I thought about it, the more I began to hope that it would happen, and the more I began to think it might really work out well for Slade. After all, I’d seen a similar thing happen eight years before at Lincoln, when Slade turned around a potential disaster and secured themselves a special place in the heart of rock fans. I had no doubt that they had the ability, the songs, the passion and the supreme rock’n’roll sensibilities and credentials to do the same again. I’d seen them play Middlesbrough Rock Garden a couple of months earlier, so I knew that Slade were performing well, powered on all of four cylinders, and ready to rock. And if anyone had the bottle to face the Reading crowd, and a potential shower of Party Seven cans, and talk them round, it was Noddy.
I think it was on the Saturday night that DJ Bob Harris (or it may have been John Peel; they were both there) confirmed that Slade would be replacing Ozzy, to massive boos from the crowd. Slade, those guys who sing the Christmas song? How could they replace a metal legend like Ozzy? The crowd was having none of it. I’m sure many were already plotting how they were going to show Slade exactly what they thought of them. This would no doubt involve lobbing cans at the stage, and probably filling them with piss first.
sladeliveatreadingSunday afternoon came. Slade were to appear after glam heavy metal band Girl, and just before new heroes Def Leppard. My mate Dave and I were willing it to work out. 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. I had tears in my eyes.
From the SladeInWales site: “Slade’s appearance at the Reading Festival in 1980 will go down in the annals of rock history as one of the great comeback stories….Slade then went out and kicked everyone’s ass so hard they completely stole the show. All the British press (who had been ignoring Slade for some years by this point) wrote about Reading that year was Slade, and how they were back, dynamic, one of the greatest live bands ever….The Reading Festival in 1980 gave Slade a new lease in life.”
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. I could see Chas at the side grinning.”
The event was recorded and a few tracks were released as an EP. For their next tour, Slade were back in concert halls, and were filling them.
Set list: Dizzy Mamma; My Baby Left Me; Take Me Bak ‘Ome; When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’; Wheels Ain’t Coming Down; Everyday; Somethin’ Else; Pistol Packin’ Mama; Keep a Rollin’; You’ll Never Walk Alone (Noddy leading the crowd in a mass singalong); Mama Weer All Crazee Now; Get Down and Get With It (mayhem; mass stomping of feet); Merry Xmas Everybody (well they had to play it, didn’t they, and the crowd sang the chorus; a surreal moment, a field full of denim singing along with Noddy; it was wonderful); Cum on Feel the Noize; Born to Be Wild (a perfect closer; follow that Def Leppard)
A great day 🙂
But….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.
Thanks to Andrew King for allowing use of his image of Slade onstage at Reading, through the Wikimedia Commons licence.

The Reading Rock Festival 25 – 27th August 1978

The Reading Rock Festival 25 – 27th August 1978
readingprog1 This was the year punk finally arrived. The festival was now officially known as the Reading Rock Festival, having dropped “jazz” from the title and the line-up, and weekend tickets cost all of £8.95. Our old friend John Peel was compere, as always, and a van load of us descended on the riverside site, having driven part of the way down on Thursday, gone for a drink in Wetherby and slept on Wetherby racecourse (the crazy things you do when you are young 🙂 ) Highlights of the weekend for me were Penetration (I was a big fan at the time), Sham 69, The Jam, Status Quo (most of our group were heavily into them) and Patti Smith.
Friday line-up: Dennis O’Brien; The Automatics; New Hearts (who would become mods and change their name to Secret Affair); Radio Stars; Penetration; Sham 69; The Pirates; Ultravox; The Jam.
Memories: Radio Stars were always good for a laugh; “Dirty Pictures” (turn me on) was a favourite at the time; it was great to see local north east punk heroes playing up on the massive Reading stage Penetration, although they suffered from murky sound throughout their set; The Pirates rocked the place with no-nonsense rock’n’roll, “Shaking All Over” and ace guitarist the late Mick Green (a big influence on Wilko); and the John Foxx version of Ultravox! played a quite moody atmospheric electronic set. The main event was Sham 69, who were excellent with Jimmy Pursey his usual cockney “boy on the streets” self, and those anthems “What have we got?”, “Borstal Breakout” and “If the Kids are United”. The Sham Army had come across to Reading in force, all braces, No 2 cuts, and Doc Martins, and ready to take on those hippies. We were right at the front, although we soon moved to the side of the crowd when the fights started. A bunch of skins climbed on to the stage, and Pursey tried to call order, pleading with the crowd to stop fighting to no avail. He was in tears, watching bedlam and violence all around him, and not being able to do anything to stop it. But that was the nature of a Sham gig at the time. Jimmy even brought Steve Hillage on stage to show that it was ok to mix with hippies, but that just annoyed the skins more. A nasty, frightening experience, which marred an excellent performance by Sham. The Jam were great, Weller the edgy young mod, getting himself into a strop at the poor sound quality, and trashing his gear. Punk really had arrived at Reading.
The Jam set included: Mr Clean ; Away From the Numbers; Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane; Tonight at Noon; David Watts; Down in the Tube Station at Midnight; “A” Bomb in Wardour Street; News of the World
Saturday line-up: Speedometors; The Business; Jenny Darren; Next; Gruppo Sportivo; Nutz; Greg Kihn Band; Lindisfarne; Spirit; The Motors; Status Quo.
readingprog2Saturday was a little more straightforward rock. Lindisfarne had recently reunited and hit the charts with “Run For Home”. The Motors were OK (Airport!). Spirit were excellent, with great Hendrix-style guitar from Randy California. Status Quo played a solid respectable set, nothing earth shattering. I know quite a few people were disappointed with them that night, but I thought they were OK. “Dirty Water’ was to become a crowd singalong favourite.
Status Quo setlist: Caroline; Roll Over Lay Down; Backwater; Rockers Rollin; Is There A Better Way; You Don’t Own Me; Hold You Back; Rockin All Over The World; Dirty Water; 4500 Times; Big Fat Mama; Don’t Waste My Time; Roadhouse Blues; Rain; Down Down; Bye Bye Johnny.
Sunday line-up: After The Fire; Chelsea; Pacific Eardrum; Bethnal; Squeeze; John Otway; The Albion Band; Paul Inder; Ian Gillan Band; Tom Robinson Band; Foreigner; Patti Smith Group.
Memories: Paul Inder is Lemmy’s son and was 11 years old (!) at the time; what a great thing to do when you are 11 🙂 ; Bethnal were a good band, who had a manic violin player; Squeeze were fun; Otway was as crazy as ever (Really Free); Tom Robinson led a mass singalong of “Glad to be Gay”; and Foreigner went down well with the crowd. But the day belonged to Patti Smith who was amazing. I was a big fan and left my mates to push my way right to the front of the crowd for Patti’s set. She had the whole crowd with her as she tore into “Gloria”, “Because the Night” and great covers of the Byrds’ “So You Want to Be (A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star)” and the Who’s “My Generation”. Stunning. I saw her again at Newcastle City Hall two days later and she was equally as electric.
Patti Smith setlist: Rock n Roll Nigger; Privilege (Set Me Free); Redondo Beach; Free Money; Ghost Dance; It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World; So You Want to Be (A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star); Ask the Angels; 25th Floor; Because the Night; Gloria, You Light Up My Life; My Generation; Godspeed

Reading Festival 26th – 28th August 1977

Reading Festival 26th – 28th August 1977
reading1977prog1Reading 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.
reading1977Sunday’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 🙂

The Reading Festival 27 – 29 August 1976

The Reading Festival 27 – 29 August 1976
readingprog It was August Bank Holiday 1976 and I was back at Reading for the annual festival. By now a group of us went every year, usually traveling down in the back of a hired transit van. The line-up for this festival wasn’t as strong as previous years, and included a mix of reggae, classic rock, underground and heavy metal bands. Punk was on the horizon, but yet to break through. The other memories I have are of rain (some, but not lots in 1976, as I recall), mud, lots of drunkenness (by us, and every one else as I remember), and lots (and I mean lots) of can fights, which seemed fun at the time, but were probably actually pretty dangerous. If you got a half-full can of Watney’s Red Barrel on the back of your head, you really knew about it, and several people must have come home from the festival with pretty nasty cuts and scars. The festival was moving from a friendly, hippy vibe to a drunken, laddish, almost aggro vibe. This also matched the way the line-up and the music would develop, as it moved more to heavy metal in the late ’70s. The main attraction for us this year was Rory, who was the man, and a hero to us all.
Friday’s line-up consisted of Stallion (don’t recall who they were), Roy St John (American pub rock), U Roy (reggae), Supercharge (a Liverpool band fronted by singer and sax player Albie Donnelly, who had quite a bit of success in the mid-70s and played a lot up and down the country; I remember seeing them several times), Mighty Diamonds (reggae), Mallard (Cpt Beefheart’s original Magic Band, and pretty good too) and headliners the hippy, trippy and quite weird Gong. I remember watching Mallard and Gong, who were both pretty good.
reading76Saturday had Nick Pickett (a folk singer, who I’d seen supporting Curved Air a few years earlier), Eddie & The Hot Rods (classed as pub rock as much as punk at this stage), Moon, Pat Travers (ace guitarist), Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum, Sadista Sisters, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Van Der Graaf Generator, Phil Manzanera and the 801 band, Camel and Rory Gallagher. Stand outs for me were Van Der Graaf who played an amazing extended version of Killer (John Peel: “Bloody marvellous, Van der Graaf Generator. Come on let’s here it for them”), Manfred Mann, and Phil Manzanera and the 801 band, which was seen as a pretty big deal at the time as Phil had assembled a stella line-up of himself (guitar), ex-Roxy compatriot Brian Eno (keyboards, synthesizers, vocals), Bill MacCormick (bass, vocals), Simon Phillips (drums), Francis Monkman (ex-Curved Air, piano and clavinet) and Lloyd Watson (ace slide-guitar, vocals). The 801 band released one album, and a live lp which was recorded at one of three gigs that they played, at the Festival Hall. They played a great version of the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows. But Rory was the highlight of the weekend. We were all massive fans, and made our way to the front of the crowd for his set, which was just amazing. A recording of Rory’s set that night exist which shows that he played: Take What I Want; Bought and Sold; Everybody Wants To Know; Drinkin’ Muddy Water; Tattoo’d Lady; Calling Card; Secret Agent; Pistol Slapper Blues; Too Much Alcohol; Souped-Up Ford and Bullfrog Blues. The Rory Gallagher band was Rory (guitar, vocals), Lou Martin (keyboards), the great Gerry McAvoy (bass) and Rod de’Ath (drums).
reading76Sunday featured: Howard Bragen; Aft; The Enid (who got the crowd singing along with Land Of Hope And Glory and became a festival favourite), A Band Called ‘O’; Back Door (very jazzy); Sassafras; Brand X (featured Phil Collins on drums); AC/DC (one of their early UK appearances, and just blew everyone away; Angus and Bon Scott on top form); Sutherland Bros & Quiver; Ted Nugent (had some arguments with the crowd who were throwing cans at him); Black Oak Arkansas (Jim Dandy to the Rescue 🙂 ) and Osibisa (who were billed as special mystery guests, which seemed a bit of a let down, but got the crowd going and went down well).
Another fun time had by all 🙂
Note; for the first time there was an official glossy programme, as well as the newspaper programme, produced by the local Evening Post. Both are pictured here.

The Reading Festival 22nd – 24th August 1975

The Reading Festival 22nd – 24th August 1975
reading75flyerThe Reading Festival hit its peak of success in the mid ’70s, and the 1975 festival sold out in advance. Although the previous years’ festivals that I had attended all seemed pretty full, you were still able to roll up and pay at the entrance. In 1975 the success of the festival and the draw of bands like Yes and Wishbone Ash ensured the site was completely packed, with hardly any room to be found in the campsites and car parks.
Friday line-up: Stella, Judas Priest, Wally, Kokomo, UFO, Dr Feelgood, Hawkwind. Judas Priest were an up and coming heavy rock band and were gigging constantly, as were UFO. Kokomo were a jazz/rock/funk outfit who were very successful during the ’70s. But the big success of Friday (and arguably the entire weekend) was Dr Feelgood, who were a massive hit with the festival crowd; Wilko and Lee being on red hot form. I was with a couple of guys who had recently become big Feelgood fans; “Back In The Night” had just been released and they were constantly singing it in my ear. “All around visible signs of the Doctor’s now-massive popularity – such as the many home-made banners (“Feelgood”, “Wilko” et al), the rapturous reception, the sea-of-weaving arms” (NME, 1975). “When Dr Feelgood stamped off they had within an hour, transformed this alfresco association into a tiny, sweaty, steaming R&B club. Charisma is too weak a word to describe what the Feelgoods had going for them that night.” (Brian Harrigan, Melody Maker, August 30, 1975). Hawkwind were ok, but it was cold, and they found it difficult to follow the Feelgood’s storming set.
readingprog75Saturday line-up: Zzebra, SNAFU, Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, Kursaal Flyers, Thin Lizzy, Alan Stivell, Heavy Metal Kids (billed simply as “Kids” in the programme), Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Supertramp, Yes.
My memories are of Thin Lizzy delivering an excellent set as always; they were gradually building up their own following and would soon break through to become massive; The Heavy Metal Kids being as OTT as ever; and Yes, who were amazing. I must also mention the Kursaal Flyers, who are sadly often forgotten in the history of pub rock; they would hit the charts in the following year with the great pop single: “Little Does She Know” (“I know that she knows that I know she’s two timing me”). Supertramp were on the verge of mega-success; they had hit the charts with “Dreamer” and had a considerable following. I was, and remain, a big Yes fan and their performance at Reading came at a point where the band were at the peak of their success. I recall it being very cold, with epic versions of “Close to the Edge” and “And You and I”, and a great version of “Roundabout” as an encore (very late and off to our tents). A bootleg exists of Yes’ set that night: Sound Chaser; Close To The Edge; And You And I; Awaken; The Gates Of Delirium; I’ve Seen All Good People; Ancient; Long Distance Run Around; Ritual; Roundabout.
reading75Sunday line-up: Joan Armatrading, Babe Ruth, String Driven Thing, Climax Blues Band, Caravan, Soft Machine, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Robin Trower, Wishbone Ash. My memory of Sunday is of Wishbone Ash. Like Yes they were enjoying massive success at the time, and also like Yes they played a set of pure class, with the twin guitars of Andy Powell and Laurie Wisefield soaring through the cool, late Sunday evening.
Our DJs for the weekend were once again John Peel and Jerry Floyd. The weather was cold, with some rain, and the beer can fights were constant throughout the weekend. The festival had always been an organised, carefully planned event, but was becoming even more commercial. The nature of the festival, and its line-up, would transform further in the years which followed; with the emergence of punk and the re-emergence of heavy metal through the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal). Any elements of the jazz festivals of the 60s had also disappeared.
Thanks to BaldBoris for allowing his image of the festival to be used through the WikiMedia Commons licence agreement.