Steeleye Span Middlesbrough Town Hall 22nd August 1977
Steeleye Span brought in producer Mike Batt (best known for his work with the Wombles) to work on their eighth album “All Around My Hat”. The single release of the title track reached number 5 in the UK Charts in late 1975, giving them their biggest chart success.
The next time I saw Steeleye Span was at Middlesbrough Town Hall on 22nd August 1977. The Town Hall was packed, and my mate and I had seats right down the front, in the second row. My enduring memories of the gig are of two things. The first is just how rocky the band had become. Of course they played “All Around My Hat”, which is actually a rock’n’roll song, but I was surprised how many of the other songs had an electric boogie rhythm. They even did a great version of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On”. And the second memory is of Maddy dancing. She was wearing a long, pure white skirt which swirled around as she danced and twirled. She danced across the stage, and down into the audience, up one aisle, across the back of the hall and back down the other aisle. That night Maddy was our English maid, with the voice of our green and pleasant land, and dancing the morris dance for us all. A great concert, and the best time I saw Steeleye Span.
The line-up of the band at the time was: Tim Hart (guitars, vocals), Maddy Prior (vocals and dance), Rick Kemp (bass, vocals), Nigel Pegrum (drums, percussion), the return of Martin Carthy (guitars, vocals) and John Kirkpatrick (accordion, vocals)
“Doesn’t it move you just a little bit?
And if you watch I think the chance is
That it will lift your heart a little bit
Ooh, well I mean, when Maddy dances
Ooh, well I mean, when Maddy dances”
(When Maddy Dances, by Ralph McTell)
Steeleye Span & Amazing Blondel Newcastle City Hall 26th October 1972
Steeleye Span, along with Fairport Convention, are pioneers of British folk rock. Their music successfully marries traditional English folk music with a harder, electric sound. In their early days, Steeleye Span played almost exclusively traditional folk songs. I first saw them as the support act for the mighty Jethro Tull on their spring 1971 tour when it called at Sunderland Empire. Steeleye Span’s line-up was, at that time, Tim Hart (guitars, vocals), Maddy Prior (vocals and twirling skirt dancing), Ashley Hutchings (bass), Martin Carthy (guitars, vocals) and Peter Knight (strings, keyboards, guitars, vocals). Note, the band had no drummer, which made the line-up seem somewhat different.
By the time of this 1972 headlining concert at Newcastle City Hall, Ashley Hutchings and Martin Carthy had both departed and had been replaced by Bob Johnson (guitars, vocals) and Rick Kemp (bass, drums, vocals).
This was a strong double bill, and I remember that my reason for going along to the concert was partly to see support act Amazing Blondel. Some of my friends had seen Amazing Blondel supporting Free, and came back gushing with glowing reports of these three crazy guys with amazingly long hair who played strange quaint medieval instruments. Amazing Blondel were indeed “amazing”. They were reportedly influenced by their childhood memories of the Robin Hood TV series, and its mediaeval soundtrack. Indeed, they named their band after Blondel de Nesle, a musician in the court of Richard the First. Their Medieval brand of folk rock was, in fact, an authentic attempt to recreate Renaissance music, using genuine period instruments such as lutes and recorders, and interlacing their songs with old English banter and bawdy jokes. Great stuff!
Steeleye Span were starting to gain their own following, and their version of the 16th Century Christmas carol “Gaudete” was becoming a big live concert favourite. The City Hall was full and both bands went down well. Steeleye Span’s set also featured some quite dark folk songs which told stories of medieval goings on, murders, affairs, etc. and a great version of “John Barleycorn”.
I had a double dose of Steeleye Span, having seen them just a month or so before when they featured on the bill at the Grangemouth pop festival. Happy days.
Christus est natus
Ex Maria Virgine
The Grangemouth Pop Festival
Line up: Beck Bogert Appice; Status Quo; Steeleye Span; Lindisfarne; The Everley Brothers; Beggars Opera; Average White Band; Sunshine; Billy Connolly; The Chris McClure Section; MC: John Peel. All for £1.50!
I’m going to see Billy Connolly at Newcastle City Hall on Thursday night. I’m looking forward to the gig, and it made me think about the couple of times I’ve seen Billy Connolly in the past. The first time I saw him was at The Grangemouth Pop Festival in Scotland in 1972 (see ticket right). At the time he was unknown outside Scotland and, as he delighted in telling us, he was scared shitless about this gig, as it was his biggest to date. The festival was organised by Great Western Festivals, who had also run the excellent Lincoln Festival which I attended earlier in 1972, and was billed as Scotland’s first pop festival. My friend Nicky and I went by train to the gig. Grangemouth is north west of Edinburgh. The festival took place on Saturday 23 September 1972 and was part of the Grangemouth centenary celebrations. It was held in a sports stadium, which was in an industrial area, next to a gasworks, which spewed smoke over us at various times during the day. It wasn’t that well attended as I recall, with quite a heavy atmosphere, drunkenness, and some fights as the day went on. The promised line up was good, however a few of the bands who were billed did not play; a not uncommon occurrence in those days. Billy Connolly (see left from the programme of the festival) delivered a set pretty early during the day which was a mix of comedy and folk songs, and was one of the hits of the day for me. He’d just had a success at the Edinburgh festival and was just starting to make a name for himself.Other highlights of the day were Beggars Opera who were also local heroes with great swirling Hammond organ, The Everley Brothers who sang all those timeless hits, and Steeleye Span, who were still playing quite traditionally-based elecric folk at that time, before the days of All Around My Hat. Status Quo were at the top of their game in the early 70s, and were great favourites of Peel, who was DJ/MC for the day. Marsh Hunt was to seen wandering around the crowd. The extract to the right, which is taken from the newspaper programme (also see below) shows the line up and timings. Chris Mclure, who was another local hero, also played. Unfortunately, neither Uriah Heep or The Electric Light Orchestra played. Beck, Bogert and Appice were the main reason we went along, and Beck was a revelation. His guitar playing eclipses Clapton in my view, and I was in awe of him that night. I remember him playing Superstition and am pretty sure that he used a mouth-tube, which was the first time I’d seen suc a strange contraption, and was a few years before Peter Frampton used one on Show Me The Way. I can’t remember much of the set, but I’m pretty sure it contained Morning Dew, a new song called Black Cat Moan, Going Down, and an epic version of Keep Me Hanging On, which Bogert and Appice will have brought with them from Vanilla Fudge. After the gig we got the train back to Edinburgh, where we spent the night trying, and failing, to sleep on some pretty hard and uncomfortable benches, until it was time for the first train back to Newcastle on the Sunday morning.
Steeleye Span Sage Gateshead Dec 16 2009
Another band celebrating 40 years together with an anniversary tour. I was never a massive fan of Steeleye, but I did see them a few times in the 1970s, the first being as support for Jethro Tull on the Aqualung tour at Sunderland Empire. I also recall seeing them at Newcastle City Hall (with the great Amazing Blondell as support), the Grangemouth Festival in Scotland in 1972 or 73 and a wonderful night at Middlesbrough Town Hall around the time All Around My Hat was in the charts where Maddy danced up and down the aisles, big skirts twirling, to the delight of the packed hall.
So some 30 years or more on from my last Steeleye encounter I was in the cheap seats upstairs in the Sage to see what the band were like now. The show was in two halves with an interval, and the hall was pretty full with levels 1 and 2 packed and level 3 quite full. The set was just what I had expected and hoped for, a good mix of their own particular brand of folk-rock. Maddy Prior looks great and dances just as she did all those years ago (she didn’t venture into the aisles this time). The rest of the band are all great musicians and the sound was clear and crisp as it often is in the lovely Sage concert hall. I can’t pretend to have recognised many of the songs, but I enjoyed them all the same. The encore was All Around My Hat to which we all sang along. A great evenings entertainment, which relived some old memories for me. It was nice to see them again.