Archive for the ‘Stone the Crows’ Category

Joe Cocker and many others Great Western Festival Lincoln 1972

Joe Cocker and many others Great Western Express Festival Lincoln May Bank holiday weekend 1972
I was 15 at the time and so excited about going to a real pop festival. My dad drove me and a couple of mates down on the Friday night, after we’d been to the local Mecca ballroom. We arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning, having missed the Friday night bands, and slept in a big crash tent for a few hours. We soon ran into a group of other lads who had also come down from Sunderland, and between us we built a cabin out of bails of hay and planks of wood which were lying around in the fields. I swear there were around 20 of us sleeping in there. We were quite close to the stage, and I pretty much stayed in that cabin all weekend. We could also stand on the roof and watch the bands. There was a massive (and very empty) press enclosure which divided the crowd from the stage, so no-one could get that close, which was bad planning. The weather was wet, with rain for most of the weekend. But I didn’t care; this was a real pop festival, and I was determined to enjoy every minute. The line-up for the remaining three days of the event was really strong. I’ll try and recall as much as I can.
Saturday. Nazareth opened the day around noon. I remember them playing Morning Dew, and thinking that they were ok. They were followed by Locomotive GT, Roxy Music who were playing their first major gig and Heads, Hands and Feet, featuring the great Albert Lee, who I remember playing “Warming up the band”. The first band I have strong memories of was Wishbone Ash. They hd just released “Argus” and their set consisted of all the classic Ash songs: Time Was, Blowin’ Free, Jailbait, The King Will Come, Phoenix etc. They were just wonderful at that time. Helen Reddy did not perform, and was replaced by Rory Gallagher, who had stayed on from the Friday to play again, as I understand his Friday set was cut short because of the weather. The Strawbs featured the classic Cousins/Hudson/Ford line-up at the time. This was before any of the hits. Pretty sure they played “The Hangman and the Papist” and “The Man who called himself Jesus”. Stone The Crows were next up. This was their first performance after Les Harvey’s death, and Steve Howe from Yes stood in on guitar. Maggie Bell’s performance was highly emotional and the crowd gave her the strongest reception of the day, sensing how real the blues was to her that night, coming only a few weeks after she had lost her boyfriend. Rod Stewart and The Faces closed Saturday night. I remember Rod wearing a silver lame jacket and that they were pretty ramshackle, but good.
Sunday. The Natural Acoustic Band started the day, followed by Focus who warmed the crowd up with Sylvia, and Brewers Droop who were a raunchy boogie band who popped up at a few festivals in those days. Spencer Davis played with his new band, which was heavy on steel guitar and country oriented, followed by The Incredible String Band. Lindisfarne were the first band to get the crowd going and were a big hit of the weekend. We were all on the roof of our cabin, singing along to Fog on the Tyne. Average White Band were followed by The Persuasions who were an a cappella soul band, and were impressive. The next big hit of the day were Slade, who just tore the place apart. They started this performance with a lot to prove to a “Hippy” crowd, who viewed slade as a pop act. By the end of the performance everyone was singing along and converted. They were just great. Monty Python’s Flying Circus, with the entire cast, did all their great sketches: Dead Parrot, Lumberjack Song, Argument; great fun. The Beach Boys closed the evening and were wonderful singing all the hits. Great end to a great day.
Monday. The morning featured some folk acts, who had been moved to the main stage because the folk tent had been damaged by the weather. I remember Jonathan Kelly performing and singing “Ballad of Cursed Anna” which is a favourite of mine to this day. Jackson Heights, featuring Lee Jackson from the Nice started the main part of the day off, followed by Atomic Rooster, Vincent Crane collapsing (as he normally did) during Gershatzer. Vinegar Joe with Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer were next up, followed by the Sutherland Brothers. The next two bands were both up and coming at the time: Genesis and Status Quo. They were both festival favourites, Peter Gabriel with his shaved forehead, telling those great stories to introduce beautiful songs such as Musical Box, and Quo were still trying to establish themselves as a proper rock band and shake off the pop image, which they were doing very well with tracks such as Someones Learning and Is It Really Me? Don McLean sang American Pie and the rain stopped for him. Humble Pie were something else. Steve Marriott was at the top of his game and was fully into his “My skin is white but my soul is black” routine. I Don’t Need No Doctor!! Just great. Sha Na Na, still featuring in all our minds from the Woodstock movie, had us all singing along. Joe Cocker closed the festival. He came on very late as I recall. There was a long wait and he took to the stage in the early hours of the morning. I remember him singing The Letter and Cry Me a River. He was good, but I was tired and cold by that time. All my mates had gone to sleep.
Other memories of the weekend. A large black and white screen above the stage, which worked some of the time. They showed movies on it throughout the night. I watched Marlon Brando in The Wild One, which was banned in the UK (!) at the time. Lots of chants of Wally. People openly selling dope with price lists on their tents. Hari Krishna’s giving out free food. A straw fight during (I think) Lindisfarne’s set. Everyone around me had also been to the Bickershaw festival a couple of weeks before, and were taking about how great The Grateful Dead and Captain Beefheart were. I was dead jealous.
I caught the train back on Tuesday. My mates variously hitched and scored lifts. I arrived home tired, unwashed, and determined to go to as many festivals as I could in the future, which I sort of stuck to for the remainder of the 70s.

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Maggie Bell and Stone the Crows in concert 1971 – 1974

Maggie Bell and Stone the Crows in concert 1971 – 1974
I saw Stone the Crows in concert three times in 1971 and 1972. The first time was in late 1971 at Sunderland Locarno. This was the original band with Maggie Bell on vocals, and her partner Les Harvey (Alex’s younger brother) on guitar, before he was sadly electrocuted and killed on stage at Swansea Top Rank, by touching a live mike. They also had James Dewar on bass, who went on to have great success with Robin Trower. Maggie was often, and not unfairly, compared to Janis Joplin at the time, and the band were a great blues rock act. Although they were a great live act, they still weren’t that well known, and I recall standing near the front in a pretty small crowd watching Maggie, dressed in a denim jacket and jeans, tearing her way through the set. There was a hard edge about Maggie and her singing, and you felt that her blues matched the tough street image that Glasgow had at the time. I next saw Stone The Crows at the Lincoln Festival, which was their first performance after Les’ death, and Steve Howe from Yes stood in on guitar. The Lincoln performance was highly emotional and the crowd gave Maggie the strongest reception of the day, sensing how real the blues was to her that night, coming only a few weeks after she had lost her boyfriend. By September 1972, the band had a permanent new member in ex-Thunderclap Newman young guitar prodigy Jimmy McCulloch, a new album Ontinuous Performance, and a UK tour which called at the City Hall. Support at the City Hall came from Tennent and Morrison (mis-splet on the ticket), although I don’t pretend to remember much about them. Stand out gig tracks throughout those days were Penicillin Blues (I can picture Maggie now singing “You got the needle in me baby”) and a 20 minute version of Dylan’s Hollis Brown, and Niagara. They were a pretty incredible live act, and played some great blues at the time. By 1973, Stone The Crows had split, and Maggie had gone solo. I saw her twice in 1974. The first time was on the bill of The Who’s excellent Charlton gig, and the second was at The City Hall, with the wonderful Pretty Things as support. The Petty Things were now label mates, both appearing on Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label. Her set featured largely new material from her Queen of the Night and Suicide Sal lps. She put on a great rock show, but some of the raw power, and blues, of Stone The Crows had been lost. She’d moved to a more traditional heavy rock format (as had label-mates The Pretty Things), and in my mind, it didn’t suit her as well as the blues that she had grown up with. Maggie went on to have a hit with “Hold Me” which she sang with B A Robertson, and she also sang the theme tunes to the TV shows Hazell and Taggart. She moved to Holland and all but disappeared from the music scene, returning to the UK a few years ago. She is now playing solo, sometimes with blues singer Dave Kelly and sometimes in the British Blues Quartet, in the UK, Germany and mainland Europe. I haven’t caught up with her yet, and really must do so; it would be great to attend a Maggie Bell gig again.