T Rex Newcastle City Hall 24th June 1972 6pm and 8.30pm
It is early 1972 and it all started with a question. “Who is the best live band?” The silly questions that kids ask each other, and that seem so important at the time. “Who is the best live band?”. The answers were usually Led Zeppelin (we had all seem them live a few months before and they totally blew us away), Free, Family (both bands were big favourites with rock fans in the North East), Deep Purple, The Stones, oh and T Rex. Eh? Yes one guy was insistent that the best band he had ever seen live was T Rex. We scoffed at this. T Rex? Hadn’t they “sold out” and become teenyboppers? Now if he had said Tyrannosaurus Rex (we would all nod sagely and knowingly when that name was mentioned) we might agree. Tyrannosaurus Rex were cool, progressive, hippy and all those cool things. But T Rex?
It’s funny how such trivial things are so crucial when you are young.
My friend posed a challenge to me. I had to go and see T Rex with him the next time they came, so that I could see for myself. I agreed.
Roll on to June 1972. T Rex have announced a short tour and are coming to Newcastle City Hall. They are playing two shows, at 6.00pm and 8.30pm. Now being a man of my word I have to keep my promise. I’ve never see T Rex live. I missed out on seeing Tyrannosaurus Rex, which I regret, and at the time I secretly fancied seeing T Rex, but it had become too uncool to admit to that, or so I thought. Any way, I had accepted the challenge, so I had to go, and secretly I was quite looking forward to it. But first there was the task of getting tickets. T Rex were the hottest ticket (with teenage girls) at the time. The tickets went on sale on a Saturday morning, and my friend and I agreed to meet early in the morning and get the train through to Newcastle, in time for the box office opening. When we arrived at the City Hall the queue was across the road and right down the street. A couple of policemen were trying to organise and control the crowds, but as soon as the box office opened its doors, there was a massive dash and the line of the queue descended into chaos. This gave us an opportunity to take our chances. We rushed to the front and managed to get close to the doors. We were planning to buy tickets for the late show, but as we found we were able to buy good seats, we decided to go to both shows. We ended up with seats in the middle of the third row for the early show and towards the side in the fifth row for the late show.
Roll on to the night of the concert. We turned up at the City Hall early, as the first show started at 6.00pm. Support were Quiver (soon to join forces with the Sutherland Brothers) who played a short, excellent, set which was lost on the screaming Bolanites. The City Hall was packed with girls in their early teens, all decked out in satin clothes, with T Rex scarves, and glitter on their cheeks. Several were wearing a top hat, mimicking the hat that Marc was wearing on the front cover of the recently released “Slider” album. To call the show pandemonium is an under statement. The screaming started from the minute the house lights went down and didn’t let up until T Rex had finished their short set. Marc was resplendent, an elfin rock god in a glitter jacket. He camped it up to the delight of the crowd. Everyone around was screaming “Marc! Marc!” and crying, tears running down their faces. I swear we were the only boys in the front block. T Rex were incredible. Very LOUD, and you could feel the energy flowing out of Marc and Mickey. The set included a few of the hits, I think they started with their current single “Metal Guru”, some album tracks, and a short acoustic set where Mark and Mickey sat cross-legged on a rug; Marc with acoustic guitar, and Mickey with small bongos between his knees, harking back to the Tyrannosaurus Rex days. Great stuff. Marc played the part of the rock god perfectly, pouting and prancing around the stage. Wonderful. The set was very short, less than an hour, and then by 8pm it was over, and we back out on to the street to join the queue for the late show.
Roll on to 8.30pm. If I’d thought the early show was crazy, the late show was total chaos. This time the fans were just that little bit older and that little bit more determined to get to the front and touch Marc. We had girls climbing over us, and were crushed from all sides. We ended up with girls on our shoulders (“Can I get on your shoulders, Mister?”), both (the girls, that is) screaming “Marc! Macr!” at the top of their voices. And is seemed even louder. My ears were ringing for days afterwards. At the end we had to run down to the station to catch the last train home.
So, returning to my initial question: “Who is the best live band?”. My friend was even more convinced that no-one could match T Rex. And in some ways I could see where he was coming from. I’d certainly never been to a gig quite lack it for craziness and energy, from the band and the audience. But it’s like comparing the proverbial “apples and pears”. T Rex and Zeppelin were, of course, completely different bands. So we agreed to disagree, and although I 100% enjoyed my T Rex experience, I also remained 100% committed to Zeppelin, The Stones, Purple and others. But I did cross a line that night, and realised that “cool” wasn’t everything and that there was serious fun in seeing pop bands like T Rex, and serious merit in their music. From then on I stopped worrying about whether a band was cool, and if I fancied going to see them, I went.
Setlist: Metal Guru: Cadillac; Jeepster; Cosmic Dancer; Telegram Sam; Debora; Spaceball Ricochet; Girl; Get It On; Hot Love; Summertime Blues