The Reading Rock Festival 25 – 27th August 1978
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.
Saturday 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
Archive for the ‘Tom Robinson’ Category
The Reading Rock Festival 25 – 27th August 1978
Tom Robinson Band Newcastle City Hall 27th September 1978
The Tom Robinson Band are often overlooked when the history of punk and new wave is written. That’s a shame, because they were one of the best live acts of the period, and their songs contained all of the necessary political messages of the time. I first saw them live in the early days, probably 1977, at Middlesbrough Rock Garden. It was probably only about half full, and the punks were very unsure as to how to take an openly gay singer, but managed some quite nervous singing along to “Glad to be Gay”. Tom Robinson must have had some nerve, it was quite a brave thing to do, to go out and sing that anthem in clubs packed with punk and skins, many of whom had strong right wing views. I was impressed by TRB that night, although it was the first time that I was seeing the band, and I hadn’t heard any of the songs before, it was obvious that they were strong pop songs, with political messages and great hooks. The first, and classic, Line-up of the band was Tom Robinson (vocals, bass), Danny Kustow (guitar), Mark Ambler (keyboards) and Dolphin Taylor (drums). The other band members were all an important part of the mix, particularly Danny Kustow; his guitar playing was excellent and his passion, energy and presence matched Tom’s. And they had a clutch of great tunes, many of which ended up on the first Tom Robinson album, which is one of the strongest debuts of the time. Most people remember the big hit single “2-4-6-8 Motorway”, but there were better tracks on the album including the call to arms: “Up Against the Wall” and “The Winter of ’79”, the simply excellent catchy “Long Hot Summer” and title track “Power in the Darkness”. The big live favourites were the sing-along chirpy ode to a big brother “Martin” (just listened to it on YouTube and it sounds as good as it ever did) and “Glad to be Gay” which seemed to be playing everywhere I went in 1977 and 1978. I saw the Tom Robinson band at a triumphant concert at Newcastle City Hall on 27th September 1978 and also at Reading festival 1978 and at Sunderland Mayfair on 28th March 1979. By the time of the Sunderland gig both Ambler and Dolphin had left the band, and things were never going to be the same. The Tom Robinson band split in 1979, shortly after the 1979 tour and the release of their second, and much less successful, album.
Support at the City Hall gig was the excellent Stiff Little Fingers, not as the the ticket says reggae band Third World, and at Sunderland it was The Straits, an all-girl new wave band from Leeds.
“The British Police are the best in the world
I don’t believe one of these stories I’ve heard
‘Bout them raiding our pubs for no reason at all
Lining the customers up by the wall
Picking out people and knocking them down
Resisting arrest as they’re kicked on the ground
Searching their houses and calling them queer
I don’t believe that sort of thing happens here
Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way”
(Tom Robinson, 1976)
The Police Milton Keynes Bowl 26th July 1980
Rockatta De Bowl
Support Acts: UB40; Squeeze; Tom Robinson’s Sector 27; Skafish
DJs: John Peel (who else) and Jerry Floyd
Not one of the best one day festival events that I’ve attended, but by no means the worst. It’s a long drive from the North East to Milton Keynes, and it seemed an even long drive back after standing all day getting soaked….
I went with a car load of mates; we had all recently discovered the Police and were quite big fans at the time, having seen them several times in Newcastle. This was the first big concert at the Milton Keynes Bowl, and it was organised by the same people that ran the Reading Festival. The Bowl is, as the name suggests, a natural round amphitheatre; “the site was a former clay-pit…filled in and raised to form an amphitheatre using sub-soil excavated by the many new developments in the area and it has a maximum capacity of 65,000. The arena is open-air grassland, without seats.” (Wikipedia). It was by no means full for the Police concert; reports suggest that around 25,000 people attended. There had been a lot of rain in the days leading up to the event and as a result, the bowl was a bit of a quagmire…. The line-up was interesting. I don’t recall whether or not we arrived in time to catch Tom Robinson and his new band Sector 27. I do remember SkaFace who were greeted by a hail of cans, and retreated after a few songs, the singer’s face was quite badly cut. Squeeze were good, as always; they can’t be anything other than good with those catchy pop songs like “Up The Junction”, and great hooks. UB40 were a big hit, with their reggae rhythms drifting around the bowl. There was then a long wait before The Police hit the stage, during which it poured down. The weather and the wait put a damper on things, and I remember that the Police were good, but I couldn’t really get into it for two reasons; first I was soaked (no tents or anywhere else to hide from the rain) and secondly I knew that I had a long four hour drive home. Sting had a pretty classy looking new upright bass (was it hanging from the roof on a wire? Or did I just imagine that?) and he led us all through lots of Yo Yo Yo..ing which started to annoy me after too long….
Some reviews from the time:
“The show by The Police in the hitherto rock and roll backwater of Milton Keynes, proved that there are still few greater thrills available anywhere than to witness a group playing at the absolute peak of its prowess and confidence… One is always astonished at any show The Police perform, by the remarkable power they manage to create with the basic line-up of bass, guitar and drums…” (Evening Standard)
“…they showed a move towards a more varied and mainstream approach, while retaining more than a hint of the white reggae style.” (The Guardian)
“They achieved a better overall sound with three musicians than anyone else did with eight… The white reggae beat was certainly conducive to the festival atmosphere, and the tribal chants brought out the football supporter in all of us.” (Sounds)
Police setlist: Voices Inside My Head; Don’t Stand So Close to Me; Walking on the Moon; Deathwish; Fall Out; Bring on the Night; De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da; Truth Hits Everybody; The Bed’s Too Big Without You; Driven to Tears; When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around; Message in a Bottle; Roxanne; Can’t Stand Losing You; Reggatta de Blanc; Next to You; So Lonely