The Who Charlton Athletic Football Club 31st May 1976
Support from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Little Feat, The Outlaws, Chapman and Whitney Streetwalkers, and Widowmaker.
In 1976 The Who played three massive U.K. shows at football stadiums in Charlton, Glasgow and Swansea. The short tour was billed as “The Who Put the Boot In”. I attended the Charlton gig which was rated at the time as the loudest concert ever by the Guiness Book of Records. These were also The Who’s final UK concerts with drummer Keith Moon, apart from a couple of low key gigs filmed for “The Kids Are Alright” movie.
The Charlton concert took place on May bank holiday Monday 1976. A car load of us, with me driving, made the journey down to London on Sunday. We stayed at the flat of a mate who was studying in London, and on Monday morning we drove across London to Charlton and parked in a street somewhere close to the ground. When we got to the gates of the stadium it was very clear that something was wrong. There was a massive crush around the gate, a heavy police presence, and loads of fans being turned away, because they had counterfeit tickets which had been circulating in London for some days before the show. Our tickets were fine, and we eventually made our way through the crowds and into the stadium. When we did manage to get in, we found the place completely ram packed; even more so than for the previous Who concert in 1974. Reports suggest that more than 80,000 people were crammed into a stadium with a concert crowd limit of 50,000. Eventually the police stopped letting anyone in for safety reasons, and many fans with real tickets were not admitted. As compensation, they were given a free ticket to the Swansea show instead, and free buses were laid on to take them there.
Support came from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Little Feat, The Outlaws, Streetwalkers, and Widowmaker, featuring Steve Ellis and Ariel Bender, who opened the proceedings and were pretty good too. Streetwalkers were also great, and SAHB were excellent, with Alex on top form; they almost (but not quite) stole the show from the Who.
It was wet, with rain falling throughout the day. Not much use for the sun visors which were given away free by Sounds magazine (I still have mine unworn, see left). There was some violence within the crowd, as there was at the 1974 concert, with fights breaking out on the pitch and the terraces. We waited patiently during a long delay before the Who came on, caused by a few fans who had scaled the lighting towers in the hope of gaining a better view. The couple of guys who made it up there were told, over the PA, that the show wouldn’t start until they came down. Some fans on the pitch started to chant “get down” and eventually the guys did so. Shortly afterwards the Who ran out onto the very wet stage, and Roger Daltrey slipped over, going his full length, sliding from one end of the stage to the other. He got up and introduced the band as “The Who On Ice”. They started, as usual, with “I Can’t Explain” followed by “Substitute”. Townshend taunted us all “thank you for waiting for us and getting so wet”. Pete continued to make cracks to the audience throughout the evening, and at one point shouted out to stop a fight at the front of the crowd. An audience recording exists, on which you can also hear Keith Moon shouting at Townshend: “Shut up! ….. You’d think you’ve got some kind of vested interest. I’ve seen your vests, and they stink…underneath this I’m totally nude, Peter! I don’t need any of your great flowing poncey robes. I don’t need all your glittering sequins to be a star! I don’t need to jump in the air, flash what little crotch I’ve got. And I must admit I’ve had no complaints.”
The set was similar to that which they had been playing since 1975, with several of the old ’60s classics, a couple from Quadrophenia, a couple from their current album “The Who By Numbers”, and a “Tommy” segment, with Keith playing his parts as “Uncle Ernie” in “Fiddle About” and “Tommy’s Holiday Camp.” The laser light show, first seen during the 1975 tour, was revealed during “See Me Feel Me”, by which time it was dark. The lasers shot through the smoke to mirrors on the light towers, with blue beams bouncing around the entire stadium, and red laser beams cutting through them. Im sure it would seem quite primitive now, but it was impressive at the time. I remember the entire stadium singing along to “Listening to you”: “Listening to you I get the music. Gazing at you I get the heat. Following you I climb the mountain. I get excitement at your feet!” with laser beams criss crossing the crowd in the darkness. An amazing moment. The Who finished with “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, ending with an incredible scream from Roger. We chanted “We Want The Who” for 5 or 10 minutes, but there was no encore, as was often the case for a Who concert at the time.
It took ages to find the car. We walked from street to street; each one looked the same, and I hadn’t noted the street name. After what seemed like hours, but probably wasn’t, we located my car and set off through the crowded streets. At one point we were sat stationary in a queue of traffic, when a big black limo pulled up alongside. Sitting alone in the back seat was Pete Townshend. We waved but he didn’t respond.
It’s a long drive from London to the north east, and the dawn was breaking as I drove up Houghton Cut. My mates were all asleep around me. A couple of them went straight to work. Happy days. I think I’ve just decided that The Who actually were the greatest rock band of the 70s. 🙂
Setlist: I Can’t Explain; Substitute; My Wife; Baba O’Riley; Squeeze Box; Behind Blue Eyes; Dreaming From The Waist; Magic Bus; Amazing Journey; Sparks; The Acid Queen; Fiddle About; Pinball Wizard; I’m Free; Tommy’s Holiday Camp; We’re Not Gonna Take It; Summertime Blues; My Generation; Join Together; My Generation Blues; Won’t Get Fooled Again
The Who stopped touring after 1976, largely as a result of Keith Moon’s failing health, caused by alcohol issues. Keith Moon died on 7th Sept 1978 of an overdose of heminevrin, prescribed to combat alcoholism. The Who’s 1978 album “Who Are You” was released two weeks before his death. Keith Moon was one of rock’s finest drummers, but he was so much more. Moon was the crazy, manic, childish fun side of The Who; the perfect foil to Townshend’s moods, and although The Who would continue as a strong rock force, a Who concert could never be quite the same again.
Tomorrow I will write about the first time I saw The Who without Moon, at a low key comeback show at Edinburgh Odeon in 1979.
Archive for the ‘Widowmaker’ Category
The Who Charlton Athletic Football Club 31st May 1976
Reading Festival 26th – 28th August 1977
Reading 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.
Sunday’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 🙂