Monday, September 29, 2008

Reading Festival 1973: Free Testament, Dio and Hendrix

The Reading And Leeds Festivals of today are the UK’s longest-running events of their type, and evolved out of the National Jazz And Blues Festival, which was born all the way back in 1961. Not much jazz on the bill these days and, in truth, by the early 1970s it was on the outs – although there was a brief outbreak of syncopation in 1973 with the cultish booking of the stripey jacketed libertine George Melly.

But the 1973 event at Reading, the subject of our retrospective this week, was a significant event in the history of UK (and Irish) rock for several reasons. It saw Rory Gallagher at the top of his game, Rod and The Faces when it was clear that the former had outgrown, (if that’s the word for a man who would two years later release ‘Sailing’) the latter, as well as foreshadowing the rock-fan-as-intimidating-wide-boy vibe of the later Seventies with the football-scarf wearing Faces fans.

It also featured Genesis who were by now fully immersed in their revolutionary, pastural progressive rock , the tremendous Commander Cody, Pete York back with Spencer Davis and, of course, heads down, no-nonsense boogie from The Quo.

The event, as the National Jazz And Blues Festival, was organised by Harold Pendleton, the manager of The Marquee Club where the Stones played their first gig and which would go on to have such significance in the Punk movement. This was the third year at the Reading site and organisation was pretty solid. The crowd a mixure of hairy students in trench coats with their girlfriends in Afghans and wild-haired sheet metal workers on the drink looking to head bang themselves to oblivion. Rightly so.

The late August three-dayer was an eclectic mixture, with less hard rock than punters had been accustomed to, and a not insignificant smattering of folk. Poor Tim Hardin, bloated and sick, played his ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ but found not all of the crowd as benign as his legendary performance of the same song at Woodstock. The endlessly inventive John Martyn, whose brilliant and sad, career-defining ‘Solid Air’ - the title track written for and about Nick Drake of course - had been released a few months previously, also put on a strong show with little more than an acoustic guitar and an echoplex....and the genius of Danny Thmpson on the double bass.

George Melly, that great English eccentric was also booked and proved a hit, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, his blend of trad jazz and bonkers-ness going over well with a rock crowd not necessarily predisposed to outsized, camp jazz singers. Chris Barber - the legendary jazzer also played.

Reading has never been a festival especially noted for its broad taste. I remember going there in 1994, and seeing Ice Cube (!) last but one on the Saturday – near 15 years before the hoo-ha about whether Jay Z was an appropriate Glastonbury headliner. The crowd, and the former NWA frontman, really didn’t know what to make of each other. Reading, of course, is also famous for its bottling off of, well, almost anyone really. Apparantly the ones that really hurt are the ones full of still-warm bladder contents. Poor old Bonnie Tyler. And 50 Cent. You shouldn’t laugh.

Anyway, back to 1973, and the crowd wanted to see blues rock, and that is what Rory Gallagher gave them on the Friday night. The Cork man was on peak form, full of energy and drive – and unseen material from his forthcoming Tattoo album. He was without doubt the Friday highlight, and maybe the weekend as a whole. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen gave great value with their rockabilly, especially on that excellent monument to low times in the highlife, ‘Down To Seeds And Stems Again’.

Cometh the Saturday, cometh The Quo. In the special guest role, they opened for Rod and company. Rossi and Parfitt were well on their way by then – ‘Piledriver’ had set the formula for their hard boogie sound that would propel them into the strata of the rock super-rich. In fact, it was the album released just a few weeks after Reading, September’s ‘Hello!’ that would give them their first UK album number one.

Saturday night’s headliners were Rod and The Faces, the biggest draw of the weekend – and the magnet for a huge group of football scarf-wearing fans. Clad in Tartan scarf, Rod The Mod opened up by kicking footballs into the crowd as he always did. Laddishness was in full force as per usual but though The Faces were a fine band, and one of the best live acts of the era, this maybe was not one of their best gigs.

They had been together for the best part of four years by then, and superstardom was beckoning for their Rodney, whose solo career – 1971 saw him achieve massive success with ‘Maggie May’ and 1972's utterly brilliant album Never A Dull Moment(one of rocks' forgotten classics) – was eclipsing that of the band, even though, ironically, the Faces played on most of his solo stuff anyway. The summer of '73 saw the release of his greatest hits Sing It Again Rod - the cover was a die cut whiskey glass - The Faces were a beer drinking band, but Rod was already on the shorts - that was how it was seen by the rock press at the time anyway. Like drinking shorts and wine is a socially aspirational way to get mullered!

Nevertheless, it was a decent show – and, in terms of the fans, their vibe and the attitude – a good example of how the rock and roll aesthetic would later mutate into a punk sneer

Very much not punk at all were Sunday night’s headliners, Genesis. An immensely elaborate stage set took over two hours to put up, but eventually Peter Gabriel appeared in that mad ‘pyramid-with-eyes’ thing that heralded their magnificent Arthur C Clarke-inspired ‘Watcher Of The Skies’. Little green men aside, though, these were serious musicians, at a ceative peak, and they put on a fine, layered musical feast.

As the festival program of the day declared of Gabriel, “there’s got to be something spiritual, perhaps evil, about a man who has got seven cats.” And indeed there probably is.

Melody Maker called their show “startling”, but they was plenty more to them than just the portentous stage sets. They played ‘The Musical Box’, ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’ and ‘Supper’s Ready’, which came in at a punchy 23 minutes. This was Genesis as pioneers of new music; a staggeringly original period for the band as they set about creating a brand new aural experience.

So that was Reading 1973: gay jazz singers, football scarves, Gabriel on alien invasion and Rory playing the living daylights out of a battered Strat. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.
There's a live album of the show but its a bit inadequate really, featuring Rory doing Hands Off - brilliant, Strider, Greenslade, Quo, The Faces, Andy Bown, Lesley Duncan and Tim Hardin.

The full line up across the three days was this;

A J Webber who?
Alex Harvey SAHB released Next this year - a stone cold classic album
Alquin eh?
Andy Bown - top notch jazz rocker now forgotten
Ange - never 'eard of ya
Capability Brown - a great Charisma label band who did Tull-ish style rock. Did a great cover of Rare Bird's Sympathy and The Dan's Midnite Cruiser.
Chris Barber Band - 50s jazzer
Clare Hammill - she was from Middlesbrough you know. Wasn't she later bizarrely in some weird incarnation of Wishbone Ash?
Commander Cody - whacko rockabilly outfit with great album covers.
Dave Ellis - anonymous Dave as we like to call him.
Embryo - if you say so lads
Faces - the famous Faces
Fumble - nah don't know them
Genesis - ah yes
George Melly - goodness me
Greenslade - Greenslade were great keyboard led prog and even had Roger Dean album covers. Dave Greenslade went on to do loads of TV theme music.
Jack the Lad - spin off from Lindisfarne. Beer, fiddles and sing-a-longs. Excellent.
Jimmy Horowitz Orchestra - who he?
Jimmy Witherspoon - old blues man
Jo'Burg Hawk -Another Charisma label band. From South Africa
John Hiseman's Tempest - Ah the beginnings of jazz rock fusion here with Holdsworth on the first album and I think Clem Clempson on the second. Great for noodle lovers.
John Martyn and Danny Thompson - stoned immaculate I should think.
Lesley Duncan - folkyness
Lindisfarne - Geordie folk rock. They were magnificent - their first three albums are classics
Magma - Christian Vander's madness - he inveted his own language!
Mahatma - i'm guessing they were hippies
Medicine Head - long forgotten but excellent duo doing that folk/rock hybrid. They evenhad hit singles.
PFM - Italian prog rock.oh yes. Chocolate Kings is a stunning album - on ELP's Manticore label.
Quadrille - i bet there was four of them
Riff Raff - sounds like a punk band
Rory Gallagher - The Man
Roy Buchanan - legendary telecaster technician. Get his live albums and be amazed
Spencer Davis - R & B old school style
Stackbridge - came on stage with rhubarb for some reason.
Status Quo - Down down deeper and down
Stray Dog Stray were a great band. Not sure who Stray Dog were though
Strider - 2nd division-coming-to-your-local-small-venue-every 6-months type touring rock band. Good but not great
Tansavallian Presidency - if you say so squire.
Tim Hardin - folk legend.

Free Stuff

This week I've got nine copies of Testament's 2005 Live In London album to give away.

I've got 6 copies of Dio's 1996 album Angry Machine

Finally, I have 6 DVD's of the 1973 biographical film 'Jimi Hendrix' and fascinating stuff it is too with performances from Monterey, Woodstock, The Marquee, Fillmore East and Isle Of Wight plus interviews with Jagger, Townshend and other legends. 98 classic minutes of genius. Not to be missed.

To be put into the draw for these just email me with your address and put Testament, Dio or Hendrix, or any combination of those, in the subject box.

Monday, September 22, 2008

History Of Festivals 11: Watkins Glen. Free Prog CDs and DVDs

It was the largest gathering of people in the United States ever, they said. 600,000 people came. It was only a one-day event, but they came a week early. There were 50 mile traffic jams to get there. Only three bands played. There was a huge storm. And yet it was a commercial success that changed the way rock festivals were put on – and maybe a landmark in the way rock and roll saw itself and its potential.

The 1973 Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in Upstate New York was the brainchild of Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik, promoters who worked mainly out of nearby Connecticut. They had put on a successful concert with the Grateful Dead the year before where, by a happy accident, some of the Allman Brothers Band had been backstage. They came onstage in Hartford for an impromptu jam, to the mutual satisfaction of the two bands – and the Deadheads.

Finkel and Koplik mooted a possible joint outdoor gig the following summer and both bands were keen – especially when the promoters started talking the big numbers. The Dead would earn $117,000 for Watkins Glen, then their biggest career paydate.

They needed a third act and signed up The Band – who were ready to play out again after an 18-month layoff for studio work. And as they were living in the New York State area it all added up.

The Watkins Glen Raceway provided the venue. Because the race track was well-used to handling large numbers of visitors, and it was only a one-day event and the slick promoters convinced the powers-that-be this wasn’t going to be one of those goddamn hippy things with mindfreaked longhairs wandering around for a week and going on about Vietnam, there was relatively little local opposition and bureaucratic hassle.

Two weeks prior to the Saturday 28 July date, 100,000 tickets had been sold at ten bucks a piece and the promoters sought and gained permission to sell another 25,000 on the day. Problem was, people started arriving early. Really early. Some were turning up a full week before; by the Wednesday, police reckoned there were 50,000 already camping. Double by the next day.

Come the Friday afternoon there were maybe 250,000 people there, and the traffic was queuing back 50 miles! The cops started turning back people without tickets, and even some who did have them. Harsh.

When the Dead came to soundcheck on Friday afternoon, there were 100,000 people in front of the stage. What you gonna do? Well, it turned into an impromptu gig and, The Dead being The Dead, they played for two hours, occasionally stopping to sort out sound but basically playing a bonus gig. Not to be outdone, the Allman Brothers and The Band also played for an hour or two each.

Awesome, but the main event, of course, was the next day. The Dead played first, a beautiful, mesmeric five-hour performance of two sets, opening with ‘Bertha’ Their Wall Of Sound was simply immense, Jerry’s guitar smooth as silk. ‘Truckin’’… ‘China Cat Sunflower’… ‘Stella Blue’… ‘Sugar Magnolia’. It was a good day to be a Deadhead.

The Band played next but were interrupted an hour into their set by a storm. As it cleared, a tragic accident marred the day, when a skydiver, carrying flares (like incendiary devices, not trousers) got into trouble while parachuting. The flares combusted in the air, engulfing him in flames, rendering him unable to operate his parachute and causing him to fall to his death.

The Band came back on, but it was hard for them to get going. Nevertheless, it was an accomplished performance, sleek and hard, some of which is captured on the ‘Band Live At Watkins Glen’ – although the provenance of some tracks on that is questionable. It saw them premiere ‘Endless Highway’, play Dylan’s ‘Don’t Ya Tell Henry’ and Chuck Berry’s ‘Back To Memphis’. Garth Hudson’s organ-playing is mighty fine.

The Allman Brothers played last and turned in a superb performance, the highlight of which was ‘In Memory Of Elizabeth Reid’. Afterwards, Robbie Robertson, Jerry Garcia and others joined for a jam featuring ‘Not Fade Away’ and ending in a barnstorming version of ‘Johnny B. Goode’.

It’s said that the event was so big that 1 in 350 Americans was at the gig that weekend! But Watkins Glen does not have the same place in rock folklore as Woodstock. The 1969 gig was, among other things, a political act, in a way that Watkins Glen was not. The withdrawal from Vietnam was well underway, there seemed to be fewer battles to fight, maybe. The politicisation of pop music was not high on the agenda of so many bands. By all accounts, there was less LSD and hard drugs, more pot and booze at Watkins Glen. The overall vibe – peaceful and inclusive though it might have been – was more that of a great party than a social movement or era-defining experience.

Yet it certainly changed rock, if not society. Promoters across the US saw that there was serious money to be made from one-day festivals and soon, the ABC television network were getting in on the act. California Jam the following year attracted 200,000 and was a slick, well-organised, profitable success – and a definite staging post on the journey to rock corporatisation. It ushered in the era of rock stars arriving by private helicopter and big bucks, and in its own way, Watkins Glen was one of the precursors to that. Still, none of that is what anyone there, or anyone listening on record, is thinking about when Jerry Garcia is doing ‘Playing In The Band’.



65 minutes of Yes in 2004 playing stuff like Long Distance Runaround, Roundabout and I've Seen All Good People unplugged. And its what I like to think of as the 'proper' Yes; Anderson, Howe, Squire, White and Wakeman. Originally show in cinemas throughout the USA as a live broadcast, you also get behind the scenes footage too.

A must for all Yes fans. I've got 6 to give away.


Two albums, both featuring Keith Emerson of course. Have you seen our new Emerson design? If you've not got into the Nice before now, this is a good intro. They were a ground-breaking band - you can see where ELP came from but there's also a 60s groovy, jazz rock element to their music as well and even, in their version of Tim Hardin's 'Hang On To A Dream', some 60s pop.

The compilation features their famously rocked up version of America from West Side Story that got them into also sorts of hot water in USA -largely because they would insist on burning an American flag while playing it.

The ELP album I keep going back to is the live at Newcasstle City Hall, 'Pictures At An Exhbition' and this features in part on this Best Of Live album along with chunks from, Welcome Back My Friends and later live records too.

Listening to it now the thing which strikes me hardest is just how radical and often downright noisy their music is; truely ground-breaking stuff and of course, they have chops to burn. Greg Lake's singing is also hugely under-rated. Lucky Man and Stilll...You Turn Me On are both here and he delivers them with an almost operatic power.

I've got 4 pairs of these CD''s to give away

For a chance to win either just email me with 'Nice ELP' or 'Yes DVD 'in the subject line ....or along with your address. I'll draw them next week.

Thanks to everyone who entered last weeks freebie draw for the massive Twisted Sister, Alice, Brit pop packages. All winners have been notifed now so there's no point in emailing in for those any more.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

History Of Festivals 10: Castle Donington 1980: Tons Of Free CDs

A motor-racing track in Leicestershire might not be the most inspiring venue in the world, but it played host to anyone who is anyone in hard rock and metal for a decade and a half. It is, of course, Castle Donington Raceway and the event is the Monsters Of Rock festival.

In 1980, the one-day event immediately established itself as a metal challenger to the Reading festival by booking Rainbow, Judas Priest, Scorpions and Saxon. Completing the seven band line-up were April Wine (from Canada - who I saw at Newcastle City Hall in all their cheesy spandex glory touring the Harder...Faster album) and Riot and Touch (both from New York city). Neal Kay, champion of the burgeoning New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, was the DJ.

Official attendance was given as being around 35,000. It had rained in the days leading up to the event but the 16 August itself wasn’t bad at all. The event was promoted by Paul Loadsby – who had also been promoting Rainbow’s tour that summer – and was pretty well organised. And you could take your own drink in. That’s the spirit. There was even one of them new fangled video screens.

Space age giant tellies aside, there were some technical difficulties in the warm up that would not have shamed a Spinal Tap outtake, when the PA system was damaged during tests for Cozy Powell’s pyrotechnics. The legendary drummer had good reason to want to go out with a bang: this was to be his last gig with Rainbow as he had grown disillusioned with the direction Ritchie Blackmore was taking the band. But more of them in a minute. How brilliant, though: to knacker the PA because you were playing with fireworks. It has been claimed that the explosion could be heard three miles away. Just a surprise that there wasn’t a freak gardening accident.

It wasn’t the only weird mishap at the event: the bassist of second-on-the bill Riot – who were the pet project of Neal Kay – had the misfortune to swallow a BEE while on stage. Not in the Ozzy Osbourne manner, biting its head off, though: the buzzing chum just flew into his gob mid-song.

After the two American acts, it was into the meat and drink of the event: The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Saxon were the first band with a real following, as a result of their recent success with Wheels Of Steel and 747 (Strangers In The Night). Always wondered if that record freaked out any misdirected Sinatra fans. Barnsley’s finest were in good form and got the crowd going nicely. This was a band on the up – the next years saw them release Denim And Leather, arguably the classic NWOBHM record.

April Wine played next, the highlight being their I Like To Rock – which is featured on the excellent live album of the event ‘Castle Donington 1980 – Monsters Of Rock’. It’s got two tracks from Rainbow and Scorpions and one each from the other bands, with the exception of Judas Priest who were bringing out a live album of their show and didn’t want to steal their own thunder. Worth remembering that Priest were probably at their peak of popularity at this time and we still didn't know Rob was gay!

After Canada came Germany. The younger generation might think of Scorpions first and foremost as the purveyors of earnest Berlin Wall ballad Wind Of Change. But in the days before they learned how to whistle, the hard rockers from Hamburg could play a stonking live set – notably on Another Piece Of Meat.

The real big guns came out, though, when Judas Priest came on. Rob Halford took to the stage on a massive Harley, and the crowd were ready to go. Funnily enough, he did the same thing at Donington this year when the Priest played at Donington’s Download Festival. Doesn’t quite have the same ring as Monsters Of Rock, does it?

Anyway, the Judas Priest set was a stormer. They had been around for a while by then, but were right back in the forefront of the British scene thanks to 1980’s British Steel and the crowd were well up for it. They opened up with The Ripper and played a belting take on Living After Midnight – check out the live album of their performance.

Headliners Rainbow were brilliant. The energy and connection with the crowd in All Night Long is just great, as was the unlikely and brilliant cover of Carole King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. The guitar work on Kill The King is stunning, just before Ritchie trashed his guitar and blew up a Marshall stack (although he’s smart enough to change his Fender Strat for what looked like some sort of dodgy stunt guitar with a very short life expectancy).

Singer Graham Bonnet was wearing a pair of tight red trousers, a pink shirt and a sort of white boating blazer. Particularly next to Blackmore (all hair and rock God black blousy thing) he looked like he’d wandered in off the set of Miami Vice. No wonder this was also his last gig with Rainbow although, unlike Cozy, he didn’t know it at the time. Cozy’s drum solo was totally balls out, and the version of Stargazer was terrific as well. Rainbow, much like Purps gigs usually revolved around how hot Blackmore was; here he was on rip-snorting form; the sort of radical guitar noise and humongous riffs that were his unique gift to rock n roll dripping from his fingers.

The event was a big gamble by the promoters – to have a purely metal line-up – and was a defining moment in the NWOBHM movement. Although not a financial success in itself, it paved the way for the Monsters Of Rock festivals for nearly two decades and proved that metal could carry a festival on its own terms. Still no news on that poor bee though.

Free Stuff

Wow, I’ve got a lot of stuff to give away this week.

How does winning 6 Twisted Sister albums grab you? I’ve got three packs of these 6 albums to give away and a further 3 of 5(minus Club Daze)

U Can’t Stop Rock n Roll
Love Is For Suckers
Club Daze Vol II
Come Out And Play
Stay Hungry
Live At Hammersmith.

Or how about winning a pair of Alice Cooper albums? I’ve got 4 pairs of these to give away.

Brutal Planet

Or how about a Brit Pop package? I’ve got 3 packs of these 5 classic albums to give away.

Blur – Modern Life Is Rubbish
Oasis – Definitely Maybe
Black Grape – Its Great When You’re Straight, Yeah
Catatonia – International Velvet
Ocean Colour Scene – Moseley Shoals

Just email me put Twisted Sister; Alice or Britpop in the subject box – or any combo of those for a chance to win. I draw them all at random next week.

Monday, September 8, 2008

History Of Festivals 9: Texas International Pop Festival 1969

August 1969, three days of acid, peace and love, hippies and music. It can only be one thing, right? Perhaps not: just two weeks after Woodstock came the Texas International Pop Festival.

Nowhere town Lewisville was the host to 120,000 hippies, as well as Led Zep, Grand Funk Railroad, BB King and Janis Joplin for the Labor Day weekend in August 1969. The festival took place on the now-defunct speedway track and was distinguished by a scorching, hard, bluesy Led Zeppelin set.

Texas had its first taste of the Zep a month previously when they played in Dallas and Houston and this performance showed a band on the up, coming between their first and second albums. Hard and horny versions of Train Kept A Rollin’ and I Can’t Quit You Baby kicked off a sweaty, thumping set that featured a tremendous Dazed And Confused and served notice to America of a major new force in blues rock.

If the night-time belonged to Zep, there was plenty to enjoy in the daytime too. Local residents were shocked –SHOCKED! – to see hippies skinny-dipping in Lake Lewisville. Some of them were so shocked that they had to get in boats to have a closer look at the naked boobies, which were officially the most exciting thing to happen to Lewisville Texas in a generation. Naked hippies; you can't beat 'em.

The town was blessed, or rather the festival was blessed, with an unusually tolerant police chief, who had the foresight to see that a non-confrontational approach to the longhairs would pay dividends. Maybe it helped that Chief Ralph Adams was leaving his job that summer, but he managed to preside over an event that saw just a couple of dozen arrests out of 120,000 punters.

To give you an idea of how mellow it was – certainly when you compare that Altamont was only four months in the future – Kesey’s right-hand man Ken Babbs ran a free stage, security was handled by the ‘Please Force’ and Wavy Gravy offered counselling for those who had overdone it on the mind-bending drugs. The clown/activist/icon/pharmaceutical experiment, in association with activist commune Hog Farm, also dished out free food. In fact, Wavy Gravy got his name, one of the great loon monikers – from no less a personage than BB King, who played for three nights here, when the blues legend found him lying on the stage.

The event also saw Janis Joplin return to Texas and get the sort of rousing reception from her home-state crowd that had not always been the case.

Grand Funk Railroad, then relative unknowns, opened the festival for free, confident that the exposure would be well worth it. Selling more albums than any other US band in the following year (1970) suggested it was a shrewd move.

Other blues rock big guns playing included Chicago and Johnny Winter(check out the album of his set - he's on theform of his life), while Sly And The Family Stone closed the festival with Hot Fun In The Summertime. And indeed it was.

IF LEWISVILLE was a peaceful, innocent celebration of the hippie ideal, it was to be one of the last gasps of it, too. The dark disaster of Altamont in December of the same year seemed to sound the death knell.

But in the first half of 1970, plans were nonetheless afoot for a festival in Middlefield, Connecticut. So here’s a quiz question: what was so special about the July 1970 rock festival at Powder Ridge Ski Area, which was attended by around 30,000 people?

Answer: the event was cancelled. The establishment got pretty wise, pretty quickly after Woodstock and the fun of 1969, and local communities mobilised to prevent tens of festivals in 1970. Festivals were seen as political events, and one such that could not get its legal injunction was Powder Ridge, which had booked Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Sly Stone, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, Chuck Berry and others. But the mere fact that the event wasn’t going ahead didn’t stop the promoters from promoting it.

30,000 souls were not going to let such inconveniences as a cancelled festival spoil their weekend and turned up anyway, leading to one of the most heroic displays of mass public drug-taking the continental US had ever seen. Without the distractions of bands to see – with the exception of a few local outfits like Melanie.

Drugs, lots of bad drugs, were the order of the day, with dealers hawking their wares untroubled: ‘Buy a tab of acid and get a shot of heroin free’, they shouted. You don’t get that in Boots.

Festival medic William Abruzzi was treating 50 freaking out trippers an hour amid scenes of considerable wigging out. Connecticut – not exactly known as a party state – hadn’t seen anything like it. When the Black Panthers got involved to protest the 1970 BP trials that were taking place in New Haven, it was clear that this wasn’t your average festival. When people started dumping drugs into the barrels of drinking water, plots were being lost left, right and I-can’t-feel-my-face centre.

Not a good day for The Kids.



Oh this is a lovely trip down memorty lane, an eclectic mix of music for sure. Great but obscure bands like Head Hands & Feet (Albert Lee on geetar) and Kevin Ayers. Roxy in cutting edge mode doing Ladytron. There's good old Argent and a cracking Bad Motor Scooter from Montrose and even the magestic Roy Harper doing One Of Those Days In England which I once campaigned for to be our national anthem! (do check out the HQ and Bullinamingvase albums -wonderful stuff)

Be Bop Deluxe do Maid In Heaven - man they were a great band.
Gary Moore is on doing a brilliant Don't Believe A Word - the slow then fast version - magnifico with Phillo on bass and jazz/rock noodlers will dig Stanley Clarke/George Duke doing Schooldays
There's some lovely 80s stuff from Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera and Tom Verlaine too.
154 minutes of quality music. I've got 4 copies to give away.

ELO - Greatest Hits & The Gold Collection

Two compilation CDs that oddly enough don't over lap at all. So in effect you get all of ELO's best stuff across the two albums. Early ELO is some of the most magnificent original music that the 70s produced. Showdown is my favourite; moody, dark rock n roll. 10538 Overture still sounds like a radical adventure too. But the later more melodious even disco flavoured stuff like Mr Blue Sky which at the time I dismissed as mere pop music - I was a hairy snob back then - now sound thrillingly fresh and are just so damn creative. Jeff Lynne remains an under-rated genius. I grew up near Mick Kaminsky you know!
I've got 4 pairs of these to give away. I bet you've forgotten just how brilliant ELO were.

For a chance to win them just email me with your address and put ELO or Whistle Test in the subject box - or both.

Monday, September 1, 2008

History Of Festivals 8: The Isle Of Wight 1970

History Of Festivals 8: The Isle Of Wight 1970: Free Blues CDs

600,000 people on an island with a population of just 100,000. Political protesters taking the stage. Jimi, Jim, Joan, Joni and even Mungo Jerry (almost). The last weekend of August in 1970. It was, of course, the Isle of Wight Festival.

It would be the third year in a row that the organisers, Fiery Creations, would put on a festival on the small island off England's South Coast. But the two previous years were not even in the ballpark in terms of size. The 1970 Festival would be the largest rock event ever, bigger even than Woodstock. But it nearly didn't happen...

Miserable, posh, stick-in-the-mud residents didn't want the cream of the rock world descending on their patch for a third year running and shunted the site around during negotiations in a bid to make logistics as difficult as possible. Eventually, though, it was agreed to hold the event at Afton Down on the West of the Isle.

The hippies were not welcome. Brian Hinton's excellent book on the IoW festivals contains some great material from an appalled local counsellor:

“(Local resident) Mrs H. reported that at 10.30pm a stark naked man jumped out and danced in front of her car.”

and: “Mr F., High Street, reported an indecency outside his shop at 8am. He told those involved that the village was not used to such behaviour and he would send for police if they did not move on.”

The Fiery Creations lads, brothers Ray and Ron Foulk had their site: now they needed acts. And toilets. But first the acts. Once they secured Jimi, the rest fell into place pretty quickly. Bob Dylan had played the IoW the previous year – his first gig since his 1966 motorbike crash, so there was plenty of profile for the biggest US names.

They put together a stunning line-up including The Doors, The Who, Miles Davis, Sly and the Family Stone, Free and Emerson, Lake and Palmer – playing their second-ever gig. Laughing Leonard Cohen performed stand-up. Not really, but he did play – and in fact performed one of his greatest versions of the beautiful 'Suzanne'.

Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, The Moody Blues, Procul Harem, a very early Supertramp, Hawkwind, Donovan, Chicago... what a feast.

“Things Ain't What They Used To Be” types might note the Isle Of White's Bestival this year includes Will Young!

Turning from the Pop Idol winner to public toilets, the organisers had their work cut out on that score: site manager Ron Smith set up a makeshift assembly line to make loo seats in a disused button factory. Bet Perry Farrell never done that for Lollapalooza.

Anyway, because 1969 had been such a massive scrum, re-supplying the site had been nearly impossible: when bars ran out of drink there was no way to get lorries to them. So for 1970, they hit upon a scheme of having two walls around the site, so that the space between the two could be used for access. Smart idea, but a lot of the punters didn't take to it. People felt that the site looked more like a prison camp than a festival, and the event was marred by simmering bad feeling throughout.

Suppose these days, where fans are all too used to regimented, sponsored-by-Starbucks kind of corporate gigs, that it seems a bit unreasonable to have a go because you didn't like the fencing, but these were different times, man. But there was an end-of-an-era vibe to the festival, as if the crowd felt that the Sixties were over now. “They're selling hippy wigs in Woolworths,” as Withnail put it.

But, by Jebus, there were there some rocking performances over what Melody Maker called 'Five Days That Shook The World'. The Doors played one of their greatest versions of The End, in a spooky, semi-dark stage – Jim didn't want the strong lights that the film crew were using. If you get a chance, check out Murray Lerner's 'Message To Love' film of the Festival for awesome footage of that. The Who gave it the full gun with the complete Tommy – and ended with a belting 'My Generation' and 'Magic Bus'.

Also on the Saturday, Joni Mitchell's performance of 'Woodstock' was interrupted by distinctly Manson-ish beardie called Yogi Joe who wanted to protest the perceived corporatisation of the event. Joni pleaded with the crowd for calm and respect and played Big Yellow Taxi. “You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone – they paved paradise to put up a parking lot.”

Jimi Hendrix, beautiful and damned, played his second last gig on the Sunday, just three weeks before his death. He was pretty out of it beforehand – his roadies were worried that he might not even make it on stage. But he did, hammered, to some boos, and opened with a savage, magnificent take on 'God Save The Queen'. His show was an angry, torrid climax to a thrilling, often ugly, era-defining five days.

But after the storm, there was hope as well. Richie Havens – who had opened the Woodstock festival – played last here, with the sun coming up on the final morning as he gave his lovely take on 'Here Comes The Sun'.

Optimism, then – but there would be no repeat of the Isle Of Wight Festival. The commercial and logistical issues were just insurmountable, and the 1970 Festival stood as the last. A monument to all that was good and bad about the end of the Sixties and the way that rock music, and society, were changing.

Some fine live albums came out of the festival. Best of all is Taste Live At The Isle of Wight(not unreasonably) - with Rory on top form; The Who's set is also available on CD and DVD as is ELP's - which we gave away a month or two ago - cracking stuff it is too. I think there's some of Free's set out there too - in all their hairy magnificence - and of course Jimi's legendary set is also availabe as is almost every note Hendrix ever played on earth it seems.

There's also a CD of the music from Murray Learner's movie which features everything from Leonard Cohen to Tiny Tim via the Doors and TYA. The movie itself is a must see - for promoter Rikii Farr's angry rants at the crowds trying to tear down the fences and especally for the old army dude who thinks its all a communist plot. Funny to think the establishment ireally believed the hippies were going to start a revolution. They didn't dig what was really going on; it really was all about the music and its the music, now, as ever, that pervades.

Free Stuff

It’s all blues this week with two great packages

Blues Package 1

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble – Texas Flood
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble – Couldn’t Stand The Weather

These two albums are probably the finest the bluesman ever made. Incendiary blues guitar by perhaps the last true blues genius.

Blues Package 2

Muddy Waters & Johnny Winter live At The Bottom Line 1979
John Mayall’s Blues Breakers – Bare Wires

The first is an electric live recording between two giants of the blues. The second is one Mayall’s best albums featuring a young Mick Taylor on guitar.

I’ve got four of each pair of albums to give away. For a chance to win just email me with your name and address and put Blues1 or Blues 2 or Blues 1 & 2 in the subject box.

As only 14 people wrote in to try and win the 5 Yngwie Malmsteen albums, I hope these are a more attractive prospect!

Rock on!