Sunday, 13 September 2020

Jimi Hendrix - the last interview, September 1970

Jimi in London the day before he died
"I'm happy - it's gonna be good."   That is how Jimi Hendrix signed off his interview with Roy Hollingworth that appeared in the September 5th 1970 edition of UK weekly Melody Maker.

With hindsight, the optimism he expressed about his future is hugely poignant given that only a few days later, aged just 27, Hendrix would be dead.

Whichever way you look at it, Jimi's death from an overdose of sleeping pills on September 18th was a sad and tragically sudden end to his story.

As the MM article said back then, Hendrix was rock's most influential guitarist. Then as now, he remains the guitarist considered by many as the greatest of all time.

But he was a troubled soul and by 1970 he had lost much of the creative momentum built up during the making of his masterpiece 1968 album Electric Ladyland.

The MM interview, click to enlarge
In this interview with Melody Maker, he acknowledged he had taken his music as far as he could in its present form and how he hoped to make more mind-expanding and spiritually uplifting music in the future.

On the 50th anniversary of his passing, there will be plenty of speculation about what might have been - whether he would have gone in a more jazzy direction; the rumoured collaborations with Gil Evans and Miles Davis. In the same way that Jeff Beck reinvented himself as a jazz fusion player, Hendrix could easily have moved away from his blues roots - and he planned to.

In his own words, Jimi saw his return to the UK in the summer of 1970 as a new beginning. It was widely acknowledged that he had lost his way creatively and his life seemed to be increasingly a tale of drug busts and legal issues of one sort or another. Jimi himself said as much. "It's all turned full circle. I'm back to where I started. I still sound the same, my music's the same and I can't think of anything new to add to it in its current state."
Jimi in his pomp, 1967

As a new decade was beginning, he saw it as a cut-off point for the revolutionary 1960's music culture. "This era of music sparked off by The Beatles has come to an end. Something new has got to come and Jimi Hendrix will be there."

Jimi wanted a big band, he said: "full of competent musicians I can conduct and write for. It's going to be something that will open up a new sense in people's minds. They are getting their minds ready now. Like me, they are going back home, getting fat and making themselves ready for the next trip."

Jimi looked increasingly unwell in 1970
That Hendrix needed to get himself together physically is clear. In his last photos, he looks tired. The Who's Pete Townshend was most vocal about his shock at the state Hendrix was in, thin and withdrawn, the effects of the drugs and alcohol, the travel and constant hassles having aged him.

As Charles Shaar Murray wrote in his excellent Hendrix book 'Crosstown Traffic', "Hendrix's dope consumption, which was fairly monstrous even at the best of times, was escalating dramatically."

Jimi's perspective on it was that, in his utopian vision of "a new form of classical music", you didn't necessarily need drugs.

"You know the drug scene came to a big head. It was opening up things in people's minds, giving them things they just couldn't handle. Well music can do that you know, and you don't need any drugs.

"It's going to be a complete form of music," he said of his ideas for a musical reinvention. "It could be something along similar lines to what Pink Floyd are tackling. They don't know it, but people like Pink Floyd are the mad scientists of this day and age."

Hollingworth asked Hendrix when he would start to form this big band. He said people wouldn't have too long to wait and that his Isle of Wight performance might be the last of that type with the three-piece format.

The MM's review of Hendrix's performance late on the Sunday night at the IOW concluded: "We're convinced that Jimi's trouble stems from internal conflict between his blues roots and a desire to progress. He has the technique to play a mass of different sounds, but his confidence seems to ebb and he gets confused when he wanders into the freestyle freaky effects, so revolutionary back in 1967.

"All it needs is some nice new songs, some rehearsal and bingo. As it happened, the miracle and magic worked towards the end of his two-hour set, with the air of a medley of hits. The magic was there all the time with the talent of Hendrix, Mitchell and Cox. They just need a little time...and they'll get it all together."

Jimi's hair was a little tamer now, observed the interviewer, Hollingworth. Did he feel he was a tamer person? He said no, maybe now and then he got a spark of maturity, but he reckoned he was a better guitarist than he used to be. "I've learnt a lot, but I've got to learn more about music. With the big band, I don't want to be playing as much guitar. I want other musicians to play my stuff."

He said he would not be doing so many live gigs. "I'm going to develop the sound and then I'm going to put a film out.

"It's so exciting - it's going to be an audio visual thing that you sit down and plug into - and really take in through your eyes and ears.

"I'm happy - it's gonna be good."

Remembering Jimi - friends and associates talk about him

Kathy Etchingham talking about her time with Jimi

Planet Rock broadcasts live from Jimi Hendrix's restored old flat at 23 Brook Street

Also on this blog: 

Five Days of Drama at the Isle of Wight, 1970

Jimi Hendrix releases Band of Gypsys

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Five days of high drama at the Isle of Wight, 1970

Melody Maker's extensive coverage of the festival
There are many stories and legends that grew out of the aftermath of the 1970 Isle of Wight music festival. 

There was the invasion by French anarchists; the stage meltdown by promoter Rikki Farr ("you go to hell!"); the way Joni Mitchell won over a restless crowd; the remarkable performance of Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix's last UK show, The Who playing on until dawn, ELP's breakthrough and many others. 

It was five days of high drama. The festival was undoubtedly a triumph musically, but the bad vibes on the fringes were such that they curtailed the development of commercial festivals for several years afterwards. The free festival agitators were a powerful lobby and at the IOW they made life hell for the promoters even before the event began.

MM's verdict
In the UK music paper Melody Maker, the week after the IOW, the central editorial reflection (seen here >, click to read it) was that the festival "may well be the last occasion for a long time on which more than a quarter of a million kids come together to hear some rock and roll."

"There can be little doubt that the events of last weekend will have a chastening effect on any other promoter considering putting on a similar event.

"What kind of lunatic will want to risk having to deal with the French, Algerian and American revolutionaries who raised such hell?"

And yet even with all of that to contend with, the festival was a musical triumph, attended by many of the top performers from Europe and America at the time. Clicking on the links below will take you to clips of some of them.

Saturday's highlights included a more than two-hour set by John Sebastian, joined by his Lovin' Spoonful colleague Zal Yanofsky. Once again it seemed, as at Woodstock, Sebastian was on stage because no one else was ready to go on. 

"With that unique mixture of whimsy and open-hearted fun, John first shouted, "Just holler 'em up and I'll play whatever you want to hear!" 

Shawn Phillips followed on before Rikki Farr announced "a lovely surprise' and the arrival of Joni Mitchell.
the acts reviewed - click to view
An audience member was having a bad acid trip near the stage. Someone yelled, "Help!... we need a doctor" and as the MM noted, "suddenly, with terrifying swiftness, the good vibes turned right around."

Joni dealt with this and an attempted stage invasion with admirable poise. She brought the audience back onside by the sheer beauty of her songs - not to mention the genuine frustration she expressed at the bad vibes. You can read more about this in a separate piece I wrote.

A particular treat for the audience was the appearance of jazz giant Miles Davis, with a new electric band that included Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette.

"Miles took the stage in a red leather jacket and silver-studded jeans and boots - at 44 years old as hip as anyone there."

The response to this new style of jazz must have been very encouraging for Miles, who took a lot of criticism from traditional jazz fans back in America for his radical change of style. Makes you wonder what music might have resulted if Miles and Jimi Hendrix had got together, as it was suggested they might. 

"The group's use of rock rhythms was far more evident than before, but they proved beyond any doubt that they are capable of making it as subtle, as complex and as rewarding as any conventional jazz rhythm," said the reviewer.

Another of the artists destined to divide opinion was keyboard wizard Keith Emerson, with his new band Emerson Lake & Palmer, who made their debut at the IOW festival.

The MM said, "It's quite likely there are some of the rock fraternity who don't approve of Keith adapting classical themes, his displays of virtuosity and touches of showbiz. 

"ELP let off two cannons in the penultimate number. The arrangements were long and adventurous. There were no long blues guitar solos. In fact, they were wide open to criticism.

"But they didn't half play good," said the reviewer.

"The applause was almost as deafening as the cannonade which blew the spectacles off a man sitting in the firing line."

The stage lights dimmed just after midnight on Saturday and The Doors wandered on and proceeded to play a rather more muted set than the previous band. The reviewer noted, though, that they sounded better than when they played London's Roundhouse in 1968. 

"We want the world and we want it now! screamed Jim Morrison at one point, but it was not evident what he would do if circumstances arose which would make this possible," said the MM.
The Who played all night

"And now, a nice rock band from Shepherds Bush - the 'OO," announced DJ Jeff Dexter. 

Pete Townshend cheered up the English contingent, saying "We come home and find ourselves playing to a load of bloody foreigners causing trouble."

The Who played on well after 4am and as they reached the climax of Tommy, they turned huge spotlights on the crowd. It was a euphoric moment, to judge from the film.
The Raver gloating about his luxurious experience at the festival...
Keith Moon had arrived at the IOW with Viv Stanshall the night before the Who's appearance, to apparently "dig the acts and drop egg yolks into reporters' hard won cups of tea."

Peter Frampton was also backstage with his girlfriend Mary, as were George and Patti Harrison. 

'The Raver' columnist in Melody Maker had a rather more comfortable festival experience than his colleague Michael Watts (see article below) who drew the short straw and was given the assignment of spending the weekend on 'Desolation Hill' with the great unwashed.
..while Mike Watts was slumming it on Desolation Hill
The Raver meanwhile, was roughing it at the former home of Alfred Lord Tennyson, now a three star hotel at Freshwater. 

Ian Anderson is said to have given one of the finest individual performance of the entire five days at the festival. "Jethro Tull emerged triumphant as one of the most entertaining of all the bands," said MM.

"Cocking his knee, grimacing, leaping, screaming, muttering, gibbering, sneezing, he looked like a brilliant but demented 18th century German music master.
Ian Anderson: brilliant but demented

"When Ian wasn't amazing us all with his flute, which leapt from the explosive to the beautiful, there was also the fine guitar of Martin Barre and some brilliant drumming by Clive Bunker to enjoy. One of the greatest assets of Tull proved to be the gifted piano playing of John Evan."

"Yes - it has been a long time, hasn't it?" said a cool, casual, but seemingly happy Jimi Hendrix. He was probably referring to the last time we saw him play in Britain, rather than the one-hour plus delay while one drum kit, a guitar and bass were set in working order.

"But it was nice to see him again, even if the sound was terrible - somehow there is always something wrong with the machinery of rock when Hendrix plugs in. Noel Redding's replacement, Billy Cox, proved a good bassman, but Mitch Mitchell, long a favourite drummer, was disappointing. He was hampered by a distorted PA and his playing seemed somewhat stiff."
One last look at the genius of Jimi Hendrix
The audience response was muted, probably because many were asleep, but slowly things started to improve. Jimi's guitar picked up. 

"They may be having an off-night but he is still incredibly good," said Peter Frampton, one of the crush in the VIP and press enclosure.

"Okay, we'll start all over again," said Jimi. "Hello England."

"Suddenly there was life on stage and Jimi showed why he is one of the all-time greats by some superb blues playing and singing on Red House."

As it turned out, this was Jimi's last show in the UK. A friend of mine attended the festival specifically to see Hendrix, but was asleep when he came on. Sadly, there would be no next time. September 18th 2020 will be the 50th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's death, at just 27 years of age. 

Rory Gallagher and Taste
Earlier in the weekend, there were two stand-out performances, from Taste and Chicago. Taste were already popular, and starting with What's Going On they ran through their repertoire "with undiminished adulation from the crowd".  

Rory Gallagher, it was noted, "is technically excellent with the ability to play long passages at high speed." They were called back for four encores.

Chicago's set began at dusk on Friday. Guitarist Terry Kath made a big impression. "His guitar was fast and fluent. He looked like the kind of guy who would go down among the audience and personally sort out anyone who messed with his music. A girl actually screamed during one electrifying high speed guitar solo."

No such thing as a Free lunch
Free's set mid-afternoon on Sunday was well received: "Paul Rodger's tough, hairy voice and the obvious sensuality of Paul Kossoff's guitar were the outstanding points." 

But the reviewer said the time of day wasn't ideal for them: "It was a little too close to lunchtime to feel that funky."

"Their number one hit All Right Now really got the crowd moving, although the few who stood up to dance were soon on the ground again after a volley of Coke cans."

For a run-down of all the others artists appearing at the festival, check out the cuttings accompanying this piece. 


On this blog, see also:
Joni Mitchell Tames The Tiger at the Isle of Wight

Jimi Hendrix - The Last Interview

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Steve Howe joins Yes - Wakeman joins The Strawbs

The July 25, 1970 edition of Melody Maker advertised the just-released second album by Yes, Time And A Word.

The advert is notable because it features photos of the band members, one of whom - Steve Howe - didn't actually play on the record.

As the story in the front section of the paper (shown below) revealed, Yes had not split up as some had suspected, but had taken a break while they parted ways with original guitarist Peter Banks, hiring Steve Howe to replace him.

"Steve is a fine guitarist and very cooperative," said Bill Bruford. "Peter was a player who never said anything. Steve talks about it, so we know where we stand."

Bruford also mentioned how Steve Howe's singing allowed them to do three part harmonies. "We are also doing Simon & Garfunkel's 'America', which has been given a great Yes arrangement."
Yes introduce their new guitarist - and Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly of The Humblebums

With hindsight, it is possible to discern some tension still in the band. The interviewer asks whether they had added any new instruments. "Yes, Tony Kaye now plays electric piano," said Chris Squire, slowly and precisely.

In 1971, Kaye was also asked to leave, following his resistance to learn instruments other than the piano and organ. At which point, Squire called synthesiser wizard Rick Wakeman, to see if he was interested in the job.

The same week in July 1970, in another part of town, Rick Wakeman was talking to Melody Maker about joining The Strawbs

The headline suggested he was the 'Pop Find of 1970'.

Rick was starting to become known for his amazing piano and organ playing. He talked about how he had gone from a face in the crowd to suddenly being in the spotlight. 

He originally planned to be a concert pianist but then realised how little they get paid. He started to get offers from rock groups and was spotted by Dave Cousins of The Strawbs, playing seven nights a week for £40 at a pub in Ilford, Essex. 

Tony Visconti, who produced The Strawbs, gave Rick some session work. Gus Dudgeon, who took on the job of producing David Bowie's song Space Oddity
after Visconti turned it down, hired Wakeman to play the Mellotron, for a £9 fee. Wakeman also played the piano on Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens, but went uncredited and unpaid for years, until Stevens rectified his error. It's unmistakably Rick Wakeman.

Wakeman also played on the T. Rex song Get It On, on Elton John's Madman Across the Water album and most famously on Bowie's album Hunky Dory

In fact, later on in 1971, Rick almost became a member of the Spiders From Mars, Bowie's live band, a role that eventually went to Mike Garson. The same day that Bowie offered him the job, Rick got the call from Chris Squire. He met with Yes and the chemistry was instant. They recorded Heart of the Sunrise and parts of Roundabout in their first rehearsal.

Perhaps this July 1970 gig at the Lyceum, reviewed in the same edition, was the one where they recorded The Clap, the guitar instrumental that featured on their next record, The Yes Album. It was certainly recorded at that venue.  

Not a particularly good gig, according to the review. 
"Looking very nervous and sounding it, the band with their new guitarist Steve Howe played a selection of old and new songs. 

"Howe is extremely good and played some nice lead guitar on Astral Traveller."

The review is also notable for the support bands, Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep. Not a bad line-up. The reviewer suggested Sabbath played a good set of hard rock music, "although they could have turned their amps down a little."

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

1970 - Clapton's new band, solo album + IOW Festival goes ahead

Click on each photo to expand
In July 1970, local residents were objecting to planned music festivals in the UK, one at Plumpton Racecourse and another on the Isle of Wight.

The Plumpton Festival was set to feature Deep Purple, Family, Yes, Colloseum, The Groundhogs, Elton John and Peter Green.

It didn't draw a massive crowd like the festivals at Bath and the Isle of Wight. The following year the festival moved to Reading and so began the annual rock festival in the town that is still running today (well not this year obviously).

On the Isle of Wight, the festival promoters, having failed to secure the site of the previous festival in 1969 - which had witnessed Bob Dylan's return to the stage after a three year absence - found a new site at Freshwater Bay for the 1970 festival.

"If anything disastrous does happen (with the approvals process) we can switch to one of the reserve sites," said Peter Harrigan of festival promoters Fiery Creations.

Derek & The Dominoes unveiled
"The County Council has been hounding us and the rear admirals and brigadiers have been whipping up hysteria against us. We've almost been hounded off the island."

"This could be the last year of the big festivals, so we want them to go out with a big bang."

Donovan appeared on the cover of the Melody Maker, announced as performing at the forthcoming IOW festival. 

The news section of the Melody Maker on 25 July featured the first picture of Derek & The Dominoes - Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton - along with tour dates, including a festival in Nice, France.

"We did not want to do any festivals at all, let alone so early" said Clapton. "But this one seems unusual and more pleasant than many others."

On the same page is an item about how the single 'Ohio' by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was to be released in the UK, having been banned by radio stations in America.

The reason for the ban was that
the song refers to US president Richard Nixon and the killing of four Kent State University students by National Guard troops brought in to break up an anti-Vietnam War demonstration.

Meanwhile, Eric Clapton talks to MM about his first solo album, due out in the UK in two weeks. "The biggest reason for it coming out is that it's just good music. I loved the sound of the whole thing and I never thought that was possible. I've had hang-ups about my singing my whole life. I've always been worried about whether or not I could sing."

Clapton said he felt he had to follow through with the album because "I couldn't let anybody down and I had to do it. The love that went around between everybody involved on the record was just so powerful that I'm really proud of it."

Hotlegs - the band that would later become 10cc - emerged with their hit song 'Neanderthal Man'. The band’s leader, Eric Stewart, said they were ready with an album and how amazed he was by Kevin Godley’s singing. At this point, it was just the three of them - Stewart, Godley and Lol Crete, before Graham Gouldman joined and they became 10cc.

Birmingham's Black Sabbath announce their forthcoming second album, Paranoid. The single of the title track is being released this week.

In neat gothic type, the MM describes how Led Zeppelin invaded Germany (groan...)

In the folk gigs section of the Melody Maker this week, the one hit wonder, Mr 'Dave' Bowie is playing at the White Hart pub in Acton, supported by Orpheus Boot.
Who's this Dave Bowie geezer?

Bowie was at this point involved in his Arts Lab project and had formed a new electric band, The Hype, a vehicle for the new songs he had written for his 1970 album, The Man Who Sold The World.

The Hype was Bowie with Tony Visconti on bass, Mick Ronson on guitar and Ronson's mate Woody Woodmansey on drums.

Clearly, he was some way off gaining any kind of recognition for his efforts. Quite a contrast from Ziggymania in two years' time.
In other news, Kenny Everett was sacked by the BBC for making an innocuous remark about a politician's wife passing her driving test. He had been feuding with the BBC management for some time and had recently told the MM the BBC was awful, really revolting". In the interview, Everett said he wouldn't continue as a DJ forever. He already had a London Weekend Television Show, 'Nice Time' and home studio.
The sorry tale of the Yorkshire Folk, Blues & Jazz Festival at Krumlin unfolded in August 50 years ago. What could have been one of the biggest festivals of the era with better management, turned into a logistical disaster that had to be closed down because of unseasonably wet and cold weather.

For the full picture of how a pleasant country festival turned into "an unmitigated disaster", check out the memories of those who attended on this site.  

Monday, 24 August 2020

Memories of the Reading Festival 1975

In amongst the old brown suitcase full of music memorabilia from my youth is quite a bit of stuff from Reading Rock '75.

I even have my festival t-shirt, which has somehow survived.

The 1975 Reading Festival featured a wide range of music and a few bands at the top of their game, including Yes and Hawkwind.

It was probably the last of the classic rock/prog era festivals, before heavy metal and new wave took over. It was also notable for featuring bands who became much bigger sometime later, like Thin Lizzy, Supertramp, Judas Priest, Joan Armatrading even.

The denim-clad hordes descended on the Thames-side festival site on the August Bank Holiday of 1975. It was typically squally bank holiday weather and that played its part, not least for fans of the Saturday night headliners, Yes, who endured a heavy rainstorm. On Sunday, though, the weather was warm and sunny all day, culminating in a blistering afternoon of rock guitar from John McLaughlin, Robin Trower and Wishbone Ash.
Shirts are off so this must have been Sunday
On the festival site, the atmosphere was largely peaceful amongst the crowd of probably around 50,000 people.

But this was still the era when the hardcore freaks believed that bands should be playing for free - anything else was a sell-out, man! So there was a degree of suspicion and cynicism among the more experienced festival goers.

One of the regular conversations heard through the weekend was who was going to be at the free festival at Watchfield the following week. The hardcore freaks were all going to be there and Hawkwind were headlining. See the report by Allan Jones at the end of this article for more on that.
The two-stage set up at Reading

Onstage at Reading, there were several musical highlights for me. The '75 festival had a strong line-up, but you can see from my crossings-out on this flyer that Richard & Linda Thompson and Lou Reed were no-shows.

from the Festival newspaper
Here are the highlights for me, with links to audio and video where available:

The headliners on the Friday night, they were suitably loud, spacey and heavy - a mind-expanding experience.

Singer and lyricist Robert Calvert made a guest appearance at Reading, after which he chose to rejoin the band as a full-time lead vocalist.
Bob Calvert

They started out playing Warrior On The Edge of Time and then played Psychedelic Warlords Disappear In Smoke and Master Of The Universe.
Bob Calvert wasn't much of a singer, but he was the perfect frontman for Hawkwind, chanting his space poetry.

"In the event of sonic attack...!"

As the official programme noted in very un-PC terms, "even if you don't like the music, there's the ample frontage of Stacia to keep you occupied, as she cavorts about the stage".
Nik Turner, Bob Calvert and Simon King's huge drumkit
Visuals were always a large part of the Hawkwind experience, with psychedelic lighting provided by Liquid Len and the Lensmen. Stacia had joined Hawkwind in 1971 as a dancer, typically performing topless and wearing body paint.
Stacia having a bit of a cavort

Reading '75 was the end of an era, though, as this was the amazonian dancer's last gig with the band. The Melody Maker reviewer was unimpressed, describing Stacia "stomping around with all the grace of the Statue of Liberty animated by Ray Harryhausen on an off-day."

Their encore was the much-anticipated Silver Machine and then, as midnight approached, Dave Brock wished the audience a good night and told them to "smoke plenty of good dope".

The reviewer concluded that "The Hawks were surprisingly tight and well-disciplined. One would suggest this was one of their better performances. Simon House, on violin and keyboards, displayed a fine lyrical mastery that proved an excellent counterbalance to the rumblings of Nik Turner and the rest of the band."

Judge for yourself. Here's the full set they played at Reading

Second on the bill on Friday were Dr. Feelgood. They warmed up the crowd with a typically high energy set. I'd seen them earlier in the year at Brunel University, so knew what to expect. We were a bit too far away to get the full effect - the two stage set-up meant you had to make a choice if you wanted a good position for the headliners. The Melody Maker review (see the scans at the end of this blog) reckoned they were one of the festival highlights. Here's some film of them just a month before the festival.

YES - Saturday night
As Hawkwind had done the previous evening, Yes kept us waiting, but eventually put on a show worthy of festival headliners, complete with an elaborate stage set designed by album cover artist Roger Dean.
Rick Wakeman had left the band earlier in 1975, after a series of disagreements over what he saw as the over-indulgent music on their last album Tales From Topographic Oceans.

His replacement, Swiss keyboard whizz Patrick Moraz, brought a similarly showy and virtuoso style to the music. They began their set with the track Soundchaser from their new album Relayer. The set included many of their most popular favourites, such as I've Seen All Good People, And You and I and Close To The Edge.
YES played on through the rain
Unfortunately for us, as the set progressed, it began to rain and became torrential by the end of their set, as laser beams pierced through the deluge. "Silvery specks of rain cascaded through the green pencil beams and the soaked hordes roared their defiance against elements," said the MM review.

"Until the rain, Yes played magnificently. They played on regardless, with commendable courage and they were greeted with tumultuous cheers.

"And You And I was exceptional, with fine country guitar work from Steve Howe."

I have a bootleg CD of it, bought in Japan several years ago. Jon Anderson thanks the audience profusely for braving the conditions.

My clip featured here gives you some idea of how it looked. And here's a reasonable audio of it. For a better idea of their set from this time, check out the Live at QPR films that are fairly easy to find.

John McLaughlin at Reading
The Mahavishnu Orchestra featuring John McLaughlin - Sunday Afternoon
This was a later version of Mahavishnu, stripped down to a four piece featuring Narada Michael Walden on drums, Ralphe Armstrong on bass and Stu Goldberg on keyboards.

Although the band had changed, much of the material they played was familiar to fans of the first two Mahavishnu albums, The Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire.

They began their set with Meeting Of The Spirits, which was as frenetic as ever. The MM reviewer was surprised how animated McLaughlin appeared: "Stomping about the stage like a heavy metal kid rather than the darling of the jazz rock avant garde, face bearing a smile that was positively beatific, except when he was wringing out those deliciously agonising galaxies of notes on his guitar."

Here's a link to the MO's set at Reading.

The sun was out and there was a good vibe in the crowd. Festival DJ John Peel played Cream's Born Under A Bad Sign and next up on the left hand stage was the Robin Trower band.

Robin Trower and drummer Bill Lordan at Reading
This was the high point of the Sunday afternoon and perhaps the whole weekend. I have this memory of the crowd getting in such a frenzy – it was a lovely sunny afternoon and a kind of delirium came over the crowd during Trower’s set. 

At the climax of one of the songs, a great wave of cheering could be heard as a rubbish fight broke out across a no-man’s land puddle of mud towards the back of the crowd. Or maybe they were just chucking everything into the void. I just remember this cloud of paper and empty bottles suspended in the air, the crowd seemingly spurred on by the excitement of the music.
MM hails Trower and Yes

Trower's set was drawn from the first three albums, particularly the classic Bridge of Sighs. Another highlight was always Trower's tribute to 'the man', the song Daydream, dedicated to Jimi Hendrix.

Trower had been saddled with being a Hendrix imitator and the MM's reviewer said he still sounded like Jimi. "Not an imitator, you'll note, but if you close your eyes and just listen to the chops, feel the chord sequences in your gut, it might well be James Marshall Hendrix reincarnated."

Trower proved that the heavy power trio had far from run out of steam, said the review. "I would not have believed it possible for such limited instrumentation to keep one's interest alive for 90 minutes. But Trower did it, and of course they loved him for it, calling him back for two encores."

I've written a separate blog piece about the Robin Trower band who were at, or close to, their peak at this time certainly in terms of the intensity of their playing. 

Here's a link to audio of Robin Trower's set at Reading;

The headliners on Sunday, Wishbone Ash played faithful versions of their most popular album Argus, plus tracks from their most recent album, There's The Rub. No footage or boots that I can find of their show at Reading, possibly because the lights went out at one point and they had to continue playing in the dark. But here's some film of them playing at Winterland in February '76.

from the festival newspaper
Thin Lizzy - This was early days for the Mark II Lizzy but they had already trademarked the twin guitar sound, with new guys Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham. Later on in 1977 and '78, Lizzy would hit the big time with Jailbreak and the Live & Dangerous album.

In 1975 though, they were still building up to that and went on mid-afternoon, playing songs from their current album Fighting. I'd heard them playing a session on the radio and, as a fan of the original band (I bought Whiskey In The Jar and The Rocker) I was interested to see how the new one compared.

John Peel announced them as "one of the best bands you're going to hear this weekend."

Of course, they were great. The template was set, Lynott leading the line with a swagger and bantering with the crowd. It may have taken them a while to get the crowd going, but eventually "the pounding of Brian Downey's two bass drums and the twin guitar leads backing Lynott' earthy vocals began to bite," said the MM.

"Heavy riffs came flying, but it was 'I'm Still In Love With You', a slow piece, that helped relax the band and gave space for a fine solo by Brian Robertson."

Here's some brief film of that show tagged with a recording of it, for those who were there.

If that's too rough for your taste, here's a sample of their live set from that tour.

Supertramp - all dressed in white jumpsuits as I recall, played a faithful rendition of the Crime of The Century album. It was raining though, and I remember ducking for cover at one point. It felt like I wasn't missing much, because Supertramp were not projecting any great spectacle to the crowd. It was just like listening to the album.

Here's audio of them playing School in 1975
and here's video of them playing Dreamer

UFO - Another band I was fond of at the time, they played before Dr. Feelgood on Friday evening.  Doctor Doctor has become a rock classic and in this clip, they are playing another, Rock Bottom in 1975

Soft Machine, were a treat for jazz rock fans. John Etheridge joined the band in early 1975, replacing Allan Holdsworth, the guitarist on their then current album Bundles. Etheridge told Jazzwise magazine, "Following Allan as the Soft Machine guitarist was demanding. I felt that I was one of the few people who could cope. I was quite proud of that.”

Although they didn't do much in the way of performance, a bit like Supertramp, I found their music was quite intriguing. The MM noted their set consisted mainly of songs from Bundles, "together with some rather nice material distinguished by good wind and guitar voicings and an excellent drum solo  by John Marshall."

Here is Etheridge with Soft Machine in 1975.

Judas Priest - I was a fan of their first album Rocka Rolla. This was well before their international fame in the 80s and Rob Halford's leather fixation. Halford had long hair at this time and the music was much more blues rock than the metal of later years. Good though. This is probably the earliest footage of them, live at Reading.

And for any diehard Judas Priest fans, here's a link to the audio of their set

Joan Armatrading
Gary Holton honing his acting skills on stage with The Kids
She was the opening act on Sunday. It was clear she had something special. A deep beguiling voice and some good songs. She was promoting a new album, Back To The Night.

"Joan announced she was going to sing some blues and the response from the crowd was immediate," said the MM. "By the time she finished with 'Back To The Night' she had raised them from their somnolence."

Not sure if I'd heard her before this, but she definitely made an impression.

The Heavy Metal Kids - They'd shortened their name to The Kids at this point. They were my mate Kev's favourite from the weekend, I think, because of singer Gary Holton's theatrics. It was apparent that Holton was a character,  even then, way before he appeared as one of the actors in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

The band were a lot tighter than their appearance here the previous year, said the reviewer. "They roared through 'Boogie Woogie', 'The Cops are Coming', 'Rock and Roll Man' and even a jokey chorus from the Bay City Rollers. Gary raced around the stage, gesticulating, posing and being just enough of a pain in the neck to arouse the ire of a whole coach load of rock writers."

As we trudged home on the bank holiday Monday, tired and hungry, a voice cried out from the distance: WALLY!!!
The following week, the bikers and hardcore hippies convened at Watchfield