Festivals & Pop Proms

ALL THE HAPPENINGS REVIEWED…

THE BATH FESTIVAL of Blues was no picnic for the poor kid stranded in the middle of the football field and badly in need of a public convenience. As one peered out on a veritable sea of heads (pun?), it appeared as if there were two or three more hippies than blades of grass on the field. 40,000 or more raving music buffs migrated to the site on Saturday the 28th via train, plane, car, foot or meditation to see the vast line-up of acts, which included, among others, Fleetwood Mac, Lep Zeppelin, John Mayall, Keef Hartley Band, the Nice, Roy Harper (?), Chicken Shack, Liverpool Scene and a never-ending list of others.

The stages (two) were barely visible from the opposite end of the field, but the sound was audible throughout the grounds. Hot dogs were being consumed with gusto and there was a run on the ice cream van which put poor old Luigi under great stress. People shuffled through mile-long queues, forgetting half way, what it was they were queueing for. A space forty feet from the stages was worth its weight in Watney’s.

The great teeming hordes behaved exceptionally well with the frequent persuasion of John Peel and Mike Quinn. It was a great day for armpits and whiskers and not an idle one musically. Led Zeppelin and the Nice appeared to have stolen the show, but all the other acts were received with voluminous applause. The only incident occurred during John Mayall’s set when one monumental idiot who had been annoying the crowds and bands for hours, chucked a bottle and was promptly chucked in return. Things otherwise were handled well by the genuine people who came down to hear some good sounds. Chicken Shack’s man with the 200ft. lead. Stan Webb, had this to say:

“It was an exceptionally good festival, but I think they should have erected a scaffold or bleachers in the back so all of them could see. Also the bar went dry.”

“We’re not supposed to drink, so the bar doesn’t affect us [cheesy grin],” said Zeppelin’s lead singer Robert Plant. “The only drawback to the show was the short sets. We have trouble with short bits because you can’t connect as people unless everybody has a chance to do their solo. But still, there were a lot of acts to go on.”

A lot of people got well tanned in the sun with the music going through their ears. It was a big day for the exciting town of Bath and as the great migration north started late in the evening, apprehensive pensioners could be seen standing in doorways casting the heavy eye on the passing crowds and thinking, “What’s it all about? Arrrrrr.”

THE LOVEABLE BLOB

The concept of the Pop Proms was proven stable from the first rapturous night on which Led Zeppelin, again, were topping the bill. Blodwyn Pig snorted out some nice lead guitar numbers and came back for an encore with ‘Catsquirrel’. Adrian Henry, that loveable blob from the Liverpool scene, bounced out onstage and announced they would be appearing as the famed supergroup Blind Adam Faith, featuring Eric Clapped-out on guitar. The first highly original number was ‘Catsquirrel’. They finished with that great emotional tear-jerker about the death of Bobby and the Helmets, the ‘Woo Woo’ song. The scene ended with the sexy disintegration of Adrian’s trousers, exposing last week’s knickers, baby.

Zeppelin were incredible as only they can be. Robert’s screeching voice was in good shape and his seaweed hair flopped in earnest. Jimmy Page played up to his legend and darted about the stage like a caged animal. Jimmy’s guitar solo and John Bonham’s drum solo started the ravers going in the aisles. Occasionally there was a hint of a smile from the man of steel, John Paul Jones. There were no less than three encores which ran on even after the power had been cut and Robert had to resort to his harp.

Promoter Roy Guest’s expensive flower arrangement was uprooted by demonstrative fans and bestowed on the group. It was more like a New Year’s Eve party at that point. I haven’t seen a band go down so well for a long time. Numbers played included ‘Dazed And Confused’, plus a Zeppelin first in the form of their last encore when they swung into a rock medley of ‘Long Tall Sally’ and other beat standards with the crowd in full swing.

Monday was quieter, beginning with the intricate sounds of the Pentangle. The jazz-folk group, which houses the talents of Bert Jansch, went down very well on such numbers as ‘Bruton Town’ and ‘Pentangling’. Duster Bennett, the one man band, got a very enthusiastic reception and did an encore of heavy electric blues coupled with extremely coordinated footwork on drum and cymbal. Fleetwood Mac topped the bill with Peter Green’s famous guitar. The double lead guitarwork set more people alight and the guards had quite a time scraping the aisles.

A triumph for the whole underground network occurred on Tuesday when the line-up included some very big solid pop groups — the Amen Corner, Marmalade, the Bob Kerr Whoopee Band, the Equals and the Web. The odd aspect was that that bill pulled in only a half-filled house, whereas the Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac shows swelled to ninety per cent. Granted the teeny bop show was on a Tuesday and a portion of the possible clientele might not have been allowed out on a week-day by prudent mothers. Musically, the Amen Corner and the Equals were the strongest. Andy has a good voice which hasn’t any problem coping with twelve lippy girls slobbering and fighting off the stage hands to get to him. They eventually forced him to retreat in the middle of the last number as he was nearly buried in the oncoming horde. The Equals put on a strong act with worm-like acrobatics and frivolous contortions, plus some good beat. Bob Kerr’s band, which is made up of ex-Bonzo people and old New Vaudeville Band members, had some fresh comedy and pastiche 20’s jazz that went over well.

The Marmalade, of course, entertained many screams and reaching fingers. Numbers such as ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’ and ‘Lovin’ Things’ brought mini ravers down from the third tier. It was useless to sit down in the stalls because of the mob surrounding the stage. The Web, with John L. Watson singing, did mucho Afro bongo mumbo jumbo and their hit ‘Baby Won’t You Leave Me Alone’. Watson lacked variety in his singing tone, which took a little from the act. All in all, it was one of those nights where it was impossible to shut the kids up if you wanted to do a quiet number — which was just as well a lot of the time. It had its good points, though.

The rare and much adored performances of the Incredible String Band always assure promoters of a full house and audiences of a good period of fine music. Robin Williamson and Mike Heron, plus female accomplices, spun a neatly woven pattern of mystical, lilting and summer songs from a variety of ethnic sources. No longer do we have the bouncy lightweight philosophies of ‘Painting Box’, but into deeper multi-instrumental movements bordering on musical meditation. Flowers again adorned the stage following ‘A Very Cellular Song’, which was their last number. Not a personal inspiration for me, but very likely revelation for others. Family put guts into their presentation, but Roger Chapman’s machine gun voice often drives me up the walls. Musically they are quite adept, but somehow, the overall product is disagreeable. Their reception was good, proving that I am talking through my hat. The Fairport Convention, with their scales of neatly bound harmonies, appeared to me to be the best thing on the bill. Nice gentle, and most of all, pretty music.

The Dubliners played to an audience that threatened to fill only half the Albert Hall — but another 25 per cent were late due to the tube strike. Opening the show were the Young Tradition, a traditional singing trio that much to my dismay, are breaking up after their next and last appearance. Their unaccompanied harmony approached the sound of bagpipes at times, with a droning bass line jumping scales at odd times. Best of the set was ‘Bright Morning Stars Are Rising’. Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick followed with a combination of guitar and violin. Carthy also has a good voice in the old pint and song vein. Best of their set was ‘Prince Heathen’, which contained the beautiful sound of fingers picking the strings to Swarbrick’s violin. The Ian Campbell Folk Group includes guitar, mandolin, banjo and string bass in the musical line-up. The intricate five-part harmonies carried off shanties, traditionals and contemporary songs with ease. The fine voice of Ian’s sister Lorna Campbell rendered ‘Dainty Davey’ the best of the set.

Dominic Behan’s wit and songs cleverly linked the acts together. He frequently reminded us he wasn’t allowed to sing, but sang — and to a reception that equalled any of the people on the bill. There is nothing to match the feelings aroused by the Dubliners. As Dominic put it, “The only group that can give guts to Irish song.” A slight instrumental and the ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ opened the act, followed by such numbers as ‘Boulavogue’, ‘Maids When You’re Young Never Wed An Old Man’, ‘Flop Eared Mule’, an amazing fiddle medley by John Sheehan and Dominic’s song, ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’. Each member of the Dubliners is the living picture of what you’d expect a man who plays that particular instrument to be. They are earthy stalwart characters all. Sons of the soil and the fruit of the pub legend. The hand clapping from the hall did not stop throughout the performance and demand for encores could not be stifled. Tom Paxton, American folk singer, was seen digging them intensely from the back of the stage. Soul could be defined in many ways — but this was a good example of it in full bloom.

ROCK REVELATIONS.

Friday was a revelation for the Rock fans, in the first appearance for many years of Chuck Berry. The Alan Bown Set were somewhat uninspiring and the Chicken Shack were up to expected standards, but both were involved in a concert rather out of their field. Chuck Berry lifted the audience, which was mainly comprised of hard rockers, to great heights of ecstasy. The songs were familiar but welcome: ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, ‘Nadine’, ‘Promised Land’, ‘Memphis Tennessee’, and other goodies…

The final evening of the Pop Proms was a wild triumph musically, but may well have shed a few ulcers on the staff of the Albert Hall. All went quietly for the first group, Bodast, who weren’t particularly inspiring. They are a progressive band, employing all the draws used by better bands in their vein. Best we let them develop a little more. Out of the dark corners trooped the rock men as Chuck Berry was introduced. His second appearance contained many of the numbers done the night before, but the quality remained superb. Glorious jiving rose to an uncontrollable point by the time ‘Johnny B. Goode’ came up. Several stage hands were clouted in the frenzy, but all musical types were united in appreciation. It was just that some were more enthusiastic than others and wrecked a couple of chairs. “You name it, we play it,” said Chuck as he duck-walked across the stage.

Topping the bill were the Who. A few rockers went out and stocked up on pebbles when they saw Pete’s all white costume and Roger Daltry’s flowing white fringes on his open front leather outfit. However, police routed those in the isles, and the Who continued with ‘Summertime Blues’ to the rock fans’ delight. While Daltry swung the microphone all over the stage, they played three-quarters of their double LP Tommy, including the famous ‘Pinball Wizard’. Reception was so good, they made three encores and had to quit. The entire halt was on it’s feet for the wildest night of all seven.

It was a clever idea, the Proms, and carried off well by NEMS and the Tony Barrow Organisation on publicity. Undoubtedly, it paved the way for a repeat performance.

© Lon GoddardRecord Mirror, 12 July 1969

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