The Beatles, The Rolling Stones et al: NME Poll Winners’ Concert, Empire Pool, Wembley, London


NME READERS — take a bow! You were responsible for choosing the stars for the greatest pop show in the world. By voting for them in the NME popularity poll, you put most of them on the stage at Wembley’s Empire Pool.

In the audience of 10,000 on Sunday afternoon were teenagers from the world over — America, Australia. European countries, and all over Britain. For 3½ hours they were united, enjoying a procession of top talent.

It was good to see the Beatles back on stage, confounding all those who say they are on the wane by getting the biggest ovation of their careers. Stones, Animals, Tom Jones, Dusty, Cilia and everyone else got terrific hands. Good to see, too, folk acts like Donovan and the Seekers get warm acclaim, and instrumentally, Sounds Incorporated win wild applause.

Great show ! And wonderful that the Maurice Kinn presented Poll Concert was British — and tops !

FIRST HALF by Keith Altham

A SENSATION among the sensations was provided at the 1965 NME Poll Winners’ Concert last Sunday by “Fu Man Savile” the fiendish Chinese disc jockey.

NME‘s Derek Johnson opened the proceedings by welcoming a capacity 10,000 to Wembley’s Empire Pool and as self-styled cheer leader for ABC-TV (telerecording) requested an all-out opening roar! Our man then retired with a bad case of perforated ear drums and left the scene to DJ of the year — JIMMY SAVILE !

For one minute we thought things had gone “wong” but it merely proved some of Savile’s sartorial insanity as he minced on stage wearing a Chinese mandarin’s jacket, a pill box hat, sunglasses and carrying an oriental fan.

Having decided that every show must have its villain he slunk furtively about the stage and encouraged a storm of good natured booing at his every appearance! The audience loved him!

THE MOODY BLUES bounced on stage in their dark blue suits and pounded a storm out of tambourines, maraccas and guitars for ‘Hey Bo Diddley’. Denny Laine broke into ‘Go Now’ as their second number only they did not. The pianist had not switched on his amp. After the faulty start their number one hit brought a rave reaction from the audience at the conclusion.

KEITH FORDYCE appeared on the scene and in his usual relaxed and easy going manner chatted rather than compered. To his credit, the vast audience listened attentively to his remarks about U.S. chart topping groups and finally broke into screaming activity for —

FREDDIE and the DREAMERS who opened with something which sounded like ‘Oooh Oooh Oooh Oh-bup Whop-ooh’ but proved to be ‘Little Bitty Pretty One’. He used the hand mike as an ice-cream cornet, slung his Jacket off one shoulder in a sexy send-up, dismantling the microphone stand and made repeated attempts to leap into orbit. A less exuberant Freddie scored with equal success singing ‘Little You’.

GEORGIE FAME and the BLUE FLAMES emerged victorious from chaos when it was found that he had no microphone over his electric organ. He treated the audience to a wildly swinging version of ‘Yeh Yeh’. Georgie fell off the top of his stool while announcing ‘Walk The Dog’ and cracked: “This is the first time we’ve ever played here — and I’m sure going to remember it.” The applause he received from a sympathetic audience should have proved more than an antidote.

TWINKLE provided the first touch of glamour in the show but facing such a massive audience seemed nervous and her voice registered thinly, during ‘Terry’. Her second number was the up tempo ‘Roll Over Beethoven’.

THE SEEKERS found instant acclaim with their number one hit, ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’ and Judith Durham particularly impressed with her beautifully controlled lead voice. Their new record, ‘World Of Our Own’ was also well received but a little too similar to their previous number. Without amplifiers or any electronics, they sang clearly with perfectly balanced arrangements on both numbers.

Keith Fordyce reappeared to introduce his colleague from Ready, Steady, Go! days, KATHY McGOWAN, who looked genuinely terrified in front of the huge audience. She shook off her nerves to introduce competently —

HERMAN’S HERMITS who led off into a catchy hand clapper, ‘Wonderful World’. Showing no signs of nerves at all, Herman gave a highly professional performance and his rendering of ‘Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter’ proved something new. The number is currently high in the U.S. charts.

THE IVY LEAGUE and their new backing group, Division (led by ex-Tornado drummer Clem Cattini) provided some falsetto notes which sounded almost impossible on ‘Funny How Love Can Be’. The League proved equally professional during ‘Sweet And Tender Romance’ and ‘That’s Why I’m Crying’ stretched the epiglottis once more.

SOUNDS INCORPORATED displayed what fine musicians they are by filling the gigantic Empire Fool with their Big Beat. Perfectly balanced and beautiful played with some interesting organ patterns was ‘Time For You’. They extracted the maximum clapping performance from 10,000 spectators during their rave interpretation of ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’. I rated this group one of the finest acts in the first-half, with the most exciting sound.

THE BACHELORS turned up on stage with a complete Irish showband to back them and gave a polished performance of ‘The Whole World In His Hands’. Three voices but almost a choir when it comes to those big dramatic ballads and with a powerhouse backing behind them they stormed to big finish with ‘No Arms Can Ever Hold You’.

WAYNE FONTANA extracted the biggest reaction for a single artist and the screamers really went to work while he sang ‘Game Of Love’.The Mindbenders proved how integral a part of the groups success they are during ‘A Little Too Late’ and while Wayne smacked the daylights out of a tambourine, they put a solid beat behind his vocal. The group proved a perfect warm-up for things to come.

THE ROLLING STONES entered the arena to the biggest ovation in the first-half and Mick Jagger swung into his mean and moody routine with ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’ which broke straight into the slower, ‘Pain In My Heart’. Faultless timing and knowing just where to put the emphasis in his phrasing brought hysterical reactions from the fans.

The faster tempo of ‘Round And Around’ provided Jagger with the opportunity of going into his more violent movements and he whirled around at one moment like a berserk windmill. The Stones showed how important it is not only to give the audience something to listen to but also to watch and Mick’s facial dramatics during ‘The Last Time’ are an education.

They rounded off a wild performance with ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’ as an encore and Bill and Keith joined in the vocals. No one was left in any doubt as to who was the most popular group in this fantastic first-half.

SECOND HALF by Alan Smith

THE ROCKIN’ BERRIES opened the second half with ‘Transistor Radio’ — an up-tempo number that lends itself to impersonations of topical pop-stars. The Berries chose P.J. Proby (good) and Cliff (not so good) and threw in Norman Wisdom for a bit of fun. I’m not sosure that the song was a bright idea as an opener, but the group more than made up for it with a preview of their next release ‘Poor Man’s Son’.

CILLA BLACK came next. Here, truly was a good artist. She bounced to the front of the stage with her first number ‘Zip-a-dee Doo Dah’. Behind her, Sounds Incorporated provided a big, brassy backing that seemed to send the temperature soaring. Cilia ended her act (dressed in a stunning long white dress) with ‘I Think I’m Going Out Of My Head’. It was soft but dramatic, and you could have heard a pin drop — till the thunderous applause!

DONOVAN — this was the act so many fans had been waiting for, if only for its curiosity value. Would Donovan match up to his publicity? The roughly-dressed folk singer answered in a way that should silence his critics for ever. He came on stage to a fantastic barrage of screams. First number was his hit ‘Catch The Wind’, sung firmly and confidently, and he followed It with a slow wailer ‘You’re Gonna Need Somebody When I’m Gone’. Plenty of harmonica work here.

THEM, these quiet Irishmen weren’t so quiet after they’d ambled on to the stage! And let there be no doubt about their popularity. Lead singer Van Morrison led the audience to fever pitch through his cymbal-clashing ‘Here Comes The Night’, followed immediately by another number that had many of the audience jumping from their seats. The title: ‘Turn On Your Lovelight’. The tempo went faster and faster, and at times it sounded like some ecstatic pop version of a Cossack dance!

TOM JONES was a real highlight of the show. He swung and waved his way through three raving numbers. The big sound of trumpets, guitars and sax behind him — provided by the Squires — was just right. Tom opened in punchy style with ‘Little By Little’ and then went into ‘It’s Not Unusual’ (screams galore) and a preview of his new disc ‘Once Upon A Time’.

Clad in red shirt and black, tight trousers, he more than proved himself as one of the best visual performers in the pop business.

THE SEARCHERS looked almost distinguished as they came on stage in immaculate dark suits and neatly-combed hair (quite a contrast to the devil-may-care look of some of the other artists!). And as usual, they gave a first-rate and polished performance. There was obvious disappointment from the crowd that the group did not include ‘Goodbye My Love’ or some other familiar hit in its act — featured numbers were ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ and ‘Bumble Bee’ — and 1 felt many of the fans missed the usual humorous contribution from Chris Curtis. But it was still a not-to-be-missed performance

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD proved a real treat for the eye. She wore a vivid, long orange skirt with a sequined top that dazzled and winked as she moved about the stage. First number: ‘Dancing In The Streets’, a white-hot raver that has become one of the talking points of her act. ‘Mocking Bird’ (with vocal help from the Echoes) and ‘Can’t You Hear Me No More’ brought it to a fantastic climax.

THE ANIMALS thundered through three wild numbers (in true Animals’ style, they lasted several minutes longer than usual!) and at times lead singer Eric Burdon sang on his knees! Most of the opening number, ‘Boom Boom’, came over this way, although the group adopted a more moody and relaxed pace for their hit ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. The screams rose to a deafening pitch as Eric threw off his jacket in a frenzy of excitement during the final number, ‘Talking About You’.

Then a rostrum was rolled forward across the stage. The instruments were set up and on the drum were words — THE BEATLES!!

It was enough! Compere Keith Fordyce’s announcement was buried in a literal avalanche of applause, screams, thumping and cheering. Especially screams. I felt as if the roof might blow off.

In seconds, John, Paul, George and Ringo were on stage, drawing gasps of appreciation from the girl fans at their new stage gear. I think you could best describe the jackets as light tan, army-style (A bit Russian perhaps?) and the trousers as tight, jet black.

Suddenly George plucked the first notes of ‘I Feel Fine’ on his guitar — and it was like a signal for a riot! How many of the girls present kept more or less in their seats I still do not know. The girl next to me fell on her knees weeping.

The Beatles themselves were as polished, assured and professional as ever — unquestionably the leaders of this great array of talented artists.

After ‘I Feel Fine’ Paul managed to shout “Hello, how are you?” In the mike. That was all he could manage above the noise. John stood chewing gum, smiling nonchalantly at his plight!

The girl next to me threw her hair brush at them as Paul launched into the vocal of the group’s second number, ‘She’s A Woman’. I tried to stop her throwing her wire roller-comb, but no use. She flung it at the stage, almost in a delirium, and it just missed George’s head.

Paul was in terrific vocal form on this typical “coloured” number. Before the show he’d confessed he was “petrified with nerves” — but it didn’t show.

After ‘She’s A Woman’, John and Paul joined forces on the vocal for their lilter ‘Baby’s In Black’. It was great stuff.

Then came ‘Ticket To Ride’, and the screams rose to such a level of fury it was almost impossible to hear anything but the solid beat of Ringo’s drums.

The finale — that long-time Beatles’ raver, ‘Long Tall Sally’. It proved an incredible end to a truly incredible performance, with the group almost struggling offstage amid a barrage of objects. I’m sure the fans meant well !

The presentation of Poll Awards came at this stage — top American singer TONY BENNETT doing the honours — and then came a final contribution from THE KINKS who pounded through ‘Tired Of Waiting’ and ‘You Really Got Me’ in terrific style, agreat closing act!

It was a big, brash, belting show, loaded with names and loaded with talent. Truly, the biggest array of pop stars ever assembled on one great day.

© Keith Altham, Alan SmithNew Musical Express, 16 April 1965

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