The Oval Cricket Ground, Kennington, London
Saturday, 18th September 1971
50 Not Out!
I thought it might be interesting to mark the 50th anniversary of the ‘Goodbye Summer’ festival, my first festival and the first of what would be three such events held at the Oval Cricket Ground in the early ’70s. Headlining this bill were The Who, The Faces, along with performances by Atomic Rooster, Mott The Hoople, Lindisfarne and more… And all for the princely sum of £1.25!
The Oval might seem an unlikely venue for a rock concert, however at that time, the home of Surrey Cricket was on the verge of bankruptcy and looking for alternative income sources. The concert came about when London-based promoter Rikki Farr, who had been involved in staging of 1969’s Isle of Wight festival, was on the lookout for a large outdoor venue to help raise funds for the humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh. The Oval, close to the city centre and with a capacity of 31,000, was the ideal venue. Rikki Farr and the backers also offered the club a £3,000 guarantee, a substantial amount of money 50 years ago. Although only 10,000 tickets were sold prior to the event, it is estimated that between 35,000 and 40,000 attended on the day. It was certainly full!
Cochise 11:00 – 11:30
Greaseband 11:45 – 12:30
Lindisfarne 12:45 – 01:30
Quintessence 01:45 – 02:30
Mott The Hoople 02:45 – 03:30
America 03:45 – 04:15
Eugene Wallis 04:20 – 04:45
Atomic Rooster 04:50 – 05:45
The Faces 06:00 – 07:00
The Who 07:45 – 09:25
Well, that was the initial plan, however the concert ran well over with The Who getting on-stage after the festival’s scheduled finish time.
So to the day itself and in true cricketing tradition the concert began at 11:00 (well, there abouts) and MCs for the day were Jeff Dexter (attired in cricketing whites) and Rikki Farr.
Opening the festival were Cochise, and in 1971 I hadn’t heard anything by the band, subsequently my recollections of them are few. On top of this, the sound was ‘fraught with issues’ across the day and Cochise were early suffers.
The interim years have allowed me to dip into their back catalogue of three albums – Cochise, Swallow Tales and So Far – released between 1969 and 1972. My ‘reintroduction’ to Cochise came with the release of the Velvet Mountain compilation album on Cherry Red Records. Perhaps indicative of the times, their music with its rich vocals and a country swagger has stood the test of time rather well.
Cochise were relatively short-lived, band members would go on to ‘greater’ notoriety. Mick Grabham would join Procol Harum; B.J. Cole went on to be a session musician, working with David Gilmour, Sting, Roger Waters, Alan Parsons, to mention a few; John “Willie” Wilson with David Gilmour.
In reality another band I knew little about in ’71. My only exposure to them through tracks I’d heard by Joe Cocker – his now legendary version of The Beatles’ With A little Help From My Friends and the classic Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood spring to mind. The Grease Band are probably best remembered as Joe Cocker’s backing group. Their performance at The Oval was, of course, without Mr Cocker, although their accomplished bluesy rock was still present.
Like Cochise, Grease Band will probably be remembered more for what the band members went on to do. Keyboards man Chris Stainton went on tour extensively with Eric Clapton, bassist Alan Spenner performed and recorded with a whole host of bands/artists including Spooky Tooth, Peter Frampton, ABC, China Crisis, Kokomo, Roxy Music, and many more. Similarly, rhythm guitarist Neil Hubbard went on to play with Bluesology, Kokomo, Roxy Music, again mentioning just a few. Henry McCullough will probably be best remembered as the guitarist in Paul McCartney’s Wings in the early ’70s.
At last, something I recognised. From the same neck of the woods as myself, Lindisfarne’s ear-friendly folk songs engaged with the audience. In fact, they received a huge roar from the crowd when they appeared on stage. Formed in 1968, in the summer of ’71 the band were on the cusp of releasing their Fog On The Tyne album, The Oval performance comprising of the classic Lindisfarne line-up of Hull, Jackson, Cowe, Clements and Laidlaw.
I cannot shed light on the full set-list, however I recollect them playing Lady Eleanor, Clear White Light and We Can Swing Together from Nicely Out Of Tune. Did they perform tracks from Fog On The Tyne? I thought they did, but this could well be filling in the gaps retrospectively. Sadly, Lindisfarne were another band who suffered from PA issues, but it didn’t seem to daunt their performance or the enjoyment of the audience (too much).
Probably a combination of Quintessence’s Eastern flavoured, lengthy psychedelic jams, the warm summer weather and the long journey to London, but I seem to remember nodding off for the majority of their set.
MOTT THE HOOPLE
No danger of sleeping during through Mott The Hoople’s set and they certainly woke the crowd up. Messrs Hunter, Ralphs, Watts, Griffin and Allen at this point were the liveliest act of the day. Not sure if they played tracks from their shortly to be released Brain Capers, a personal favourite, then and now, however there was a rollicking and somewhat extended version of Keep A Knockin’, along with Walking With A Mountain, Rock n’ Roll Queen and I seem to remember a version of The Kink’s You Really Got Me.
Lasting memories of Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffiths standing on top of his kit and Ian Hunter’s white Iron Cross guitar. The gig was hotting up – or was it?
America’s infectious folky acoustic songs were ideal fodder for a festival, however an error in the scheduling methinks meant America were largely ignored. Comfort breaks – not a term used in the 70s 😉 – food, and for those old enough to drink, refreshments.
America were another band who were largely unheard of in ’71. Their self-titled debut was released earlier that year, however Horse With No Name wasn’t on it and in fact was released late in ’71. I’m sure they played it, however the only tracks I remember were Sandman, courtesy of Radio Luxembourg, and Riverside which the band performed on The Old Grey Whistle Test, broadcast three days later. Memories of dragging my parents in front of the television – “I saw these on Saturday!”
Almost unanimously ignored by the crowd was the obligatory solo acoustic guitar/singer Eugene Wallace. More a shouter than a singer – a sort of awful Richie Havens.
Whilst researching for this article I did check out Eugene Wallace’s debut Book of Fool which I have to say is better than anticipated and musically not a million miles away from Mr Cocker. As a side note, one track from the album features Phil Collins – what ever happened to him? 🙂
Considering Atomic Rooster were one of the bands I wanted to see, as I had recently bought the wonderful In Hearing Of album, my recollections of their set are vague. I do remember they were beset by sound problems. Still, all the material was familiar and a large portion from In Hearing Of.
The line-up for the gig was Vincent Crane (organ), Pete French (vocals), Steve Bolton (guitar) and Ric Parnell (drums) and the band’s set list comprised of Tomorrow Night, Devil’s Answer, Black Snake, Head In The Sky, Breakthrough, The Price, Death Walks Behind You, A Spoonful of Bromide Helps the Pulse Rate Go Down and Break In The Ice (Courtesy of Pete French).
By the time Rod and The Faces hit the stage, fellow festival goer John Spink and myself had moved to the stage (just under the PA stack) and slowly worked our way to a better viewing position for The Who. Rod Stewart appeared on stage in a leopard skin suite and strutted his stuff from track one, although there was a long gap before song two. More PA issues apparently, but it did leave more time for the climb up the scaffolding.
Rod Stewart was possibly the first showman of the day, quickly building a rapport with the crowd. Not that we could tell from our vantage point, however the PA issues improved during The Faces set and I remember the roar from the crowd when Maggie May started.
Lasting memories: Rod Stewart’s stage antics and constant mic stand twizzling, the interaction between the band members who not only sounded great, but also looked to be enjoying themselves.
Three Button Hand Me Down
When Will I Be Loved?
Maybe I’m Amazed
Stay With Me
It’s All Over Now
Around The Plynth
(I Know) I’m Losing You
Had Me A Real Good Time
Every Picture Tells A Story
The big draw for the evening of course was The Who. I’ll get my coat now, however, as other than My Generation, Summertime Blues and possibly a couple of other songs, The Who did very little for me. On top of this, I never saw the fascination in Tommy. All that changed earlier that summer with the release of Who’s Next. So yes, I was looking forward to seeing them live, however nothing could have prepared me for the stage show I was about to witness. The sheer energy of the band was electrifying.
Lasting memories: Keith Moon using a cricket bat to play the drums at the opening of the show. Which apparently he later threw into the audience, much to the disgust of compere Jeff Dexter who had borrowed it as a prop. Pete Townshend leaping around the stage in a white boiler suite. Roger Daltrey swinging and flinging the mic in the air. John Entwistle, oblivious to the mayhem around him…
Musical highlights, along with the aforementioned tracks, Won’t Get Fooled Again and Roger Daltrey’s touching delivery of See Me, Feel Me. In all truthfulness, it was a magical performance.
The band left the stage in total devastation – Keith Moon’s kit all over the place and Pete Townshend’s guitar smashed and cast into the crowd. Jeff Dexter concluded The Who’s set by saying:
Love Ain’t For Keeping
I Can’t Explain
Behind Blue Eyes
Baby Don’t You Do It
Won’t Get Fooled Again
See Me, Feel Me
There is a recording of The Who’s performance at The Oval. The quality isn’t great I’m afraid and certainly doesn’t capture the atmosphere, but still…
According to reports, The Who used a different PA set up to the rest of the bands. I can’t comment on The Who’s sound, although apparently it was very good, by this time we were hearing the backline, monitors and a lot of bass from the bins we were stood next to.
There were two subsequent concerts held at The Oval. I missed the first one in ’72, but managed to get to Melody Maker Poll concert…
Rock At The Oval held on 16th September 1972 featured Frank Zappa, Hawkwind, Jeff Beck Group, Linda Lewis, Biggles, Man, Sam Apple Pie and, although not on the bill, Quiver.
Melody Maker Poll Awards Concert was held two weeks later on 30th September 1972 with Emerson Lake & Palmer, Wishbone Ash, Argent, Genesis, Focus, Jack Bruce (doing a brief set with the members of Focus) and Fudd, who opened the day.