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Friday 27 January 2017

My Best Gigs of the Seventies.

With the 70's came adulthood, marriage to my French girlfriend having moved to Bristol, then a further move to North Devon, teacher training, teaching in a school for maladjusted boys and two children. But amongst all this there were some good festivals and concerts, three of my favourites being during the seventies.
When we lived in Bristol, for a lot of the time we were both working and saving to go to India, a trip that never happened. So we didn't go out that much, most of our entertainment being acid taking at home. But amongst the few concerts we saw was a great one.

5. FREE at the Colston Hall, Bristol, 1971.
Andy Fraser who started his career with John Mayall when he was 15 and sadly died in 2015 aged 62.
I had already met Andy Fraser, the fantastic bass player of the band about 18 months beforehand when I roadied for Alexis Korner at a gig at Bristol University and where he was accompanied on bass by Andy. It was this gig that made me decide to move to Bristol as it seemed to have a cool population and a shortage of one thing I could supply, namely acid. All through that gig when I was standing around with nothing to do, I kept getting approached by people asking if I had any so I thought, good way of financing a move to the west and out of huge London.
Anyhow, we bought tickets down the front and a bit to the right of the stage and I was totally gob-smacked by the power of the quartet; there was the strength of Paul's vocals, the pounding of Simon's drums, the driving riffs of Kossoff's guitar, all underpinned by the rock'steady bass of Andy. He was without doubt the bass player who first got my attention and made me realise the importance of this instrument in a band: just listen to the break in Alright Now, their huge hit. Equally, after this concert, the future of the 4 piece rock band was carved into my mind, making a place for others like Led Zeppellin to follow.

Then, once in Devon, in the wilds and with young babies, most of my nights out were to play with the band Ark. But I did get to see a few concerts and the standout one was when I was away on a course about Behaviour Modification at London University.
THIN LIZZY on stage in the 70's.

6.  THIN LIZZY at the Marquee Club, London 1977.
I had read about this gig in the music press and was determined to see Lizzy who had impressed me on the radio and on the Old Grey Whistle Test. I missed an important workshop and slipped out down the Tottenham Court Road and into Soho and my old haunt from the 60's. And was I glad I did!! This band were not yet international stars but were gathering a huge following and were a quartet having recently been joined by the very long-haired American, Scott Gorham.
I got myself positioned near the front centre so I could be battered by the sound and study how it was being created. I loved Phil Lynott's vocals, his vocal tone, his phrasing and his lyrics and how he sung like that and played a steady groove of a bass line at the same time was beyond me. It was so different but then he was black and you didn't see many black people in rock bands back then. The songs were all good, short on their records but longer on stage, letting the guitars rip. And they were beginning to develop part of their hallmark sound, the twin lead guitars in harmony which really worked and got the crowd going. A wonderful evening which removed all thoughts of teaching from my mind.
It was soon after this that I stopped teaching having played with Sonic Assassins and been asked to join Hawkwind for their 78 tour of the USA. (See elsewhere in my blogs.) And it was during this tour that I saw favourite gig number 7.

Daivd Bowie on stage in 1978.
7.  DAVID BOWIE, The Forum, Los Angeles, 1978.
As you will know if you've read my blog about the Hawkwind tour, I got to meet David Bowie when he invited the band for a meal to apologise for having nicked Simon House thus giving me a job. Then a couple of weeks later, Simon King and I spent an enjoyable evening with members of the band in their hotel suite during which we were given tickets to go to the huge arena where they were playing in LA. Our seats were pretty good, near the stage but just off to the left and with a perfect view of proceedings.
The first thing that struck me was the stage lighting, something that was gaining its place as a necessary feature of rock concerts. It was just white on black with not a drop of colour, the first time I had seen lighting used in such an unusual way. The sound was excellent, particularly considering the awkward shape of the arena, and the band were perfect with the black trio of Denis, George and Carlos on bass, drums and rythmn guitar providing the bedrock. Adrian Belew was getting some amazing sounds out of his guitar, Simon's violin was spot on and the keyboards were magnificent. But what made the show so good was Bowie himself, his voice, his showmanship and the songs themselves, whether they were the anti-pop variety from Low or stunning anthems like Heroes, definitely the best song they did.
This was a different world from straightforward rock I was used to and the enthusisatic crowd showed I was not alone in recognising that we had watched and heard something quite special.

The next post will be 4 more of my top concerts, all set in the 80's and all in France where I spent that decade.

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