The Boys Are Back In Town

 

Rock music was at its height in the 70s, and during this decade, I went to see many groups, often going to concerts three or four times a week. Many local clubs and pubs put on rock bands, and on top of this, there were the annual rock festivals.

Locally, you could see a rock band most nights of the week. Within a few miles, there was the Grey Topper at Jacksdale, the Working Men’s Club at Langley Mill, the Plough and Harrow at Hucknall and the Regency Rooms at Ilkeston. All of these put on concerts at least one night a week. A bus ride into Nottingham meant you could see bands at the Boat Club, by the side of the river, the Imperial on St James Street and the University campus.

Arthur Brown live in concert.
Arthur Brown live in concert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I saw several bands at these venues that later went on to become big stars, as well as many that I thought were destined for the big time, but failed. In the latter category were bands like Limelight, Sweaty Betty, Chicken Ass Blues Band and Bethnal, all of which guaranteed you a great night out, but failed to sell much black vinyl.

The Boat Club was the place to go on Saturday night where many bands stopped off at before they became famous. The most notable of these was Led Zeppelin, who played the venue in their early days, before returning for a ‘thank you’ gig after the release of their second album. Unfortunately, I missed both dates.

The Regency Rooms at Ilkeston put on gigs on Friday evenings and would attract big-name bands that were playing locally on the Saturday night. My advancing years, and the alcohol consumption, means that a lot of these gigs are just vague memories, though I do remember a spectacular, theatrical gig by Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come.

Brian Robertson at the Reading Rock and Blues Festival, 1977.
Brian Robertson at the Reading Rock and Blues Festival, 1977.

Of the big festivals, the Rock and Blues Festival at Reading was an annual event. There would often be eight or ten of us making the trip down there, often in a hired van, which doubled as sleeping quarters. The most memorable Reading for me was in 1977 when I won two weekend tickets for the festival in the Daily Mirror. When the tickets arrived, they turned out to be back stage passes.

Phil Lynott at the Reading Rock and Blues Festival, 1977.
Phil Lynott at the Reading Rock and Blues Festival, 1977.

On a very wet and muddy weekend, I spoke to the legendary John Peel backstage, and also saw Elton John doing some publicity for his Rocket label. The best part of the weekend was undoubtably Thin Lizzy and I watched the show from the press enclosure right at the front of the stage. I don’t remember much of the set, but I did manage to grab a few close-up photos, which have survived the 35 years since.

Phil Lynott and Scott Gorham at the Reading Rock and Blues Festival, 1977.
Phil Lynott and Scott Gorham at the Reading Rock and Blues Festival, 1977.

I saw many concerts in those days, including Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Status Quo. I was even the first punk in town after I discovered the emerging craze on one of my many weekend trips to London. During the Punk era, I saw a memorable concert at the Roundhouse, in London, featuring the Ramones, supported by Talking Heads.

Nowadays, I can afford the best tickets in the house, but the thought of sitting, or standing, in thousands of concertgoers, or even a crowded pub, doesn’t really appeal to me. Glastonbury? You can keep it. Gabba, gabba, hey.

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