Originally posted on Psychedelicgaragepunk.com May 20th 2008.
The first big gig I remember going to was at the Oval cricket ground, on the 30th of September, 1972. The main attraction for me was Emerson Lake and Palmer (ELP). My dear old mate Barn was fanatical about them and I’d bought “Pictures at an exhibition” myself, which I thought was rather dark, and rocked in an odd kind of manner.
The cover images of the “Tarkus” were all it took to convince me I should attend. When we walked into the Oval, either side of the stage there were what initially looked like huge images of the Tarkus. But they were actually full sized models of Tarkuses. They were almost as big as the p.a. stacks – which were about the size of a house! It seemed like a comic book prog rock wet dream!
A word about progressive rock, or “prog rock” as it’s now termed… It certainly wasn’t called “prog” in 1972. I think our generic term for it back then was “Underground music”, although I’m sure “prog” became a common term in ‘73 or there abouts.
“Underground music” was enjoyed by “freaks”. I suppose “freak” was a term for pot smoking, long haired rockers – a la the Ladbrook Grove crowd. Weekend hippies. Kids who liked the hippies use of recreational drugs (LSD and pot) and their style, but for whatever reason couldn’t live the lifestyle proper. Perhaps they were students or, shock horror, actually worked!!! The freak fashion of the day was Afghan coats, old fur coats, army great coats, loon pants – most of which were available from the ads in the back pages of Sounds, New Musical Express (NME), or Melody Maker.
It has to be said, and someone may have already made the observation, that prog was essentially an extension, a high tech version, a PROGression of psychedelic music. It was more overblown and self indulgent than psychedelia – but then some late 60s psyche, like Rainbow FFolly, was already heading towards the indulgence of prog rock. However I personally would have been horrified had you have suggested at the time that there was a link between psychedelia and progressive rock. As much as I adored ’60s music (and I still do with a passion), at the start of the ’70s, the ’60s seemed light years away. Old hat, old fashioned. Just old!!! It was inconceivable, at the time, that the 60s would ever be in vogue or fashionable again. However, less than 3 years later the music world was once again, ready to go FAB! And I must have been amongst the first few hundred to witness the Flamin’ Groovies re-birth as essentially (arguably both visually and musically) a reincarnation of the Beatles, with added Mod/Powerpop overtones.
I seem to remember that prior to this gig Barn may have bought “Moving Waves” by Focus (what hip young Dudes we were!), so it’s likely we were expecting something exciting. And I remember they played a blinder – Jan Akkerman, in particular, delighting me. Don’t think I’d ever heard an electric guitar (a Gibson SG, similar to the model Tony Mcphee of the Groundhogs played,I believe) so loud before. Of course I’d never heard such loud music before, absolutely thrilling, I can recall delight and not a little fear. Major physical vibrations.
Genesis were simply breath taking. Unbelievable. And don’t forget children, this gig was their first major London appearance. These were still their real glory days, the Peter Gabriel led Genesis wasn’t the hideous bloated Phil Collins led dross monster rubbish they became in the 80s.
Just like the photo, given to me by some chappy at Reading the following year, Gabriel had shaved this odd circular chunk out of the peak of his hair. He looked so otherworldly. Well, that and the make up. And the red evening dress. And then, at some point in “Supper’s Ready”, I believe (it was an abridged version as far as I remember) he wore a full head mask of a Fox’s head. It looked so damn real. Very scary!!! The sound seemed fabulous, the instrumentation rather surreal yet very heavy and rock out in places. Those rumbling bass pedals!!! And of course, Gabriel’s between song banter, sounding like a public school boy (as he once was), reciting Edward Lear in the most sleazy and almost pervy way. That gig totally sold me on Genesis. I saw them four or five times more in their Gabriel heyday. They kind of lost it for me with “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” – though I think that album has its moments.
I can recall Jack Bruce jamming with Focus, which was rather exciting. Jack Bruce had won best bass player of the year in the Melody Maker awards, for no doubt the umpteenth time. He was backstage collecting his award when they asked him to jam. I think they may have done “Crossroads” and perhaps a couple more Cream songs. I lost interest when it became a dirgey jam.
Next up were Argent. I’d loved “Hold your head up” and “Dance in the smoke” from some CBS compilation – was it “Fill your head with Rock”? If you know the answer, please leave a comment below. But when they came on, the volume went up and the quality control went down – especially post Genesis, who were brilliant. I remember laughing my head off at the end of their opening number. The guitarist seemed to be using an unfeasibly short curly lead (remember those, chaps? I think they got to be dreadfully unfashionable just prior to punk). He was throwing lots of silly shapes, and while he was pretending to stab at his amp with his stratocaster, he managed to pull the amp off the top of his two Marshall 4×12’s (which were obligatory in those days), causing the whole ensemble to collapse.
There was much panic amongst the roadies who tried to prevent the amps from crashing to the ground. And then, of course, they had to put the whole lot back in place again, while they launched into the second song. It looked really daft. Oh how we laughed. I don’t want to sound like I’m dissing Rod Argent though. He played keyboards in the Zombies and wrote most of the material on their album “Odessey And Oracle”. That album, which has just been reissued as a fortieth anniversary edition, surely ranks as one of the all-time top British baroque pop psychedelic classics.
I’m afraid I simply can’t recall Wishbone Ash. I thought they headlined, although other sites say ELP did. I’m not sure. So Barn, if you’re listening mate, any ideas? And hey, how about re-instating the Gabriel look on the barnet for old times sake. Barn’s barnet!!!
I adored Wishbone Ash. I saw them many times up until the mid 70s. They seriously rocked in those days. They were incredibly loud live. The twin guitar lines and vocal harmonies were amazing, very dynamic, and not a little folky round the edges. How about folk sensibilities in their arrangements and vocals??? Ah well, I remember seeing them at the Kursaal. It was a wonderful evening, with lots of bopping on that sprung floor. But at the Oval?
Not in this life.
I can’t actually recall at which point in Emerson Lake and Palmer’s set the Tarkuses kicked in, but they breathed a lot of smoke and fire, and shot fireworks into the sky. It was incredibly spectacular.
That was one of the really great and entertaining aspects of Prog. Whether it was Pink Floyd’s inflatable pigs on the “Animals” tour, or Gabriel’s costumes in “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” show, or the Tarkus, it had a grand sense of theatrics. It might sound a little absurd in this day and age (although the Flaming Lips stage show is very theatrical) but the sight of Keith Emerson sticking bloody great daggers into his keyboard just totally rocked.
And of course they did “Lucky Man” complete with wonky Moogs.
Keith Emerson’s Moog synthesizers were specifically designed for him by Robert Moog. They were heat sensitive machines and tended to go out of tune if they weren’t kept at a specific temperature. It was a warm and sunny afternoon and many circular fans were employed to keep them cool and in tune.
Greg Lake’s voice was fabulous – and that day I probably got to figuring it was he who sang on “Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson, an all-time prog rock classic. And if I’m not very much mistaken, the stage was covered with a huge Persian carpet, which apparently ELP would insist upon being laid, before they even thought about setting foot on stage!!! Rock’n’Roll excess,anyone?
I think this little adventure may have been a school trip organised by Paddy Mulville and Bob Mardon (who went onto Chelmsford Punk festival infamy). I seem to recall reluctantly being herded onto a homeward bound coach. But now, I could say I’d hung out with the Freaks, heard some great underground rock, maaan, and I was only 15!
Barn // May 29, 2008 at 9:47 pm
Blinding website !! Great to get some confirmation on some very hazy memories. Yes, I remember getting moving waves, was it at Lightning records or what became lightning records near the castle ? You brought Relics I believe that afternoon, I strangely remember the bus ride back but for no real apparent reason !!!!
Yes, I would have said ELP headlined but now I doubt it. I remember a bloke standing in front of us while watching Ash…I was too shy to ask him if he was David Bowie or not !!! Could’ve swore it was him.
Yes, you’re correct ‘Dance in the smoke’ was on ‘Fill Your head with rock’….I’ll have to dig that out again ! I also remember Argent being a bit of a joke.
Pictures are great, historical treasures. They are wandering around on the page tho’…..psychedelic.
I look forward to more memories.
Love from ‘Why you shaved your head , you fucking hippie’ Barn
Ali (Mr Spins) // Jun 1, 2008 at 1:29 pm
Yup you’re right it was Dance in the smoke from fill your head with rock CBS sampler Side two Track 3 actually
Coffer // Aug 4, 2008 at 9:28 am
Terry what were you on!! You completely forgot a gig in August that year (before ELP), Yes at the Crystal Palace Bowl. Amazing performance by a band at the height of their abilities and before they disappeared up their self-indulgences. Actually the weekend was also notable for the fact that we had no where to sleep the night before and wandered round London with an older friend (Ian) before finding a squalid squat to kip in.
Other bands there were: Spooky Tooth, Capabilty Brown, the Mahavishnu Orchestra (complete with 20 minute Billy Cobham drum solo) and Lindisfarne (complete with 20 minute harmonic a solo). Yes were worth the wait though and I still remain convinced that the girly scream at the start of Yours is No Disgrace on Yessongs is me.
Terence Ruffle // Aug 4, 2008 at 7:06 pm
Great you remembered the bit about staying in a squat!
I do remember the Yes gig, but really couldn’t figure the date, thought maybe it was September too. It was a fabulous gig and I do intend to write about it, got a mega Ramones article coming up, working on a Dennis Wilson piece to tie in with the POB re-ish, and next , Sunshine pop!Phew!
Also, I have the program and ticket for the Yes gig, neither of which has the date on!
What was I on? Lemonade and Lovehearts, of course!!
Peace and Love. Mr T
Gordon Adam // Dec 22, 2008 at 11:19 am
Great concert, we slept outside the Oval all night (hardest pavement in the world) so we got a really good spot.
Sorry you forgot the Wishbone Ash set and that they almost didn’t play due to the Gibson flying V being srolen.
I have forgotten who the best female singer was. I believe it was Maggie Bell but am uncertain. (probably due to consumption of illicit substance way back then)
terence // Dec 22, 2008 at 6:11 pm
thanks for the comment mate. As I say, I saw Wishbone Ash many times, but simply can’t recall them at the Oval. Those were the days, huh?
What a terrific decade the 70’s was, the tail end of Psyche, Prog, Blues Rock and Metal, and of course my faves, Glam and Punk. Life, Culture and Music is so bland and manufactured these days, not to mention stifling and sad….
Glad you clocked the site mate, glad you were at the gig coming soon: Yes at the Crystal palace bowl, the world premiere of “Tales from Topographic Oceans” Yee-har! The Psychedelic old farts dissapear in smoke…..
Terry Garrett // Jan 23, 2009 at 11:05 pm
Anybody who was there,
Yeah I remember it well, queuing to get in I thought Argent were playing, might be mistaken. Definitely remember Focus (and with Jack Bruce) as this started a long (still existing) love of there music culminating buying Moving Waves on the Monday (rejected Close to the Edge at the time – couldn’t afford both). Eventually met Focus as my band’s drummer Chris (Cobby) Cobb did a roadie stint with Blue (supporting)in ‘74 at the Rainbow. Anybody remember AYUP?(after the Yorkshire saying). Three of us went to the Oval that day and were NOT too popular when we arrived ‘a bit’ late for a gig at Bromley’s Stockwell College that evening.
Anyhow ELP were great and I am almost certain that Wishbone finished the concert as we couldn’t see them because of aforementioned gig. Still I had seen them before and what a blinding band.
So glad I went to this and other great gigs in the seventies, wasn’t that decade great (well the first half at least). This ranks almost with Bath 1970 (best gig in the world).
Terry Garrett // Jan 23, 2009 at 11:11 pm
Oh forgot to mention Genesis – a band that took me some time to appreciate but when you’re hooked boy what a band. Bought all there stuff by Christmas that year. Managed to get Genesis – the Gabriel Years, and it’s a good read. By Bob Carruthers (on Angry Penguin) bought mine for £5 from Zavvi but may be avail online.
Terence Ruffle // Jan 24, 2009 at 11:18 am
Argent did play Terry,I made a comment about them in the article.
Yeah, Gensis were brilliant, an almost Supernatural quality to their music.
Didn’t get to Bath, sadly, every one says it was one of the best festivals ever.
I’ll check out the book, cheers mate, the 70’s, they were such a gas!
Coffer // Jan 29, 2009 at 10:08 am
Terry those lovehearts must have had some extra fizz – the Crystal Palace Bowl was the premier of Close to the Edge – thankfully (can you imagine sitting through the whole of Tales from Topographic Oceans).
Alan White had only recntly joined the band, after Bill Bruford’s departure to join King Crimson, and had to learn their whole set in a matter of days. Jon Anderson had to put lyric sheets down on the stage for Steve Howe and Chris Squire as they had not yet memorised all the lyrics.
Looking forward to your review of this gig – definitely one of my all time favourites.
millwall paul // Jun 1, 2009 at 9:51 am
hi all i was there at this concert was just great and that evening i went to the brixton acadamy to see deep purple do machine head one of the best days and night of my life just blew me away
vagabond trader // Jun 30, 2009 at 11:21 pm
Whoa, talk about shaking out the cobwebs. My first trip abroad and we went to the Oval show. Fantastic memories, thanks!