Emerson, Lake and Palmer at the Oval September 30th 1972

Originally posted on Psychedelicgaragepunk.com May 20th 2008.

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

Original comments:

1.
Barn // May 29, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Hi Tev,
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
2.
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
3.
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.
4.
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
5.
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)
6.
terence // Dec 22, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Hi Gordon,
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…..
7.
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).
8.
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.
9.
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!
10.
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.
11.
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
12.
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!

17 Responses to “Emerson, Lake and Palmer at the Oval September 30th 1972”

  1. Does anyone remember the Irish band Fudd that played the Oval that day?

  2. Hello, I’m new to this site.

    Well, I certainly remember Fudd were first on the bill. Had never heard of them before, nor have since.
    Drove down from Glasgow with two student friends.
    It was a glorious day – hard to believe it was late September. My first (and only) open-air festival. Had gone mainly to catch ELP (cool pic of Emerson ta!), who had gone mega (there’s a note on the gig in the Trilogy sleevenotes.)
    The band that blew me away, though, were Genesis (thank you Terence for confirming my hazy recollection that PG _ did _ wear that red dress and fox’s head (a la Foxtrot sleeve)).
    In fact I recently obtained a (very low quality audio) recording of their set (with the omission of Supper’s Ready, which according to yopur blog, they played).
    Fantastic memories of a great day.
    Wishbone Ash came on late indeed iirc, by which time I had developed severe stomach cramp following the consumption of a large proportion of the contents of a warm Party Seven container of Watney’s Red Barrel and a packet of Fruit Clubs – ah, those wild days!

    (Incidentally, I discovered this blog on returning to another website which I found some time ago by googling “Oval Melody Maker Poll-winners Concert”.)

    Cheers,

    Douglas

  3. Just stumbled onto this site and it brought back great memories from a truly memorable day.
    The line up in order of appearance if my memory serves me right was
    FUDD they came from Ireland?
    FOCUS
    GENESIS – Absolutely fantastic I was a big fan, my favourites but only when they had P. Gabriel
    ARGENT
    JACK BRUCE & JAN AKKERMAN JAM
    ELP – Headlining as they cleaned up in the MM polls that year
    WISHBONE ASH – Finished a great evening with an even greater set. How good are their two guitars. I still love Argus today.
    The whole place was on it’s feet and dancing their socks off to Blowin Free. Ash was the ideal band to finish.
    And all this for the princely sum for my ticket of £1-50, even then this was peanuts.

    CJ

  4. I was reminiscing with my barber today (really!) and he had been to the other Oval gig with The Who. I went to the Ash/ELP/Genesis one and thought I would dig out the programme, which I still have. Then thought I would Google the gig and found this site (amongst others). Can’t remember too much about the day. I was 15 at the time. I do remember (like the VdGG fan above – so am I) that Fudd kicked off, whom I had never heard of. My biggest regret is that I actually fell asleep during the Genesis set (my favourite band at the time). It would be great to go back to those prog days and see ELP and Genesis in their prime. I’m still going to gigs (at 54) and watch a lot of Indie rock bands around Manchester, but still listening to ‘Selling England by the Pound’, ‘Foxtrot’, etc. That will never change!

  5. I haven’t had time to read all of this ( will do tommorrow) but Wishbone definitly headlined. I wasn’t a big fan but was blown away by the whole experience of their act. It was a warm evening for the end of Sept, the day had been superb and the breeze, the hair and two guitars playing so well was magnificent despite the cans of god knows what being thrown from behind!

  6. Just looked at an earlier comment and it seems their interpretation of ‘headline’ is slightly different to mine. So I’ll just say Wishbone were the final act.

  7. ELP came on before Wishbone Ash – we were told that Emerson’s Moog would be affected by the ‘cold’ if they came on last!
    Great day – some good memories -went with best mate Bill Glass

  8. Yes I was there, it was a great day and after this concert that night I went to see Deep Purple at Brixton do Machine Head, a great day, will remember it forever……

  9. Only just found this site.
    I was there with mates Terry and Paul.
    Genesis were great, shame when Peter left, Focus also excellent, ELP were the main act, by the time Wishbone Ash performed the crowd had dispersed, though maybe they were the best ?.
    Happy days that will stay with me forever, also the evenings at the Dagenham Roundhouse.
    Life seemed so much simpler then.

  10. Does anyone remember a guy sitting on the top of the stage when ELP were on, doing all the drum solos in perfect time? The crowd were cheering him on and he was up there for quite a while, then suddenly a hand came up and grabbed him and pulled him down. Everyone booed! Great memories, although a bit fuzzy by now!

  11. I cant believe no one made a recording of this epic day

  12. This was an amazing concert, I was only 16. I’d been to the Great Western Concert at Bardney so was really hooked on live music!!! The bands at ghe Oval were fantastic especially ELP, Focus (who also I saw live at The Rainbow possibly a year later) and Wishbone Ash and all for £1.50 which I soon recovered by charging people 10p a time to re-assemble their recently purchased muddled up Turkish puzzle rings!!!

  13. Hi, so good to hear your review and others recollections. I went there with my wife to be, Susan, we were both 16 and this was our first festival. We travelled down from Stevenage proud weekend hippies in our Afghan coats. Loon pant and a tee shirt with stars on. Paid the exorbitant £1.50 I think and almost fainted to see so many others like us. Made us feel like we were part of something bigger and finally real. It was a hot day and the Afghan became our rather smelly picnic blanket ( could any hippy afford to dry clean these? ). We found a place halfway back and enjoyed the day. I remember all the bands. Except Argent, they may of been on first or I may have been overwhelmed at first! In those days the headline act went on second last so yes ELP came on BEFORE Wishbone Ash. As the concert finished around 9.30 ( obviously to cater for tripped out and stoned heads/ freaks and before chemicals which kept us up all night appeared acceptable) Wishbone Ash were the ” time to leave the venue band”

    Focus were amazing and yes I had duly bought my ” Moving Waves” album after hearing Hocus Pocus on the Alan Freeman show ( compulsory listening for us WEH ( weekend hippies) strangely I don’t remember buying any food or drink there but did splash out on an Evening Standard Special Edition for 12p with the headline proclaiming ” ELP the oval is rocking”. I was bitterly disappointed to find it was just a cover leaf over the normal Evening Standard and not an in depth 30 page discourse on the bands, I wanted to go to the wandering paper vendor and demand my money back but Susan with perfect sense said “what did you expect?”

    Genesis thrilled, confused and excited me. I vividly remember ” get em out by Friday” never knew this band before but was intrigued. Being a drummer I had come to see Palmers legendary drum solo, he had a silver ( stainless steel ) kit and when he played his drum solo every spotlight shone on his kit. A I could see was rays of light shining back so it looked like a neutron star wrestling in a sea of black. Brilliant but for a young drummer hoping to learn new chops from the master ultimately frustrating.
    Wishbone ash were amazing and by this stage the roads had thinned, night was falling and I found myself up by the stage doing my best Pete Townsend windmill air guitar moves much to the amusement and consternation of Susan. We only caught half their set as we had to catch the last train from Kings Cross Station where rather foolishly I ditched my Evening Standard artifact. I never heard music so loud or feared being shot by the Tarkus,a beautiful day shared with the love of my life and a field full of beautiful freaks. Going back to school after that I felt I had entered a magical kingdom that day, and the world would never be the same again, and as I have spent the last 45 in the music industry I have to thank those bands for opening my eyes, heart and mind, and with a little help from not a Dot com but a microdot.

  14. I remember this concert as it was my first big gig, loved ELP and Genesis

  15. I remember seeing Peter Gabriel with his fox head on and even in daylight it looked freaky, great music and great times

  16. I was there with a load of young hippy types, on a coach from Swansea, and remember very little except a guy who sat on the top of the stage canopy precariously mimicking Keith Emersons piano playing, it was hilarious as a lot of the audience were watching him instead of ELP, and it was a note-perfect air-piano rendition! If I can remember anything else I will return! Cheers, Nick Fry

  17. I was at this gig aged 14….wishbone ash were the headliners and of course ELP and the twin tarkus stole the show

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