In part 1 of Music and Me, an occasional series of memoirs based on the music that has influenced me, I wrote about how my love of music came from my parents. In part 2, I talked mainly about classical works. But over the years, my taste in music has widened and deepened. This time I’m going to muse on some of the bands I’ve seen play live over the years. In Birmingham Town Hall, in the early 1970s, I saw Mott the Hoople, the glam-rock band whose bassist Pete Watt died recently. It was my first rock concert and I remember making myself very dizzy by shaking my head up and down in time to the music, not wishing to stand out from all the head bangers around me by sitting still.
When I was studying at London University in the 1970s, the college circuit featured many bands that went on to be famous and command bigger fees and better venues. Bands like Mud; The Crazy World of Arthur Brown; Vinegar Joe with their lead singer at the time, Elkie Brooks; and Hawkwind. They were so loud I wasn’t the only student who listened to them from the room next door. And the first time I skipped a lecture, it was to buy tickets for Led Zeppelin. Every time I hear Stairway to Heaven, it brings back memories of sitting on the pavement in Oxford Street, waiting for the ticket booth to open at the Virgin Megastore.
After University, I stayed in and around London for many years and saw some of the biggest bands around. I stood among pogo-ing punks at The Rainbow, watching Hazel O’Connor; and saw The Who at the same venue. I watched the inflatable pig float above the stage while Pink Floyd performed The Wall. We travelled to Brighton to see Doctor Hook and were amused at the reactions of the fans who only knew them for Sylvia’s Mother to the band’s more drug-related lyrics and bad language.
My favourite memory, however, was of sitting at Wembley, listening to The Eagles performing the whole of Hotel California, complete with philharmonic orchestra. It was my first experience of cross-genre music – and I loved it. Even now, the guitar riffs on the title track bring back pictures not of American rockers, but violinists in full evening dress.
Since moving to Devon ten years ago, we’ve been to quite a few concerts featuring musicians from the 1960s and 1970s. Like wines, some have become bitter with time, but many have improved with age. An evening with Joan Baez was pure magic; both Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent were on top form. And we love the concerts put on each year by Paul Jones and the rest of the Manfreds. More than once, we’ve sat in the Pavilions in Plymouth or the Corn Exchange in Exeter asking “what happened to our generation?”; and looking around at the faces that are older and more lined; the figures maybe not as lithe as they used to be; but often with hair still way below their shoulders, we’ve concluded that like us, they’re alive and kicking and still enjoying the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Next time, we’ll be going to the theatre to relive some iconic musical moments. But for now, Readers, it’s over to you: what gigs stand out in your memories?