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The Knebworth Park Festivals.

The Return of Knebworth Fayre .

June 22nd 1985.

Deep Purple , Scorpions, Meat Loaf , UFO, Mountain, Blackfoot , Mama's Boys, Alaska.

Poster courtesy Henry Cobbold Knebworth House

The stage at night . Photo courtesy Tim


View of the arena at Knebworth 1985 © Henry Cobbold Knebworth House


   The second Knebworth rock festival of the decade ( we won't count the Jazz fests or the Christian Green Field festivals held in 82/83 ), funds were provided by a consortium which included Paul Loasby, who was the promoter of the Monsters of Rock festival held at Castle Donington . The object was to provide a major concert venue for the sole 1985 UK concert of the reformed Mark 2 Deep Purple .

   Although there was a licence for 100,000,( which caused all sorts of problems, mainly due to police costs, which were excessive ) around 80,000 punters showed on the day . The weather was appalling, it rained and rained , so much that this show is now referred to as "Mudworth " by those who were in attendance. During the 70s Knebworth had been very lucky with its weather, the weather gods of of the 80s were not so kind !

   The problems with the policing costs led to a court hearing , which went in favour of the plod, so the festival was essentially without a license only eight days before it was due to proceed !. Further meetings were held and , since numbers were likely to be less than 100,000 the police dropped their fees down to 30 grand, ( they were hardly needed , as Knebworth was nearly always trouble free and the promoters were providing 450 stewards anyway ). After all this hassle, the police presence did little to prevent the huge traffic jams that occurred after the event .



Guest pass for the 1985 festival

© Henry Cobbold Knebworth House



   In common with his Donington festival policy , Loasby discouraged camping (as well as almost everything else) but this did not prevent many people turning up early. The first campers arrived on the Monday BEFORE the festival, but fortunately the Cobbolds ( who own Knebworth House) were far more understanding and had provided a campsite within the park. We will never understand why promoters discourage camping as it allows a gradual buildup of people at these giant events and also allows a much longer time period for the crowds to disperse. Those under the influence have longer to get fit enough to drive safely and the traffic problems are far less than when you have 80,000 people all trying to leave the site at once.

   There was no liquor licence which meant that fans arriving would scull everything down at once , thus getting completely pissed very quickly, or they would smuggle in spirits disguised as water or juice, once again getting drunk more swiftly than if they had to drink beer and line up at a bar to get served.

   Whatever, the absence of the license and the bans on cans and bottles did not prevent an almost constant hail of bottles and cans ( many urine filled ) descending on the heads of luckless attendees throughout much of the day. This was par for the course at most outdoor heavy rock concerts of the day, but it was a new phenomenon at Knebworth, which had always been a pretty safe environment for the audience on previous occasions.

  The acrimony in the main arena was mirrored backstage , with several members of Purple ( we can guess who ) having an altercation before the show which lead to their separate portacabins ( no pre concert socialising or bonding taking place for these guys ! ) having to be turned round so neither had to look at each other when they left or entered their palatial mobile homes....

  However, even the privileged have to rough it sometimes and Richie Blackmore had to make his way to the stage clutching a brolly in one hand , protecting his guitar with this uncool device. He also wore gumboots to keep out the mud !

  Much of the event was recorded by the good old BBC and 3 and a half hours were broadcast on FM . However, no video exists of the show apart from a three minute BBC tv feature , which we would LOVE to get hold of for review purposes.

See the Recordings page for more detail....



   Like Donington , there was the mother of all fireworks displays at the end of the show -which was overall a relatively quiet one, as a limit of 90DB had been imposed by the authorities, which would have not been too impressive for fans at the rear of the arena . As the PA was gargantuan , capable of an output of 250,000 watts , this was rather disappointing for both fans and organisers alike .

A rare dry spell-Photo courtesy Tim

   As for the music ,opinions are polarized to a degree that we have rarely experienced when researching concerts .It appears that some people don't really rate most of the support bands and others love their sets . However almost all agree that the Scorpions played an absolute blinder of a set. Their success was down to being extremely energetic , having a good sound mix and being on top of their game, which , in many cases regarding the supports, was arguably not the case.Some attendees argue that Mountain, UFO and most particularly Meatloaf, were well past their prime .Blackfoot have been either slated , or praised and no one seems to have a good word to say about Alaska . The only way to really work it out is to collect the FM recordings (which we don't have ) and listen .

Purple keyboard player John Lord in 1985

   The weather also did not help, if one is standing for hours in the pissing rain getting colder and colder , one needs to be INSPIRED by the bands , if this doesn't happen , apathy sets in and the bored and pissed audience members tend to do silly things such as throwing urine filled bottles at the object of their annoyance onstage ( yes YOU Meatloaf ) , at people standing blocking their view , or just aimlessly in the air.

   Deep Purple either played a great set, with the gum booted Blackmore on fire due to the fact that he was annoyed as buggery at life in general, the rest of the band working well together and the erratic Gillan singing well - OR they were apathetic and uninspired and were better in the old days . I expect the two hour wait between the end of The Scorpions set and the commencement of Purple's either honed the anticipation or dulled the expectations for the various reviewers .

Photo courtesy Tim

   The portaloos were burned to provide warmth, the sides of the stage leaked and had to be swathed in polythene to save the equipment from shorting out , there were horrendous queues to get hot drinks and food, the loos overflowed and to cap it all , there were no video screens so that many of the 80,000 wet punters could not adequately see the object of their desire - ( this was a disgrace given that there had been screens way back in 1976 for the Stones, it would have been better to have spent the £15,000 splashed out on fireworks on a video rig ) .Most of the night was spent extricating vehicles from the mud , which had by now assumed quagmire proportions . Dozens were treated for hypothermia.

What fun .....


 Purple at Knebworth links

( external sites )

George Starostin's Review

Brian McPherson's pages on Knebworth 85

Deep Purple Net Collection of images.

Highway Star

More info about this concert can also be found at the Knebworth House site.

Can we get a witness ?

We have been endeavouring to collect as many recordings of the artists that featured at these concerts as possible, so we can effectively review the performances, provide set lists and band line-ups. Any info displayed on these pages or which is sent to us for review remains the copyright of the contributor and the Archive makes NO PROFIT from its use. The intention is to also display as many personal histories of the festival as possible for the benefit of readers of the site and we welcome all written contributions, no matter how long or short.

If you can contribute in any way, with tapes, reviews , photos or personal histories, please Contact us.

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