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Last update Jan 2012
The Knebworth Park Festivals.
The Magic Tour 86 .
August 9th 1986.
Freddie onscreen © Henry Cobbold Knebworth House
This is what 120,00 Queen fans in a field look like -Knebworth 1986
Before we begin, we might as well come clean, Queen are one of The Archives LEAST favourite megabands , but we will do our best to be impartial and cover this, their last ever performance , with as much enthusiasm and objectivity as possible. In 1986, Queen were at the pinnacle of their career, they had emerged from relative obscurity in the early 70s to international stardom in the later part of the decade ( they attracted a huge crowd at their free concert in Hyde park in 1976 ) on the back of such radio friendly hits as ' We Will Rock You " and "Bohemian Rhapsody". They were the sort of band who appealed to a very wide audience , as their music had a touch of heaviness as well as being melodic and above all, catchy.
They also had , as all huge bands seem to do, a frontman that attracted both males and females, in the form of Freddie Mercury. Freddie was simply outrageous, he could camp it up and rock it out when needed and developed an enormous following who idolised him . As is common knowledge nowadays, Freddie was gay, or at the very least, bisexual, but at the time Mercury had not " come out " and although there were hints as to his sexual leanings in his lyrics (and the very name of the band itself) there was still enough ambiguity for Freddie to appeal to both sexes, like Bowie in the 70s , the knowledge that he probably swung both ways was enough to maintain his universal appeal.
On the way to the show....
Unfortunately, Mercury was to fall victim to the dread epidemic that decimated the gay community in the 80s. He contracted AIDS and as there was no way to slow the progression of the illness at the time, he succumbed to the disease in 1991, only announcing that he was HIV positive the day before his death .
Perfect weather , the 1986 crowd and stage © Henry Cobbold Knebworth House
In 1986, no one was apparently aware that Freddie was ill, although the band had already decided to have a lengthy spell away from touring after this long tour was over. Whatever , Mercury looked full of energy and was in good spirits onstage at Knebworth . We are no fans, but the footage we have seen certainly shows the band in top form and delivering an excellent set.
Unfortunately the video feed of the concert seems not to have been archived and the only visual record that exists,(apart from a few minutes of BBC footage, which does not really focus on the band onstage ) is that taken from the screen above the stage by someone in the audience with a camera . This is less than great quality , given the camcorder technology available in those days. Fortunately , the audio was preserved and a big chunk of it was released on the album " Live Magic' - although in a heavily edited form, so much of the feel of the show has been lost in the transition .
We have scoured the net for evidence of recordings made by the support bands, but so far- nothing ......
Queen wowing the followers during " Radio Ga Ga"
It was day of perfect weather , so there were not mud baths or masses of cars to dig out, but there was a huge crowd and the approaches to the park were heavily clogged with traffic for up to five miles around the site. The crowd was let in to the arena around 9 am and they had a long wait , as the first band, the unfortunate "Beloius Some " was badly treated by the crowd. Mr Some, aka Neville Keighley, was well known in the emerging dance scene but was NOT the sort of act to go down well at a Queen concert . He was bottled ,although most of the plastic containers thrown at him did not connect . Those hit by the containers threw them back at others and a jolly good time was had by all.. we don't think....
There were hour long gaps between the bands ( quite reasonable by Knebworth standards , which had been known to stretch out to three hours or more ) and Status Quo were well received when they took to the stage. The band were sporting two new members in the form of a new rhythm section . Quo were nearly always a good band at a festival and this time round proved to be no exception. It seems the highlight of their act was when a roadie stole the show by climbing onto the top of the stage and successfully managing to upstage the band by pretending to play a large cutout guitar whilst head banging frantically. The band were rumoured to have sacked him for this transgression . Quo were on early ( normally they would have been expected to come on just before Queen , but they were playing another gig later on in the day, so they had to nick off .
Big Country ? © Henry Cobbold Knebworth House
This left the Scottish tinged act Big Country, to pave the way for the headliners,. Big Country were quite popular in the 80s,although they never had massive hits, their album ' The Seer" did chart at number 2 in 1986, but for all that , they were rather strange band to be on this bill, as they would not seem to appeal particularly to Queen fans . Their music had a celtic feel to it and really did not connect to the populistic and anthemic Queen tunes , but who knows, perhaps they were on the bill because members of Queen liked them..... or perhaps because they were not likely to outperform Queen and thus steal their glory ...
Just how well Big Country went down is arguable as reported sources vary, with quote regarding them doing four encores to none at all ! They were the recipients of a full 2 litre bottle of something or other thrown from the crowds, but they got better reception than Beloius Some .
Queen themselves played near a two hour show which showcased most of their greatest hits . The crowd response was rapturous, reports are that the sound was excellent and everyone had a good view thanks to the big screen above the stage. This show was a triumph of organisation and facilities compared to the previous dire weather and lack of a screen for Deep Purple in 1985.
However there were things to complain about .The toilets fell way below the expected standards.The most dangerous being that some idiot turned off ALL the lights in the field after the show was finished. Given there were at least 120,000 there, possibly many more , it seems crazy that there were no " house lights" to allow the audience to leave safely. There are reports of people taking several hours just to leave the arena, as they more or less had to creep slowly in the dark nose to tail in the direction of the exits .
Once out of the arena , many were then forced to wait for more hours as the police quizzed the passengers on each coach about whether they had witnessed the stabbing that took place at the concert ( three men were later tried and jailed over the murder )
I was looking at your website of the 1986 Knebworth concert by Queen with Status Quo;Big Country & Belois Some as support. I was there that day - it took ages driving down by coach & we were stuck in traffic jams for hours. I got inside just as Status Quo came onstage (my favourite band) & really enjoyed seeing them again as i didn't think i would as 2 years before they had announced they were to stop touring, so this was my first opportunity to see the new line up. I remember the roadie stood on top of the screen above the stage with his cardboard guitar & thought it was really funny.
Big Country went down really well where i was stood & i really liked their set. I remember Stuart Adamson the lead singer coming onstage with his camera to take a photo of the audience & thank them for how well they had been received.
i thought were really good , it was a really good concert. The worst thing
though was afterwards walking through the woods to get back to the coach
with no lighting whatsover as you say on your website. People were wondering
round everywhere trying to find their way back. Once everyone was on the
coach we then had to get off & we were all searched along with the
coach for the knife used in the stabbing. We finally got home about 6
o clock in the morning.
86 Queen show was truly magnificent - even better than their Wembley show.You
cite the Quo coming on early due to other commitments that evening - the
rumours at the time it was because the drummer had the squits and needed
to come on during a "lull" - far more rock'n'roll. You don't
mention the food fights though - these spilled over from the steps of
Wembley (much throwing of tomato sandwiches) and were much more good natured
than the wee-filled bottle fights, Highlights were a hail of pork pies
aimed at a presumably drunk guy sitting on someone's shoulders yelling
"come and have a go if you think you're hard enough". I have
no memory of the lights going out, but I do know it took 5 hours to get
out of the car park!
,daughter and son in law were all at this concert, but we don't recall seeing
Status Quo at all, and no we hadn't been drinking as all bags were checked on
entry. Queen were spectacular, and we recall Big Country. My son put me on his
shoulders so that I could see more.
At this time I was living in Hoddesdon Herts and so it was much easier for us to get back to the pub I was managing with my 'ex'. However I did have blood on my trainers and never could quite work out where it had come from, but who knows when you are enjoying yourselves and singing along you get lost in the Queen 'magic' . There will never be another Freddie, and I still have my program and t.shirt.
your website whilst searching for some info on who the fourth support act was
for the concert - I was there but had completely forgotten the completely inconsequential
pop act Belouis Some were the fourth act. I couldn't work out why at the time
and still can't now, but perhaps it was because the gig was arranged quite late
after Queen couldn't get an extra night at Wembley.
We were standing just behind and to the left of the big tree in the first photo from the stage but had a clear view of the stage. We got there fairly late because of the long traffic queues and thought we were near the back due to the large number of people in front of us. The next day we saw footage on the news (because of the stabbing) and realised that we were about one third of the way back from the stage, not at the back at all. I liked Big Country, Status Quo and Queen, although I wouldn't have bought tickets if it wasn't for a girl I fancied who was a big fan (I asked her out to the concert and we got married 6 years later, to the day, and are still together).
As far as I remember, Status Quo seemed a bit flat maybe because they were on quite early. To me it didn't seem strange that they were on before Big Country because they were already in decline by this time and their popularity was waning. Big Country seemd to be better received where we were although many people were still sitting down throughout both their and Status Quo's sets.
Queen did a very good set, very much a greatest hits, and tracks such as Radio Gaga stick in the memory. It also featured several (I think four) tracks from the current album, a kind of magic, which in my view was not their greatest work but went down okay.
I had completely forgotten about the lack of lights after the show, but your website jogged my memory of having to find our way back to the car. It wasn't pitch black though and I have a good sense of direction so we found our way back quickly. Unfortunately our car was in the field nearest the exit so by the time we had walked there lots of cars had already queued up to get out of the concert and nobody was letting any cars from our field into the queue. Despite their only being less than 10 cars in front of us in the queue from the field and only being about 50m from the exit onto the main road it was 3-4 hours before we got out - and then I had to drive home. After a great day though, I really didn't care.
I feel quite priviliged to have been at Queen's last concert.
On random surfing tonight just looked at your website on the above. I was one of the first in the grounds that day with my ex. Have lots of memories and also a scrap book with a few things in it, even a poly bag i think!!! Sadly, I also tried to resuscitate the guy that was stabbed & have never forgot him. I was sitting on the boards for the lighting structure not too far from the stage. We had to sleep in the car overnight as no-one was going anywhere that night by car!!! let me know if you want more, have magazine pics from a few days later.
there! I stumbled across your page on the concert & the photos took me right
back. I used to have a copy of the Live Magic video, where I could be seen nodding
out of time to the music. That was how I ended up on your page - my wife wanted
to see the footage.
I was front row for the whole thing, in front of John Deacon. A superb day. I have a few distinct recollections of that concert. Firstly that I never liked Big Country, but live they were brilliant. Even went to one of their concerts in Aberdeen later. Still never took to their albums though!
Secondly, I remember it being a stunning day & when Status Quo came on, suddenly there was just the most almighty push as 120,000 people came towards the stage. Then, when I looked round, up the hill at all those people, there were sort of shimmering clouds against the blue sky - turned out it was clouds of sweat which was pretty rank. I also seem to remember the Status Quo bass player, who was pretty young then, just looked chuffed to the gutties to be on stage with the Quo.
day, and after many other concerts, Queens performance still stands out as one
of the best I've seen. Cracking music, a storming performance from the front
man & the other three all great musicians & performers.
Still got the t-shirt, though it certainly doesn't fit any more! They need ro re-release that Live Magic video on DVD so I can prove to my wife I wasn't always fat wi nae hair!
i remember us being stuck in a ten mile tail back panicking that i'd miss somthing ,then parking up and walking for what seemed miles to get to the massive grass bowl that i knew had previously played host to such legends as the stones ,genesis, pink floyd and led zep....i enjoyed the quo's set and was a big fan of big country anyway, but nothing could prepare you for the entrance queen made (those of you who were there will know exactly what im on about)..the sun was setting on a beautifully hot day. the intro to one vision boomed out from a rig as big as,well,as big as fuck,and those opening chords tore through your stomach,smoke poured from the stage and the band were on,they were there in front of me,doing what they did best.performing live!
as i turned to jon to admit that i just didnt believe what i was seeing,(or hearing,the sound they had that night was astounding),one vision was over,straight into my favourite then, and now,tie your mother down,my bottom jaw had dropped open ten minutes earlier but i was still in visual disbelief when after the 1st audience participation with in the lap of the gods,freddie took to the piano! seven seas! tear it up!(i prefered it heavy!)
ive since heard roger say "deafen and blind 'em in the 1st ten minutes!".. i remember thinking it was a good job i swapped my wembley ticket,it couldnt have been this good could it? the songs kept coming as the hertfordshire sky darkened,and the most incredible lighting rig surely possible containing every conceivable colour was brought to glorious life by the fading natural light. bohemian rhapsody,hammer to fall, crazy little thing, utter perfection is how this 17 year old saw it (THIS WAS MY FIRST GIG!) they said there was 120,000 there.!,ok,so give or take one or two, 240,000 hands raised aloft in time to radio ga ga, and i know you have all tried to expain to loved ones who wernt there just how mindblowing an experience that was.in truth,you just cant..so then, tragically, the end of the show was almost upon us but not before the obligatory we will rock you and champions.as the band hit those final chords, freddie mercury stood on that knebworth stage dressed as the king of england,and for everyone who was there on that historic night in rock history,he was........
(Used under creative commons licence , the original can be found at http://www.memoryarchive.org/)
me 3.5 hours to find my motorbike after the concert only to find the battery
dead; couldn't have cared less.
I was about 150 feet from the stage.
The bit where Freddie stood at the front of the stage and sang short pieces that the audience sang back - unforgetable!
125,000 people singing Bohemian Rhapsody with Freddie - Overwhelming.
There will never be anything like it again in my lifetime.
Miss you Freddie.
(Used under creative commons licence , the original can be found at http://www.memoryarchive.org/)
NOTICED YOUR REVIEW,
I WAS THERE; AND CONTRARY TO YOUR COMMENTS QUO WERE LIKE A PUB BAND IN COMPARISON WITH QUEEN,
WHEN THEY WERE ON, THERE WAS NOT A FULL CROWD AND MOST PEOPLE REMAINED SEATED DURING THEIR SET.
I HAVE SEEN MOST OF THE MEGA-BANDS AND AFTER ATTENDING THIS GIG PROVED NONE OF THEM CAN COME EVEN CLOSE TO A QUEEN PERFORMANCE.
Queen show was truly magnificent - even better than their Wembley show.You cite
the Quo coming on early due to other commitments that evening - the rumours
at the time it was because the drummer had the squits and needed to come on
during a "lull" - far more rock'n'roll. You don't mention the food
fights though - these spilled over from the steps of Wembley (much throwing
of tomato sandwiches) and were much more good natured than the wee-filled bottle
fights, Highlights were a hail of pork pies aimed at a presumably drunk guy
sitting on someone's shoulders yelling "come and have a go if you think
you're hard enough". I have no memory of the lights going out, but I do
know it took 5 hours to get out of the car park!
Keep up the good work!
Recordings and setlists.
Boot CD version of the show
Still from poor quality video feed ( this is one of the BETTER bits )
Final Magic at Knebworth
Park (Aud Video )
Electric Magic (Audience
Both recordings appear to complete renditions of the show.
large portions of the show featured on the official release "Live Magic "
Decent quality audience ? recording
Thanks to Simon and Phil for the setlists :-)
More info about this concert can also be found at the Knebworth House site and at Rip Gooch's site, which contains substantial portions of text from the now out of print book Knebworth Rock Festivals, by Chryssie Lytton Cobbold .
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 .
Knebworth Concerts 1974-86
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