The Archive.

In which an American writer puts all us poor downtrodden, miserable, pinched-faced , politically vacant , soul power lacking Brits in our rightful place. 

Bath :Wet & calm - Maybe...Too Calm
Shepton Mallet , England

    Over in Belfast, Catholics and protestants were slugging it out. Two hundred wounded by gunshot and fist. Four dead. Bernadette Devlin in jail. The same weekend ,in the farmlands of Somerset. England 150,000 rock fans gathered , spare of emotion, oblivious of politics , to watch the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive music.

         It was not "three days of peace and love"   The Britons were gathered  for an extensively advertised, heavily promoted music programme. The empathy, the indiscriminate public rapport that young Americans look for in their tribal gatherings was missing . Understand, all English houses have fences around them.

You ask any of these kids here what Ted Heaths election as prime minister means to them  said one observer and you wouldn't get an answer ( he'd have bloody well got one from me -talk about a generalisation :editor ) , But if you asked any single kid at Woodstock about Richard Nixon, you'd really get some answers . And both men represent really reactionary governments .

        The rock and roll fans gathered with business like calm in order to watch music and the bands hauled ass for them. This could be an unnerving treat for those used to the self -serving egoism dished up by many of these same bands at US concerts., The British cool has its positive benefits.

         The British awareness of fashion and trend was the only indication of a society or  new culture in the making at Bath. It was hippy ascot : rock bands instead of horses, snakeskin boots instead of spats. And  progressive  music , which translates to hi- fashion.
    Ever fashionable Donovan , late a refuge from pop stardom , came bouncing out of the crowds for an unannounced unpaid two hour show.

He previewed his new single .I am dying . Backstage he explained 

what I thought I was as a pop star died. I got a new skin. The new skin is something I had before 1966. which was when I was a beatnik and used to go to festivals. And then I died  recently and realised that I am still a beatnik and should go to festivals , so I got out roughing it like I used to . I'm the same fellow, minus a lot of crap I picked up in the business thinking I was someone else.
      The progress of Donovan's new band , Open Road, was a dusting off of Pete Townsend -style licks for a venture into hard rock- Donovan ? Hard Rock !
I've always wanted to play heavy music , he said, it feels great playing because you have the power.

Bluesville!, is what one of the dallies called the Bath Festival . A line up of talent that gave it the strongest draw of anything in England since the Stones free show or the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

      Of the 20 bands , 12 were potentially Fillmore top billers and most important ,13 were Americans who are still relatively novel in a  country where big money from rock & roll is new .
Top billing was Led Zeppelin , with a $60,000 contract.
Also in attendance ( it seems to be developing into a custom)  were the local Hell's Angels.

      It happened that Fairport Convention were late arriving because of traffic and eying the bikers on the road, scrounged lifts straight to the stage. It just seemed natural then to invite the scruffs in for ringside seats in the press enclosure. While the Fairport jig band zapped through their  fast electric blue grass and amplified polkas, the Angels did their Aztec two step, staged mock fights  and played grab ass and French kissed for anyone with a camera.

      Sweet and loony, compared to  the real guys back on Highway 101, the Angels did nevertheless meet some  protest from a patron dissatisfied from getting his view blocked by the rough housing . So he got a motorcycle chain in his face That incident and some bad acid , were the only man -inflicted troubles of the weekend . Not one arrest (but bad acid , yes. And as at Woodstock , they were browns, rumoured at Bath to be Chinese.
The fill in bands took too much time so that Canned Heat, scheduled for 10:15 Pm , went on at six the next morning.

        Despite the survival of the fittest aspects of any festival, this was well organised show. Toilets actually flushed , a 40 foot high TV screen for broadcasting the show at night , a clear sound system , 1200 tents for free use on the grounds and all organised by the team of Ian Tilburg , a hip young visionary and Fred Bannister , an ex-dancehall promoter in brown shoes.

        Until show time however, there was a lot of bad -mouthing of Bannister. Rock and roll singers couldn't get their wives or groupies backstage. Record companies couldn't even get back there ....
Bannister is on such a power trip.....
, grumbled one record company exec. The English can often be sceptical of obvious efficiency.
Bannister decreed that companies involved should subsidise his show by buying exhibition sites, erecting movie screens and handing out free plastic sitting mats  (all of which eventually got done).
Warner- Reprise was the only company to agree, wanting to park a double Decker bus on grounds. Fred said yes. For a parking fee of $720. Exit Warner -Reprise.

     Jefferson Airplane swept in with their free love - free show cortege of thirty people , unconcerned with show business hassles. Not an hour into their set however, the rains came sweeping in on the stage. Paul Kantner shocked his lip on the microphone and remembering that guitarist in Ireland a couple of years ago who got electrocuted on a wet stage in the middle of a show, the Airplane declared the stage a death-trap and split.

        Airplane off -but Hot Tuna did get in a fine set earlier raising the opinion from the London Times that

their always melodic excitement made some of the heavy plodding of the British Blues bands sound like the trampling of clumsy elephants compared to a herd of elegant gazelles.
      And more than that , naked people, no doubt inspired by Edgar Broughton inciting nudity at his concerts, danced and slithered on stage for Tuna.  The video cameras had a field day. Forty foot high projected tits and ass. The Angels were still lurking about. Unappeased by the sissy stuff , they wanted Haul Ass music .

        Steppenwolf !.John Kay and his skin tight leathers , an Eagle embossed on his back . He mentioned the words Easy Rider  and the Angels screamed in glory. Introducing a big Joe Williams cop Screaming Night Hog, he bent down towards the bikers up front and said, hey, here's one with that chopper sound ...He twisted his hand in an imaginary throttle grip. The Angels knew they had their guy. 

       Sunday morning and the lines from  the ladies powder room  trailers were 100  faces long , every Dollie with an expression of distaste. An endurance contest then ? , Some damp people wondered. Why go to a festival if every time you'll go through fire and water? Simply because in England there's no other way to see name bands .

     The club scene is for unknowns , there are but few concert halls and all with bad acoustics and the big cigar agencies have taken over the University  hall bookings . So six bucks for 20 bands . right on.

   Remember Woodstocks , Battle of the Bands. Or Atlantic City 1969 building up to the climactic Janis Joplin -Little Richard finale. Bath , unfortunately , had neither climax, due in part to the lack of group soul in the audience and to the shiftless scheduling of the bands. Texan Johnny Winter laid down up to date heavy rock with his new band, but what ever rock and roll feelings Winter left behind, Pink Floyd destroyed with their screaming avant gardism . Their exit -scene was an unearthly symphony from a 14 piece orchestra , flares , smoke bombs, blitz climax.

      Frank Zappa's impromptu band of Mothers hit the best stride of progressive music. With 220 pound scene stealer Mark ( ex turtle) Volman doing his Fanny Brice imitations , they laid down the best set of the weekend. Their climax was to heave oranges out into the crowd.

    Eventually though, the rain put a damper on the power . Roger McGuinn led the Byrds through an incredibly peaceful acoustic sunrise service. Maybe eight , maybe 16 encores , were called for.
Still, the Bath festival was quiet. Maybe , too quiet.

It didn't have any feeling to it
conceded one student on the way home.
American kids really do have so much more leisure

pointed out filmmaker Midge McKenzie

and they can throw them selves into a festival like this . But  English kids- most of who left school when they were 16- put in a hard work week and just can't let go like that. You can see the routine grind in their pinched faces: they're going to be as uptight on Saturday as they were Monday to Friday.

         Whether the festival goer had an exquisite time or if he just got rained on and disgusted , never shows up on a profit and loss sheet. What shows is that Fred Bannister made approximately a half million bucks. This is to be compared with three recent festivals , Sweden's Festival Of the Sun , plus the Hollywood and Plumpton Festivals in England, all of which lost money. They lost out because they didn't promote and advertise like Fred Bannister.

  Soul Power didn't have anything to do with it.

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Ross Mortimore's streaming Quicktime movie of the crowd features clear images of the stage PA , Colosseum onstage and bikers with Canned Heat at Bath as a soundtrack provided courtesy of Bob C .

Bandwidth and copyright restrictions mean we cant host audio/video so you will have to do with stills at the moment until we can do an alternative stream elsewhere. Please don't bug us to add it , we will do it when we have the time.

General information:
links menu to site map, ticket. pass out, transport, drug bust, films and festival arrangements.

External Links to Bath related merchandise ( with which we have NO commerical links whatsoever )

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Bath Festival we have brought out a special commemorative set. Anyone interested can view it on

A limited edition of reprints of the 1969 and 1970 Bath festival posters and Freddie Bannisters books on the Bath ,Lincoln 71 and Knebworth festivals can be bought online from the link below :
Rock festival memorabilia from various festivals can be viewed at the main Rock memorabilia page

Led Zeppelin at Bath photogallery

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