Traffic at Hyde park 7-28-68 © Richard Luetchford
This was my first Hyde Park concert, the three of us had come down especially from Wales to see Traffic and The Nice. This wasn't my first visit to Hyde Park, as I used to go to London every summer and visit with relatives, so I was pretty much familiar with the topography of the area. My mates who came with me were not so well adjusted to the big smoke, so I was the pathfinder for the group so to speak.
How to describe the early Hyde Park concerts ? Well it was certainly a case of big is NOT better. These early bashes were intimate, relaxed, comfy, laid-back parties , whereas the later big name shows were crowded , hyped up, uncomfortable and anxious times. Fans laid expectations onto the bands which led to performances that were less than dynamic, timetables had to be adhered to and curfews met , whereas the smaller shows had a freedom that allowed bands to stretch out and have fun to a much greater extent and audiences had space to dance , stretch themselves out and not be pilloried for blocking some ones view. I speak from experience as we also went to the Stones show .By then much of the freedom and fun had largely disappeared from the event .
This show was a gas, I enjoyed every band to some extent . It was a slightly overcast day , just right , not too warm or much of a breeze ,so the sound was clean, loud enough to be enjoyable and the crowd were friendly and tolerant of everyone's activities. No apparent overdoses of either booze or dope, no casualties who fainted from the heat being passed over the heads of the crowd . No, this was just good fun and whilst I'm sure a goodly part of the audience were under the influence of something or other ,the degree of intoxication was well within the bounds of acceptability. The stage was just a raised platform , no canopy, in itself an act of optimism in a land where its almost guaranteed to rain if you hold any sort of an outdoor event .
Davey O 'List and Lee Jackson of the Nice.
Photo courtesy of John Prior
I'm sure this sounds idyllic . Well it pretty much well was, I can't remember a nicer afternoon listening to great music. The Cockpit, where the concert was held, is a naturally sloping amphitheatre, surrounded by magnificent trees, which provide patches of heavy shade on sunny days. To the left of the stage is The Serpentine, the lake on which one can hire boats and which more or less dominates this part of the park . Beyond that is the Albert Hall and the various Museums which lay just outside the park on the other side of the extremely busy road.
The Nice at Hyde park 7-28-68 © Richard Luetchford
When you are within The Cockpit, its hard to believe that one is in the middle of one of the greatest cities in the world. The park acts as an oasis of sanity within a maelstrom of activity , the ever present traffic noise subsides to a muted buzz and its possible to think that you are in one of the great parks that surround English stately homes. However, once the rock music was added , it was impossible to believe anything other than that this was Hippie Britain in the late 60s. Almost all the bands had a freaky edge. Juniors Eyes were very good as far as I can remember , but I clearly remember The Action as an excellent band , very tight , some good numbers which went in interesting directions , they had their own sound , but they never achieved any major recognition .
Photos © John Prior
The Pretty Things were in that transitional phase between being a sub Stones, R&B - pop band and developing into a full blown Psychedelic rock band. Their concept album SF Sorrow was a staple in our listening diet that year , but I can't remember if they played any of the numbers from the album during this show or not.I think it was released later in the year. Neil Rice, who was there as well, remembers Twink the Pretty Things drummer, ( who later was with the infamous Pink Fairies and who was well known as a total nutter ), climbing the PA stack and diving into the audience.This was the first time I ever saw Twink and he was true to form , completely over the top- as was Phil May - who was as usual, a great front man and we all had fun watching him ham it up , his long hair flailing around his face . Little did I know that I was going to meet him and the other guys a few years on ,when we ran an Art School Dance at Loughborough featuring the Pretty Things. By then they were playing stuff from Parachute, which is a long lost English Rock Classic if ever there was one and which in my book was even better than S F Sorrow. .
The Nice were everything we expected them to be and some. Still in their sub-psychedelic pop-rock stage with the excellent Davey O'List on lead guitar, they were not so heavily dominated by Keith Emerson's organ .The guitar machinations of O'List gave them more variety than when they were a three piece ( although I thought they were great then too ) They were plying stuff from their first album , such as Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon , The Cry Of Eugene, Rondo and the Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack. Great stuff, played with more than enough energy to light up the whole city. They were rampant !
Here come the Nice !
Photos © John Prior
If the Nice were rampant, then Traffic were sublime . One of the best of the Great British Hippie bands Of The 60s, they were blessed with having the hugely talented Steve Winwood as their main keyboard, guitar player and vocalist. One would think that there was more than enough there to front ANY band , but they also had at the time Dave Mason, a wasted talent if ever there was one - who at the time was writing superb songs and playing great guitar. Add the late lamented Chris Wood on sax and the hyper Jim Capaldi on drums and you had a terrific band who delivered everything the line-up promised and more.
I saw Traffic a half dozen times or more in the 60s and early 70s and they never played a duff gig. This one was the first and certainly the most bucolic and ethereal . Time seemed to stop in the haze of the late afternoon sun as the band effortlessly floated through a series of their early numbers such as Paper Sun , Thirty Thousand Headmen , No Face No Name No Number, Hole In My Shoe, Feelin' Alright and of course, as the final number , the archetypal British Hippie head song - Mr Fantasy. People were dancing, bubbles and balloons wafted through the air and vapour trails cut across the sky as the jets passed over London at 30,000 feet. On the Serpentine, freaks and tourists lay back in their boats and listened to this great music and for a while it seemed as if even the traffic had stopped for Traffic.
Sublime is the only word for it.
Its near nigh impossible to recreate those concerts in any way nowadays. Apart from the fact that hardly any bands will play for free - or if they did ,the hype their record companies would generate as publicity would draw a crowd who would probably have expectations that would destroy the communal feeling needed to create any sort of feeling of oneness- there are key factors that are missing . The naivety that we Hippies had, the feeling that we could change the world for the better through a combination of music and hallucinogens has been palpably disproven and the majority of my generation has blown it by letting themselves be sucked into an orgy of consumer driven hedonism that might possibly be the most dangerous force to threaten the existence of our society and possibly even our planet as we know it. We as a generation have lost our innocence , greed has become the mainstay of our society and many of our children are too cynical and worldly to feel its possible to feel like we did on that day -although some of the Womad festivals I've been to have gotten near the feel of the HydePark bash....... so perhaps there is hope for us yet.
BUT, if we could recreate the feelings of oneness,
peace and optimism that many of us felt at occasions
such as this concert , synthesize them in a pill and make up 6 billion doses,
then I believe we might have a chance of healing this ailing planet, because
afternoons such as this were really, really GOOD
in every way . God knows we could all do with a megadose of POSITIVE
communal feelings if we are going to get ourselves
sufficiently motivated to deal with the shit we have stirred up in our planet
That afternoon had it in spades......
Barry Benjamin was there and remebers it this way
I was there that day with my brother. I was 18 and he was 16. I remember being amazed at the people. So many strange looking people. I was somewhat afraid only because I was an American on vacation and had just started smoking grass. I remember someone who was playing the organ in ways that I had never seen before. I assume that was Emerson. Its just that I have never seen anyone go around the other side of the organ while they were playing and then start playing upside down with the organ tipped up towards themselves. Quite an image. Not one I've seen since by the way.
I can only reiterate the comments of other contributors - this was a magical afternoon in my memory, before festivals became too big and too commercial. I sat in Hyde Park again this July for the Eric Clapton Concert, forty years on, and it bought back memories of the Sixties, the weather and the music were great;the only difference was it cost £50! Thanks for the website,keep up the good work.
I have been there.The only information that I can give is:One of the members of the Pretty Things did climb on the loudspeaker-Tower.We have been stoned too.
And Steve Winwood played a green guitar.
It was great finding your website and going back in time. I'm from Grass Lake, Michigan Which is just west of Ann Arbor, where we would go every weekend and see acts at the Fifth Dimension. Jimi Hendrix,The Who,The Mothers of Invention, Bob Seger, who was from Ann Arbor, was practically the house band.
By the summer of 1970, a couple of buddies and I were wandering around Europe. When we got to London we had Brit-rail Passes to travel around the island. But got so mesmerized by the scene in London that we never left there for three weeks! That I do somewhat regret, but I sure did enjoy that time there. And, the best day of all was the free concert at Hyde Park seeing Traffic.
It was" that" concert with The Nice and The Pretty Things and Junior's Eyes. They were all great,but Traffic with Dave Mason were aptly put .....................sublime! I saw them 3 more times in the U.S. but that day in July 1970, in the middle of London, in Hyde Park is in my memory, like a wonderful dream, like a fantasy, I was thinking it may have been just that until I found your website and found out it was really true.
If anyone is out there that reads this and can tell me did T-Rex play at Hyde Park? I was there in July 1968 also and I could swear I saw them there. So many concerts, so much great music, so long ago, but still great. Man, did we live our youth at a time for some wonderful music or what?????????????????
Steve in Michigan.
Incidentally audience recordings exist of both the Pretty Things and Traffic's performances , both are fairly marginal quality, but they preserve the moment nicely
Pearly Queen Instrumental (not included on the tape, but anounced by Stevie as played before )
Heaven is in your Mind
Don't be Sad
Dear Mr. Fantasy
Concert reviews and info -1968-71
(These pages include large photogalleries of the concert, most especially King Crimson and Jack Bruce. )
Concert reviews and info -1974-76