May 23-24th 1970.
Plumpton Racecourse. Streat. East Sussex.
Last update Jan 2009.
Ginger Baker's Air Force , Richie Havens, Julie Driscoll, Hard Meat, King Crimson, Christine Perfect, Judas Jump, Keith Tippet Group, Fairfield Parlour, May Blitz, Black Widow , Chicken Shack, Black Sabbath, Gracious , Audience, Jan Dukes De Grey , Maple Oak, Poppa Ben Hook ,Roy Harper, Savoy Brown , Warm Dust
(nb: some artists featured on the poster may not have appeared )
This is the festival that has largely been forgotten and when remembered at all, has usually been confused with the National Jazz and Blues festival that was held in August the same year. For some time we were totally confused about this festival as we had reports of Ginger Baker's Airforce playing at the National Jazz and Blues Festival at Plumpton in 1970, but press and posters held no mention of them being on the bill. All was made clear when a recent correspondant ( John Morrow ) informed us that there had been TWO festivals. So we can finally add this page , about the MAY festival, that we have sat on for two years, which contains the recollections of Benjamin Horrendous and John Morrow .
Think I can help a bit with the Sunday line up of the 1970 festival.
I went to the Plumpton festival, musta got there late on Saturday and stayed till the end on Sunday.
May Blitz - Very good heavy prog rock.
Black Widow - also very good, somewhat surprisingly. Much more entertaining than
Black Sabbath - crap, I'm afraid. the DJ had been playing their album almost non stop during the day. They spent an age setting up, and then came on and played 3 numbers. Sounded just like the album, which we were all fed up with by then. Then they had a technical prob, something to do with the drums I think, and left the stage, never came back.
Ginger Baker's Air Force were the last (headlining) act. can't remember what the music was like, but there were loads of them, about 20 or so musicians. It was an exciting end to the festival, as Ginger refused to leave the stage after the set, and kept playing an amazing solo, even after the organisers pulled the plug and turned the lights off. Some of the musicians were jamming along, I can still see the sax player in my mind, but they were inaudible. IF I remember rightly, Ginger was eventually forcibly lifted from his kit but a couple of burly security men. For a minute or two it seemed like there might be a riot, or stage invasion, but it all petered out.
Two of the 3,000 punters who attended the Plumpton bash.
appreciate that this was a long time ago, I was only 15, and quite probably
out of it, so I can't be 100% certain about any of this, but... I
seem to remember there was quite a large fenced off 'Press area' in front of
the stage, which pissed a lot a people off, as we couldn't get as near as we
wanted. (ed's note : this was a feature of many
early Festivals as far as I recall , as often the press would complain bitterly
about their space being invaded by the audience, poor things . I for one deeply
sympathise with them . After all the oily oiks had only paid good
money to get in , whilst the press were doing important things like getting
drunk and working out which of the bands to slag off because they weren't sufficiently
fashionable for their tastes and they HAD to be closer than the audience to
do that properly hadn't they ? )
Flat. Camping to the left and behind the stage area. Don't recall the bogs. Don't think there can have been that many people there. There seemed to be plenty of space, don't remember any queues or large crowds. Generally quite a relaxed, laid back atmosphere, apart from the niggles about the press area, Black Sabbath, and the tension at the end of Ginger Bakers set.
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Benjamin Horrendous(!)'s memories are very similar to mine. The Plumpton site was a nice pleasant place. I have no memories about awful toilets that accompanied other festivals. I distinctly recall the weather being sunny and warm -typical Sussex. I arrived on the Saturday afternoon and left at the end of the day. I have no recollection of Black Sabbath and I seem to remember that they cried off for some reason and that GB's Airforce were a last minute addition (although I may be wrong on this). I can certainly remember feeling disappointed that somebody big didn't turn up.
In any case a great concert. My memories of the defiant group attempting to play on without amplification are exactly the same as Benjamin H. There was a very long drum solo followed by several choruses from the brass section (who were just about audible). The atmosphere was very tense. I can remember the music of the rest of Airforce's set quite well though. A mixture of Colosseum type stuff (doubtless a Graham Bond influence) and Cream with a lot of extra percussion. Graham Bond alternated between alto sax and keyboard. Stevie Winwood was also on organ. Harold McNair (who I liked as an accomplished flutist) was also playing although I can only remember him on sax. Denny Lane was on guitar and quite prominent. Airforce seemed an unwieldy but technically accomplished and very entertaining band.
Benjamin H also jogged my memory of May Blitz who were an extremely good trio. I saw them at least twice that year and even chatted to one of them at another small festival somewhere. I can even remember one of their songs, "Fire Queen" (named after a box of matches) that had us all bopping around like crazy. Whatever happened to them...?
Richie Havens played that night. He was a peaceful interlude in between noisy rock bands. When he sang his signature song "Freedom" I can remember thinking "just like Woodstock!"
Very best regards
Ah, like yesterday!
The thing that sticks most in my memory is climbing up a pole when Ginger Baker came on stage and shouting "Where's Harper?" Roy was supposed to be the penultimate act and I had travelled to the festival from Wales just to see Roy Harper.
Baker looked vaguely in the direction of the voice and said "Fuck Harper, I'm on now"
Turns out that Roy was chemically compromised and in too fragile a state to play.
I got down from the pole and put up with interminable drum solos and a bunch of mediocre musicians backing the beat keeper instead of the other way round.
Funny, really, the festivals I attended in the early 70's were awash with drummers who had big egos and big drum kits (infra dig to play with less than a double kit) big solos and big hair:
Coliseum, Retaliation, Led Zeppelin, Ginger bloody Baker's bloody Air Force, Ginger Baker's bloody Army and a couple of other bloody incarnations.
Still, I did enjoy the "Magic Carpet" rides by tying a piece of carpet onto the back of the Hillman Minx and being towed around the site car/ camping areas.
I also remember the police were awfully polite which was nice.
Hi- saw your site seaching for Airforce info I was a great Cream fan and naturally followed up on their separate careers. I remember going to Plumpton on very short notice with a few other biker buddies We had no tents and just crashed out around the fire after what we all remember as the most laid back festival we attended .
As to the rest of the line up I truly don't recall but Airforce were absolutely on the money, as bikers we had front row viewing and we weren't held back by the press fence -I thought the way Baker and Bond played on after the power was turned off was the best gesture ever and we could hear the brass. I also remember the Orange sound system -it worked well in Plumptons natural amphitheatre.
I happened upon the site re Plumpton 1970 and thought, I don't remember seeing them... Then, I found your entry re the May concert, yes, that's the one.
I was there but I don't remember much about individual performers. I remember falling asleep in my sleeping bag when watching the performers and then going back to our tent and some nice person had broken into it and stolen stuff, tut. Love and Peace Man, yeh right. I wish I could remember more about it: I seem to remember someone singing Woodstock but don't know who it was.
Sorry can't offer you any more info, but I was there honest.
I remember much about the festival and many of my memories and impressions have already been mentioned. GB Airforce went on and on. Long jams that became meaningless. I seem to remember Black Sabbath wannabes playing, there were quite a few clones in those days. It was very pleasant and quiet, not many attendees. Later in the Summer I went back to Plumpton after the second festival had just ended to meet my cohorts and was given a hit of LSD that took ages to come on, or so it seemed. It's a long time ago but still quite clear. That was my life for a couple of years, wandering from one gig to another and finding new people, sometimes staying with them.
David Ian Robbins.
All memories came back. I remember specially Black Sabbath's night concert at Plumton with wild Ozzy. It was lightening and thundering in the middle of the night during the concert which made the whole gig ever more wild!!
If you have photos, recollections, set lists, newspaper reports or tapes of the event then Contact us and we'll add them to the site.
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