Last update October 2008
Melody Maker Poll Concert
The Oval , Kennington .
Wishbone Ash, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Argent , Focus ,Jack Bruce, Fudd .
Recollections and reviews .
The Oval September
I attended with my
younger brother and his friend, it was a very warm day with the sizable
crowd in a celebratory mood.
John Peel DJ’d
the event possibly in conjunction with one of the guys who often did The
Marquee. All I can remember him playing was a Nick Drake track as the
acoustic guitar really cut through the PA system.
© Steve Kelly
For my money all the bands were excellent, with Argent and Focus going down particularly well with the crowd earlier in the day, but didn’t Rory Gallagher also play a set with Bert Ruiter and Pierre van der Linden from Focus?
It was an hugely unexpected bonus to get a short set from Jack Bruce and the atmosphere was electric as anyone or anything associated with Cream was accorded 'godlike' status in those days. His performance was top drawer which was all the more remarkable considering that he fronted an impromptu trio with the Focus back line.
Argent had a far funkier, chunky and ‘tighter’ sound than I had anticipated with ‘Hold Your Head Up’ being the big crowd pleaser. Russ Ballard’s vocals were also something of a revelation throughout their set.
Focus were the rising stars of a stellar line-up and the crowd roared their approval during "Hocus Pocus" with Thijs Van Leer’s yodelling going down an absolute storm. I found their performance of "Sylvia" a bit thin as it lacked the bite and attack of the recorded version. Overall their set was very good but they were much better at The Rainbow the following year when they were supported by Blue, the Hughie Nicholson (from Marmalade) combo.
I spent a lot of the concert near to the crash barriers surrounding the stage leaving my brother and his friend somewhere out in the middle. During Genesis’ set, with "Get ‘Em Out By Friday" being the highlight, Peter Gabriel read out a few messages and then said something along the lines of "will Stephen Kelly please meet his brother at the side of the stage as you have his train ticket home". I motioned towards one of the jobsworth commissioners policing the VIP area saying "that’s me that’s me" as I climbed over the barrier. I wandered through the VIP area and met my brother who had panicked about getting home. At the back of the stage there was a long scaffolded ramp leading up to the stage and as there was no-one around I walked up it and watched Genesis for a while from the back of the stage before being asked to leave. Stunning. I should have taken some snaps but I suppose I didn’t want to appear too obstrusive.
Although ELP headlined (as the sun began to set), complete with Tarkus tank ‘models’ either side of the stage, it was Wishbone Ash who closed the concert and played a wonderful set. I had seen ELP at the Isle of Wight but the sound during their set there had been patchy, but here it was excellent and they turned in a storming performance with Keith Emerson butchering his Hammond with knives as per usual. Throw in the strings of the grand piano getting thumped during 'Take a Pebble', Carl Palmer beating seven bells of hell out of his huge gong, along with smoke and explosions belching from the Tarkus models and you had a spectacularly theatrical performance. I seem to remember Emerson having problems with his Moog which was a notoriously temperamental instrument. Lee Jackson, with whom Emerson had played during his stint with The Nice, watched the ELP performance whilst sitting on the grass in the VIP area nursing a bottle of whisky.
I left the Oval with the
dual lead guitar lines of Wishbone Ash still 'running free' inside my head.
I had a fantastic day.
Photos © C Cooper collection.
|At 5:30 P.M., under the greying dusk of the disappearing sun, Emerson, Lake and Palmer prepared backstage to say thank you to more than 18,000 fans gathered in the London Oval cricket ground. Beneath the mighty steel of the mammoth Kennington gas holder, eager fans camped on the green turf, waiting for the stars of the show to emerge from the Oval’s famous Long Room where they were receiving their seven awards that gave them the sweep in a prestigious British paper’s pop poll.|
Finally, all problems temporarily solved, ELP were ready. As the crowd roared their approval, the group raced from backstage, launching immediately into "Hoe Down"- the upbeat, good-humored number from their recent Trilogy LP and the crowd was on its feet. Without hesitation, the group jumped immediately into "Tarkus" and simultaneously pulled off the biggest feat in the history of rock wizardry. Two mammoth armadillo tanks appeared on both sides of the stage, bellowing replicas of the figures on the Tarkus cover. The metal dragons breathed clouds of smoke, and, as the show thundered to its climactic high point, the tanks thundered an ear-deafening barrage, driving fans into a wild frenzy of excitement and jubilation.
Keith pounded the piano as "Take A Pebble" echoed from the massive multi-toned speakers,and Greg Lake brought down the house with his excellent acoustic guitar work on "Lucky Man". But with the advent of "Pictures at an Exhibition" off the LP of the same name, the crowd watched in absolute amazement as Carl Palmer’s drum solo threatened to pop the sliver of sun out of the darkening sky. In a fury, Carl hurled himself at the drum kit, battering the cymbals and destroying the gongs. The Tarkus tanks belched forth their deafening roar as London’s last great rock concert of the season shrieked to its end - and ELP proved once again that they remain the world’s greatest rock band, upholding their title of "Britain’s Best Band" (the title they won last year) and taking on the title of "World’s Best Band" as well.
Another bleeding Tarkus © Steve Kelly
As the last fans wearily straggled home, ELP slowly unwound backstage, gathering the remains of their shattered instruments with them. Each clutched at their golden trophies: Top Group, British and International; Emerson’s tribute as the top keyboard man; Palmer’s trophy as top drummer; Lake’s souvenir as the world’s most accomplished producer; ELP as the top pop arrangers; and finally the shared award, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake taking honors as the world’s top composers.
There was a Melody Maker Awards festival (1972 ?) at the Oval in Kennington headlined by Emerson Lake & Palmer - the Tarkus era. Large scale tank-armadillos on the wings of the stage belching fire and a fireworks show to end the day... Keith having to set up and tune his enormous Moog synthesiser rig before the set. Early Genesis with Peter Gabriel singing, Focus , Wishbone Ash - twin lead guitars AND using the echo from the buildings opposite the stage to good effect...
First, a truly splendid website.......loads of memories........many hazy thanks.
I had only turned 15 at the time when my best mate Micks dad suddenly produced 2 free tickets for this festival, presented by a promoter he knew at a golf club in Essex.
Wow!. Nervously, and obviously the youngest liggers there, we wormed our way down to the front only to 'mothered' by the happy hippy chicks there. Naively asking "what's that strange sweet smell?". Oh dear!.
Having never heard music played any louder than my Dads 8w stereo, we were blown away by the sheer power of the mighty PA stacks towering before us. I recall the O'Jays 'Backstabbers' and Family's 'Burlesque' pummelling every young bone in our bodies during the DJ warm-up.
For some reason everyone
sat for Jack Bruces set, and I ended up facing backwards!.
ELP were my top band then, and I spent a whole hour transfixed on Keith Emerson whom I saw then as a demi-God.
Wished I'd remembered Genesis that day, because two years later they were never off my deck.
We were presented with armfulls of free posters by this promoter chappy, and bussed it home with an all-new experience of deafness and ringing in the ears.
Thanks for all,
The Jam referred to by a
couple of other people was Jack Bruce, Jan Akkerman and Pierre van der Linden
…… I was there to see Focus as they were my then favourite act.
An extensive review is also featured here, (NB:Some Google searches indicate the wrong year, this will be fixed soon;-)
Can YOU help flesh out the festival with reviews , information, recordings and photographs ?
Contact us if you can help.