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The Thirteenth National Jazz ,Blues and Rock Festival.
Richfield Avenue. 
Reading 
June 1973.

Excerpts from a Zig Zag article about the 1973 Reading Festival
 
When we reached Reading there were signs from the AA saying Pop Festival. I suggested they should read "Pop Festival, right on "Nobody thought this funny . At the site we were following this incredible coach hired by Phonogram Records with tables in it and a bar and coffee making machinery. The tent itself was great and we shared it with some people who make their own jewellery . I really liked it and wanted to buy some , except IÕm not Elton John . They kept us supplied with herbal tea and bits of food which was really kind and immediately we knew things were going to be good. We had visits from Zigzag friends almost immediately , many of whom knew much more than we did . Still they liked Connor playing a white label of Family on our sound system. 

         The first band to play on Friday was Embryo from Germany , really refreshing because they werenÕt represented by anyone at the festival and there was therefore no hype. To start the festival at four in the Friday afternoon is not a very easy job, but they did it very well . They're interesting for several reasons , because they live as a commune and their manager pitched his tent like anyone else on the site. They come f rom Munich and last year the German government sent them to Africa as a good example of current German music. While in Africa they picked up a lot of instruments like the bass marimba , which is a mellow sounding xylophone and the saz , which sounds very like a sitar. They have now incorporated many African sounds into their work. Like many continental groups they are influenced by jazz and their organ player has played with Dizzy Gillespie. They intend to tour here next year , but meanwhile they have a superbly independent attitude to record companies , refusing big deals offered to them because they feel the companies would wish to influence them towards commerciality.As their agreed spokesman , Christian Burchard says "We can earn enough money to keep us in Germany, I donÕt see why we should sacrifice what we do just for a record company. "Despite their views they have had four albums out in Germany and I found their work to be original and worthwhile . They also got the festival off to a good start and its the one position no group wants to play

           Ever since Focus the British record companies have been searching for another similar success, but I did find that amongst the unknown bands the continental bands had the most of offer , added to the fact that no - one was aggressively telling you how good they were. Which is how I came to find Tasavallan Presidentii from Finland. Amazing because there was this huge estate type American car, battered and bruised and driven all the way form Helsinki . Bukka Tolonen is their guitarist and composer and a total Zappa freak. He'd seen Frank just a few days before in Helsinki and admits the group are very much influenced by him. That is not to say that they donÕt have their own style and I found them the most impressive of the visiting groups , because they are able to blend a jazz feeling with rock without pretentiousness creeping in.

    The French band Ange got a really great response on Sunday morning, which was heartening as I heard they had food thrown at them at that citadel of musical intelligence, the Speakeasy in LONDON at an earlier appearance. I'm afraid I found Magma , also a French group , just a little bit too much to take on account of them inventing their own language. Still they are masterminded by Georgio Gomelsky who found the Rolling Stones all those years ago and couldnÕt get it together to manage them and then managed the Yardbirds. I've always thought Georgio a genius and madman. He made some great records for the Marmalade label a few years back and his ideas are always speeding ahead of reality.Although I didn't find Magma the answer I'm sure he'll come up with something in the near future.

    On Friday, Commander Cody lugged his massive frame up the rather sharp inclines of the ramp at the back of the stage to belt out some gloriously uninhibited music . All the musicians in the band played well , but I particularly liked his steel player and the guy who played fiddle and sax. It was a treat and a half to stand at the back of the stage and hear tow of my favourite tracks, "Down To Seeds And Stems Again "and "Beat Me Mama Eight To The Bar "Saturday I was pretty busy at the tent so I missed most of the bands apart from The Faces, who were depressing to the extreme . As one of the 350 people who was totally ensnared by a gig at the Fox club in Croydon a few years ago and raved about Gasoline Alley and Long Player until I started to lose all my friends . Maybe my impressions are wrong, but I get the feeling that they arenÕt enjoying the music much any more and that the work they have put in ( and its been phenonenally tough) has left them jaded and tired. Their material now seems to lack that killer quality- from Bobby Womack and Jimmy Ruffin to what they do now ? Phew, watta fall!

    There were of course, obvious successes like Rory Gallagher on the Friday night, who played some stuff from his new album and Gerry McEvoy in particular on bass played a very fine set : Genesis were also good but we have to wait for their new work. Festivals are about surprises and George Melly was certainly that. He nearly did'nt get on at all because the contracts quite rightly stipulated the artists have to be on site an hour before they go on stage . After a lot of a hassle George got on and once again it was a case of lunacy defeating sanity. As Ronnie Wood leaned over and said to me "heÕs got personality."

    Spencer Davis too came back and it is really good to see him working again with musicians like Pete York on drums , Charlie McCracken on bass and Eddie Hardin on organ. Sunday was made for me by seeing John Martyn and Tim Hardin. IÕd heard some of John Martyn's records before and always dismissed him as another folkie - I mean, how stupid can you get ! And although thatÕs meant to be a rhetorical question , the answer is not much . Anyway, I hate to drop names a well known musician was telling me that heÕd seen him in America and was impressed by his guitar playing, so I took some time off and it was well worth it , he's a breathtaking guitarist. Its not often that you can see a guitarist play from about six feet and still not be able to figure out what the hell is going on The range and variety of the tones that he accomplishes and the splendour of the shape of his songs left me speechless.

   A small dose of Ange followed and they seemed to get a good response , though I'm damned if I know why - then Leslie Duncan and then the magnificent Tim Hardin . I can honestly say that I have never been so moved by watching a musician play as I was when Tim Hardin sang "If I Were a Carpenter" He looked like death , overweight , fearfully apprehensive and with a pallor the colour of calico - afterwards he was drenched with sweat and looked like he was about to spew out his entire intestines , but by goodness he sang beautifully. The notes were steeped in all the human agony and suffering it is possible to endure and still survive. When he sang those line "Would you marry me / would you have my baby "I wept . The way he squeezed out the notes was a perfect expression of the lacerating humility of love. I donÕt care what people think about him or say about him.- it was one of the experiences of my life to witness his nobility. and if you were one of the people who yelled at him to get off the stage, than the only thing I can offer you is my pity.

    The festival site itself was exceptionally well organised and the music ran like clockwork , One criticism that could be made was the lack of adventure in the programming of the acts.- there really wasn't anything that constituted a risk in the way of acts and it all seemed a little bit directed to what would go down most easily.- Status Quo coming on with all that heaviness just at the time that the crowd needed to get up and boogie to keep warm - that kind of approach is the corollary of having business men run it , but so is a good unobtrusive , efficient organisation. One thing that needs to be commended and that is the quality of Rikki Farr's PA , which from where we were situated, and indeed form the front of the press pit, kept up a solid level of volume without reducing every instrument to a kind of sludge.

     The Thames Valley Police did their usual ludicrous number , using ill disguised hippies to grab miscreants for tiny amounts of dope, while the good burghers of Berkshire drove their three litre Rovers with immunity at lethal speeds and equipped with a head full of gin . Before this degenerates into one of those music paper pieces , I'd just like to answer a query put to us on our stand ( and yea, we had many , ranging from the score of the Arsenal/ Manchester United match, to where you could personally score) . The reason why no encores were allowed is to be fair to the lesser known groups. Otherwise all the well known groups eat into the time of the guys trying to tell us about their music . The police were an awful lot cooler this year on orders from an inspired chief and congratulations to Harold Pendleton and Jack Barry for the organisation .

This report is an amalgam of articles about Reading 73 written by Whaley and Conner.

Thanks to Theo for dipping into his archives to provide me with this article: view his excellent Beefheart web site Electrcity 



Reading 1973 pages

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The early festivals.

You can find out the complete line ups of the first festivals if you follow the links below .
  1961
1962
1963
1964

Festivals 1965-1990

Most of these have fairly complete documentation .But new contributions of any sort are always welcome regarding any of the festivals.
Richmond 1965
Windsor 1966
 Windsor 1967
Sunbury 1968
Plumpton 1969
Plumpton 1970
Reading 1971
Reading 1972
Reading 1973
Reading 1974

 

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