Reading Evening Post • 23 August 1975
Rock It To Me Baby
Reading Rock Festival has burst on the town once more bringing its annual infusion of life.
The tented city, lying between Richfield Avenue and the River Thames is filled to capacity with more than 30,000 fans. They have come from all over Europe and many from even further to watch, listen and live this three-day extravaganza.
As if to signal the beginning of the festival the sun was shining on Friday - after days of wet and cloudy weather. And everybody wants it to stay that way.
On the huge double stage roadies have been working on the elaborate effects planned for the climax - the Yes concert. They have been there since early in the week to get everything set up.
Meanwhile, out on the campsite, the fans have been getting used to life under canvas, under van roofs and some under the stars.
Their day begins with breakfast - for some it's elaborate, for some just a can of beans. The washing facilities are quickly besieged but for those who don't want to wait, there is always the river.
This, the fifth rock festival that Reading has hosted seems set to be the biggest, and possibly, the best ever. But as the festival organiser, Harold Pendleton says: "It is not by its size that I judge the festival's success - it's how much people enjoy the music."
With an enterprise as huge as this nobody would be surprised if things broke down from time to time. But incredibly it never seems to really happen.
Reading is one of the last big rock festivals. The whole genre sprouted during the sixties but Reading is one of the few to survive.
The jazz, blues and rock festivals began at Richmond back in 1961. After travelling around for a few years a permanent site was eventually found for the event at Reading's Thames-side venue.
And here is where it looks like staying - for a few years at least.
Reading Rocks The Night Away
When the aroma of hot dogs mingles with the scent of spilled beer, you know that festival time is here again. And with Hawkwind, Yes, Wishbone Ash and a galaxy of classy support acts, there aren't many patches of green to be found among the denim waves huddled together at Richfield Avenue.
But last night, it seemed for a while that the only highlight was going to be a young lady in crutch throttling shorts, who flitted about the press arena. Stella, the first act to tread the virgin stage flopped.
A three-piece from Durham, they produced a string of monotonous songs about nightmares, a lad who got his thrills wearing concrete boots, and a lunatic on holiday by the seaside.
Adding to the atmosphere, the singer did chilling impersonations of Frankenstein's monster. The lead guitarist, who looked as if he had been involved in an argument with a lawn mower, plunked merrily away.
"You get that crazy feeling you don't want to be a rock star," droaned the singer during one number. Stella are certainly going the right way not to hit the lofty heights of stardom.
When Judas Priest appeared, things looked up. Lesson number one at a festival is to get the audience on their feet and clapping. Judas Priest have a commanding, self assured air. Lead singer Bob Halford, resplendent in medieval style jacket, had the audience in the palm of his hand.
Following in the footsteps of Black Sabbath and Budgie, Judas Priest's music is as heavy as a ton of lead. Guitarists K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton set up a relentless assault - cutting across one another and then spiralling off individually.
At one point K. K. launched off into a Hendrix style solo, sounds catapulting across from one set of speakers to the others. Strangely the rhythm section seems to be lacking in the band. Bass and drums were drowned out, as Tipton and Downing thrashed away. The mellower sounds of Wally soothed sore eardrums. They began with The Martyr with its piece of almost classlcal violin. Then they went into the lengthy Reason Why about the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Wally aren't your run of the mill rockers. You can sense the depth of feeling that goes into their works.
Kokomo were the tightest band of the night. Following hard on the heels of the Average White Band, they're exploring soul and turning it out as well as any black group.
At the start, the balance between instruments and singers was a little harsh, but they soon settled down.
When UFO appeared on stage it was back to hard rock. Flinging themselves around with great gusto they brought the audience to frenzy level. Mother Mary was followed by All or Nothing and the only light spot in the act was a rendition of You Are So Beautiful, very tastefully done.
Currently enjoying a blaze of publicity, Dr Feelgood are setting a trend for grass roots rock. What a breath of nostalgia they brought with Route 66 and Great Balls of Fire.
Wilko Johnson jerks around the stage like an agigitated duck. Lee Brilleaux belts out songs at a vast rate of knots and does a fiar impression of Hitler as his face contorts and his fist pounds up and down.
Dr Feelgood may look like a bunch of madmen, but everything about their act has been carefully worked out. The mod suits and short hair are a great publicity catcher, in these days. when so many up and coming groups sport long tresses and denims.
For years now, the same old cosmic formula has made Hawkwind popular. While other bands may come and go Hawkwind look like going on forever.
To a continuous background of battering drumming they build up a wall of sound complimented by the dextrous lighting of Liguid Len and the lensmen. The sound just washes over you and if you're in an inebriated state so much the better.
Even personnel changes don't seem to have altered their music and they finished off inevitably with Silver Machine.
And so the weary campers crawled back to their tents to dream of even more delights to come.