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Reading 78 - note thrown can top right © Paddy Mulvenna
The year that Punk arrived in force, courtesy of the likes of Sham 69 , Penetration and the Jam . Friday night was Punk night , with the "Old Fart " brigade dominating the Saturday and Sunday slots. According to some sources the bald headed hordes of the Sham Army apparently bottled some of the other acts and the Friday evening degenerated into something of a shambles towards the end (which if this did happen , was in some ways, highly symbolic ) .
An extremely obscure 45 minute Punk orientated video was produced called " The Kids are United " ( which , given the circumstances , was a somewhat ironic moniker ) , this featured Penetration , The Pirates, Sham 69, Ultravox and the Jam . From what I have seen , it appears that almost all these bands went down well and there was a quite a bit of pogoing down the front. The audience was a mix of subcultures, no real hard core punks in evidence on the footage seen so far. Overall the punk bands were received well if not rapturously ,clips of most of the acts have recently appeared on Youtube.
Still lots of long hairs in the crowd for Friday at Reading 78 , but Punk influenced music was to have an increasing influence over the next decade .
Paul Weller at Reading 1978
Penetration onstage, Reading 1978
From The Mud
Sham 69 -"Borstal Breakout "
Jimmy Pursey (sans tears) Reading 78
thought at the time that Pursey was crying because of all the fighting
in the crowd (lots) & he couldn't stop it, although in the video he
claims that it was because he couldn't believe how far he had come in
18 months, I think my original theory sounds less likely as I never heard
Jim once slag off any of his fans at any gig, & everyone I attended
ended in violence.
too remember Weller getting stroppy about the sound, but I thought they
were awesome - one of the best gigs I ever saw, they were plugging their
upcoming album "All Mod Cons" & it was the first time I
heard "Tube Station" it was phenomenal probably one of the top
musical highlights of my life.
My main memories are the building tension of the day leading up to the audience storming the stage for Sham 69 and bringing the set to a halt - hence Pursey's tears. I also remember a bunch of skinheads in front of me trashing a big Status Quo banner - can't blame them really, I suppose, but it seemed sad at the time.
I remember the Pirates coming on after Sham 69 and the whole day settled down with their great brand of r&b.
remember singing along to Glad to be Gay ( even though I'm not ) with
the rest of the audience for Tom Robinson. I remember John Otway
hanging himself on stage, and the Albion Band going down pretty well considering
the sight of Morris dancers on a Reading stage seemed pretty surreal even
Crowd go ape during Sham 69's set
remember Spirit were amazing and Status Quo were pants.
I remember enjoying Foreigner ( what a guilty pleasure that seems now ) and I remember Patti Smith being just amazing.
first festival it was.
Slept in a mark 3 Cortina for 3 days. Can't imagine it now.
Thanks for the memories.
Nice to see so many memories of these festivals - keep up the good work! Just to add to them: I was at Reading 1978, and Slade definitely weren't. Patti Smith was the headline on the Sunday night - a surprisingly good, tight, set. I adored Spirit at the time, and was delighted to see them live. I remember a chap next to me calling out for 'Looking Down', which I thought was pretty hard-core of him as it wasn't released until their live album appeared later that year. I missed the Friday (and didn't see any evidence of violence), but I thought the Saturday & Sunday were a very good way to see a lot of bands quickly (it was my first festival, y'know).
was a group of skins who didn’t take much to this and were attacking
any long-hairs down at the front. I know , as I was one of them –
the longhair not the skin! It deeply upset Jimmy to have to watch this
going on and be helpless to stop it.
i'm six foot one,i spent half of the Status Quo gig with a dwarf (we had made friends with during the day) on my shoulders so he could see.I can remember being a bit wasted and when i staggered and fell into a large pile of cans and boxes he ran off into the night and made good his escape.
Me and my mate terry were waiting for any of the skins/punks to come near us so we could give them a taste of their own medicine.I had a union jack suit jacket on so maybe they thought i was one of them.I remember strapping our bottled alchohol to my shins inside my jeans each day as they did'nt allow it to be brought into the arena.My standout favourite band was the Pirates.I rarely made it back to our tent ,often falling into the nearest tent outside the arena,people did'nt mind that sort of thing then!
Rod Wilkins ,Surrey
Spirit onstage at Reading 1978 photos © Stuart Alexander
Lindisfarne © Stuart Alexander
As I remember it Jimmy Pursey shouted out ‘ let’s see some action’, that’s when all the skinheads jumped onto the stage and kicked shit out of everything and Jimmy started to cry.
By the way there were lots of skins on the first day getting pissed on scrumpy, throwing up and laying on the ground, several people gave them a friendly boot for being twats. I remember one guy getting beat up by about six skinheads earlier in the day, then getting a motorbike chain and wading into a group of skins later.
It was warm because me and my mate Phil slept in our sleeping bags outside under the stars.
Patti Smith was fantastic as were the Jam, Bethnal, John Ottway and Chelsea. Saturday nights bands were shit.
Very big thanks to ‘Sally Army’ for soup tent as we spent all our money on booze, (as any self respecting 17 year old would).
Status Quo onstage Reading 1978 photos © Stuart Alexander
I was a reading punk/skin/mod (we were coming to the end of punk and we were just beginning to discover the ska/rude boy element) and my memory was on that day was for once we could see the bands we supported at a major rock venue.
The day started and we were to the left of the main stage when all of a sudden someone caught a party four on his head and that's what caused the trouble that was to flare up that day.
I can remember we needed to get through to the middle to meet up with our mates and some dirty grease ball of a hells angel sticking the point of an umbrella under my chin to which a local skin stepped in and helped me out (turned out to be the leader of the reading skinheads or suedehead as he liked to be known as) the same guy who just happens to be on the front of a Sham 69 t shirt taken at the time of the stage riot.
(The gallant skins name was Bobby Sunderland, now unfortunately deceased ).
Penetration were great, tight set (I always prefer Pauline to Siouxsie) . I also remember seeing The Tourists but thought better of it and Sham 69 through the cans, gob and fighting, mr Jimmy (im a ballet star on L W T) Pursey if it was to much for you, well try being a 15 year old at the sharp end of it mate!
then The Jam -well, it was the first year they had the huge screens put
up and so from any distance you could see the group looking sharp in grey
mohair suits .I do remember the sound being fucked around a bit but what
an experience! A set list of performers playing to our generation!
days of love and peace
had come to an end and things would never be the same.
Chugging back export at Reading 78 © Paddy Mulvenna
Pursey was totally hacked
off with the aggro and it must have been overwhelming performing in front of
around 15,000 people on the Friday.
It was my first proper gig, me and a mate camping, aged fifteen, miles away from parental control. It was magical, I had already fallen in love with Sham 69 and found it amazing that Jimmy Pursey would spend most of the day hanging around with us idiots. He was, and remains, a really genuine bloke, always accessible.
Jam didn't get a fair deal on the sound front but they just drove straight
past their supporters into the back-stage enclosure, no talking, no autographs,
good socialism comrade Paul. They were always better suited to small
halls anyway, that type of band.
The Pirates were brilliant, Penetration were superb (Pauline was gorgeous) but the Friday belonged to Sham. One Reading newspaper described it as a "Punk Invasion". I will try to scan the damned thing and get it to you when I can afford a scanner.
That day it seemed like punk rock was going to change the world. Is every generation so stupid?
We flogged out tickets on the third day cos we'd run out of money, fags and booze but, after the first day and Sham dominating proceedings, everything was going to be anticlimactic anyway.
Bruce Foxton of the Jam Reading 78 .
'78 was one of the best experiences in my life, mainly because of the great
performance of Sham 69 a brilliant live band who always gave 100%
site - great memories!
I was at Reading in '78 and '79 and remember it as a great festival with a mix of top-name performers as well as up-and-coming and, frankly, unknown acts. It also offered a good mix of musical genres which was not always the case in later years.
I am attaching a picture - with apologies for the quality - of the much talked-about skinhead stage invasion during Sham 69's performance in '78. Admittedly I was too far away to see Jimmy's tears, but as I remember it a bunch of blokes got on stage then stood around looking gormless because they couldn't think of what to do next. They did however succeed in annoying that most affable and unflappable of men, John Peel, when he was trying to play records from his position between the two stages.
Sham 69 pretty much left me cold, but the spectacle was diverting and it was amusing to read the newspaper reports of armageddon that followed. I also remember Jimmy Pursey returning to the stage after The Jam had thrown their toys out of the pram and leading the crowd in a singalong of "You'll Never Walk Alone" to try and calm people down. It seemed to work.
Trouble t' Mill lads ! Sham 69 onstage Reading 78
were disappointing for reasons well recorded elsewhere.
Of the other acts on Friday, the Pirates were brilliant. How a simple rock'n'roll band can get a cynical festival crowd jumping on the first afternoon I don't know - but they managed it. And I remember the following year some time in the afternoon they played a short clip of their '78 performance on the video screen - and even that got a tremendous crowd reaction!
© Paddy Mulvenna
were a bit out of place. OK, but mainly I marvelled at the shape of John
Foxx's head.... must have been a difficult birth.
Status Quo are much maligned for some reason. Maybe they didn't sit well between the hippie festival crowd and the punk/new wave crowd. But I enjoyed their set as, apparently, did they. And when Rossi introduces one of his own songs with "it goes on a bit, but we'll have some fun..." you've got to warm to the guy - if only for his self-awareness. They did what the Quo do best - heads-down, no-nonsense, mindless boogie.
Lindisfarne were what you'd expect - and there's nothing wrong with that. The Motors were what you'd expect and there were a few things wrong with that. They floated an inflatable car above the stage (that's about as far as special effects went in 1978) and the biggest cheer they got was when a well-aimed can (actually the last of a sustained volley of cans) brought it down.
I'm sorry, but Patti Smith was awful. The music
wasn't too bad if you like power ballads, but my God, didn't she go on? What
was that about a long tarmac road stretching off into the distance? We listened
to her whine for a while then started building human pyramids. Actually attracted
a small but amused audience of similarly unimpressed festival-goers.
On the Sunday TRB got people singing "Glad to be Gay" - and this was 1978, remember. John Otway was special; when his microphone packed up (he was halfway up the scaffolding at the time) he simply cupped his hands and shouted... I always liked Squeeze as a band, good musicians playing pop-rock and with ladies taking their clothes off. Does it for me every time.
I can't remember when Paul Inder appeared, but he was comically dreadful! Apparently he's Lemmy's boy and that has to be the only reason he got on the bill. People were laughing hysterically. The only song I can remember was "I don't want to go to bed"; if I remember rightly he was in his early teens at the time so I think this was an anthem of rebellion against parents rather than a vow of celibacy! Anyway it consisted of the title shouted repeatedly and interspersed with dreadfully distorted crashing guitar. Call me an old fogey if you like, but it was just noise.
don't I remember Slade? We must have turned up late one day... (we were
local so travelled to the festival each day). Were they on early? I saw
them later in Nottingham at a small venue and they were brilliant.
© Paddy Mulvenna
Paul Inder replies
I just wanted to clear something up here - the poster Noel Churchill claims on your Reading Festival '78 webpage that I was in my early teens. I was not- I had turned 11 in May of that year. I was just a kid, not a teen, and my getting a slot on the festival had absolutely nothing to do with my Dad Lemmy.
quite remember exactly how I got the gig, but I think it was through the (late)
photographer Ron Reid, who took
a lot of photographs of me at that time, he knew some of the festival's organizers.
My Mother also had something to do with it, I must ask her...
BTW, I recall someone threw a can at me from the audience, and within seconds whoever it was got showered in so many cans it was unbelievable...! His one can missed but it didn't seem like any of the ones that were lobbed at him did! Ahh...
met and subsequently developed a long standing friendship with Phil Lynott (Thin
Lizzy) backstage in 1977 Phil was a lovely guy and Lizzy were riveting to watch.
I remember being in the scaffolding of the stage when they were on. I wish I
had had a video camera, it would be priceless footage now.
You asked for reminiscences of Reading '78. Here are mine. It was my first festival, and because I was a student at Reading at the time, I walked over from my digs at the other side of town to the festival site every day. Because I'm a bit obsessive like that, I wrote down all the bands and running-order at the time, and luckily I still have a copy. They were:
Friday - Dennis O'Brien; The Automatics; New Hearts; Radio Stars; Penetration; Sham 69; The Pirates; Ultravox; The Jam
Saturday - Speed-O-Metors; The Business; Jenny Darren; Next; Gruppo Sportivo; Nutz; Greg Kihn Band; Lindisfarne; Spirit; The Motors; Status Quo
Sunday - After The Fire; Chelsea; Pacific Eardrum; Bethnal; Squeeze; John Otway; The Albion Band; Paul Inder; Ian Gillan Band; Tom Robinson Band; Foreigner; Patti Smith Group.
The two faces of Reading 78, left: Sham 69 crowd , right: Paddy Mulvenna and friends
For every punk /skin at Reading there were probably three or more longhairs .
I'm absolutely sure Slade didn't play that year.
do I remember? Dennis O'Brien, who'd won some sort of competition in Australia
(I think) with an appearance at Reading as the prize, getting canned off.
His band all wore matching t-shirts with a tacky scorpion logo, so I suppose
he was asking for it from the punks. He went off virtually in tears.
guitarist with New Hearts trying to head away a beer can. It turned out
to be full, and he had to be helped off stage for a while with a cut head.
was a bit of an anti-climax after Friday. Friday was the punk day, Sunday
was a bizarre mixture but Saturday was definitely a throw-back to earlier
years. I got bored during Status Quo's set and went home.
I really enjoyed Bethnal, who were punks with a violin and who did a good version of "Baba O'Reilly". Subsequently they vanished without trace. The Albion Band went down well, in spite of not being like anyone else on the bill, and did a superb song called the Gresford Disaster (although I've always had a soft spot for mining disaster songs).
enjoyed Tom Robinson and Patti Smith (who had flyers with slogan "Outta
Traction - Back In Action" and the lyrics to Ghost Dance handed out),
was disappointed that John Otway didn't perform with Wild Willie Barratt
and found both Ian Gillan and Foreigner ineffably tedious. But I thought
I was a punk at the time, so this was compulsory.
I remember as very hot – I bought a bootleg sex Pistols album which
I still have. Friday night was brilliant with the Sham 69 fiasco (well
documented on the site, I was busily trying to avoid the skinheads near
the front) followed by The Pirates (really top class, whatever happened
to them?) and The Jam. Weller did get frustrated but the set was right
on it – the second album got panned, and then they came back with
this set and All Mod Cons – they found themselves. Spirit were majestic
on Saturday and then Patti Smith blew everyone away on Sunday. Stunning
– one of the best gigs ever.
Spirit Reading 78 © Mike Ware
from an Aussie at Reading Rock festival in 1978
Can't remember the set where this occurred, but my over riding memory of the event was watching some band whilst pinned tight in the crushing crowd and suddenly feeling this trickle on the back of my jeans. Turned around to see some horrendously drunk punk with safety pins all through his face and a mohawk taking a piss on my left leg. My first thought was to turn around and confront him. (What the bloody hell ya doin' mate!) My second thought was to smile weakly when there turned out to be half a dozen of this similarly clad friends laughing with him.
fancy getting smashed, so I went back to watching the band. Had to chuck
the jeans away eventually. I can also concur with many others. I witnessed
some awful violence. I stood by meakly whilst SIX drunk skins laid into
some poor bugger on the ground.
As I saw every band on the bill over the three days, I can say without qualification. Slade did NOT appear at the 1978 Readng festival. I would certainly have remembered them as they were one of my favourite bands of the 70's and we played plenty of their songs in my own bands repertoire. And hey, I bought the t-shirt with every bands name on the back. I wore that t-shirt for years. Still had it until about 5 years ago.
As to the bands themselves. Why does everyone slag off Status Quo? I loved them and still do. They did a great set. Spirit were excellent. I was way up front near the stage for that one. Another great set, they really blew the others away with their rofessionalism and approach. Patti Smith did some poetry reading intro to "Because the Night" and I particularly remember one or more of the band coming in at the wrong time and totally screwing up the atmosphere she had created. Took them a few seconds to all meet up again.
Paula's T shirt
The Jam were pretty good and was hoping to hear them do their new single " David Watts". It was a good version they did, but I can concur with others on here that the sound for their set wasn't that great. Still they played well enough and I was happy. Why I remember Gruppo Sportivo I'm not entirely sure, but they were quirky and humorous if not exactly my cup of tea. I never got to see Deep Purple in their original incarnation so I was happy to see Ian Gillan. Didn't care for Tom Robinson much (part from "2-4-6-8" I've never cared for his music) and The Motors were just like an average pub band, not great, not bad either. Didn't do much for me though.
Have little recollection of Nutz, The Business or Jenny Darren but I vaguely remember hearing a few good tunes from Speed-o-Metors. Lindisfarne did a fine set. Nice to hear an acoustic guitar and matched vocals anyway. Always loved "Meet me on the corner" and I wanted to hear that bass line played properly! Oh yeah, Foreigner. Not my fave band by any stretch but they weren't bad. Always thought the were posers (they were) but they could play well.
to say I've never been much of Sham fan and found them little more than youthful
anger. (We're going down the pub?).Pulled out my old Sham tapes a few months
ago and my original opinion of them was still valid. Enjoyed them on Radio 1
at the time but would never have paid to see them anywhere else. John Peel was
geting just a wee bit pissed off at the trouble happening. Wish I'd had my camera
with me too.
I had a great time but I'd got live festival fever out of my system after that August and I've never been to another one since.
The late - legendary- Randy California of Spirit at Reading 78 © Mike Ware
a backstage pass for Reading 78 as a guest of Liverpool rockers Nutz.
was my first ever festival and many of your existing recollections sum up most
of my experiences.
I was a punk (in musical taste) as well as still being an avid Quo fan so I was happy to see the Punk Friday as well at the traditional mainstream bands.
Regarding the Sham 69 anecdotes, I vividly recall a group of skins calmly walking into one of the beer tents [front right as you looked at the stage] and trampling down the wooden table that served as a counter and physically picking up the cash till. Don't forget this was pre electric tills etc, so it was just an old fashioned ring it up and put the money in the till. You then saw a group of 4 guys running with this till and the boys in blue looking like the Keystone Cops chasing them. If you had filmed it, the result would have been like one of those Benny Hill chase sequences. What was ridiculous was that instead of channelling down from the crowd and penning the skins against the fence & arresting them, the police removed a fence panel and chased the thieves out into the crowd. I don't know what ultimately happened, but all around me everyone was cheering the skins and "accidently on purpose" getting in the way of the boys in blue.
As for music my most vivid memory was of Bethnal's rendition of Baba O'Reilly - so much so I bought the album & still have it [33 rpm vinyl!]. I'd seen The Pirates at smaller venues and was amazed how they delivered on the big stage. I am one of the guys who found Patti Smith boring, especially after Foreigner.
Regarding keeping in booze once the money ran out on Sat afternoon [I was a student at the time], I made do by helping people open their wine bottles without a corskscrew & taking 1st swig as a payment. It's amazing how much wine you can glug when its free! I also recall being able to chat up the food stall owners and getting free food once the bands had stopped playing. The campsite was just a field, I can't recall showers or WC's but I guess there must have been some , at least WC's.
didn't do another Reading until 2002 and I can honestly say I prefer the old
style double main stage - there was more focus and spirit - but hey, I guess
that just makes me an old git!
All the best
memory of the festival was when i was 15 yrs old and is pretty sketchy due to
the fact that i spent most of it tripping my head off, i remember on the friday
morning having hitch hiked from Cardiff, i'd just got dropped off at the reading
junction of the M4 when i got arrested on sus and was taken to reading police
station, (i had to give my DOB as 1959, so that my mother wasnt informed that
i was so far away from home )i was then stripped naked and searched (cavity
as well) i was then driven directly to the main enterance of the site and dropped
off by the police, (the looks i got were pretty weird to say the least).
Anyway, i headed to the campsite set up my tent and then went on a walkabout, i met a girl selling acid so bought 2 trips off her and then got talking to one of the (Hells) Angels, who i think were doing the security that year, not long after i dropped the acid and continued on my tour.
It was the first year i'd ever seen punks and skins at a rock concert / festival, so imagine my surprise when just as my trip was reaching its peak, a drunken punk rocker with full mohican and safetypin piercings decided to jump on my back shouting lets ride the hippy, to which i responded with a swift judo throw, and a kick to his head, then to my amusement his mate said, "I dont think he's a hippy" passed me a joint, shook my hand and went on their way.
Anyway, i enjoyed the rest of the festival, especially Lindisfarne, Status Quo, Gillan and Foreigner, and the continuous chants of "John Peels a Cunt" - from that day i was hooked on the festival lifestyle, and from then up until 1984, i made as many festivals as i could including Knebworth, Deeply vale, Stonehenge, Glastonbury, Ingleston common and the psilocybin fayre,
I think its a shame that everythings been commercialised these days and that todays festival goers have gone from being "new age gypsies" to mainly middle class people who can spend alot of money on a three day pass for glastonbury every year.
was at Reading 78 as a 15 year old.
My recollections of the Sham escapade :
The mood was ugly before Sham arrived. There was much discontent from the biker and metal fraternity regarding the "New Wave" acts.
Sham 69 were on stage and were useless - out of tune, out of time and out of their depth playing such a large venue.
Various objects were thrown at the band, who in fairness were determined to play on regardless.
Eventually, a well-aimed can hit the bass player on the head and he stopped playing, bringing the rest of the band to a halt.
Jimmy Pursey had already made several comments, but finally shouted "If you don't like it you can **** off home", to which the crowd responded with a barrage of beer-cans and other objects. The stage invasion then happened as documented by other reports.
I left the arena at that point.
© Paul Norman
In 1978, I was a 21 year old architecture student from the States (Va. Tech) studying abroad for the summer. I had been introduced to punk rock the year before with the Sex Pistols and was immediately hooked. The first week in Europe (Zurich) I managed to see the Talking Heads in concert. It was a small auditorium (the Volkshaus) attended by a mix of disco fans and a small group of punks, and it appeared that it was the first time the Talking Heads had ever seen real punk rockers too, as the band members seemed amused and curious at the sight of them. Tina Weymouth actually came out and took photos of the audience during a break in the show.
During my last week in Europe I was in London on independent travel and found out about the Reading Rock Festival. As it was only a short distance from London...I decided to go.
That morning, I hopped a train to Reading not even knowing where I was actually going. After I got there, I just followed the line punks stretching out in the distance making their way towards the festival site. At the concert field I could see the 2 stages and knew I was at the right place. There was a line forming along the fence for tickets (queuing up is always observed in England and even the punks were very orderly). I sat next to a young man neatly dressed in his "New Wave" black dress shirt and thin white tie. We politely talked while waiting and I remember he reminded me of the C.W. Moss character in the Bonnie and Clyde movie.
Once in the gate, I walked around the field and was amazed at the sight of the huge beer cans being sold at the concessions. I had never seen such large cans of beer before. It was a typical dreary day and I wore a bright yellow raincoat to protect me from the elements (rain and beer).
During the early performances, I recall the bands being mercilessly pelted with beer cans...to the point that they were walking off the stage after only a couple songs. I can hardly blame them as many of the cans raining down upon them were still half full. Following punk bands would actually take sips form the cast off missiles and then hurl them back at the audience with great satisfaction. Of course when the Jam played, there wasn't a single can thrown. I think the crowd would have pelted the royal family before ever tossing a can at the Jam.
I attempted once or twice to get close to the stage, but each time was repelled by the crushing masses and ear-splitting volume, retreating to a safer and more comfortable distance. Considering the rough activities at the front of the stage, I probably was lucky I couldn't reach them.
That evening after the days music was ended I proceeded to head back to the train station. I ran into the formerly neatly dressed concertgoer that I had talked with while waiting in line. He was totally wasted and hanging on to two young women....his shirt torn and tie knotted and disheveled. A before and after picture would have been quite striking. As I filed down the road I passed a large tent where they were selling spam and baked beans. On their hand drawn sign it stated... "NO SPAM!" I thought I was in a Monty Python sketch! I was starving so I purchased a plate of beans.
Once at the station, there apparently were no scheduled trains to stop, so they radioed a passing train to stop. When the train slowed at the station, I remember the horror on the crew's face peering down as they saw the unwashed miscreants waiting to board. They must have thought there had been a mass escape from the local insane asylum. Sleeping passengers were rudely awakened to the sight of drunken punks invading their train. When approaching London's station, one of the punks on board pulled the emergency stop and he hopped off the train and darted across the track...ending a day of events that would ever be embossed on my mind. Unfortunately, the photos I took were lost when I forgot my camera that held the film on a train while journeying back home. But my memories are etched deeper than any image on film.
returning to school that fall, I formed a band (the Evicktors) with my brother
and friend and introduced punk rock to the uninitiated masses
at Va. Tech. The influences from my experiences at the festival echoing through
the mountains of Virginia and beyond.
Two years later in 1980, while living in Los Angeles, I got to see the movie "The Kids Are Alright"...which documented that first day of the 1978 Reading Rock Festival. I would love to find a copy of that film to relive the excitement and adventure I experienced that day so many years ago.
By far, the Reading Festival was the greatest musical experience of my life.
© Paul Norman
Great memories of '78'.
The line-up, atmosphere, weather, anticipation, all great.
A couple of memorable points:-
Randy California of 'Spirit' actually stepped into the crowd and played his guitar over the back of his head. I was in the front row and he walked right passed me. Brilliant!!!!.........
This was the lead up to Quo coming on stage. Being a Quo fan I was excited to say the least.
30 minutes or so before they came on there was a great surge for everyone to get to the front. People were passing out and were being carried over the barriers for medical attention. I found it a struggle to keep at the front myself and as the curtains closed and the smoke appeared from under them I found the strain of the weight behind me too much. I let go of the barriers and was immediately sent cascading 75 yards backwards......WHAT A BUMMER!!
Anyway, great fest. Met some good people there, even friends from our home town of Grimsby. We spotted one guy with a little tub of powder, sprinkling it into his beer. Asked him what that's all about. "You only need 2 cans instead of 8 to get pissed man", he said.
We tried a sprinkle and was duly wrecked after 2 cans. To our horror, when we got home, we found the Sun newspaper did an article on said powder. "MAGIC WHAT"!!!!!!!
Those were the days
© Paul Norman
I read your article on '78' some time ago and knew I had some pictures of it (albeit from a Polaroid instamatic).
I was in the attic this afternoon putting up a new TV aerial and spotted an old box. To my surprise there was some of the photos inside.
I've attached a couple. Not very good I know, but you might find a use for them.
Graham Parker © deargdoom57 used under creative commons license
Got to your site while researching Dennie Leigh [John Foxx from Ultravox - I live near his home town of Chorley and interviewed him for a Punk zine I co wrote between 2002-2004 called Pogo'til I die...long story!]
15 like most of your contributors and travelled down by train from Cheltenham
with my best mate Rob Goodwin for the Friday.
We left the station and followed the crowd- a stream of music fans and very few police early on.We got a day pass [which I still have along with a programme] and queued for ages along side the road.The field was sectioned off with a wall that was packed with posters - I remember the Devo pictures and how menacing those freaks looked. Once in side we spent the day about half way back just to the left of centre.There was a barrier that separated the two halves where the cabling ran from the mixing desk tower.
Don't remember the first act at all - must have been in the porta loo. The Automatics tried but gave into the cans. New Hearts fared better - the lead singer later went on to front that band who had a minor hit with Time For Action. Radio Stars' lead singer climbed the stage rigging and got pelted with cans but when he reached the top everyone cheered out of respect song I remember them playing was No Russians in Russia-mad man! Penetration were as everyone states - very good.The sun was warm-proper summer weather -and Pauline brightened the day even more.
I do remember the "John Peels a cunt" chorus and taking a family 7 square on. Sham has been documented - all I want to add is the hazy memory of the Sham army being escorted from the station to the venue.Like a Tsunarmi the traffic seemed to stop and this line of police herded the army into the venue-they seemed to just pour in- did they pay or get their tickets checked is all could think having paid some twenty odd quid for mine! Borstal Break Out was a highlight the field erupted and I got told to get off the barrier as I tried to get a better look at the fighting. The Pirates sweated to excess - old codgers who held there own -fair play- the tribute to Johnny Kid -Please Don't Touch- a memorable moment. The stand out band though was Ultravox as they used a light show -ie the lights changed from bright white to blues, reds etc - as it was darkening by that time-getting colder- first track was Slow Motion and I was mesmorised and later bought the ground breaking Systems of Romance LP - it was the template for all the 80s electro/new romantic stuff that followed.
a massive Jam fan and agree with everything that was said except someone did
throw something at Weller as he walked on to the stage as it was my first sight
of him live and thought he was cool to glance back and ignore it! The stage
was bright white and sharp grey suites. We had to leave before the end of the
set to catch the train but the day passed without any hassle from anyone.
My first festival and the best as it has left such a lasting impression - you felt that music was changing and all things were possible at a young age. Music was a life line to teenagers in a very real sense that meant you wore your credentials in the clothes and styles you adopted during days which some call the Punk War Years - here's to all of us who survived to tell the tales!
I don't know if you're still interested in recollections but I was a young 17 year old at Reading '78 (my first festival). I had also just discovered vodka so quite a lot of my recollections are of a pleasant hazy nature (particularly dancing in a sort of obscene conga to Ivor Biggun!).
main memories were the punk acts on the Friday and just that fantastic feeling
of being outside at night with great music, Penetration were great,
The Jam were fabulous whatever their issues about the sound system, Ultravox overall were OK but 'Slow Motion' played on a massive sound system was one of the outstanding songs of the whole festival.
also loved John Otway & Wild Willy, The Pirates, Squeeze and the unique
sound of Bethnal (whatever happened to them?). I seem to remember Chelsea
being there as well (having seen them the week before at Torquay Town Hall with The Police bottom of the bill!).
the down side The Motors were just switching from songs like Dancing the Night
Away to softer stuff like 'Airport', Quo were tedious as was Patti Smith (my
main memory of her set was of people shouting 'Burn the Witch!') Away from the
music the toilets were disgusting, the tent next to us went up in flames from
a gas cooker in about five seconds, skinheads gave the Friday night a bit of
a tense atmosphere but my scariest moment was a Hell's Angel pulling a gun on
me because I was wearing an Anti-Nazi League t-shirt. Bit much for a naive young
lad from Worcestershire!
First of all, thanks so much for this site – it brings back some really happy memories.
But there is one thing that’s bugging me. I swear that I have seen Wayne/Jayne County at Reading, but I certainly did not go in 1977. I went the following year (and in ’79), and I swear I saw him/her play then. The stage show was pretty weird and involved some big crocodile costume. Am I the only person that has this recollection?
I come from Addlestone, which is a punk gob’s throw from Hersham, so naturally I was delighted to see Sham play. Before their set I remember being puzzled to see a skinhead wandering around carrying a door from the portable toilets around on his head.
Reading Festival in 1978, but for just one day - the Friday. I was only interested
in the Punk bands. It was a real experience for a 15 year old.
There were can battles between sections of the crowd and cans being thrown at the stage from early on in the day. The first band on - I do not remember the name - on the right hand stage (where Penetration, The New Hearts, The Pirates and The Jam performed) had an open piano. The can throwers were trying to get the cans into the piano. Every now and then - or it might have been only once - one hit a string and would get a cheer from the crowd.
I was at the Front for all the right hand stage acts and at the front for Sham 69 who were on the left stage. For the Radio Stars, the Automatics and Ultravox, I was on the right hand stage front looking across.
John Peel tried to stop the can battles by threatening to play Bararach, the Bee Gees and Andy Gibb records. I remember him playing some of these and the can throwing would die down for a while. He also got the crowd to chant if things went wrong. The chant was - John Peel's a c*nt. This rang out many times from the festival site by the Thames in Caversham through the town of Reading from the afternoon to the night. The locals and the Organizers were not too impressed and I think he got banned for a number of years as a result.
All the bands that I was up close for were great. The others - maybe due to distance - I did not enjoy so much. I was a fan of these bands and knew their stuff, but in the daylight it is difficult to get into it unless the band is right in front of you.
Hearts were bombarded by cans and their stand-in guitarist - with long hair
- was struck above the eye by a can thrown by a guy standing next to me. Ian
Page stopped the band and asked for the culprit to make himself known. The guy
put his hand up and then pretended to be contrite. When the band started playing
again, he started throwing cans again. I think this was the last New Hearts
concert. Their next incarnation, Secret Affair, played their first gig in February
the next year - also in Reading - supporting The Jam.
I do not remember cans being thrown at Penetration. Pauline Murray was very good.
were excellent. Very powerful and very together. A great 3 piece band. Don't
munchen it was a highlight.
The Jam were the headliners and good, but the sound was a little raged and Weller was getting really upset as girls kept being pulled out of the crowd past him and the sound did not improve. I remember him smashing a guitar at one point, but I am not sure how damaged it was.
Pursey did come on after the Jam to lead singing of you'll never walk alone.
I remember him crying, but at the time I thought he was just caught up in the
moment rather than frustrated by the crowd.
Better stop there.
Graham Parker © deargdoom57 used under creative commons license
what a gem of a page.
That was my one and only festival and I went because Quo were playing.
I was 17 at the time and went with my brother, then aged 25, who was a festival veteran.
It has a particularly poignant place in my memory as my brother was to be involved in a serious motorbike accident soon after suffering permanent personality change.
Oddly enough, I remember we almost didn’t get in as I stepped directly in front of some huge biker on a huge bike and had to jump (literally) for my life.
The weather was warm..... warm enough to be swimming in the Thames!
Slade were not there! 100% definitely not!
The 69ers did riot all down one side of the field, to the right of the stage as you looked at it. They trashed a lot of the stalls as well as laid into the hippys. But that was the only trouble all weekend.
Highlights were undoubtedly the Pirates. They went down a storm with everyone, punk, hippy and rocker alike. For me the best band of the weekend.
Personally, I thought Quo were as good as Quo get. Bit hard done by I think, reading other comments. That’s who I went to see and I was not disappointed.
recall Spirit were roundly booed as were the Motors but only because there was
a problem with the Quo set-up and they had to keep playing until the problems
were sorted, which seemed an eternity.
I remember seeing Bethnal and Squeeze for the first time (I believe both were making there debuts outside of the London pub circuit)and I went straight out after the festival and bought their albums. Still have them.
Albion were good. Bloody good.
Paul Inder was awful but he got his fair share of patience from the crowd around me as he was only a kid. I recall he did get some barracking but that was put down by the more understanding members of the audience.
Patti Smith was awful but my brother was of the complete opposite opinion.
Another vivid memory was the constant chanting of “John Peel’s a c**t” every time he took to the stage which he himself actually instigated and led.
Didn’t make any sense to me.
became particularly angry when someone threw a bag of flour at him on stage.
The biggest disappointment I recall was people at the back throwing beer cans (many full) at people in the front. Being in the middle, we did seem to be constantly looking over our heads just in case.
All in all, a great weekend and one of my fondest memories.
With Reading underway in 2010 and my 17 year daughter camping in the rain I was reminded of my own trip to Reading in 1978 when I was 18. It was a real experience which is indelibly written on my brain so thank you for your site to remind me! We turned up in a re-sold yellow post office van that my friend Geoff had bought for £25 and with due respect for all the Punk fans on this site we were looking forward to Patti Smith and Status Quo and only went on Friday because we had paid for the ticket! I had honestly never heard of the Jam or Sham 69 and although video may prove me wrong I thought the Jam set was really good. This might have been a consequence of rather large amounts of beer that had been drunk earlier in the day!
honest Saturday was not really that great for us. Some of your contributors
say it was a hot day but I remember sheltering under a large tarpaulin for quite
a lot of it. We also found ourselves sitting next to a 15 strong Hells Angel
chapter which while a little unnerving was oddly quite convenient as no-one
threw any cans at us. Sunday was great really and I can still remember the Tom
Robinson Band but Patti Smith was quite rambling if I remember correctly. The
song of the moment was "Because the Night" and she did not sing that
very well at all. As I drove my new Jag into the Guest drop off Zone tonight
I had a pang of nostalgia for the old post office van and the good times we
had at this most excellent 1978 festival. I wonder whether they have more than
two working toilets now… I am not entirely sure the half full cans referred
to by another contributor were really half full of beer.
Thank you for your site and the memories it has brought back.
Hi, just found your site and I can add my sixpence worth to your Reading 1978 reports. I'd been added to the bill somehow (my manager at the time was a banker, perhaps that's how...) and I was the poor bugger that opened the show on the Friday. To put the record straight I was a New Zealander and I hadn't won any contest but I'd had a few records out and was awaiting the release of my first lp. We'd got together a ten piece band and I did originals and a few covers. I was happy as larry but I hadn't encountered the punks and the skins and the general level of agitation! I had a grand piano on my left of the stage and cans of beer would rebound off it - it really wouldn't have mattered what I was playing, I still would've copped it. But I didn't like those Watney Party Seven cans, they were nasty and some of them were half full. I was as much concerned for the three back up girls, but we did our whole set safely. It passed in a blur, and just to reply to one of your letter writers - no, I wasn't near tears, oddly enough I was exhilarated - we'd played well and WE GOT OFF ALIVE!
mate from NZ and my late sister-in-law came up with me and were in an area for
guests etc. between two stages. Cans went over their heads continuously from
one crowd to the other. How unlike the home life of our own dear Queen....
Anyway, my band had several members of the Gerry Rafferty band at that stage because we shared the same producer Hugh Murphy, but I was listed as just Dennis O'Brien. I wasn't on the poster as I was added only a few weeks before but I'm on the track listing.
There was a film shot of my act but God knows where it went. I remember after the gig I was having a beer in the liggers tent and a young West Indian guy, I think he was the bass player for one of the later bands came up to me and said, you did good man - and that just about more than anything has stayed with me since.
I got a rotten review from John Peel but that's alright - I've got a review from John Peel! That'll do me. And yes, I wore a shirt with a dragon on the back, but the band didn't. I've still got the shirt, though oddly enough at age 62 it doesn't fit me so well.
I had a great band and i loved it all - even with the watney's party sevens whizzing past.
Rock Festival 1978
My first ever festival and an indelible memory or so I thought, but on reading these reviews I feel that the beer must have addled my brain.
If I have a few facts wrong, then I apologise but this has been my recollection for nearly 34 years
Anyway memories - well impressions really.
Mark, Will and me borrowing our mate Andy’s tent which weighed a ton, could sleep hundreds and was full of holes and then Andy turning up, unannounced, on Saturday and finding his tent amongst thousands – god knows how.
Going to the supermarket, buying beer cans and putting them in the tent and they didn’t get nicked and then tying cans onto our belts using those plastic holders.
A trip to the pub, it’s the one under the railway bridge, near the station, and drinking 6 pints of Directors on an empty stomach. (I can’t even smell the stuff to this day without feeling queasy)
Ending up in the park and being very, very ill on a roundabout. (with apologies to Jon Anderson - 'Vomit comes out of the Sky and it stands there!')
Watching Sham 69 and Jam fans batter each other and then the bikers moving in to batter whoever was left.The running battles were pretty bad.
The best band on Friday being the Pirates, by a mile.
Every Jam song seemed to have the word ‘city’ in it. (I am from rural East Anglia, perhaps that's why I never really got Punk!)
Everyone a night continually yelling 'Wally'.
Realising that Randy California was not Jimi Hendrix.
The sky being full of cans and a girl covered in blood after being hit by a piss filled ‘Watney's Party 7’.
A large flag which blocked everyone’s view, being pulled down and set on fire by six bikers.
The constant smell of smoke, burgers, chips, shit and strange things I did not recognise.
Very stoned and or pissed people leaping off the bridge in to the river. (Very sadly a few years later a bloke I had vaguely heard of through work, was pulled out of that river a few days after the festival)
Being a Prog Rock fan, loving Status Quo just for being a perfect festival band.
Being very disappointed by Ian Gillan who seemed to be in a jazzy phase at that point, something he, thankfully, grew out of.
Program of artistes ( in order of appearance . list courtesy Paul Steeples)
Sat 26th August
Sunday 27th August
Compere John Peel
Prize for band "most likely to be in the wrong place at the wrong time "goes to the folk outfit the Albion Band , totally out of place amongst this lot, yet apparently they went down quite well. Which is nice to hear .....
Recordings and Setlists
"The Kids are United"- no hang on, no they aren't ,we've changed our minds, ,they're "Kids Like Me and You .....
Confused, so are we. But it s just the record companies buggering about as usual.
Apparently v arious versions of the film " The Kids are United", have been released over the years , Its also been called "Kids Like Me And You " its been resurrected for a showing at the Montreal Film Festival in 2011
Sham 69 :Friday 25th
( video production "Kids are United ")
The Jam :Friday 25th
( video production "Kids are United ")
Patti Smith :Sun 27th
Ultravox :Friday 25th
Cooking up a storm © Paddy Mulvennah
Sat 26th August
Sat 26th August
been at the 1978 Reading Festival I can certainly add a bit to who performed
what, as I taped two hours worth of Sunday, the 27th.
Looking now at the tape, although these tracks were played in this order there are obviously some missing from each acts setlists. After recording most of Ivor Biggun's 'Winker's Song (Misprint)' blaring over the sound system to rural Berkshire, I caught the following:
Squeeze - 'Take Me I'm Yours'
Ian Gillan Band - Secret Of The Bells,' 'Getting Back In The Game,' 'Child In Time,' 'Dead Of Night,' 'Message In A Bottle,' 'Smoke On The Water' and 'Lucille.'
Tom Robinson Band - 'Too Good To Be True,' 'Power In The Darkness' and 'Don't Take No For An Answer.'
Patti Smith - 'Privilege (Set Me Free),' '?,' 'It's A Man's Man's World,' 'So You Wanna Be A Rock'n'Roll Star,' '?,' 'Because The Night,' 'Gloria' and 'My Generation.'
(In the dark I didn't realise that the batteries were running out so, by the time I got to Foreigner, after 'Double Vision' the other two tracks start 'speeding up' to oblivion. Doh!
Foreigner - 'Double Vision,' 'Cold As Ice,' 'Feels Like The First Time' and 'Hot Blooded'
Can we get a witness ?
We need more info on this and the other late 70s Reading festivals, we are now in the curious situation of having better documentation on some of the earlier festivals, so c'mon headbangers, get yer photos out and fire up the braincells .Send your recollections and scans to us NOW ! !! Contact us
The early festivals.
You can find out the complete line ups of the first festivals if you follow the links below .
Most of these have fairly complete documentation .But new contributions of any sort are always welcome regarding any of the festivals.
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