Last update Oct 2008
Rock at the Oval.
The Oval , Kennington .
Frank Zappa ,Hawkwind,Beck,Bogart and Appice,Linda Lewis, Man ,Biggles ,Sam Apple Pie ,Quiver.
MC Kid Jensen.
Recollections and reviews .
International Times, OVAL Cricket Ground .16th September 1972
Promoting rock is always fraught with danger, as the brothers Foulk found out (yet again) last Saturday afternoon. Few people expected them to lose money on a line up like Jeff Beck, Zappa and Hawkwind, but they certainly did--the factors being poor weather and expensive tickets--with the result that the green was never more than half full and the raised seating round the periphery hardly used. But, as well as being a good tax loss, it was also the best music I have seen at a one-day event for a long time, and what's more you didn't have to queue for anything. I got there half way through Man's set, complete with a blue blazered male voice choir from the valleys, and their relaxed but insistent set got things off to a good start.
Jeff Beck in a leery white suit made his first British appearance with the ex-Vanilla Fudge [rhythm] section, Tim Bogart on bass, and drummer Carmine Appice, a line-up he first mentioned several years ago, and together they ripped out a set of fast, funky and impeccable rock 'n roll. Beck was in good form, and ranged as far back as 'Hi Ho Silver Lining' and 'Over Under Sideways Down', and these brought a cheer from the shivering crowd beneath the grey gas works, but all the same I thought the sound was a bit thin in places, places where a bit of Max Middleton and good ol' Cozy Powell wouldn't have gone amiss. After a quick encore they were gone, and we settled down to wait for nightfall and the coming of the Grand Wazoo.
After a lot of messing about, mainly because the lighting was making the giant p.a. hum, the Machiavelli of rock limped forth and introduced the members of his 20 piece jazz orchestra by means of an elaborate and prolonged balance check. The crowd got interested as the 10 minute mix went on, and when they finally came together and burst into 'Big Swifty' from the 'Waka/Jawaka' album, they had the inexorable power of a musical express-train. There is something awesome about a loud medium-size jazz orchestra roaring out into the night, and the small scruffy Zappa stood in the middle and beat out time with his Wazoo's wand like an infant-school music teacher. There was nothing infantile about the music though, he handled the complicated score and made it swing as only the composer could, particularly on a new piece 'The Adventures of Gregory Peccary' (a species of small wild pig native to South California, and how he avoids being made into a pair of ladies' pigskin gloves) and added between movements that in case anyone was getting restless there'd be a shuffle along real soon. This appearance was a lot different from the ad-libbing insanity of Mark and Howie, but we got a flash of Mr Zappa's serious side, particularly in the passages when he played guitar. We got a rendering of what he chose to call 'Dog Meat', a medley of the King Kong theme from Uncle Meat and the 'Dog Breath Variations', one of his most evocative and haunting compositions, but sadly no 'Peaches en Regalia', which I had hoped would be an ideal choice for this current medium. At the end, he hung around the stage and seemed to be disappointed at his reception, which was a shame after what happened at the Rainbow last year.
By this time, the thing was running well late but little Linda Lewis did a quick set while the Sonic Assassins set up. It was a bad place to squeeze her in, between strong stuff like Zappa and Hawkwind and she didn't come over half so well as at Bickershaw, the last big crowd I saw her facing.
Then the lights darkened, the boggies leapt to their feet as they heard Del and Dikmik's oscillators speeding up, and we all faced our private crises on Spaceship Earth, while the giant words 'Life Supply' and 'Functional' winked on and off in the heavens. These boys are no longer Ladbroke Grove aristocracy but genuine wasted Sergio Leone-type pop-stars and the act has tightened up enough to keep this together. There was a strong feeling of deja vu about the Wind's set, a strong echo of the early Floyd, not musically but in the incredible vibes built up between an audience and the sounds they identify strongly with. It was a shame Mr Brock and the boys' piece de resistance, the firework display, had to be cancelled due to lack of time and increasing charyness by the genteel cricket club officials already narked by the bonfires blazing away the sacred turf. A shame 'cos a bonfire and fireworks scene would have been a good lift at the end of a good Oval.
Zappa : Red Hot Rat
It was cold, dismal and damp, the early part of the day was tedious in the extreme, the thing over-ran by two and a half hours, and there were long waits between bands. But there was also some fine music at the Oval on Saturday, so the discomfort was worth it.
Unadvertised, Quiver played first, and I was extremely sorry to miss them. I wouldn't have minded missing Sam Apple Pie and Biggles, though: Biggles seem to have all the right ingredients, but they add up to all the wrong results: they end up with a mishmash of derivative uninspiring music which does them no credit, even for a band so new.
Then came the first lift of the day, Man - one of those bands I keep meaning to see and never do, and I'm really glad to have caught up with them at last. Mellow, but with a hard edge, they have a beautiful feel to their music, their songs are nice, and the interplay between the two guitarists is extremely effective. Their organist too is one of the few people I've heard who really understands how to use that instrument in a rock band.
Jeff Beck surprised me: he's never been one of my guitar heroes, but the new trio, with Carmine Appice and Tim Bogart, played some very nice, upfront rock and roll. It was the first gig after just a week's rehearsal, so the repertoire was a bit limited and there were rough edges, but they came on like an ace rock band and when they got into full flight were remarkably good. My one reservation is that drumming and singing might be too heavy a weight for Carmine Appice to bear but I'd be surprised if this didn't turn out to be Beck's best band. They got an encore, and he came back to do a medley of famous licks - even a flash of "Over Under Sideways Down."
After a long delay for setting up, and tuning, Zappa's Grand Wazoo took the stage, and if no-one else had played I'd have been happy to wait around all day just for that. The 20-piece band play Zappa's music with unbelievable taughtness and lyricism. Firing straight ahead on things like "Big Swifty" and "Dog-meat" (a kind of medley of "Dog Breath Variations" and the "Uncle Meat" theme), or creating strange rhythms and textures on "The Adventures Of Gregory Peckory" - don't worry, said Zappa, this'll be over soon and then we'll do a shuffle.
Zappa spent most of the time conducting, but when he did play guitar it was with the fire of a hot rat. This music had the best elements of "Hot Rats" and the orchestral sections of "200 Motels", and it was really a joy to hear a Zappa band well into playing and less into slapstick vocals. Welcome back.
By this time it was past the official closing time, but there was still another long wait before Hawkwind. Linda Lewis did a quick set in between, but I can't think of anyone less suitable for that time. Then Hawkwind, and despite my prejudices, I got quite into them in short bursts. Their policy of total assault tends to either alienate me or crack through, depending on my mood, and this time it had its effect. A strange business though, without a doubt - thick, head-pounding wadges of sound, strobes, shadows, glistening balls, a lady taking her clothes off, and finally the threat of a power turn-off. Personally I was ready to go by then anyway, and I slunk off with my ears ringing to the throb of "Silver Machine."
Two weeks later it was up to London again, this time to see my all time hero, the mighty Frank Zappa! (FZ is still my all time great, by the way.) An interesting mix of music .From memory, the whole thing was compered by the DJ Kid Jensen, and the artists were Biggles, Sam Apple Pie, Linda Lewis, Man (local heroes for me, and they appeared for one number with the Gwalia Male Voice Choir!), Jeff Beck (with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice) who was pretty damned good, then Zappa's Hot Rats Grand Wazoo Orchestra (not what a lot of the crowd were expecting - big band jazz and no comedy. I thought it was brilliant, my jazz sensibilities having been heightened a fortnight earlier by McLaughlin and co.) and finally Hawkwind, who were on last because they needed the darkness for their light show to have full effect. Musically they weren't too good, and we left after a couple of tunes.
Funnily enough, I went down to London last September to see the last night of Jeff Beck's three night residency at the Royal Festival Hall, and it was exactly thirty years to the day since I'd first seen him at the Oval. He still looked the same, with maybe a few more wrinkles; black T-shirt and jeans, white Strat and a Marshall stack. And one of his guests was.... John McLaughlin! Ah, nostalgia!
All the best,
Just fond memories.
This was my first proper big gig.
I remember Man well. Became a life long fan from that day on.
I also liked Sam Apple Pie, as we followed them round the South London Pub Rock Scene at the time. If only ‘East 17’ were available on CD.
Was a big Hawkwind fan and had seen them a few times when they were nobodies.
I can’t remember much about the day. Weather fine but cold. Something about a stage announcement - that a woman’s breasts were the warmest place on the human body. My mate’s sister looked scared for a few minutes as all males turned to any nearby female.
Didn’t like FZ. Boring as sh*t but we had to stand through it as Hawkwind were on last.
Took forever to get home as the Tubes had stopped and we had to walk intoCentral London, to catch the all night bus and then about 5 miles home. Praise the Lord for one last smoke.
I remember more about the Melody Maker Concert at the Oval a few months later…
Thanks for bringing back some memories.
Keep on Truckin…
Oh, and the reason they exceeded the curfew was that it took about an hour and a half to set Frank Zappa’s stuff up. This was the Grand Wazoo tour, and he had a full orchestra with him…….
Hi, the Man band definitely played "C'mon" with the Gwalia Male Voice Choir providing backing vocals. I think they also played Spunk Rock, but I only got into them at the Oval therefore can't be 100% certain of that track.
Mans track were typically about 20 minutes long, so they probably only played 2-3 tracks, I think.
Martin Mycock would probably know and have documented in his book
Hope this helps -
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