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|For information on today's festivals see eFestivals.co.uk|
Last update Jan 2012.
9-11th August 1968.
Kempton Park Racecourse.
View From the Mud :-recollections of Sunbury 1968.
T Rex onstage © G Wright
Jim Bisset writes
Great to find your site on this. Nobody else I know has any knowledge the festival ever existed! I was 16 at the time, and it was the first festival I'd gone to. I lived in Scotland, and travelled down with a mate on an ancient Lambretta, overnight on the Thursday. (I remember how cold it was! ) A big adventure for a couple of 16 year olds, which certainly improved my "cool" status at school! I remember my mate provided the tickets, getting us there and back was my responsibility, and I left home with £2/10/0 in my pocket to do the whole weekend! Heading down the M6 through Lancashire we stopped at some services, and saw a motorbike of some description, with a cardboard sign on the back "Bodge & Chris - Kempton Park or bust!". They became our travelling companions for the weekend. We had nowhere to sleep, so slept (with many others I remember!) outside the gate of the racecourse, beside the scooter. That was fine till it got cold, whensome of the assembled throng got a fire going. Unfortunately they started breaking up a wooden fence to feed it, and the Plod were along pretty sharpish!
I remember watching Tyrannosaurus Rex, particularly them doing "Deborah"; it was warm and sunny, we were drinking beer from cans, and sitting in front of the stage just chilling.... I remember the start of the Arthur Brown set, the helicopter, and the walkway collapse. Being near the stage, we thought the collapse was some part of Arthur Brown's entrance...... confusion thereafter, till we realised what had happened.. Strangely, I don't remember even seeing the collapsed area. Never went near it. When Clapton came on with Ginger Baker and Phil Seamen, I remember the word spreading across the crowd - nobody realising who it was at first, then a wave of realisation, and the crowd noise building - my mate realised before me, shouting "It's Clapton" - it made the weekend for us. Sunday morning we went off to Petticoat lane market with the aforementioned Bodge & Chris, to find some bacon sandwiches! (???).
Always wonder if "Bodge & Chris" share the same memories, whoever and wherever they are!
I remember the Geordies throwing the beer cans - they were definitely empty ones, but I still thought it was out of order - though I had no idea it was Rod Stewart they were throwing them at! (Never knew I'd seen him till I read it on your site!). There was more beer can throwing on the Sunny afternoon during the Tyrannosaurus Rex set. Not at the stage this time, but from the back of the crowd at the front of the crowd, with shouts of "Sit down yah buggers!" - they were on their feet blocking the view of those behind.
I have a clear recollection of one of the bigger bands moaning vociferously about the quality of the sound equipment - WEM was the make I think, just after they'd decided that "WEM" made them look more upmarket than "Watkins"!
I can't remember which band was complaining, but I'm pretty sure that it was giving the organisers palpitations, since presumably WEM were a sponsor!
Any idea which band?
Last memory of that weekend was just after dawn on the sunny Monday morning, heading north again on the M6, and falling asleep continuously; Shaking myself, getting into the proper, inside lane, waking up a few minutes later in the outside lane! Must have zigzagged all the way..... The motorway was empty at that hour in those days, a far cry from what it's like now!
Anyway, thanks for the site - as I get older, and memories get fainter, it's great to be able to refresh them!
Bassist Glenn Cornick contacted us recently and commented ......
Sunbury was, of course, one of the biggest days in my life as it was THE DAY when we knew we were going to make it. You cannot believe the feeling. I don't have many recollections about the Festival other than our reception. I swear we were all in shock.
I don't know if you remember the circumstances of our introduction. Ian used to have a nasty old carrier bag that he took onstage and in which he rummaged for harmonicas, his flute or whatever - all part of his image. John Gee walked onstage carrying the bag and the whole audience stood up and started cheering even though we hadn't even been announced. What people didn't realise is that we had been playing 5 or 6 nights a week in little 40 or 50 seater blues clubs all over the country and those people had come from all over to see us. The Music Writers were shocked because we had made ourselves famous without their help or without most of them even knowing us!
Photo of an unknown band (either Taste or Timebox ) on the main stage on Friday night at Sunbury 1968 taken by Emilio Martinez
I suppose that growing up in the sixties one had to come across the phenomena of music festivals. I was seventeen at the time of Sunbury. I had been to rock concerts, especially at Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, were I eventually saw the Who on Wed/Sep.30/1968. I saw the advertisement for Sunbury in Melody Maker whilst on holiday in Devon. I immediately wrote to my pal in London and said let's go. This was all the easier for us as I lived a couple of miles away in Hampton and pal Dave lived in nearby Teddington. Dave stayed at my house on the Saturday night and we attended the final two days of the festival.
The marquee that was advertised was just that, a large tent with a secondary stage on it. I watched a performance by Clouds, the precursor of Yes. I remember Bill Bruford on drums.
The first act on the main stage that I remember was Joe Cocker. He did a Moby Grape number whose title I can't remember, and of course "With a little help from my friends".
Tyrannosaurus Rex went down well. These were the days before they had transformed, rather horribly I think, into T-Rex and produced glam rock for little girls. There was still some daylight left for them. Both Bolan and Steve Peregrine-Took sat cross-legged on stage and the entire set was acoustic.
Ginger Baker’s appearance needs a bit of explaining. It turned out to be a jam session with famed jazz drummer, Phil Seaman and (wait for it) Eric Clapton. Clapton and Seaman were not introduced at first and Clapton walked on stage after Baker and Seaman had started pounding away. After the first number compere John Gee came running up to him with the mike and shouted, "And who’s this?…Eric Clapton!" to rapturous applause.
It was Ten Years After up next. I seem to remember Alvin Lee getting very theatrical on stage, Pete Townshend style.
Next up were the Nice. I was actually very fond of the Nice at the time ending up seeing them three times. I had bought the single, "America" and the first album, "Ars Longa Vita Brevis". They had a sort of jazzy approach that the subsequent ELP lacked. The "big surprise" that had been mentioned in the programme I am not too sure about. They at one point appeared to burn something on stage, an American flag I think. Maybe this was the surprise? Emerson did his usual instrumental pyrotechnics, sticking daggers in the keyboard and running a microphone along the keys.
And then it was Arthur Brown!
The previous year at Windsor he had been lowered onto the stage by a builders crane. The festival programme, rumour and general audience expectation had promised something even more spectacular but in the end he simply pranced on stage. However, fate had a surprise in store for Arthur Brown. No sooner had he got going than there was an almighty crash from behind me. The festival organisers had overlooked a corrugated iron roof that ran along the back of the auditorium and had failed to allow for the nature of young minds. It afforded a good view (although not a free one like the hill at East Afton Farm) and of course it became a vantage point; something it was not designed to do. As I turned around at the sound of the first collapse the entire length of it dropped out of site to a roar of twisting metal and subsequent frantic screams. Poor Arthur did not seem to have taken in exactly what had happened and eventually John Gee ran on stage in something of a panic and shouted that there had been a terrible accident with lots of people hurt and that stage lighting would be pointed up to the back to aid rescue. The evening was effectively over.
A fence was taken down to get ambulances in and I passed a shocked girl telling of a boy she had seen with badly injured legs.
Dave and I got our weary selves back home to nearby Hampton and got to bed. The next day Dave's dad appeared. He had been sent by Dave's mum to check we were all right. She was in something of a panic as the national media had covered the story along the lines of "disaster at pop festival". As it turned out some sixty people had been taken to Ashford Hospital but only a few had been detained. As it turned out the only person really hurt had been innocently asleep underneath the roof.
So we returned to the festival for the Sunday.
The afternoon started with the Eclection who were an incredibly dreary lot and I never heard of them again.
I remember the Fairport Convention and I especially remember Sandy Denny introducing "Fotheringay".
The only other act I have any distinct memory of is JethroTull. They made a terrific impact at Sunbury and people down at the front were going wild.
As for drugs I saw no sign of any. Not a single whiff of dope.
I actually got rather turned off the idea of festivals. It was too much of an effort to see or hear anything and it was incredibly tiring standing up to look over people’s shoulders for long periods. I much preferred the din of clubs. The Hyde Park concerts sounded like fun but the Isle of Wight festivals must have been hell for a lot of people, especially if one hadn't got a tent, sleeping bag, cooking facilities and by implication ones own transport. There was a desire to put on stage a series of big names in a conveyor belt fashion and rake in the loot.
Wow, what a blast to find your site.
I ‘ve kept a list (yes I know…trainspotting!!) of all the gigs and festivals I’ve been to since 1968.
I was at Sunbury for all 4 sessions on Sat / Sun.
Remember seeing the late Martin Lamble (Fairports) queuing like the rest of us to get in and him slapping bongos to pass the time.
Also definitely remember Steve Winwood doing a jazz / bluesy set on either Sat or Sun arvo session with that pale green Strat. And playing awesome vibraphone.
Thinking how talented and versatile he was even then.
About to go and see Steve W and Steely Dan tonight down here in NZ!!
There you go.
Cheers and regards in music
Hi. Just looking through your excellent website.
Saw Arthur Brown start his set . Unfortunately for Arthur, just as he uttered the immortal words 'I Am The God Of Hellfire', the corrugated roof of some cycle sheds at the perimeter of the arena completely collapsed under the weight of fans who had climbed on top of them to get a better view. (We were standing just in front of the sheds at the time). The main spotlights were immediately directed away from the stage towards the cycle sheds and used as searchlights to help rescue workers - with the result that what we actually got from Arthur was 'I Am The God Of Hellfire - Oh Shit! His act was then delayed as you would expect and quite a few people were carted off to hospital in ambulances with suspected broken limbs. It was a nasty accident. As I recall, those cycle sheds were about eight feet high and sixty feet in length - and the whole roof collapsed - so a lot of people were affected.
Another band that appeared there (and isn't listed in the programmes etc) was Glass Menagerie. They appeared in a marquee that was erected to the left of the main arena. I particularly remember their excellent version of Traffic's 'Dear Mr.Fantasy'. The stars of the festival for me though were Fairport Convention. I hadn't seen them before and they were absolutely superb. I went straight out and bought their album 'What We Did On Our Holidays' as a direct result and I still have it in my collection, although somewhat battered these days!
I hope this is helpful. I appreciate that time can play tricks with the memory but although I went to a lot of gigs in the sixties I only ever went to one National Jazz & Blues Festival - and that was the Sunbury one in 1968. Also, the single 'Fire' wasn't actually released until 1968 (Number One in the singles chart in June 1968 - source: Guiness Book Of Hit Singles) so the 'Flaming Helmet' incident - i.e. 'Fire' - couldn't have been the 1967 festival (although Arthur Brown did appear there).
I love the site. You have obviously spent a lot of time putting it together and it has brought back a lot of great memories. When you look back at what you got for your money in those days it makes you realise how the industry has changed. The National Jazz & Blues Festivals, particularly the early to late-sixties ones, had some brilliant line-ups and tickets were nowhere near as expensive as they are today. Newer, small independent record labels like Island, Chrysalis and Charisma were just starting and they were working their socks off to promote their artists. The Marquee Club under John Gee's management was providing a huge public showcase/platform for them which was then extended into the National Jazz & Blue Festivals. The late Tony Stratton-Smith, founder of Charisma, even had his offices located above the Marquee in Wardour Street. Ah. Happy days.
By the way, there is an excellent clip of The Graham Bond Organization at the 1965 National Jazz & Blues Festival on YouTube. Just in case you haven't seen it here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c56a_Jd5aPI . It is Hoochie Coochie Man which was on their first album, 'The Sound Of '65'. There is an American voice introduction to the film so this is probably from the Shindig recordings you mention on the website.
Hope you don't mind me getting in touch and good luck with the website.
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1968 National Jazz and Blues Festival .
The early festivals.
You can find out the complete
line ups of the first festivals if you follow the links below, but otherwise
information is fairly limited.
Most of these have fairly complete documentation .