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Last update Jan 2012.


The Eighth National Jazz and Blues Festival

9-11th August .
Kempton Park Racecourse.
Sunbury.

Saturday 10th August : Evening session. Part 2.


The Nice : Sunbury 1968 © Klaus Wachtarz

The Nice onstage at Sunbury 1968. click to view a larger, cleaner image

   Ok, now came one of the best bands of the era , now almost completely forgotten by the critics and fans alike - The Nice !

   There is almost no material available on the net about the Nice , which is a great shame , because they were MUCH, MUCH  better then any other band that Keith Emerson was involved in , although the majority of his fans would undoubtedly disagree with this statement .

    Unfortunately , although he is a great player , in my opinion , Emerson took a huge nose dive into wankery when he formed E.L.P and has more or less wallowed in it ever since. The moment he flatulently set off the big cannons to start the first ever E.L.P show at the Isle of Wight  heralded his embracing of mammoth pretension, which he hinted at with the Nice towards the end of their career, but always managed to avoid to a greater extent.

    Anyway this was my second live exposure to the Nice (I'd seen them at the Hyde Park free concert earlier on in the year ) and it was a giant gas !  Emerson did all the usual cruel stuff to his Hammond organ, sticking knives into the keyboard to sustain notes whilst he mishandled the poor thing by bumping , pushing and jumping up onto it on occasions, sometimes playing it backwards to boot.

    He also burned the US flag ,which went down well with those of us who were not impressed by the involvement of the U. S. in the Vietnam conflict on guitar, laid down some great licks with lots of nice feedback , whilst Blinky Davison on drums and Lee Jackson  on bass created a rock solid rhythm that thundered reliably and was guaranteed to underpin the pyrotechnics of O'List's psychedelic guitar and Emersons hugely entertaining Hammond organ . It was this solid rythmic base that allowed the lead players to improvise and freak out at length with no fear of the band losing its punch and ultimate direction . 
    
    The only weakness of the band was Jackson's vocals, which  were a bit iffy at times, but since 90% of their act was instrumental it did not really matter too much and his voice suited most of their songs quite well .

    They thrashed through a programme of numbers from their first album -The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack - ,which had only been released in June of 68. -including  Flower King of Flies, The Cry of Eugene , America - ( Leonard Bernstein ) and Rondo-a variation on the jazz classic Blue Rondo A La Turk -  and they went down like the proverbial storm .At this time the band was still experimenting more with a  fusion of pop psychedelia and improvisation rather than attempting to fuse rock and classical music  ( which is nearly always fraught with danger ) -as they did later on the album Ars Longa Vita Brevis , although they probably managed to do it better then anyone else at the time. Later on that year they were banned from the Albert Hall for burning an American flag on-stage, but there was no chance of this happening at the less stuffy atmosphere of the National Jazz festival .

left: Emerson with flag .

click to view a larger image

Jon Jackson, who was there, recollects

Yes, Keith Emerson DID burn an American flag (or facsimile) on stage that night!!! ) As I recall, Keith Emerson did the following:  During "America" he jumped on top of his organ and set fire to the back of it.  He then pulled off the back of the organ and (I think) from within it pulled out the American flag, and he burned it.  This was hugely popular with the crowd.  I remember thinking to myself (half humorously, as I was just as excited as everyone else), "This is probably not a good time to tell anyone that I'm an American."

Nice photo gallery and links here.


The Drum Battle/jam: The Late Phil Seaman , Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker Sunbury 1968 © Klaus Wachtarz

 

    The much anticipated drum battle between Ginger Baker and top jazz drummer Phil Seaman now took place , I know it was partly light when they went on-stage, although being the UK summer, where it often doesn't get dark until 11pm , this probably means very little. 

     I forget the exact reasons why the drum battle took place, I remember that there was a lot of talk about it in the Melody Maker before it occurred , but without copies of the paper to refresh the memory banks, I'm left to just speculate.   I don't think this was a grudge match , because Seaman and Baker were pretty chummy,  it was more of a friendly - let's see who can blow the other away in public- stunt. 

    However it began , it managed to stir up a lot of rumour that the other members of Cream might take to the stage and indulge in a giant jam with a double drum line-up- and this was mainly because the buggers had not played the UK since Jan 68 and then only a few dates, concentrating more on the lucrative US market where they could play to large crowds.  Unfortunately the full Cream lineup situation was not to be realized, but after Ginger and Phil had been hammering way to very good effect for twenty minutes or so - they were joined on-stage by a dark haired figure who plugged in and began to play a rather familiar sounding accompaniment -over to Mike Godwin for his comments......
-The only thing I remember about it was that this guitarist strolled on stage and began to play without attracting any interest from the crowd whatever. Then after a while, somebody announced 'Welcome to Eric Clapton' and the crowd went wild - not because of what he was playing, but because it was _God_

which is about  right, although the jam that followed was great fun, without the underpinning dynamic aspect of Jack Bruce's awesome bass to counterpoint the other instruments it did not reach the highs that could come from a great Cream performance, but  of course, because it was two thirds of Cream - and hence -Rock Royalty - the crowd went ape. Interestingly, this gig has been almost completely ignored by the vast Clapton media machine that have more or less documented every fart that Eric has made since the middle sixties, yet nary a mention of this show anywhere- most curious.

    Austin Reeve remembers it this way

When Clapton did his solo with Ginger and Phil in 68, I could hardly hear him to begin with, but either he or someone else turned the juice up after a bit. I was lucky that I had with me my World War One trench periscope which , apart from spotting snipers , guaranteed you a good magnified view of what was going on in spite of the best efforts of other punters to block your view. I was able to inform those other spectators near me that it was indeed Eric because for a while nobody at the rear of the audience seemed to know what was going on !

Ray Nicklin remembers

Thoughts on Eric Clapton's arrival ... as I recall it ... a modestly dressed guitar player walked out from the side, plugged in and started to play, he wasn't recognized as he walked across the stage because (I think) this was the first time he had performed publicly with straight hair since his Days of Perm and he really did look quite different.
But a particularly characteristic movement of the head as he began to play so distinctively ... enough to raise recognition and a very big cheer in my part of the audience.

Hugh Knott

When Ginger Baker and Phil Seaman were playing on their own there was no guitar amp on stage. This was wheeled on towards the end, creating an air of expectation. When Clapton walked on a minute or two later, I think he stayed towards the back for a while, playing rhythm. It is true that it took a while to recognise him, and I think this was partly due to the backdrop of the stage being lit and him appearing rather in silhouette against it and the amp - which made it difficult to see - though I am not entirely sure about this detail.

   Chris Jones has these recollections of the Baker Seaman drum joust
 

Ginger Baker introduced Phil Seaman as the guy who taught him. I don't remember the drumming as a battle more of a conversation - admittedly more of a shouting match than a dialogue. But boy those guys made the drums sing. I still think I've never heard anything like it to this day.

When Clapton came out I certainly realized who he was, and I think that most of those nearby did too - but he had that mesmerizing effect at the time (do you remember how Wheels of Fire blew us all away? "Eric Clapton, above all") that nobody felt that they dare utter a word until someone said his name.

 

  Well,  again, there's an definite element of truth in this viewpoint as well, for me it was , hey that looks like Eric, is it , no it can't be , well it bleeding looks just like him and it frigging sounds like him too. But I don't want to make myself look like a pratt by applauding when it MIGHT not be him , and so on .... I think a lot of others felt that way too.- .... and yes indeedy if one can believe that drums can sing , well they did on this occasion .


  The final act of this excellent weekend of music was the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Unless you were around in 1968 you probably never heard of this band, but at this point in time  they were top of the bill and justly so, due to the rampant success of their single - Fire  -which had turned Brown into a  household name  practically overnight  .  There were also the full on visual aspects of  Arthur's world to consider. Where the venue allowed , Arthur was dropped on-stage by a crane , wearing his flaming horned head-dress and facial makeup, whilst the band members wore hoods with plastic masks underneath , very theatrical  and rather advanced for the time -  probably Arthur was inspired by the sort of crazy on-stage antics that Screaming Lord Sutch and Screaming Jay Hawkins had been doing for some time . I suppose this could be said to have laid the groundwork for such pretensions foisted on us by myriad's of Heavy bands and parodied so wonderfully by Spinal Tap, but  Arthur managed to pull it off without appearing a wanker . Fortunately , his music was a cut above most of the bands who were to follow down that line of  development.

Arthur onstage - click to see the complete photo

     The Crazy one was blessed with an impressive set of vocal pipes, so he could bellow and blast the vocals out with the best of them .The devilish aspects of his set -
I am the god of hellfire and I bring you..... FIRE -

of course attracted the gutter press and gave him plenty of good , free publicity.


    For this set, which was to be a major showcase for his act, it was rumoured that Arthur had splurged around 10.000 pounds on special effects including a helicopter or crane that would have dropped him on-stage and fireworks that should have gone off when he reached his opening number Fire, but unfortunately things did not quite happen to cue.

    The exact sequence of events is now muddied for most of us, and here are numerous separate recollections from festival vets, most of which have been addled by time . This was mine , which proved to be wrong in one major aspect...... there was no crane or copter !

         Before Arthur descended from the copter/crane, the wooden and asbestos walkway from the local railway station to the racecourse , which formed the back wall of the arena , collapsed , due to it being used as a vantage point by  large numbers of the audience -who had been sitting on the roof watching the Ginger Baker/Seaman drum workout . Many of those on top and below were injured, some rather badly. As a consequence, much of the opening of Arthur's set was upstaged by the arrival of ambulances and all of the chaos caused by the rescuers and the rescued, which led to many of the audience rubbernecking to see what all the fuss was about- which understandably annoyed Arthur rather considerably as a large portion of the audience were ignoring him completely .

   I was around 10 to 15 metres from the stage and was quite aware of the fuss, -blue and red lights were flashing, inert  bodies were being passed over the crowds heads , whilst police and ambulance workers tried to restore order- but others were much closer and did not see what was going on. The next day the papers were full of the accident -74 HURT AT POP FESTIVAL - the headlines screamed , or something like anyway.

 

Arthur Brown Marquee club July 1968 © Franz Murer

   Others remember the sequence of events regarding the opening of Arthur's act somewhat differently .
Mike Godwin:

I think that might have been the same fest where Arthur Brown prepared a huge coordinated electronic explosion which failed to go off. He got to the intro where he booms "I am the god of hell fire and I bring you ...[nothing happens] ... oh shit!". He left the stage in disgust and a trad jazz band filled in for a while playing "The Lambeth Walk". Bizarre ...

     There was some trouble about the fences being pulled down and John Gee, the terminally square manager of the Marquee, appealed for calm by saying
"Cool it, baby". He sounded ridiculously unhip.

I disputed the exact turn of events, so Mike did some digging and confirmed his version.

   The quote "I am the god of hell fire and I bring you- oh shit!" is 100% accurate - several of my mates were there, and they still remember it. The problems with the fencing or whatever were definitely causing some alarm, but I was nowhere near to them, so I may not have realized how serious they were. I am pretty sure that Arthur Brown was expecting a big fire work explosion which didn't happen. I don't know whether it just misfired, or whether the organizers pulled the plug on it because they were worried about causing more panic for the ambulances. The thing which definitely happened is that Brown left the stage and was replaced by a band which played several dozen choruses of the Lambeth Walk . I don't have any recollection of a helicopter at all. There was a different festival where Brown arrived on-stage by crane - I wonder if there are two separate performances which are being muddled up here.
 Later on Mike elaborated:
I was out for a drink with some mates on Wednesday, and I mentioned Sunbury to them. Alex Rowson said that he was in the first 10 rows at the Arthur Brown performance, and that he definitely had a hand-held button which was supposed to set off all the fireworks and failed. He also confirmed the 'I am the god of hell fire and I bring you ... oh shit!' quote. Alex said that later in the evening they did get the fireworks to go off, and they were sensational. I don't remember seeing them myself.
Neither do I , but I guess they probably did happen.
Robert Gillatt remembers The God of Hell Fire actually catching Fire -


I also remember the night fairly well. John has done his potted history, I was just potted.  No photos I'm afraid but I remember trying to find a warm place to sleep the night before.  That was the night that Arthur set himself on fire while he was being landed. Must have been jealous about the diversion caused by the collapse. I do remember someone shouting "pour 'alf a brown over him", or some such.

photos of the collapsed walkway © Austin Reeve. click to see a larger version of the images.

Dik Leatherdale thought Clapton was indirectly responsible for the walkway collapse

My final year was 1968 at Sunbury. My recollection of the collapse of the covered walkway was that John Gee announced that EC had been playing and that the crowd went wild ("Eric is God" was still to be seen on walls in Notting Hill then). In particular the 200 or so people who had climbed up on the walkway discovered that they could make a lot of noise by banging their feet up and down on the corrugated iron roof. It seemed to me that this was what precipitated the collapse. Arthur Brown started his set apparently in complete ignorance of what was going on and I'm pretty sure that what was supposed to happen was that the Watney's Silver Band (from Watney's brewery in nearby Mortake) were to march in from the side at the critical moment. In the event it was a complete shambles. I recall "I am the God of Hell Fire and I bring you The Watney's Silver Band" at which point the band stuck up, accompanied by the sirens of arriving ambulances. the band then sort of stopped as they realised that something was up and it was, I think, at this point the famous "Oh Shit" was uttered.

Hugh Knott has this version of events

I have a fairly clear recollection of the beginning of the Arthur Brown session. I was directly in front of the stage and about left to stop the show and interrupted him saying 'no you don't.' , I am not sure how I remember him saying this but I am fairly certain he was holding a mike because for a moment I wondered if it was part of the show. This would make sense since he had to make himself heard to Brown over the band. I took it that Brown's angry reaction - I think he threw something to the ground (which presumably was the thing that others referred to) and stomped about angrily for quite some time making gestures - was to being stopped, because I don't think at that point he knew what had happened at the back. Immediately after the accident - which made a hell of a bang - it went quiet and it was a few minutes before the ambulances arrived so it is quite possible that Brown, preoccupied on his crane, didn't know what was going on. This was the only time I saw Brown, I am sure I would have remembered if he had arrived by 'copter - I remember a crane.

Neil Rice reminded me that the scene up near the walkway accident was very nasty indeed, something that should have soured the whole Brown set for everyone
 I was at Sunbury and have to say that the incident on the Sunday night was the worst human disaster I have ever witnessed first hand. I was closer to the walkway than the stage and it was horrific and spoilt the festival for me. As I'm untrained in first aid I immediately left with my companions as this seemed the best course of action so that the emergency services had better access. I also believe, though cannot confirm, that there were fatalities and that this was kept from the press. My mother-in-law worked in
a private hospital in Surrey at the time and heard this indirectly through ambulance drivers who were there on the night.

As for Arthur Brown coming on stage I believe he used a crane. It would have been too dangerous to use a helicopter.


Recently a survivor of the accident , Jon Jackson contacted me .
 Greetings,

I was one of the people injured at the 8th National Jazz & Blues Festival at Kempton Park in 1968. I recently found your site,
which is the first I've found about this event. Thank you!

Here's some information I can share with you:

1) There were about 200 people sitting on that roof at the time.

2) The roof collapsed just as Arthur Brown was coming on stage. We were all yelling and stomping in response to Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton.

3) You are absolutely right that Jeff Beck was playing as it turned dark.

4)I recall T. Rex was early in the program ...perhaps 3rd?

5) .As for my  injuries...well, I fractured several vertebrae in my back (ouch!).   My brother, who was sitting right next to me, just had the wind knocked out of him.  A fellow in the ambulance with me had a broken jaw.  I'm not aware of any fatalities.  There's a long (and perhaps boring) story about the medical care I did NOT receive that night at the local hospital.  I'm an American, and I was 17y/o at the time...so the main thing about it (from my point of view) is that my injuries disqualified me for the military draft, and I didn't have to go to Viet Nam.

Thanks again,
               Jon

Austin Reeve was close to the walkway

Arthur Brown did descend from a helicopter at the '68 festival- the walkway collapse coincided almost exactly with 'I am the God of Hellfire and I bring you...WHAMMM'. We at the back realised immediately what had happened and ran into the wreckage to try to help. It was awful....like a train crash or something! There were very bad injuries- I tried to pull a guy out from under a load of concrete beams which were supporting the roof that they had been sitting; but his leg looked almost severed, so we just stayed near him but tried to extricate others from the wreckage who were not so badly hurt. After a while, my mate and I felt so bad that we went out of the festival ground completely and slept in the car somewhere out near Reading,then came back on Sunday morning.

Adrian Angrove , who has informed me that he has a near photographic memory, has sent us this very detailed recollection of the events that took place. Its probably the most accurate of the memories so far .....

We were stood on a small raised grass hummock, some 30 - 40 feet in front of the rear perimeter covered walkway at the time of the incident.
 
After previous Arthur Brown festival entrances by crane, helicopter etc....the pre-festival press had been hyping "how will he arrive this time?" for weeks....echoed on the day by the Festival MC, John Gee,  who stood on stage and started whipping up the crowd reaction.
 
The build up for Arthur's entrance grew.....the crowd was going wild....the guys on the walkway roof started jumping up and down and stamping on the corrugated iron, making a hell of a racket....the searchlights were sweeping all around the darkened arena "looking for the helicopter"....However reports by others (including Austin Reeve) of him actually being craned or helicoptered in that day are totally erroneous (and must simply be part of the day's folk history)....As a "little negative joke on the crowd" Arthur simply strolled out onto stage from the wing-curtains stage right, grinning like a lunatic....we both watched him do it.
 
As Arthur walked on stage the searchlights were still darting round the arena and we heard the loud rumble that marked the collapse of the roof behind us.....we swung round to see the progressive collapse, like a row of dominoes, caught perfectly in the sweep of a searchlight.....almost as if choreographed...we heard the screams and saw the legs and body parts outlined against the sky as they tumbled backwards into the wreckage......we both turned and sprinted over to the carnage where we spent the next two hours pulling stunned and bleeding survivors out of the wrecked walkway. There were about 300-400 on that flat iron roof but only 70 or so were badly hurt and taken to hospital. Until twenty minutes earlier we had also been on the walkway roof, but had just got down to get burgers and chips from a nearby catering van.
 
John Gee ran back out on stage and interrupted Arthur about half a dozen bars into the opening of God of Hellfire...and that was when Arthur spat "Oh Shit" and stormed off stage, visibly annoyed at having been interrupted...there was never a replacement band sent on stage...The Crazy World remained there and played some very quiet and almost jazzy freeform fill-in instrumental music until the worst of the carnage had been cleared up. Arthur finally came back out to restart a very much shortened, very low key and subdued set, overshadowed by the endless fleet of ambulances arriving and departing till late into the morning.

Also a few corrections to press reports

the press report of Arthur completing God of Hellfire AND I put a spell on you before being interrupted and leaving the stage was slightly wrong....
 
...he was about two thirds of the way through God of hellfire when John Gee first tried to stop him.......but was pushed away by an angry Arthur...
 
...it was manager Kit Lambert who galloped onto stage after the song and finally got through to Arthur (who was as high as a kite on certain hallucinogenic substances at the time) and he stormed off...
 
....Kit told the band to carry on playing low key for a while as a crowd distraction (same as you would do if there was a fight in the crowd)....
 
....and the item Arthur threw to the ground was his microphone, not a pyrotechnic control device....they were controlled by licensed off stage specialists....
 
...Arthur did not play I put a spell on you until he returned much later, after Kit convinced him to return and complete the show as a tribute to those that had been hurt.
 
 
Adrian Angove and Ian Thompson, Penarth, South Wales - then bass player and saxist with "Stone Idol" and attending the Festival as guests of Charlie Watkins (WEM) because our PA was forming part of the Festival PA Wall of Sound .

   So there we have it , we do all know something disastrous happened during Arthur's performance , the walkway did collapse due to the crowd jumping up and down at the end of Ginger Baker's and the beginning of Arthur Brown's set , there was no mention of a crane or helicopter in the press, so we put this memory down to people remembering press rumours as fact - and regrettably -there were lots of people injured. The full story will have to wait until some kind soul can find us some of the newspapers of the day so we can find out just how many were injured . Its interesting that the festival continued the next day as if nothing had happened, nowadays I am sure that it would be cancelled as a mark of respect to the injured , but the incident was almost shrugged off at the time.



    What a days entertainment ! Hardly a duff band amongst them, we were well pleased as we drifted off to the campsite. We had brought a tent with us though and managed to get a bit of sleep overnight and stayed pretty warm , although the campsite was bloody noisy , with cars revving up, people singing and shouting until the small hours. We tried to get some kip , as the next days line-up promised to be almost as good as Saturdays -with Traffic, Incredible String Band, Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention, Chicken Shack, Spencer Davis and Donovan and w
e wanted to be able to last the course.

Click here to read about day two of the festival.

1968 National Jazz and Blues Festival .

 

  • Pre festival hand out from the Marquee club.
  • Festival Program (added Jan 2003 )
  • Camp site map and regulations. (added Jan 2003 )
  • Festival poster
  • Festival list of acts
  • My account of the festival part 1.
  • My account of the festival part 2.
  • Recollections of attendees
    Photo galleries of the bands.
  • The Nice.
  • Crazy World Of Arthur Brown.
  • Joe Cocker and the Grease band.
  • Incredible String Band.
  • Fairport Convention .
  • Traffic.


  • 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.
     
      1961
    1962
    1963
    1964

    Festivals 65-83

    Most of these have fairly complete documentation .

     
    Richmond 1965
    Windsor 1966
     Windsor 1967
    Sunbury 1968
    Plumpton 1969
    Plumpton 1970
    Reading 1971
    Reading 1972
    Reading 1973
    Reading 1974
     



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