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Bickershaw review .


translated from an unknown French publication

First festival of the year, Bickershaw is the partial result of a promotional campaign organized by RCA, CBS and WEA English, allowing the presentation of an American lineup of which some names will be absent (Pacific Gas & Electric, Spirit and America ). If English hard-rock tires more and more, we will see the rise of genres based on folk or country: but the interest of this
festival will seek itself as much in the music as in the public itself. England is in a critical period, the multitude of micro-religions is becoming worrying in a young population that was once more united. The reactions are still amazing, but reveal a certain absence of the crowd which lets itself be led more by the characters than by the music itself. Times are changing and the optimism merges with the pessimism of a generation more isolated than ever ...

Friday.This first Friday evening-night promises to be, by its content, revealing of the two main current musical trends in England. Jonathan Kenny, an Irishman who has enjoyed a certain popularity since the Cambridge Folk Festival last August, performs all the compositions of his recently released RCA album "Twice Around The Houses". This is the very type of lived experience that the author recites very simply to his audience; a little less than a poem, a little more than a song: “Je ne chante pas. I speak with you ”, or:“ You all play a little guitar with me ”; rebirth of a simple spirit in English folk.
One of the new facets of English hard-rock takes on the stage, another focal point after Mott The Hoople or Back Sabbath, Wishbone Ash has all the weaknesses of a band that plays and sings badly, added to the ridiculousness of its sound pseudo-demonstration ...

Knowing the musical poverty that Doctor John often demonstrated, one could not expect any prowess from the new members of his group. The Night Tripper (1) is as faded as it is boring. The brass section doesn't care what happens on stage and make no secret of it, while the swing that the music is supposed to possess is not very convincing. Doctor John is currently pouring into a bad mixture of rhythm'n'blues boogie and jazz-fanfare, more or less well interpreted. Doctor John “himself; white tailcoat, falsely disdainful stuffed look, scattering his stamp powder between two lousy phrasing of guitar or piano. After a certain hour, the recipe is boring and does not raise the musical level of the day, even if Hawkwind, new beloved group of English freaks, had the honor of successfully opening it ...

Saturday morning jazz starts too early and flies over the crowd that barely woke up towards the end. The error of the organizers also lies in the choice of artists (Brotherhood of Breath, Mike Westbrook) who do not present the trends most accessible to the festival public. The afternoon introduces Linda Lewis, another British discovery of the moment, to the discreet number of admirers who fail to communicate the singer's enthusiasm to their neighbors. The majority of folk-singers cannot speak to the assembly of a festival which likes a direct expressionism to emanate from the music.

The good ole Grateful Dead © Captain snaps.

  This will be the reason for the success of the incredible String Band, always more spontaneous since its first festival in 1968. Since then, Mike Heron and Robin Williamson have produced increasingly rich music, helped first by their female companions before adding two friends to this troupe which is as theatrical as it is musical. The passion that animates each of their compositions is as responsible for the sonic beauty as the great variety of instrumental combinations. They thus present a very colorful range of their musical history; "The Iron Stone", "Secret Temple" "The Med Hatter's Song" and even "I Bid You Goodnight" which the Dead also used to play . Their healthy mad joy is soon communicated to everyone, and the choruses fuse everywhere under the only outbursts of sun of these three days.

Donovan, who manages to extricate himself from his island retreat from time to time, was kind enough to “do his thing” for the Roundhouse yesterday and Bickershaw this afternoon. This spirit of recital that we now discover in Donovan is more disappointing than satisfactory, at the end of this "tax exile" which was also imposed on him. "In The Silver Sadness of The Moon"), "Mellow Yellow >>" Hurdy Gurdy Man "," Season Of The Witch "," Colors >> "Jo Bean's Theme" or "Hey Gyp", the melodies become more distant, the guitar chords too mechanical, the star has erased the character a little too much.

All the comforts of home ! © Chris Mchugo

Still a long wait, before ending the afternoon with Captain Beyond (formed by the ex-drummer of Johnny Winter (Bob Caldwell), the ex-singer of Deep Purple (Rod Evans) and two alumni of the Iron Butterfly), which comes to display its useless 2 cents worth in the same way as Sam Apple Pie whose evolution is measured only in sound volume since the time of the Blues Boom.

Here again, the quality of the festival suffers from poor programming by artists. An afternoon entirely devoted to folk could have been beneficial to Linda Lewis or Jonathan Kelly, and the absence of Al Stewart would not have involved this important musical break.

The evening is devoted to contemporary rock. Family opens the dance, with the usual “Good News, Bad News”. Chapman dispossesses himself a little more, the sound becomes more distorted, especially Poli Palmer's vibraphone and electric piano. It is not the arrival of John Wetton (Gibson double channel guitar / bass) which! modifies the group's music, carried by the same rhythmic violence since the fourth album.

Ray Davies, white suit, garnet bow tie with white polka dots, Big Star Stoned / Big Black Smoke, always so natural in his effeminacy, begins "You're Looking Fine" in front of a very agitated audience, mocking and as stoned as the leader of the Kinks. Ray, accentuating his arrogant drunkenness, also makes the crowd repeat a delirious Sunny Afternoon , before launching into an imitation of Johnny Cash bathed in streams of beer and laughter that no one holds back. “Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia”, from their last LP “Muswell Hillbillies”, leads the Kinks on their 1925 trip, brass instruments with an “aged” sound (trumpet. Trombone - clarinet) completing the whole. With their rock texture, the musicians really get a kick out of evoking this remarkably well-built style on a very open rhythm composed of Mick Avory (drums) and John Dalton (bass). Dave Davies (guitar) and John Gosling (piano) ensure the interest of this outdated musical coloring combined with the pop-rock rigidity displayed by the brief instrumental parts. After some fierce beer fights with his drummer and pianist, the increasingly drunken drunk Ray Davies sings "Alcohol" perfectly imitating the shabby saloon singer of the twenties: precious cult of posed arrogance ... " An old english folk song I used to sing when I was a kid " announces Ray after a delirious excerpt from his opera “Arthur.” It's “Lola.” The audience will triumph at the Kinks as soon as everyone sings this song. and dance: contact total with the artist is reestablished before a fantastic version of "You Really Got Me" which will earn the group a noisy reminder without reservations. Ray Davies then plays the harmonica in duet with the trumpeter, for a "Hootchie Coochie Man" very honestly reflecting the state of the musicians ...

A small legend already hovers around the Flaming Groovies. The left behind in Californian music. They began in 1965, alongside the Charlatans, and typical circumstances of the movement set them aside for good after the importance of the summer of 67 for the San Francisco Bay music scene. The only two surviving members of this era are the bassist, George Alexander, and this very short-haired soloist, Cyril Jordan, who is the only one to have a guitar tone holding the original rock sound (slightly artificial clarity of the echo) and the current distorting glow. His playing is quite imaginative for the limits that the group always sets for itself, completed today by James Ferrall (guitar), Danny Mihm (drums) and Christopher Nilson (who replaces former singer Tim Lynch). Their music cannot be compared to the experiences dear to the West Coast, because it is more of the early English attempts at Rock'n'Roll. Pete Townshend inspires enough Cyril Jordan and the Stones influence the group on stage, which opens its set with "Jumpin 'Jack Flash" before a few not less famous covers; "Sweet Rock n'Roll", "Heart Break Hotel". "Roll Over Beethoven". The Flaming Groovies, like their English counterparts the Wild Angels, their music is very honest and more interesting. They still recorded four albums; "Sneakers" (on their own Snazz brand) "Supernazz" (Epic), "Flamingo" and "Teenage Head (Kama Sutra), which more or less reflect their" revival "attempts, such as the establishment of their repertoire. After an important encore, they will play "Louie Louie", while "The History Of Rock 'n' Roll" is projected on a screen to the left of the stage. Fats Domino and Elvis Presley (especially in "Love Me Tender") are a bit of a laugh in our time, especially when you see dozens of joints twinkle around you and flash the illuminated sign that never ceases to proclaim "Marijuana Legalized ...

The installation of the equipment is still too long, despite the use of rolling stages, and the grip of the cold and the rain does not warm the crowd before Beefheart, whose success has continued to grow across the Channel since the Albert Hall concerts. From the first pieces, "Spotlight Kid" or "Cold Black Snake", the music turns out to be performed much better than at the concert in Paris. The Magic Band now benefits from a sound system more suited to the Captain's vocal fantasies and the sonic complexity of polytonal compositions.


Sunday was set to start early, with The Neophonic Symphony playing until 1 p.m. too academic music for people who have been listening to Beefheart until half past five in the morning. The idea of ??waking people up with pieces by Dvorak, Kussivinsky or Bach is even quite curious for a festival ...

Despite publicity which only had a disastrous effect on the group, Brinsley Schwartz knew how to intelligently reshape his music since his second album (“Despite It All”). Completed by tracks from the recently released “Silver Pistol”, the “rural” sound of this band is covered with all the traditional English influences. The audience is won over but the rain bothers the musicians too much.

Always rain, wind and mud for Country Joe who seems affected by this weather which too often downgrades the presence of acoustic music. After “Here I Go Again ”,“ The Return Of Sweet Lorraine ”or“ The Mark Of The Dead ”, Country Joe has more and more the crowd that listens to him and also sings. The inevitable "Gimme An F. ..." thus comes at the best time to confirm the reputation of the former leader of the Fish, once more freaky and less conventional.

Already nicknamed "America's Best known Unknown Band", the New Riders Of The Purple Sage are the most anticipated musicians of this festival. Their popularity grew every week in England, where their independent tour was a success equal to the sales of their second album released on CBS ("Powerglide"). They will play their music for an hour and a half in shades of wakefulness or sleep, joy or sadness. Intimate slowness from "Last Lonely Eagle" to the momentum of their first single, "! Don't Need No Doctor ”, the vocals and the swing go through the simplicity of“ Hello Mary Lou ”or“ Louisiana Lady ”before plunging into the rigor of a solid rock (“ Willie and the Handjive ”which does not has nothing to envy to the “Not Fade Away” of the Dead. The New Riders are adults now: Spencer Dryden and Buddy Cage bring their effectiveness to the rhythm as to the sound of the group. It is perhaps too early to judge the new pedal- steel guitarist, who does not go beyond the instrumental framework as much as his predecessor (whose technique is however inferior to him).

America's arrival was long awaited, but the group has had to cancel all their concerts since one of its members injured his wrist.
The Grateful Dead will play for many hours and once again, we notice that the Parisian concerts were far from illustrating its true “live” possibilities. The group chose this path for more than a year. Its musical elaboration is reinforced by Keith and Donna Godcha ows which complete the basics of the group, respectively on vocals and piano. After 'Truckin'. we will hear new and enriched versions of "Quadlibet For Tender Feet", "Sugaree" or "Playin 'In The Band". A new composition in the spirit of American Beauty>, "Tennessee Jed ", will begin to highlight Phil Lesh before a long "Casey Jones" where his technique produces the effect of rhythmic pillars supporting the theme repeated endlessly by the guitars, the voices, the organ and the piano which seem to prolong the beauty of the twilight until the hour of the intermission.

It is eleven o'clock in the evening, already, and the first chords of a long sketch of "Dark Star" pierce the skies and a cold that everyone will not easily forget .We will not feel "The Other One" arriving, before the themes that each musician will direct towards a common but different improvisation. Music takes up more space. gains in melody to enter the ceremonial ballads of "American Beauty" or the solo album of Garcia who leads them into an old favorite of PigPen "Turn On Your Lovelight". Each character is followed by the video, and the overlay effects allow far-away viewers to fully appreciate the light-show music ensemble. “Feelin 'Bad”, “Not Fade Away” made thousands of people dance under the final fireworks display. The success of The Dead is grandiose, other thousands of people rise to shout More »at the top of their lungs for ten minutes. The group rarely returns to an encore but finally decides to play their song "One More Saturday Night", modelled after "Johnny B. Goode .

The main mistake of this festival was its date ,too early for the season and place. The poster was good enough for a first English musical event, but plenty of bands have proven that English rock is long past its prime. The Incredible String Band like the New Riders seem to indicate the only current evolutionary paths, it remains for many English groups to identify them and detach themselves from them in an attempt to bring a little more originality to the productions to come ... - DANIEL VERMEILLE


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Updated May 2023

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