The Archive.

Last update September 2011


Melody Maker Poll Concert

The Oval , Kennington .


Wishbone Ash, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Argent , Focus ,Jack Bruce, Fudd .


 Recollections and reviews .

The Oval September 30th 1972
I had just turned 18 in the August and two days previously (yes on a Thursday) I had got married! We were not having a honeymoon and my wife (who had just turned 17 in the August) had bought me a ticket for the concert (and before you ask, yes we are still together today).

I attended with my younger brother and his friend, it was a very warm day with the sizable crowd in a celebratory mood.
I cannot say for certain whether or not Fudd played but someone obscure definitely opened the show, Horslips keep suggesting themselves to me, but I could be wrong on that count.

John Peel DJ’d the event possibly in conjunction with one of the guys who often did The Marquee. All I can remember him playing was a Nick Drake track as the acoustic guitar really cut through the PA system.
I can recall catching glimpses of the awards ceremony that took place in the club house with flash bulbs popping and Sandy Denny and Rod Stewart receiving awards.

© Steve Kelly

For my money all the bands were excellent, with Argent and Focus going down particularly well with the crowd earlier in the day, but didn’t Rory Gallagher also play a set with Bert Ruiter and Pierre van der Linden from Focus?

It was an hugely unexpected bonus to get a short set from Jack Bruce and the atmosphere was electric as anyone or anything associated with Cream was accorded 'godlike' status in those days. His performance was top drawer which was all the more remarkable considering that he fronted an impromptu trio with the Focus back line.

Argent had a far funkier, chunky and ‘tighter’ sound than I had anticipated with ‘Hold Your Head Up’ being the big crowd pleaser. Russ Ballard’s vocals were also something of a revelation throughout their set.

Focus were the rising stars of a stellar line-up and the crowd roared their approval during "Hocus Pocus" with Thijs Van Leer’s yodelling going down an absolute storm. I found their performance of "Sylvia" a bit thin as it lacked the bite and attack of the recorded version. Overall their set was very good but they were much better at The Rainbow the following year when they were supported by Blue, the Hughie Nicholson (from Marmalade) combo.

I spent a lot of the concert near to the crash barriers surrounding the stage leaving my brother and his friend somewhere out in the middle. During Genesis’ set, with "Get ‘Em Out By Friday" being the highlight, Peter Gabriel read out a few messages and then said something along the lines of "will Stephen Kelly please meet his brother at the side of the stage as you have his train ticket home". I motioned towards one of the jobsworth commissioners policing the VIP area saying "that’s me that’s me" as I climbed over the barrier. I wandered through the VIP area and met my brother who had panicked about getting home. At the back of the stage there was a long scaffolded ramp leading up to the stage and as there was no-one around I walked up it and watched Genesis for a while from the back of the stage before being asked to leave. Stunning. I should have taken some snaps but I suppose I didn’t want to appear too obstrusive.

Although ELP headlined (as the sun began to set), complete with Tarkus tank ‘models’ either side of the stage, it was Wishbone Ash who closed the concert and played a wonderful set. I had seen ELP at the Isle of Wight but the sound during their set there had been patchy, but here it was excellent and they turned in a storming performance with Keith Emerson butchering his Hammond with knives as per usual. Throw in the strings of the grand piano getting thumped during 'Take a Pebble', Carl Palmer beating seven bells of hell out of his huge gong, along with smoke and explosions belching from the Tarkus models and you had a spectacularly theatrical performance. I seem to remember Emerson having problems with his Moog which was a notoriously temperamental instrument. Lee Jackson, with whom Emerson had played during his stint with The Nice, watched the ELP performance whilst sitting on the grass in the VIP area nursing a bottle of whisky.

I left the Oval with the dual lead guitar lines of Wishbone Ash still 'running free' inside my head. I had a fantastic day.
Steve Kelly

Photos © C Cooper collection.

   At 5:30 P.M., under the greying dusk of the disappearing sun, Emerson, Lake and Palmer prepared backstage to say thank you to more than 18,000 fans gathered in the London Oval cricket ground. Beneath the mighty steel of the mammoth Kennington gas holder, eager fans camped on the green turf, waiting for the stars of the show to emerge from the Oval’s famous Long Room where they were receiving their seven awards that gave them the sweep in a prestigious British paper’s pop poll.

     Finally, all problems temporarily solved, ELP were ready. As the crowd roared their approval, the group raced from backstage, launching immediately into "Hoe Down"- the upbeat, good-humored number from their recent Trilogy LP and the crowd was on its feet. Without hesitation, the group jumped immediately into "Tarkus" and simultaneously pulled off the biggest feat in the history of rock wizardry. Two mammoth armadillo tanks appeared on both sides of the stage, bellowing replicas of the figures on the Tarkus cover. The metal dragons breathed clouds of smoke, and, as the show thundered to its climactic high point, the tanks thundered an ear-deafening barrage, driving fans into a wild frenzy of excitement and jubilation.

    Keith pounded the piano as "Take A Pebble" echoed from the massive multi-toned speakers,and Greg Lake brought down the house with his excellent acoustic guitar work on "Lucky Man". But with the advent of "Pictures at an Exhibition" off the LP of the same name, the crowd watched in absolute amazement as Carl Palmer’s drum solo threatened to pop the sliver of sun out of the darkening sky. In a fury, Carl hurled himself at the drum kit, battering the cymbals and destroying the gongs. The Tarkus tanks belched forth their deafening roar as London’s last great rock concert of the season shrieked to its end - and ELP proved once again that they remain the world’s greatest rock band, upholding their title of  "Britain’s Best Band" (the title they won last year) and taking on the title of  "World’s Best Band" as well.


Another bleeding Tarkus © Steve Kelly

As the last fans wearily straggled home, ELP slowly unwound backstage, gathering the remains of their shattered instruments with them. Each clutched at their golden trophies: Top Group, British and International; Emerson’s tribute as the top keyboard man; Palmer’s trophy as top drummer; Lake’s souvenir as the world’s most accomplished producer; ELP as the top pop arrangers; and finally the shared award, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake taking honors as the world’s top composers.

B Graustark

There was a Melody Maker Awards festival (1972 ?) at the Oval in Kennington headlined by Emerson Lake & Palmer - the Tarkus era. Large scale tank-armadillos on the wings of the stage belching fire and a fireworks show to end the day... Keith having to set up and tune his enormous Moog synthesiser rig before the set. Early Genesis with Peter Gabriel singing, Focus , Wishbone Ash - twin lead guitars AND using the echo from the buildings opposite the stage to good effect...

Roger Harvey

Regarding this one, in between Argent and ELP, there was a set by Jack Bruce, together with Jan Akkerman and Perre Van Der Linden from Focus, who did indeed open the show. I mainly remember a storming version of "Powerhouse Sod", which Bruce seems to have played in every incarnation / line-up in which I saw him. The only version I’ve seen committed to vinyl is on the West Bruce & Laing "Live’n’Kickin" album.
Pete the Pick

Hi Folks.

First, a truly splendid website.......loads of memories........many hazy thanks.

I had only turned 15 at the time when my best mate Micks dad suddenly produced 2 free tickets for this festival, presented by a promoter he knew at a golf club in Essex.

Wow!. Nervously, and obviously the youngest liggers there, we wormed our way down to the front only to 'mothered' by the happy hippy chicks there. Naively asking "what's that strange sweet smell?". Oh dear!.

Having never heard music played any louder than my Dads 8w stereo, we were blown away by the sheer power of the mighty PA stacks towering before us. I recall the O'Jays 'Backstabbers' and Family's 'Burlesque' pummelling every young bone in our bodies during the DJ warm-up.

For some reason everyone sat for Jack Bruces set, and I ended up facing backwards!.
ELP were my top band then, and I spent a whole hour transfixed on Keith Emerson whom I saw then as a demi-God.
Wished I'd remembered Genesis that day, because two years later they were never off my deck.
We were presented with armfulls of free posters by this promoter chappy, and bussed it home with an all-new experience of deafness and ringing in the ears.

Thanks for all,

Clive B

…….like Clive B, I was only 15 at the time of the concert and I recall that the ticket for the day cost just £1!! I still have the programme which is displayed in the extensive review (see comments below) I think the concert followed on from the success of the concert previous at the Oval the previous year which had featured The Who and Rod Stewart* which my older brothers had been to; I don't recall an announcer asking if the crowd wanted to see Rod Stewart, although that is possible* The intervening 38 years have not helped my memory of the day's events but I do recall Peter Gabriel (then with Genesis) performing part of "Foxtrot" wearing a red dress and a fox's head, Thys van Leer's yodelling in "Hocus Pocus" and Alan Freeman wearing a puffed jacket introducing ELP who I was keen on at the time (sounds very dated now, though) One contributor said that they headlined but that was definitely left to Wishbone Ash; surely to headline you have to be last in the bill, Steve? - it was suggested that they had changed the "batting order" but my programme has Wishbone Ash as being last. One contributor mentioned the event as being D.J'd by John Peel*; I have no recollection of that - the programme says it was Rikki Farr, whoever he is! Fudd certainly did open the proceedings; although I have absolutely no recollection of them, there are pictures of them on the web; they were a short-lived Irish rock band who didn't really deserve to be there as they hadn't won anything.

Here's a break-down of who won what that year:
British Section
Best Male singer -* Rod Stewart
Best Female Singer - Maggie Bell (Stone the Crows)
Best group - E.L.P.
Best Single - Lady Eleanor (Lindisfarne) - Argent were second with "Hold Your Head Up"
Best Album - Argus (Wishbone Ash)
Best T.V. Show - Old Grey Whistle Test
Best Radio Show - Sounds of the Seventies (compere?) (Top Gear was second!!)
Best Disc Jockey - John Peel
Brightest Hope - Roxy Music
International Section -included best drummer- Carl Palmer, best bassist - Jack Bruce (hence his impromptu appearance), best keyboard - Keith Emerson,
best Record Producer - Greg Lake, best composers - Emerson/Lake, brightest hope - Focus and best group - E.L.P. (definitely their year!)

I remember the Melody Maker Concert with great affection - it was only my second big concert ever and my parents wouldn't have been happy if I'd told them about the dope being smoked there. My first was the London Rock'n' Roll Festival at Wembley Stadium the month before which had an amazing line-up. I have ordered a DVD of this. Was there any film of the Melody Maker Concert? - I suspect not as I haven't found any on u-tube and it was long before people had their own video cameras.
Nick W

The Jam referred to by a couple of other people was Jack Bruce, Jan Akkerman and Pierre van der Linden …… I was there to see Focus as they were my then favourite act.


An extensive review is also featured here.

Can YOU help flesh out the festival with reviews , information, recordings and photographs ?

Contact us if you can help.

Back to the main Archive.