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The Reading Rock Festival.

Richfield Avenue. 
August 22-24th 1980.

The View From the Mud : Reading Rock Recollections

The two stages , Reading 1980 © Watt Dabney- composite fix by GW Shark

Samson : Reading Rock 1980 © Paul Brannigan



Photo of Gillan Reading Rock 1980 © Phil Ryan



Krokus . Reading 1980 © Ferg Ranson


Samson : Reading Rock 1980 © Paul Brannigan


We need more info on this and the other Reading festivals, we are now in the curious situation of having better documentation on some of the earlier festivals, so c'mon headbangers, get yer photos out and fire up whats left of the aging braincells .Send your recollections and scans to us NOW ! !!

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Will be updated as we receive new communications from you, the punters , so contact us and let us have your recollections NOW .

I was in a young and new heavy metal band from Plymouth who drove to Reading on Friday morning from Plymouth and stayed for the whole weekend. We camped out in a park close by the river and around my old mark 2 Cortina. We had to park it up a bank as it had a leak near the front of  the fuel tank. After the fantastic Friday night gig from Rory Gallagher (who was brilliant) we staggered back to the car and crashed in our sleeping bags on the grass around the outside. Being under the influence somewhat, we left the boot and doors of the car open.

The Police woke us up at 3am believing the car had crashed and we were all lying dead and unconscious. Still fairly inebriated I remember saying how ironic it was that we had crossed two football pitches, stopped undamaged up a bank, had all been thrown out yet managed to land in our sleeping bags ready for a tidy burial. Not too impressed the young officer departed muttering something about not doing it again.

Def Leppard -Reading 1980 © Alan Perry

Highlights of the weekend included on Friday, Gillan with a bass guitarist on a wire, the excellent blues band 9 Below Zero and the magnificent Rory Gallagher.  He had the crowd in his hand from the outset and I think we all appreciated we were in the presence of greatness as he mesmerized us with acoustic and electric sets.  On Saturday Samson were great in the afternoon and the wonderful Pat Travers Band brought the place alive at that great time in the festival day when the evening arrives, things get a bit crisper and the right band wakes you up.

PTB really kicked us into life with an uncompromising R&B based set featuring the wake up call "Boom Boom – out go the lights". Fully awake and ready to party again we enjoyed memorable gigs from the young and new Iron Maiden followed by the old rockers themselves UFO who I swear I remember seeing live in Neath ten years previously in 1970. UFO’s Doctor Doctor was undoubtedly the anthem of that heavy metal generation and the crowd responded to it well.

On Sunday, after a bit of bridge jumping into the Thames we made our way to the site in time to see the excellent Budgie. Coincidently we played support to them in Plymouth 10 months later. I note that Metallica have covered "Breadfan" which was an old standard I remember from Budgie in the early 70s. Magnum played a great set on Sunday afternoon and although Ozzy couldn’t make it, Def Leppard was the band that my muso mates were really there to see.

Photo courtesy Repfoto ©

Around the same age, the Leps didn’t let them down before Whitesnake provided a polished finish to the show. I think that was the year someone showed up with a pig’s head they had found in a butchers bin. It probably featured in hosts of photographs.

1980 was the year the metal flew thick and fast, especially the cans. I seem to remember the Hellions who were a punk outfit took a bit of a battering. Punk had given way to Long hair, black leather biker jackets and a generation that idolized Status Quo.
Still rocking
Matt Munro

Ironmaiden Reading Rock 1980

Photo courtesy Repfoto ©


I was 16 when me & my cousin Martin boarded the coach from Manchester to our first Festival at Reading in 1980 and it has remained etched in my mind as one great experience. We had missed out on Led Zep the previous year as we were packed off to family in Canada for the summer - that was a great experiance too, for a fifteen year old but I've always regretted not making Knebworth in '79!Back to Reading in 1980. After hearing Tommy Vances radio broadcasts of Reading 1979, it was a real thrill for an impressionable 16 year old to be going to a festival that would be featuring some of the greats of rock and some of the new wave of British Heavy Metal who were later to become legends too.

I remember the excitement at the prospect of seeing FOUR ex-members of Deep Purple, Ian Gillan on the Friday and Coverdale, Lord and Paice with Whitesnake on the Sunday.

Gillan was a little off his peak due to over working his voice but the tape I made of the show proves how worshiped he was at the time, with the crowd shouting, "Gillan is God, Gillan is God" right through the performance.

Saturday is a bit of a blur due to the effect of the hot sun and all the cider drinking but I do recall with amusement Samson with the drummer in the cage! and one very young Bruce Dickinson on vocals!

        Sunday was memorable for one very special performance by a very unlikley band. SLADE had replaced Ozzy at short notice. They came on at just the right time, at dusk and after all the 'filler' bands but before the BIG NAMES. They blew us in the crowd all away and the Tommy Vance broadcast of the show is testement to that. Def Leopard were a let down and had to endure a hostile crowd but Iron Maiden held the crowd well.

     I took a few photo's myself as well as recording Gillan and Whitesnake and still I have these as very special momentos. I'll send the pics to your site soon as I can - they are stored on another computer!

Plod patrol Reading 1980 photo courtesy Pete

Thanks for the site; if you have any further photo's of Slade or Gillan or Whitesnake or any of the bands at the Festival, I'd love to see them. Back to your web-site now to see if I can spot myself in the crowd pictures!

Cheers for now,

Phil, Manchester

The truth of the matter is that Slade stole the show at Reading 1980.Def Leppard were boo'ed and recieved a barrage of cans by going on after Slade.Def Leppard said that they just couldn't top Slade.I am surprised that your website did not highlight this fact !

There is also some footage somewhere to comfirm this .The Slade set was filmed by a tv company with and S or Z logo on the cameras.

Perhaps you can shed some light on this.



Dear Archive,
Slade may have come in as a stand in.
The crowd had their cans ready to have them off the stage as they were perceived to be teeny bopper ,but they came on stage and ripped straight in hard and loud, Noddy Holder asking 'Every one in reading pissed tonight ?' .

He was cheered. They kept it cranked up for the whole of their set. Noddy forgot the words to the Christmas song, due to the shock of being on stage.

Even the Hells Angels enjoyed it.The bands that followed were boo'd off, they only wanted slade. David Coverdale or Def Leopard were no match for Noddy on full throttle.



Chilling between bands © Ferg Ranson

Tygers of Pan Tang onstage © Stephen Vaughan

Samson onstage Reading 1980 © Ferg Ranson

Quartz onstage Reading 1980 © Ferg Ranson

Unknown band onstage © Stephen Vaughan

click on the link to see more of Stephens photos from Reading 1980

The only festival I ever went to where I slept over - I think I am a snob.

I still have the programme and the wristband.

Not sure about the Angels, but Angelwitch definitely appeared and went down very well.

Other memories:

The Hellions starting with a high pitched vocal and immediately getting canned offstage.T shirts appeared less than an hour later, reading, "I canned the Hellions".

Massive flight of cans above the crowd from one side to the other each day, always during the third highest billed band.

Ozzy not showing up.

Slade were in the programme and managed to get themselves promoted to Ozzy's slot. They played a stormer and it was this performance that reinstated them in the public eye.

According to the programme, Def Leppard had, "recently left school".

Not sure if Gary Moore appeared, but that was the day we went into town to see a film in the cinema (I slept through it).

David Goldblatt

Reading 1980 was my first festival and to be honest all a bit too much to take in. My main memories are of the blazing sunshine, Slade, 9 Below Zero, Rory Gallagher and UFO - the main reason for me going in the first place - and coming back to the tent on the saturday to find what looked like a wooly mammoth asleep in it. Being 15, 5ft 6 inches and weighing about 8 stone I left the enormous biker to it and slept on the floor round the corner.

Looking at the line up makes me realise just how much of the old grey matter has given up the ghost. I'd forgotten about Whitesnake, Gillan, the Maidens and Krokus. Remember Def Leppard being a little dull, but after Slade no-one stood an earthly. Also remember the 01 band thinking they were going down a storm, we were cheering the bloke who'd climbed up the outside of the stage and was staggering around on the roof, what seemed like a mile above them. Poor sods. Don't remember Gary Moore though, sure they pulled out along with Ozzy.

God yeah, almost forgot the police nicking some bloke for selling cannabis only to find out it was bovril cubes some comic said they'd have to do him for under the trades descritions act. The great instant t-shirt stalls, badges and patches and wall to wall bikers, the north coast outlaws in particular scared the bejesus out of me.

Paul Nathan

Rory Gallagher © Watt Dabney

( visit his Flickr site to see more great pics of bands )

My key memory of this festival is of Rory Gallagher playing for seemingly hours and hours into the night. I was camped behind the stage and was thoroughly miffed with him by the end. My recollection of exactly how long he was playing may have been distorted over time of course.


Goodness me cant believe its nearly 30 years ago when i went to my first Reading festival , travelling down from County Durham seemed like an eternity away ,but if my memory serves me right didn't seem many cars on the road then. We used to travel down Thursday tea times after work and arrive in the pitch black trying to assemble the tents was fun,memories of this festival (1980) was Slade singing merry xmas with the sun belting down in August with temperatures around 80 degrees (those were the days)


Great website,

My twin daughters have just got tickets for Reading 2008 so we started to look to see who I saw during the late 70’s and early 80’s. The Best festival was 1980 when Slade played at short notice, they were fantastic and the following Christmas released Merry Christmas Everybody live recorded at Reading 1980. Get a copy and you can hear the crowd loved it!



Oxford UK


I have been looking at your site with fond memories, I seem to recollect Bad Manners were on stage over the course of the weekend in 1980, can you confirm this.

Thanks for all the nostalgic memories.



this brought a lump to my throat ,best memories of my life,18 year old roadie for sledgehammer who played on the sunday 1980, even today me and my twin are off to wey fest with jethro tull head lining,and wer're 48 and still rockin!!, got some pics of sledgehammer on the stage looking out to the crowd will try and get them sent in ,keep up the good work thank fuck for the internet and people like you who keep these memories and history of music alive .


T Shirt courtesy Watt Dabney.

My memories are of the magnificent Slade,as a 16 year old with my two mates Vince and Swalk we had a storming time .Our tent was next to some geordies and one of them had an axe that he used to chop up someone's gate for fire wood,oh happy days .I remember Swalk being hit by a lump of lard and he had it in his hair all weekend. I remember Girl being canned off for being dross,Slade,UFO and Nine Below Zero were spanking but for me The Pat Travers Band stole the show.

Neil Banbury

Is it really nearly 30 years ago!!!
I remember a whole gang of use going down to Reading on Friday night in a bright yellow West Midlands Hire van
Those I remember from the gang, Sol, Norm, Ivan, Niv, Jones minor, The Wop, Burty, Bok and Budgie, Pezza, Shani and several more…
Best musical moments
Slade (from our home town) what a reception they got!!!
Pat Travers
and Whitesnake with the great Jon Lord and Ian Paice
Plus loads of Beer and a tent with more holes than tent
Fond memories(when life was a lot more simple)

Andy Swann


It was my first festival and I was 13, went on the back of my mates bike and snook in (quite easily), I was the only punk at the whole festival but everyone was cool and I loved it. Rob (soap) Stevens


Having attended the Friday show of this year's 2009 festival with my 14 and 10 year old daughters, it brought back numerous memories of the last time I was there back in 1980.

As a young teenage rock fan, 1980 was the festival to attend ! Some great bands, especially UFO with 'Doctor Doctor' where the crowd went mad, along with an up and coming Iron Maiden !

Funnily enough the best band of the weekend in my view was Slade, who had stepped in for Blizzard Of Oz. They really knew how to work a crowd and obviously had so many well known songs in their set list that the crowd really took to them. After their set I seem to recall everyone was in such a real feel good festival spirit, helped with drink and other festival essentials ! I may be wrong but I seem to recall they got at least one, if not two encores !!

On the down side I remember the cans ! An unbelievable sight as on various occasions literally hundreds of cans were thrown in the air during mid song mainly amongst the crowd. Sadly I do seem to recall one of the bands
getting canned off stage (9 Below Zero? Q Tips?)
as they didn't fit the heavy rock line up.

Not sure what's more dangerous; the cans back then or the mosh pits of today !!

Loos were crap ! (Seem to be better this year)Shared a tent with a mate who didn't go for 4 days !! Weather was great ! Overall a great weekend back then. Couldn't talk for days afterwards as I had screamed and shouted myself hoarse !

Mark Perrin


1980 was a great summer, had left school in june and had a great 3 months. The Reading Festival was the last hurrah before starting my apprenticeship on September the 1st.

About 10 of us travelled up from the Isle of Wight, the majority of us were 16 year old 'festival virgins'. We got to Reading only to be stopped and searched in the station by a top hatted and tailed gent from the drug squad, we didn't have any, why would we? We were happy underage drinkers, thats about that. Do remember seeing a BBC documentry later that year which followed the drug squad around. I suspect we weren't shown due to us a) being good boys and b) saying stuff like "Hello mum" into the cameras.

We arrived at the field, pitched our hired family tent, complete with curtains which Ridetty had foolishly hired and took 2 or 3 of us to manhandle up there from the Island, it was a bit embarrassing. But on the plus side was easy to find our way back to in a darkened campsite owing to the fact that you could see its outline on the horizon. The tent was then filled with beer after a trip to the supermarket.

To the gig, Friday I do remember the cans arcing through the air, the Hellions didn't last long. I always think of them whenever 'Ernie' comes on the radio, The "Hot meat pie caught him in the eye, and Ernie bit the dust" this was The Hellions for me. Fisher Z did manage to get away with it, by being amusing, can't remember what they said but they played the set and beat a hastey retreat. Krokus were great and 'smoke on the water' by Gillian was definitely a festival moment. Rory Gallagher played a good set but by this time the beer had kicked in only to finish around sun up in the tent.

When we came round suprisingly not too late, a quick trip to reading centre for beer and breakfast, I loved the whole vibe. Saturday I reckon was another hot day and from our preffered viewing spot, twenty yards back from the mixers we settled down for a days rock. We had decided that it just wasn't safe down the front whiich was confirmed to me by watching a half full party four do its worst in front of the stage. I wonder if the St. Johns Ambulance have kept a record of the injuries. Nowadays its hard to imagine it but it was really bad! Samson were good and funny ridiculous in parts. Iron Maiden good and UFO just the best thing so I thought until I saw Slade next day.

Sunday was hard work to start with, the lifestyle was begining to catch up. These days I'd have to had booked into a Hotel on the Saturday morning to recover enough to give it a go on the Sunday. Angelwitch and the Tygers of Pan Tang were good. Can't think that 'Girl' got away with the make up without a barrage of cans but i reckon i may have been asleep! Magnum and Budgie were good. But Slade..... it's the thing I think we all remember, absolutely the right band at the right time. Think there was a lull in the cans, I'm sure they lobbed bog rolls at the crowd and we all sung Merry Xmas. Def Leppard and Whitesnake were good then all too soon it was over. Back to the Island and a whole life as an Engineer.

Bill Maidment

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Reading 1980 pages

Thanks to photographer Alan Perry for allowing us to use his excellent photos of Reading 1980, you can purchase copies of these pix at his website where he has oodles of top photos of metal bands from the 70s to the 80s

The early festivals.

You can find out the complete line ups of the first festivals if you follow the links below .

Festivals 1965-1990

Most of these have fairly complete documentation .But new contributions of any sort are always welcome regarding any of the festivals.
Richmond 1965
Windsor 1966
 Windsor 1967
Sunbury 1968
Plumpton 1969
Plumpton 1970
Reading 1971
Reading 1972
Reading 1973
Reading 1974


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