A few memories from August Bank Holiday Weekend in 1976 when i was accompanied to the Knebworth Fair by my dad’s work colleague, Dave, and a couple of Dave’s mates from Maidstone. We were heading to Knebworth in Hertfordshire to see The Rolling Stones – then billed as the ‘greatest rock and roll band in the world.’ We travelled up on the Friday by train, disembarked at Stevenage station and were transported to Knebworth house – a ‘gothic country house and concert venue.’ Dave and i were holed up in a small tent that night as the preachers were informing everyone that the world was coming to an end. The following morning came a march to the concert site through the tracks of the country estate. It felt like we walked miles and miles.
It was an early appearance on stage for the opening act, The Don Harrison Band, followed by Hot Tuna. Nothing too special from my memory but early in the day for these bands to get a big reaction from the audience. However, the crowd was building. We were a fair way back from the stage but there were a couple of big screens to view the show even in 1976. It is officially unknown how many people attended the concert but estimates were around 200,000. The sun was beating down and the atmosphere around the site was increasing. It felt like we were waiting for some magic to happen. Todd Rundgren’s Utopia were next up on stage. Again, a tight, sharp performance but we were still waiting. Was we going to have to wait for the Stones to produce it ?
The next band on stage, a relatively unknown band called Lynyrd Skynyrd walked onto the stage. Immediately, the force of 3 guitars was astonishing as the band blazed through their library of Southern Rock including Workin’ for MCA, Whiskey Rock-A-Roller, Travelin’ Man and Gimme Three Steps. Then the opening chords of Sweet Home Alabama filled the summer air and the place was rockin’. Remember, a majority of the audience had not heard of this band let alone know the songs. The final song of their set, thankfully, was a ballad. It gave us a chance of a breather. But, before we knew we were being grilled by a scintillating, red-hot, grilling guitar break that seemed to go on and on and on and on. What a masterpiece. And Freebird was born !
How could any band follow that ? Who would want to follow that ?
Well, the job fell to, of all bands, 10CC ! There was a delay of about one hour before they hit the stage – i am sure they did not want to go on ! However, they did and their set was dogged by massive sound problems with the sound ‘phasing’ in and out. Just like the sound of Radio Luxembourg in the 1970’s – a dodgy signal. 10CC came and they went. Their blend of neat pop not really fiiting into this great rock show.
So we waited with great anticipation for the Stones. How could they top Skynyrd ? Again, they were running late – apparently drinking champagne with Jack Nicholson and John Paul Getty III and playing at being big ‘rock stars.’ It was very, very late when they hit the stage. Would the midnight ‘curfew’ be activated. No, the band played on. We heard Keef rip into the opening chords of ‘Satisfaction’ and we was away ! There was a new song’ Fool To Cry, there was Little Red Rooster, Dead Flowers, Let’s Spend Night Together, Route 66, Wild Horses, Rip This Joint and Jumpin’ Jack Flash. An encore followed with Street Fighting Man but by now it was about 2am. Everybody was wiped out.
The show was over – thankfully – and we trailed back to camp across the track like a returning army. The preachers were out again and the world was still going to end ! What is wrong with these people ! And there you are – that’s what i did 43 years ago this weekend.