Knebworth Festival 1980 – A very late review…!

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Saturday 21st June 1980: Knebworth Festival

Paul drove Ian and I to Stevenage, and a stop-off at a Little Chef for Paul to clean-up after his packet of sauce burst in his pocket (Ick!). Knebworth was BIG, lots of stalls, lots of current and recent music playing over speakers, and a mass of people were already there when we arrived. I didn’t like our early positions near the back of the crowd (sat down) so went scouting for photo positions and nearer spots. Found one! THE BLUES BAND (Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones) were on first, and the sound was better here (even if the view was a bit restricted). they were pretty good, actually even though I’d not rated what I’d heard from them before. The next up were LINDISFARNE, Paul’s faves, and the crowd crowded more towards the front. I got to recognise many in the crowd from my frequent trots to take photos: “weird woman in shorts and top” “topless hippie in shorts” “guy with swinging beer container” and so on. Lindisfarne went down well, fairly lively with greats Lady Eleanore, Meet Me On The Corner, Fog On The Tyne and Run For Home.

SANTANA were up next: Santana’s very laid-back groove got a couple of hippies in front of us dancing and grooving to it, as other stoned-hippies wandered about glassy-eyed. The day was getting hot and sunny. She’s Not There, Samba Pa Ti were good but largely it was fairly unexciting to me (and it would be another 20 years before I became converted) – the World War II yankee bomber displaying overhead to the Jackson 5’s Skywriter impressed me more. ELKIE BROOKS BAND up next, very much in a rock-chick blues stylee was a powerful singer, but did none of her singles disappointingly. Paul reported the toilet facilities were holes in the ground with planks to stand on, which didn’t impress me at all as my shy bladder would be in crisis. By the time I got home at 2 in the morning I was in agony and unable to pee, despite a roadside toilet stop on the way. Ouch!

MIKE OLDFIELD was next, a bit more laid back, and a pissed bloke with Rod Stewart hair-do tried to pee during the set without bothering to go to the toilets. Couldn’t blame him, but it was amusing to us. Guilty and Tubular Bells were up, we moved forward, very good sound and set, and a good view of the stage – which took ages to set up as it started to rain for the full British festival experience. Oldfield was “brilliant, best of the day, with Lindisfarne” and finished with Portsmouth and Blue Peter. As darkness drew in we decided to move forward for a great view of the headliners, and a long list of “hand-related records” to go with the blow-up hand bobbing about on stage, such as Angel Fingers (Wizzard). Dry-ice, lights, cameras (It was filmed) and…action!

THE BEACH BOYS were brilliant, and they even had Brian Wilson on stage with them, it was the classic line-up all together plus regular Beach-Boy friend Bruce Johnstone for a whole non-stop run of famous songs (plus a couple of new ones). “Classic, excellent, magic” and other superlatives dropped out of my mouth, as my jaw dropped to greats, and that was after a medley of tracks such as California Girls/Darlin’/Do It Again/Heroes And Villains – so many hits they can spare a few thrown away together. Lady Lynda, their big comeback hit, was done twice, before the non-stop dancing of Help Me Rhonda, Surfin USA, I Get Around and others which got the crowd going, and got me going. The encore, though, Good Vibrations, Barbara Ann and Fun Fun Fun were climactic, rather suitably. I’ve seen the video of the concert since, and it doesn’t capture the feeling of being there properly – Live concert experiences are never the same on TV, it’s so difficult to capture the mood and noise and feeling of being in the crowd. The sound isn’t explosive, and you’re not moving about living it. This was the concert that persuaded me going to concerts was well worth it. The finale was a big fireworks show, followed by a lesson in crowd-control: it’s useful to have some. Basically, the whole crowd tried to exit through one narrow entrance, you were swept along whether you like it or not, and it was getting to seriously piss me off as everyone squeezed in on me more and more. “Beam me up Scotty!” shouted one wag, which was amusing, but I could see how easily crowds can get ugly and unmanageable and decided to avoid getting inside one that big again without proper controlled exits and entrances. I was miffed at the organisers for not having more exits.

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