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The Knebworth Park Festivals.

Knebworth Park Concert June 21st 1980.

The Beach Boys, Santana, Mike Oldfield, The Blues Band , Elkie Brooks, Lindisfarne.


A stage full of Beach Yobs © Pete Still

    If I remember correctly this wasn't very well advertised, certainly in the north of England (I live 10 miles outside of Leeds). Maybe something to do with it being a Capital Radio event. I liked all of the bands on the bill but was most surprised by Elkie Brookes. No 'Pearls A Singer' or 'Lilac Wine', she did a storming bluesy set but walked off after about four songs.

    Most people seemed to be there to see Santana though. In fact, when we were waiting for the gates to open one wag shouted "I promise not to watch the Beach Boys if you let me in".

    Although it was never a hot sunny day, it didn't rain for very long. By the way the solo artiste with the umbrella is Richard Digance who was the compare for the event.
I've sent a pic of the programme and a review. I think they took the whole ticket from us when we entered so I haven't got a pic of that.

Beach Boys Onstage at Knebworth

    A couple of other things I remember. All Mike Oldfield's gear was rolled out in one go from the back on a second stage that covered the main stage. While the Beach Boys gear was being set up there was a big inflatable white hand at the front of the stage (see photo). To this day I have no idea why or what the signifcance was.
There are some photo's from both Wembley 79 and Knebworth 80
at this site

Steve Bastow

Lets have a big hand for..... ? © Steve Bastow

    On June 20 1980, I caught the train to Stevenage and walked the twenty minutes or so to Knebworth Park. The line-up (The Beach Boys, Mike Oldfield, Santana, Elkie Brooks, The Blues Band and Lindisfarne) hadn’t galvanised the Rock fraternity in the way that previous Knebworth bills had. But there was a healthy crowd of 30-35,000, which meant there was ample room to stretch out in front of the stage and given the lack of heavymetal/psychobilly/hard core punk bands on offer, there was an absence of aggression and potential nutters in the arena. There was no can-throwing, people hanging off lighting gantries, or ensemble moshing.

    Lindisfarne opened with a rustic set of their original songs, and despite having to play at 1pm, they were well received. Meet Me On the Corner, Fog On the Tyne and other favourites were warmly applauded. I still have a fond memory of the audience singing along with the wonderful Run For Home.

    I had seen The Blues Band twice in the previous year and they delivered their usual powerful set of blues standards and original material. Featuring Paul Jones,Hughie Flint and Tom McGuiness from Manfred Mann, along with Gary Fletcher and the ace Dave Kelly, they went down well too.

   I had hoped that Elkie Brooks would play a blues shouter type set for the crowd, as she used to do with Robert Palmer in Vinegar Joe, but she played safe and featured her hits like Pearl’s a Singer and Lilac Wine. At one stage it sounded like her guitar player was launching into Rocky Mountain Way – but sadly he wasn’t.

   I was having a good time, chatting to people around me and looking forward to Carlos Santana and Band. They played a long set which, in truth, went on a bit, and I can’t remember much about it. I know they played Samba Pa Ti. I could say the same about Mike Oldfield who seemed a strange choice for this gig. He played loads of Tubular Bells and Ommadawn. It had started to drizzle a little as I remember, and some rock n roll would have been more the ticket for us wet-festival types.

   One would have hoped that with the Beach Boys coming to town on what was practically the longest day of the year, there would have been a glorious sunset but it wasn’t to be. Thankfully it stopped raining before the group came on stage, and it also became clear that the concert was going to be filmed.

   So, after five years of becoming increasingly wrapped up in the music and singing of these six Californians, I was so excited to see them walk onto the stage. As we all now know, it was the last time all six Beach Boys would appear on a British stage together, but at the time I was just thrilled to see them. There were other musicians present to fill out the sound, the most prominent being Ed Carter, who played excellent guitar and bass throughout the set.

   As the concert was 30 odd years ago, I’m hard pushed to tell you much about it. They started with California Girls, they played Heroes and Villains and the wonderful Good Timin'. Carl sang God Only Knows and grown men cried.

Al Jardine © Pete Still

© Pete Still

Carl Wilson RIP © Pete Still

    Keepin’ the Summer Alive and the other KTSA songs sounded fresh, and I remember enjoying Al’s singing of Lady Lynda, and his professionalism and onstage announcements. I wasn’t so sure about Mike. He was obviously a very able front man but seemed a little patronising towards the others and was slightly irritating.

    By this time the Beach Boy's set generally featured songs from the pre-1966 period which was a big shame. More from the Smile era, Surfs Up or Sunflower would have pushed them and possibly re-energised the group but Al and Mike seemed to be in control.

   Brian wasn’t on stage for the whole performance. He played piano towards the side and sang sporadically. Did he really want to be there? Dennis was really exuberant, especially when hammering the drums, but he did seem a bit out of it. His singing of You Are Beautiful to the audience was obviously heartfelt and tender although his singing was all over the place.

   Bruce sang I Write the Songs and I was surprised to hear that it was his own composition. He dedicated a song to Dave Edmunds, who I later discovered had been backstage all day. They should have let Dave produce them in the late seventies or early eighties, he’d have sorted it out.

   Carl was magical. His singing was angelic and he seemed to be the Musical Director, if there was such a thing then.

   As for me, I had a wonderful time. A crowd of us had sort of huddled together about fifty yards from the stage. It was getting cold but there was a warm feeling in the air and we sang and enjoyed the show together. I remember two of the girls were nurses from London.

   So 20 June 1980 was my Beach Boys’ moment, and they didn’t let me down. I later walked home, hopeful that I’d be able to watch the show on the telly, a few months later.

   Apparently the band/organisation chose not to release the show in any format. Perhaps they thought they sounded a bit rusty, the best of the performance was finally released in 2001 on dvd and cd. I’d also bought a t-shirt and programme. The shirt featured the concert line-up on the back and Knebworth 80 on the front.

    Later I bought a batch of photos from concert photographer Pete Still, including a 10 x 8 of the man who never gave a poor performance, Carl Wilson.

Howlin' Pete Wyatt

stage 1980 © Henry Cobbold Knebworth House

The assembled multitude © Henry Cobbold Knebworth House

The Blues Band © Henry Cobbold - Knebworth House




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Offsite Links.

More info about this concert can also be found at the Knebworth House site and at Rip Gooch's site, which contains substantial portions of text from the now defunct book Knebworth Rock Festivals, by Chryssie Lytton Cobbold .

Can we get a witness ?

We have been endeavouring to collect as many recordings of the artists that featured at these concerts as possible, so we can effectively review the performances, provide set lists and band line-ups. Any info displayed on these pages or which is sent to us for review remains the copyright of the contributor and the Archive makes NO PROFIT from its use. The intention is to also display as many personal histories of the festival as possible for the benefit of readers of the site and we welcome all written contributions, no matter how long or short.

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