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Last update January 2010 .
City Rock Festival
September 17th 1977 .
Doctors of Madness
The Damned *
Slaughter and The Dogs
Fruit Eating Bears
Lew Lewis Band
* ( did not perform)
Compere: John Peel
Photos , recollections and articles courtesy Crispin , visit his site to see more Chelmsford musical history.
Yet another futile attempt to bail out a financially embarrassed football club . There had been a spate of such festivals in the early 70s and almost all had ended in disaster as inexperienced promoters ( usually club secretaries or fans ) had either booked the wrong bands , booked the wrong mix of bands or had chosen performance dates that clashed with other , bigger events.
It has a sickening inevitability, but as always , we humans never seem to learn from past mistakes. Its really not so surprising that , seven years on from the other attempts to hold festivals, another amateur took it upon himself to try and save a club . Unfortunately , once again, his efforts were to be spectacularly unsuccessful .
The gentlemans name was Bob Mardon and his major problem was that he did not have enough of a strong lineup to entice the expected 10,000 fans to attend his festival. His other major problem was that he was attmpting to hold a Punk Rock festival- a first for the UK - when punk bands were really not guaranteed to bring in big festival crowds. Although a few bands were making inroads to the charts, Punk was still largely a club and medium sized venue phenomema .
Bob ( and local record store owner Martin Havelin who sponsored the event ) were really screwed when their main drawcard , The Jam , pulled out of the show a week or so before the event . They were followed by Generation X . The replacement for the Jam were The Rods (better known as Eddie and the Hotrods ) who were a hard driving pub rock band , but not exactly a major name .....to have made this pay, we reckon they should have had the likes of the Clash , the Pistols and the Ramones on the bill. The bill was padded out with far too many second league bands to tempt the hard core punk festival goer- who could probably see most of them in a week by visiting a few London clubs anyway .
A week before the show , only 500 tickets had been sold, in retrospect this would have been the time to call off the whole thing, cutting the losses .But we imagine that the promoters were still hoping for a last moment surge in sales , so lemming like, they plunged headlong into the financial abyss ( and yes , anoraks, we know that Lemmings don't actually jump over cliffs, but it still sounds good ) .
So the scene was set for a good old traditional British Festival Fiasco , which was just about what happened ( although mercifully, it didn't rain )
A large of section of the amoral punkish hordes :-)
( only 1500 attended out of the 15,000 expected ).
In a way it was almost appropriate that this was what took place . After all, almost every other musical trend had taken a financial festival bath , this time it was Punk's turn . Anyway , a Punk Festival that ran really efficiently and was incident free was a misnomer , to be true to its philosophy , it really should have descended into chaos and anarchy - as thats what punk was all about wasn't it ? A REAL punk audience should have destroyed the stage, irreparably damaged the bands and their equipment and then rampaged into the town itself, hell bent on pillaging , raping and carving their names into the foreheads of whatever authority figures they encountered , leaving a dazed and shattered population in their wake.
In fact, it was all relatively tame - most of the issues that occured were around non appearances of bands and non payment of stewards and site workers. For all the demonisation that the British media had heaped upon Punks spiky little collective head , it couldn't be overlooked that , in fact , this was just another youth subculture . albeit a far more challenging one than the relatively passive hippies. who for all their use of nasty mindbending drugs, didn't tend to spit on you .
Despite all the media hype,punk wasn't going to destroy the establishment , because it was too disjointed and nihilistic to actually ever present a united front . It stirred up the pot and it funnelled disaffection into musical activites, rather than into a physical revolution. Also, it was too extreme to really appeal to the mainstream punter. Popular as punk was in 76/77, in festival terms it was a minnow compared to the groper sized Metal Festivals that emerged in the late 70s and early 80s. To our knowledge the hard core punk bands never drew 80,000 to a paying gig and there was no punk equivalent of Donington or Reading .The nearest thing was the Jam at Reading in 1978 or the freebee in Victoria Park in 1978.
Whatever energies that Punk had were all too often turned inwardly into fucking up its own members , such as Sid Vicious's all out campaign of self destruction . It was fun , but when it came down to it- Punk wasn't going to overturn the status quo.
A perfect example at Chelmsford was , when it became apparent that the Damned weren't going to get paid - they didn't play. Compare that with Phun City in 1971, a festival that ,for various reasons , could not pay its performers .There almost all the bands played for free ( apart from Free who left in high dudgeon !) For many of the punk bands concerned (despite all the rhetoric ), anarchy was ok, as long as one was going to make a quid out of it ......
I wore a stupid hat, an ill
advised Waffen SS Death's Head Cap Badge, foolishly shaved my eybrows off and
ended up on Anglia TV.
I hated the Fruit Eating Bears, tapped a toe at Solid Waste and Chelsea, really liked Aswad for the few minutes they were on stage before being canned off. Went nuts watching Slaughter and Dogs, the first entertaiining act of the day and joined the vast majority of the crowd booing the Damned and shouting "Rat is a Prat" as they sat on stage with John Peel refusing to perform.
Have few other recollections other than Bob Mardon the organiser locking himself away to escape the extremely pissed off and unpaid security (garnered from some of the more harder drinkers at the Animals I seem to recall) and it starting to drizzle during Eddie and The Hot Rods admittedly entertaining but deeply unpunk closing set.
Being young at the time and
only getting £2.50 a week pocket money, me and a couple of mates were
trying desperately to raise the money to get in. While outside the ground The
Damned turned up in a VW camper and started learing at us, so we leared back.
Luckily Brian Chapman and Welshy were on one of the gates and let us slip in,
pocketing what funds we had.
I can remember the plastic bags of piss being thrown at Aswad which I thought was uncalled for. I can only really remember louie Lewis, The Fruit Eating Bears and everyone going mental to Eddie and the Hotrods. It was a fantastic day.
The Damned felt bad for not playing and ended up putting on a show at the Chancellor in December with 999 in support. I asked Captain Sensible for an autograph and handed him some paper, 'What's this, a fucking school book' at which point he ripped it apart with his teeth and wrote 'Sensible bit this'. Still got it and a set list for that night.
I had actually promoted a gig with Bob Mardon (promoter at festival) and had lost money then so had an idea this would go the same way. Just read the Eddie and the Hot Rods book and they mention the scaffold being removed during the set ! Happy Days.
Slaughter and the Dogs were
great. I saw them about 4 years ago and they were great then too.
I quite enjoyed Doctors of Madness but not enough to remember what they were like or buy any of their records.
Eddie and the Hot Rods were bloody marvellous. And what a treat seeing Rob Tyner singing with them. Only slightly marred by one of the lenses falling out of my glasses. I managed to find it after the gig!
Ultimately, it was a shame that nobody ever did stage a REALLY successful UK punk festival featuring all the best bands of the day. Imagine a festival with The Jam, Pistols, Ramones, MC5 , The Stooges , The Banshees and the Clash as headliners ! However it was not to be ...
Perhaps the RAR free festivals had the best go at it. Unfortunately Victoria Park had a revoltingly small sound system and bands were rushed on and off stage after very short sets. Its also interesting that although these were free shows, most of the bands appear to have been paid to perform , at least in the later years. A few punk bands performed at the hard core free festivals such as Stonehenge and Deeply Vale , but they tended to be in the minority. For some reason , until the ' New Wave " came along , with bands such as the Cure playing Glastonbury and The Elephant Fayre, punk/goth related bands seemed to flourish best under a roof , rather then out in the open .....
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Free rock festivals of the 70s and 80s
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