-ANGELS RAMPAGE AS GARBAGE MOUNTS .
The Bath Festival, with the most exciting bill so far to appear in England, lived up to its reputation musically but never really made it off the stage . Billed unofficially as another Woodstock, there's no doubt that the line-up of artists was well up to Amerikan standards, but there'll be no Bath Nation . Those who were there will no doubt be the same , except perhaps for the organisers whose profits have been rumoured at 100,000 pounds. Bath wasn't a complete bummer by any means- the groups assembled made it a major success as a pop concert. But as a festival it was nowhere. Lousy weather , the complete breakdown of all forms of organisation ( on and off stage )and the appalling PA, both in personnel and equipment , all combined to produce a festival that lacked greatly in festivity.
Late friday night , early Saturday morning , all looked set for a great success . Traffic jams had tied the area up for ten miles around , the two man local police force had to be upped to twenty five , the freaks were pouring in and settling down to what promised to be two days of enjoyment .
Only when the festival proper was due to start , the performance of the
first band - Maynard Ferguson- at midday, did the doubts begin to set in . The
roads slowed down arriving roadies and bands , no one had appeared - to the
consternation of the organIsers . By the time things had started to happen ,
with the unscheduled appearance of Formerly Fat Harry , the events were already
running four hours behind time . This time lag increased gradually throughout
the day, as the chaos on the roads continued and bands came on when they arrived
, with the original order completely destroyed.
The collapse of organisation on stage was mirrored throughout the festival. In theory things couldn't have failed. The site was already tried and tested- laid out for the Bath and West Show , one of the largest in England and at first glance , walkie talkie brandishing stewards apart , everything looked very together. Stalls , tents . washrooms, food , macro and meaty -it all looked good. There were queues sure, but with so many people what could you expect. On the whole things seemed to be going well. Caroline Coon of Release, summed up most peoples feelings " everythings fantastic , its a beautiful atmosphere." Things seemed cool.
But as time wore on , it began to turn sour . The rapport between organisers and audience was quickly degenerating , mainly due to the efforts of Mike Quinn , announcer and link man ( this statement and others attributed to Mike Quinn are very likely inaccurate - see Mike Quinn's refutation of what the writer states in THE AFTERMATH section below ) , who managed to combine incredible insensitivity and tactlessness. ... "Susan Thompson , please come to the main entrance, your father has died .... that's really heavy" with a perverse desire to increase the problems with a flow of incredible banalities. " will all those suffering from diabetic comas come to the hospital ? someone's having a bad trip, there's plenty of bad acid around, purple and crumbly , so look out" And then played the freak outs up with one of the Velvet Underground's most paranoid numbers.
By the time nightfall fell and the freaks had settled in , the superficial efficiency of the organisation was beginning to crack. Walking around the crowd lying on ground sheets , in tents , sleeping bags, there was a developing air of frustration " fuck your organisation " yelled one tent full , "Gimmee some skins hasn't anyone got some skins, I'm desperate " yelled someone else. The queue situation had become absurd. With a concession on cigarettes in the hands of Finlays who only bothered to supply four tiny kiosks , there were around 1200 people lining up for ciggies and chox at any one time . Similarly the food queues , even in the macro tent were huge . The lavatories -despite cleaning , were soon simply appalling ( due as much to the irresponsibility of the those who used them as much as those who laid them out ) and things on stage were so bad that the last group on on Saturday , scheduled for 10:15 the night before , were still playing at 7:30 on Sunday morning .
If Saturday had been gradual decline , then Sunday accelerated everything . Despite awareness of traffic hold ups , no one can have bothered to warn the groups of possible delays and once more things began to fall apart. Four hours behind again another unscheduled appearance. This time Donovan had to save the organisers and cheer up the audience . He played for about 2 hours , acoustic at first and then electric. Too long maybe , but still one of the outstanding musical events of the festival. The audience were still grooving , but a definite note of hysteria was beginning to emerge from the organisers and in particular their mouthpiece Quinn .
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention eventually followed with a superb act. A week before the gig Zappa knew exactly what numbers his band were going to play and in exactly what order. . Of all the bands throughout the two days they were the most professional , they were immaculate. Assisted by the recently joined ex Turtles , Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan , the band rattled through 60 minutes of golden oldies and everybody , including Zappa , responded brilliantly to the warmth and response of the audience. Then they ripped into the "King Kong Variations" and Aynsley Dunbar went through his paces. As Zappa noticed at the beginning of the set , Aynsley was the local favourite and deserved all the surprised approval that he got . The farthest out and recognisably the best music over the two days.
As Sunday afternoon progressed and it grew increasingly cold , the queues lengthened and the lavatories filled up , the air of happy insurrection that had typified the first day was fast giving way to one of chilly resignation . As one of Donovan's songs aptly put it "the organisation just ain't organised " and everyone knew it ,especially the organisers themselves. By Sunday evening the queues were definitely diminishing, but only because there was nothing left for people to queue for . Only the stalls remained flourishing , possibly the main beneficiaries of the festival , even though they were each charged exorbitant prices. Tower Records paid 150 pounds, Unicorn Books , selling the alternative press , 100, but you can't eat tie dyed t shirts .
If the majority of the crowd came for one band then that was Led Zeppelin and possibly 200,000 grooved along with the superstars for two and a half hours. Led Zep know well how to handle these massive crowds and they played well , even if they did lose some of the tightness by the end. With Led Zep gone , so were half of the audience, the procession of soggy freaks began to wander off , thousands of kids beginning the long hitch home along the winding country roads , looking tired , wiped out and hardly overjoyed.
The Jefferson Airplane took the stage hours late , looking a little frustrated but apparently happy. Hot Tuna's set started slowly but by the end Casady , Kaukonen and Joey Covington were really laying out . The Airplane proper took a while to get off, fighting a blown out PA and a strong wind. Eventually the rains came down and the band split the stage , worried about risking shock from their mikes and guitars. If half the audience went after Zeppelin , they halved again after the disappointment of the Airplane . Those that stayed were well rewarded. The Byrds came out and played exactly the music we wanted to hear ,acoustically for two hours. Myth maybe , illusion never. It took the West Coast to come to England to get things together .
The people were together , no doubt , but it never came across . Given the right environment and a competent organisation , English freaks can get it on with their American cousins . As many of them said , they came as much for the feeling of solidarity as for the music. And they found it , but this having been proved , hopeless organisation , lousy weather and increasing chaos on stage never gave things a hope of going beyond this simple basis . It might have been more bearable if things hadn't been so groovy and glossy to begin with . The complete failure to go further then superficial show made everyone surprisingly tolerant though they were much less willing to be messed around by the festival organisation . Little things jarred: no one on the whole stage crew ( sample quote " I don't care about the fucking concert I just don't want anyone on my fucking stage ") was able to fix the Airplane's monitors , no one appeared to have thought about the litter that made the whole site look like a vast rubbish tip.
Yet Bath was by no means a total bummer. For a start the dope scene , on the consumption side , was unbelievably cool. People were chalking up their precise scoring demands on their tents and waiting to be supplied. Dealers were openly advertising their wares and one even carried around a plateful of acid tabs for those who needed it. Hash was at a a premium , incense and leaves burnt quite a few unlucky ones and too much bad acid and speed was too available . But Release reported no arrests , though the hospital had 100 bummers to look after, varying from epilepsy and diabetics without their insulin to handing out aspirins and salves for scorched fingers. Despite the continual announcements of death and disaster from the PA the casualty level of the weekend was agreeably low.
The locals were generally cool. With surprised pleasure one couple explained how much they had enjoyed seeing so many young people enjoying themselves peacefully , though as one Somerset worthy put it "Don't know what they want that there pot for - not when they could have cider " . The police ,understandably hassled by the traffic jams and sudden deluge of freaks stayed happy. Plain clothes men may have come into the festival, but no uniforms were seen . They seemed bewildered , harassed but never aggressive.
Musically Bath was overdone . Better to halve the number of super groups and get them all together. What Maynard Ferguson was doing there was anybody's guess and neither Flock or Santana lived up to their hype. The American music myth can prove all too fallible. . The Pink Floyd , bringing up the Sunday dawn with a volley of star shells, proved that they can play as brilliantly in the open air as in concert hall. A scratch John Mayall band followed them , featuring fine early morning music from Peter Green ,Dunbar and Rick Grech , who switched from bass to the violin as Alex Demochowsky thundered in on bass. The first day did finally draw to a close with Canned Heat , who managed to get a few to boogie at seven in the morning .
Steppenwolf playing "Born to B e Wild ", so excited the Angels that they followed their birthright and launched into a frenzy of shouting , dancing and wielding bike chains. One photographer made the mistake of trying to get his pic ; a chain whip across his face knocking him off his feet. The Moody Blues did arrive in a helicopter, but couldn’t face the screwed up schedules and left.
Ending the whole festival was the voodoo king, Doctor John Creaux , the Night Tripper. The beautiful freak personified, he ended his set without warning , turned and walked still looning all the way back to his caravan without ever looking back. Everyone came for their favourite and everyone managed to hear them , even if at the wrong time and under terrible conditions . A smaller bill might have pulled in a smaller audience, but it might have made for a more together festival.
Apart from the obvious problems which emerged as time passed, the festivals organisation was deficient in some things even before one person had arrived. Release ,invited along as an information service , ended up helping with bummers and supplying an all night medical service - the festival had forgotten that people don't stop getting ill after midnight. When the Release people eventually split, Fred Bannister, in charge of organisation, formerly so full of their marvellous help and invaluable services ( and they certainly were the sole together info unit there, the PA never really made it at all ) attacked them for their irresponsibility .
No one knows what the profits will be. The groups were paid vast sums - Led Zeppelin took home 25,000 pounds. Zappa had 30,000 whilst Jefferson Airplane and Canned Heat had 20,000 each. A bit less there and a bit more food might not hurt. The stewards, whilst pleasantly lacking in aggro, were not above making a bit of profit on the side . Informed sources estimated that up to 50% of the take might have gone no further than into their pockets.
In some ways the cool of the stewards might have been self -defeating .In so uptight a situation and that it was, the organisers obviously decided on a need for something heavier. When Fairport Convention scored lifts over the fields from two Hells Angels and in return handed out a dozen free passes , their problem was solved. By Saturday night the backstage hassling was entirely in their hands. Mike Quinn encouraged them in their purges of the press enclosure which they did with a will. " here's a very hip ,message, the Angels say that if you don't get out of there quietly they'll start to get you out their way . And I think that's really cool. ". English Angels may not be into the same things as their American counterparts., but there was enough aggro going round to get pretty messy.
Its not a matter of putting the Angels down , they have a code and that's how they work. If we want to establish a free society, outside the rituals of traditional morality, then we must accept that the police of our society who inevitably will emerge ,will be free of the morals that inhibit the straight police. More sickening was Mike Quinn's encouragement of them. Even if he didn't know better he should have been shut up by someone who did . They did beat up one guy- a straight who made the fatal mistake of hitting one Angel who was coming on too heavily with his chick . They took him outside and beat the shit out of him. Appalling in itself , but you get to appreciate how these things can happen through the irresponsibility of those theoretically in charge.
At the last people began to go on Monday morning , hungry , tired and
bedraggled , there was an air that might best be summed up by the comment of
Airplane bassist Jack Casady, as he left the stage. Talking to no one in particular
he muttered "thank God that's over "
Someone's silly, pusillanimous, unthinking writing on the Angels at Bath (Friends 24 July) is just the sort of myth bloating publicity that's needed to turn an assortment of still reasonably sane motorcyclists into a counterpart to America's public murder troupe. If you start creaming your little hippy knickers now over the initial fumbling of violence at Bath, don't scream at the blood when you get what you're asking for—a British Altamont—will you?
I quote your profundities: not putting the Angels down . . . must accept them as police of our free society . . . they have a code and that's how they work. Governments have codes and that's how they work. Fuzz everywhere have codes and that's how they work Enoch has a code and that's how he works. So we mustn't put them down. Forward to the free society then , mate but I shan't be with you.
I am most astonished to read the remarks made about me by the report of the Bath Festival in your magazine, 24th July issue.
all, I can only say in reply , Caroline Coon
was just not' clued up'
on who was speaking from the stage and what was going on. I have had a long
discussion with a disc jockey called Zebedee,
who admits to having made the announcements which have been attributed to me
in this report.
From time time, I give my services to charity, and such careless reporting from the organiser of Release can only alienate me from this particular body.
Donovan's appearance and to quote from your article " a
definite note of hysteria was beginning to emerge from the organisers. And in
particular , their mouthpiece Quinn" I was in fact watching Donovan from
the arena . After his appearance I returned to the stage and introduced Frank
Zappa in a straightforward and concise way.
As far as I am concerned the announcement that Zebedee made "theres plenty of bad acid around , purple and crumbly so look out " was a friendly warning to innocent people who were unaware of these dangers . Regarding the request I was supposed to have made to the Angels . this is , in your magazine vocabulary ; " complete crap "
an apology is due to me from Friends magazine
and Caroline Coon.
( to be fair to Friends, they printed a big SORRY next to this letter. )
The account of the Angel's activities at the Bath Festival (No 10 Viewzak) made me feel ill. So did the complacent acceptance of them by the reporter.
The whole idea of the alternative society, 'outside the rituals of traditional morality', revolves around the encourage-ment and preservation of individual life styles. They emerged in the first place because of a rejection of the violence and repression found in straight society and surely we are all trying to create opportunities for freedom from fear, prejudice and repression. The idea of a police force in this new style is self contradictory and horrid.
Their emergence is not inevitable, Angels have not emerged as ' the police of our society,' they are too busy reacting against and emulating the old one.
A police force works upon societies' (i.e. the majorities) fixed and rigid ideas of right and wrong. I thought our 'standards' were created from personal values. If the Angel's code is imposed by violence then it has nothing to do with the alternative society. The writer is correct, it isn't a question of 'putting them down', but to say that 'we must accept that the police of our society . . . will be free of the morals that limit the straight police' is a hopeless and terrible thing.
We must not accept values based upon fear and violence. I thought we didn't.
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Ross Mortimore's streaming Quicktime movie of the crowd features clear images of the stage PA , Colosseum onstage and bikers with Canned Heat at Bath as a soundtrack provided courtesy of Bob C .
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To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Bath Festival we have brought out a special commemorative set. Anyone interested can view it on http://www.rockmusic-offer.co.uk/
limited edition of reprints of the 1969 and 1970 Bath festival posters
and Freddie Bannisters books on the Bath ,Lincoln 71 and Knebworth festivals
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