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The National Jazz and Blues Festivals.
Richfield Avenue. 

Memories of Reading -1971-75.

- by Richard Novell
       So, Reading is a" hard, red-brick town of little beauty," eh? OK , I'll allow that. I was born and grew up in Reading. When the 11th NJ&BF came to Richfield Ave I was almost eighteen and enrolled at Reading Tech. Me and my droogs (A Clockwork Orange was big) hung out on a groundsheet near the Jesus tent. A glassy-eyed hippy in a huge afghan came by; said he was dropping acid. We told him not to get any on the groundsheet; it would burn a hole in it. He stood perfectly still for a long while, as though he was having a petit-mal seizure, then he mumbled something and stumbled off into the darkness. Some highlights for me were the performances by Audience, Colosseum, Lindisfarne, East of Eden, Vinegar Joe (though I might be confusing this gig with one of the other times I saw them) and Wishbone Ash.
Also, I was impressed with the extended solo put on by the Clouds drummer. If memory serves, Reading University alumnus, Arthur Brown
came onstage bearing a cross and was ritually crucified.

       In 1971 there were not a lot of onsite facilities. Consequently a lot of festival goers spent a good deal of time roaming around the town, much to the chagrin of the conservative local populace. My old scoutmaster, Dave Barter, who owned a grocer's shop on Caversham Road, got the town council to approve his erecting a large tent onsite, for the '72 festival, and stocking it with grocery items from his shop. The endeavour proved so successful in keeping the vast majority of festival goers onsite, that the council granted Dave exclusive rights to sell groceries at the festivals, through 1975. Me and my mates worked in the grocery tent every year. A bonus was the fact that the large grocery tent became part of the back stage perimeter, so we could wander around and go for a drink at the backstage bar and hang out with some of the performers. The downside, of course, was that we could not see every act.

Chapman Whitney get a good round of applause from the audience, Reading 1974 .

Photos courtesy of Richard Novell and Steve Austin .

Steve Austin relaxes at Reading 1974

   In '72 I managed to see Curved Air and Focus, both brilliant sets; Jo'burg Hawk, Mahatma Kane Jeeves, Quintessence, Stackridge and String Driven Thing. The Three Tons of Joy were everything they were cracked up to be. Either in '72 or '73, Rod Stewart arrived in a bright yellow Rolls Royce. One of the girls working with us in the grocery tent threw herself across the hood of the car and was promptly escorted away by festival security.

   1973 was a great year for backstage banter with the stars. The revamped Lindisfarne were there, along with former band members, now Jack The Lad. So too was Rory Gallagher, Alex Harvey, and others. Gallagher was, in my humble opinion, the '73 festival's luminary. Italy's PFM were great, as were Genesis. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel played a neverending version of "Come Up and See Me", that had the crowd swaying. I have the GM Records Ltd album that featured selected highlights from the '73 festival. 1974 had the weakest lineup to date, although Chapman and Whitney were superb. At the end of one number, when the band were winding up for the tumultuous last note , Chapman launched his tambourine into the stratosphere, it seemed. It hung there forever before falling to earth again. Chapman reached up and caught it, just as the final note crashed. Perfect timing.Thin Lizzy, Camel and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band get honorable mentions.

Hawkwind 1975© R Novell

Glyn models typical 70s festival plastic sheeting chic

     '74 showcased G.T. Moore and the Reggae Guitars. Gerald Moore was a couple of years ahead of me at high school, in Reading. Actually, his brother, Nick, and I were friends and classmates at St. Annes Catholic Primary School. Gerald never got the recognition he deserved. He pioneered reggae in white circles. I have his 1975 album for Mercury Records, featuring eight original songs, plus a great reggae cover of Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door." 1974 did feature the can throwing incidents. Interestingly enough, we had the most trouble with theft and unruly behavior in the grocery tent in '74. Earlier years had seen the fans very well behaved, courteous and patient; forming queues and waiting their turn to be served.

    '72 and '73 saw our most stoned clientelle. One guy insisted on giving me all his loose change for "....a bag of air, man. I wanna bag of air." I blew up a brown paper bag, twisted the end, and handed it over. Another high guy came in for milk and cereal. We had Cornflakes. Looking at the backs of the cartons, I said, "Do you want the Royal Coach or the Centurian Tank?" He agonized over the decision for a minute, then swore and forced his way back through the crowd to the outside.

    An incident occurred in '72 which illustrates the good behavior of the fans, and how appreciative they were to have access to groceries onsite (Dave had been very considerate in limiting his price markup to a penny or two on selected items). On the Saturday night, with the tent packed, we lost power and were plunged into darkness . Myself and two other kids were working behind behind the counter. Someone yelled out to storm the counter. I was convinced it was about to get really bad. But the crowd, en masse, immediately berated the individual. Order was maintained and everyone was still in their respective queues when the lights came back on, some ten minutes later.


Babe Ruth 1975© R Novell


     So we come to 1975, which was the last Reading Festival I attended. The crowd was huge and mostly out of control. Dave's exclusive rights to the grocery concession ran out after the festival and he had had enough. Of the bands , Yes were obviously the prestige act. They had a fantastic light show and a film projected onto a screen behind the performers. The movie was a kind of fantasy thing featuring, in part, a white horse running through a thunderstorm. Steve Howe's guitar wailed in time with the lightning. Followed by drums and gongs for the thunder. Very impressive.

I liked Babe Ruth, Hawkwind, featuring their dancer, Stacia, Thin Lizzy, of course, Caravan, Heavy Metal Kids, Climax Blues Band, Dr Feelgood and Wishbone Ash. Wally, too, were impressive.

Richard Novell


Reading 71 contents .

1975 festival pages and links

The early festivals.

You can find out the complete line ups of the first festivals if you follow the links below .

Festivals 1965-1990

Most of these have fairly complete documentation .But new contributions of any sort are always welcome regarding any of the festivals.
Richmond 1965
Windsor 1966
 Windsor 1967
Sunbury 1968
Plumpton 1969
Plumpton 1970
Reading 1971
Reading 1972
Reading 1973
Reading 1974


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