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The Fifteenth National Jazz ,Blues and Rock Festival.
Richfield Avenue. 
August 22-24th 1975.

The 1974 Reading Festival.

The View from the mud : recollections of festival attendees


Martin Starnes notes

Conspicous over-consumption ?Just a few of the cans left behind at reading 1974

© Vin Miles

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Just to go back a bit in time to Reading festival in 74, these three days had some absolutely magic bands on, on the Saturday I remember Peel saying over the tannoy he’d got married that day and everyone cheered in the sunshine.

Um, he also asked the crowd to stop chucking beer cans at Alex Harvey, the SAHB did a brilliant set in the afternoon, there were other big notables like Rod Stewart ending the Saturday night with the Faces brilliant live, earlier I think we saw Genesis with Peter Gabriel wearing that flower round his head.

Guy Rowe

Steve Austin has the following recollections about can fights

   I can remember several tin can incidents at Reading. Never on the receiving end and never on the throwing end I hasten to add.

Nutz onstage -Reading 1974

The late lamented John Peel -Reading 74

   The tin cans I seem to remember would be lobbed (not thrown hard) at people standing up and blocking the view (in the afternoon) . It seems you got a good pitch settled down for the afternoons entertainment and if some ignorant group of people pushed in and stood in front of you then first yell abuse, and if that didn't work a few lobbed cans got the message across. I can see that this could easily have got out of hand and may have caused a ruckus on occasion.
Having said that I am sure that when I saw it happen the ignorant group moved on or sat down and everyone was happy.

  Also I remember a giant Pyramid of cans being built and with incredible patience the crowd waited until the last can was put in place on top. Then without a word being spoken a hail of cans reminiscent of the arrows at Agincourt rained down and knocked the pyramid to hell. (Hippy humour)

   I cannot remember any crowd fighting ever and agree with your sentiments about the police and why football was never policed as heavily, I went to several football matches and stopped going because I hated the aggressive atmosphere and saw attacks on people. I never saw anything remotely similar at Festivals except at Windsor and that was the Police causing the violence.

   The one incident I do remember was Alex Harvey stopping playing and making a big thing about crowd fighting – but I think it was part of his act. I am sure I remember seeing him again somewhere and he went through the same routine.


I can confirm the cans were thrown at Next (and also Gruppo Sportivo on the other stage ended up knee deep in rubbish) because I was in the band and we had a fair amount of litter onstage.
Phil Jones the singer did catch an apple and tried to eat it. The road manager spotted the source of a large slow party seven can and went out and broke a few heads.
On a cine8 soundless movie it is apparent that Phil, who mock hung himself at the end of the act, had left the safety rope off and did seem to be actually hanging himself and I don't know how he got down as I'd left the stage.

Terry Sterling.

     I was also at Reading in 1974 with a bunch of  mates from the Cimla Hotel in Neath, South Wales known as the Cimla Road Rats. It was a very alcoholic weekend and I remember the incident with the chip van very well. One could say I played an important part in it’s demise. I approached it around 6pm on the Saturday and asked for some chips. The owner, a surly sort of chap stated that he would only sell fish and chips and it would be about 2 quid which was a bit of a fortune in those days. I remonstrated with him at which point he got aggressive. The guy behind me in the queue asked what was going on and I explained the situation to him and the rest of the queue and started to walk away.

   Suddenly the whole queue started hurling abuse at the van owner who proceeded to come out from behind the van with a sizeable kitchen knife. At this point a hail of cans forced him back into the van. The crowd which had miraculously grown to about two dozen then started to rock the van in an attempt to push it over. The owner started the engine and drove off as the chip fat spilled over and set alight to the inside of the van. The last thing I remember was seeing it drive out of the arena with a pall of black smoke pouring from the back. It was a strange weekend. I’m sure Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance was actually there but also remember that on Sunday Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel played before Focus as the rain started.

 I also remember the drug squad being present on a sunny Sunday afternoon. They stood out in the crowd due to their dress. A man and a woman, they looked like something out of a Cliff Richard film from the early 60s, white slacks, dark glasses and a headscarf  for the policewoman would you believe. They were continually followed round by a half naked hippy telling everyone that they were the drug squad. Eventually the male officer cracked and said aloud "if you don’t shut up I’ll nick you". One of our party fell asleep so we painted his face with an indelible marker to look like Alice Cooper. He had tear drops on his cheeks and "slack alice" written on his forehead. We duly woke him up and took him to the beer tent where he got even more drunk and started to climb on top of the tent and leap off growling at people. He was oblivious of his face paint but seemed to like the horror stricken looks he was causing.

Heavy Metal Kids 1974 Photo courtesy Keith Boyce ,the kids drummer

   We also met some monks from a "monkery" whom we plied with cider and we cooled off by diving off the Caversham bridge into the Thames between pleasure cruisers. Alex Harvey was sensational, Steve Harley was brilliant, Focus were excellent, The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver (who wrote "sailing") and Chapman Whitney Streetwalkers were our heroes. Lizzy and Traffic were as good as I thought they would be.  I loved the JSD Band – what happened to them ? - and I vaguely remember Barclay James Harvest. It was a brilliant weekend.

Matt Munro

J.S.D Band © Vin Miles

Steve Harley © Vin Miles


Les Holroyd of Barclay James Harvest © Vin Miles


Procol Harum Reading 74 © Vin Miles

    By this time I had done Reading 74 and then followed it on to Windsor, and we were proper Hippies then. We had been soaked at Reading and spent a miserable night in a Salvation Army Tent with a free breakfast of cold beans on cold bread; we had done this because we had no tent and like the year before were sleeping rough. Morning saw us cold wet and undecided as whether to go on to Windsor as originally planned, the weather cheered up and after buying a copy of the Sun newspaper we saw our photograph in there, so we were famous and just had to go.

Steve Austin

    Reading 1974. It rained for three days. Very wet. Woke up in three inches of water on the last morning. Sensational Alex Harvey Band were sensational.

Traffic were underwhelming. Steve Winwood had to be carried onstage and contributed nowt ( some press reports contradict this ; ed ) .

Focus were great, despite Thijs van Leer (spelling?) being constantly electrocuted as the rain provided a particularly good conductor between him and a badly earthed mike. What a trooper!

Edward Collier

Focus at Reading 1974

First, thanks for creating this site. It's wonderfully nostalgic seeing those pics and reading the personal accounts of fellow festival goers' memories.

I was there in 74 when I was 16 and repeated the pilgrimage in 75 travelling on both occasions with a gang of mates from the Isle of Wight (we were just a couple of years too young to enjoy the legendary IOW festivals).

I can't improve on what the other contributors have written - the same memories of the mud, flying bottles, nice one Cyril t-shirts, choruses of Wally etc. The most memorable performances for me in 74 were Chapman and Whitney who I had to get up and dance to (whilst dodging flying bottles cans), 10cc, Procal Harum, Thin Lizzy, Alex Harvey and Focus. At least they stand out in my mind until I start working through the line up which inspires more wonderful memories.

I'm afraid I can't contribute very much. Not a camera owner at the time and given the amount of Party 7s (aaargh!!) we were consuming, I doubt if I could have shot straight and would probably have lost the camera anyway.

I also remember an impromptu jamming session one night just outside the corrugated perimeter fence with a bunch of guys on guitars and a legless Scot who thought he was Alex Harvey. Mostly though it was a drunken blur and a generally great time. When I got home after the 74 gig I slept for a full 24 hours.
Anyway, thanks again for starting and maintaining the site.

Alan Fletcher


I was a huge music fan and an aspiring drummer. I had already been to many gigs from the age of 14 but Reading 1974 was my first ever festival at the age of 16. I travelled up on Friday morning with 3 older friends in a tiny Wolsey Hornet (a deluxe version of a mini). We only took one 2 man tent (very cosy), so we took it in turns to sleep in the car. When we entered the arena on Friday afternoon we queued past some Hell Angels who we somehow got into conversation with (I can't remember why). One of our group, Dave, was a very confident, muscular farm worker, who ended up accepting a challenge from one the Angels to a arm wrestling contest! It was all good natured, but the rest of us were quietly freaking out! Dave lost and said later he could have taken him, but didn't want to start something. We bumped into them several times over the weekend and they were like "hi, guys you OK?"  What an introduction to Reading! 

Later on Friday afternoon I got split up from my friends and ended up sat on a blanket with a group of 17-18 ish girls. In those days I looked old for my age (long hair etc.) and I spent several hours chatting up really pretty girl and thinking that I'd go back to her tent instead on mine (which probably would never have happened, but there's no harm in dreaming).  I was a big Alex Harvey fan and when it was time for the band to come on they played the throbbing intro to 'Faithhealer'. As everyone stood up and started cheering I decided to get down to the front, so I said "see you later", without organising how we'd meet up later. Of course at the end of the night I went back towards the spot where she'd been but had no chance of finding her amongst a throng of 35,000 other people.  In fact I spent the rest of the festival looking for her, but to no avail. That is a measure how much I valued my music in those days; I'd rather see my favourite band than get laid!

You say the '74 line up wasn't very strong but I think '74 was one of my favourite Readings. The top bands on the three nights were all favourites of mine and they were all just reaching the peak of their performing power. Alex Harvey in particular on Friday was absolutely fabulous. Thin Lizzy and Focus on Saturday and Sunday both excellent. But there were some good but less well known bands lower down the order too; Hustler and Nutz on Friday, Procol Harum and Trapeze on Saturday and Strider, Barclay James Harvest and Steve Harley on Sunday. I also enjoyed George Melly and Georgie Fame, who seemed strangely out of place and time; but were well received never-the-less. I don't remember the Baker Gurvtiz Army (as has been suggested) and I think I would remember if they had played, as I bought their album in '74 and was a fan. 
The general set up of the whole thing seemed quite low key compared to the events of today. I don't think there was even a screen beside the stage in 1974 (is this right)? One of main problems (as with all festivals) was keeping in touch with friends in the days long before mobile phones. It now seems silly, but it was quite easy to get lost. If you needed the toilet, the only way to get back to the spot of mud where your friends were, was to navigate using the various flags and banners erected in the crowd.  That was Ok in daylight hours when everyone was sat down, but impossible to do late at night. Food wise I existed on a diet of beef burgers and Pepsi; a gut wrenching combination. My friend Dave was a 'veggie' and lived on very suspect 'bean stew' served up in plastic trays from one of the many vendors around the edge of the arena.  And of course the toilets were dire; I vaguely remember a hexagonal structure with 8 exterior doors, each leading to a dark smelly cubicle. They were so bad I don't remember actually using them (although I suppose I must have). I do remember some can throwing later in the evening, but it never bothered me.  I think a lot of it stemmed from the lack of the stage screen. Everyone stood up for the top bands and the short people couldn't see. Then guys would hoist their girlfriends onto their shoulders,  blocking the view for those further back. That in turn led to shouted complaints and, if that didn't work, beer cans were thrown. I don't remember that many fights, but again I think any scuffles may have been a result of can throwing revenge attacks.  
  Chris Tucker


Reading 74 pages.

Band photogalleries

courtesy Vin Miles, Phil Newson and Lindsay Young.

10cc Barclay James Harvest Camel Esperanto
Heavy Metal Kidz Hustler ? JSD Band John Peel
Nutz Procol Harum Steve Harley Strider
  Thin Lizzy Unknown  

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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