The first gig I ever went to was in October 1972. I can remember that date so well because for some reason I kept a day to day diary that year. I don’t have it anymore but that date has been engrained on my memory as a result. It was a cold late autumn evening and my friend Robert Palmer (the other more famous Robert Palmer wasn’t famous yet), had suggested we go and see this band I had never heard of.
They’d had a hit a few years earlier but were now reinventing themselves as a proper rock band. The name of the band was Status Quo and the venue was St. Matthews Baths Hall in Ipswich. Its’s long gone now, but back then it was a municipal swimming pool during the Spring and Summer and then they boarded over the pool and it was turned into a dance hall for the Autumn and Winter months. I was always wary of standing at the ‘deep end’ wondering if the boards would hold up. They always did.
So I had never been to a live gig, I had never heard a proper rock band play ‘live’; I had no concept of how it would sound.
There was no support act, suddenly these four long haired blokes were plugging in their guitars and as the stage lights were switched on to the band, the opening words from Francis Rossi the lead singer were ‘Turn those fucking lights off!’ – Once the lighting had been sorted, he peered out at the 200 or so of us who had decided to come out, and addressed his audience for the first time “I thought Ipswich was bigger than this, never mind let’s see what we can do”.
I don’t know why I can remember those words so clearly but I do, because it was what happened next that was to change my life forever. Electric guitars started and then the drums and bass came in, the room shook, my face must have lit up with the biggest, cheesiest grin, “This is it” I thought, It’s called twelve bar blues, it’s called boogie, it’s called rock, It’s called all sorts of things, all I knew is that this was the most wonderful thing I’d ever heard and I knew I wanted more of it. I wanted more ‘live’ music.
I remember how slightly disappointed I was when I bought my first Status Quo album – it didn’t have the raw energy and power of that ‘live’ show, but I should have known that. Nevertheless I still used to crank it up whenever I could and those riffs took me back to that night in St. Mathews Baths Hall.
Two weeks later I saw Genesis (with Peter Gabriel) at the Suffolk College and then a number of bands at St. Mathews Baths; the two I remember most were Lindisfarne, and Kilburn and the High Roads (Ian Dury’s first band before he was famous).
Live shows still thrill me. There is a magic about a show that involves both artist and audience, it’s a difficult thing to explain, it’s dynamic , It’s an energy, I have had so.so many wonderful experiences watching music and surprisingly few really bad ones.
Many years before You Tube and MTV, there was no other way of experiencing a band’s live act unless you actually went to the concert. The nearest thing was the ‘Live’ album and the heyday for ‘live’ albums was the 1970’s – these days people just watch You Tube or even buy a DVD of the show, but back in the 1970’s there were some great ‘Live’ albums to be had:
‘Slade - Alive’, ‘Deep Purple - Made in Japan’, ‘Rory Gallagher – Live in Europe’, to name but three.
There were also bootleg albums, these illegal recordings made by unscrupulous sound engineers were rare but fun to own even if the quality was dodgy. It seems almost laughable to think about bootleg albums compared to concerts these days where virtually all or part of gig is being recorded by someone on their phone.
How I wish I had recording of Status Quo at St. Mathews Baths Hall, October 1972.