Joe Cocker and many others Great Western Festival Lincoln 1972

Joe Cocker and many others Great Western Express Festival Lincoln May Bank holiday weekend 1972
I was 15 at the time and so excited about going to a real pop festival. My dad drove me and a couple of mates down on the Friday night, after we’d been to the local Mecca ballroom. We arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning, having missed the Friday night bands, and slept in a big crash tent for a few hours. We soon ran into a group of other lads who had also come down from Sunderland, and between us we built a cabin out of bails of hay and planks of wood which were lying around in the fields. I swear there were around 20 of us sleeping in there. We were quite close to the stage, and I pretty much stayed in that cabin all weekend. We could also stand on the roof and watch the bands. There was a massive (and very empty) press enclosure which divided the crowd from the stage, so no-one could get that close, which was bad planning. The weather was wet, with rain for most of the weekend. But I didn’t care; this was a real pop festival, and I was determined to enjoy every minute. The line-up for the remaining three days of the event was really strong. I’ll try and recall as much as I can.
Saturday. Nazareth opened the day around noon. I remember them playing Morning Dew, and thinking that they were ok. They were followed by Locomotive GT, Roxy Music who were playing their first major gig and Heads, Hands and Feet, featuring the great Albert Lee, who I remember playing “Warming up the band”. The first band I have strong memories of was Wishbone Ash. They hd just released “Argus” and their set consisted of all the classic Ash songs: Time Was, Blowin’ Free, Jailbait, The King Will Come, Phoenix etc. They were just wonderful at that time. Helen Reddy did not perform, and was replaced by Rory Gallagher, who had stayed on from the Friday to play again, as I understand his Friday set was cut short because of the weather. The Strawbs featured the classic Cousins/Hudson/Ford line-up at the time. This was before any of the hits. Pretty sure they played “The Hangman and the Papist” and “The Man who called himself Jesus”. Stone The Crows were next up. This was their first performance after Les Harvey’s death, and Steve Howe from Yes stood in on guitar. Maggie Bell’s performance was highly emotional and the crowd gave her the strongest reception of the day, sensing how real the blues was to her that night, coming only a few weeks after she had lost her boyfriend. Rod Stewart and The Faces closed Saturday night. I remember Rod wearing a silver lame jacket and that they were pretty ramshackle, but good.
Sunday. The Natural Acoustic Band started the day, followed by Focus who warmed the crowd up with Sylvia, and Brewers Droop who were a raunchy boogie band who popped up at a few festivals in those days. Spencer Davis played with his new band, which was heavy on steel guitar and country oriented, followed by The Incredible String Band. Lindisfarne were the first band to get the crowd going and were a big hit of the weekend. We were all on the roof of our cabin, singing along to Fog on the Tyne. Average White Band were followed by The Persuasions who were an a cappella soul band, and were impressive. The next big hit of the day were Slade, who just tore the place apart. They started this performance with a lot to prove to a “Hippy” crowd, who viewed slade as a pop act. By the end of the performance everyone was singing along and converted. They were just great. Monty Python’s Flying Circus, with the entire cast, did all their great sketches: Dead Parrot, Lumberjack Song, Argument; great fun. The Beach Boys closed the evening and were wonderful singing all the hits. Great end to a great day.
Monday. The morning featured some folk acts, who had been moved to the main stage because the folk tent had been damaged by the weather. I remember Jonathan Kelly performing and singing “Ballad of Cursed Anna” which is a favourite of mine to this day. Jackson Heights, featuring Lee Jackson from the Nice started the main part of the day off, followed by Atomic Rooster, Vincent Crane collapsing (as he normally did) during Gershatzer. Vinegar Joe with Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer were next up, followed by the Sutherland Brothers. The next two bands were both up and coming at the time: Genesis and Status Quo. They were both festival favourites, Peter Gabriel with his shaved forehead, telling those great stories to introduce beautiful songs such as Musical Box, and Quo were still trying to establish themselves as a proper rock band and shake off the pop image, which they were doing very well with tracks such as Someones Learning and Is It Really Me? Don McLean sang American Pie and the rain stopped for him. Humble Pie were something else. Steve Marriott was at the top of his game and was fully into his “My skin is white but my soul is black” routine. I Don’t Need No Doctor!! Just great. Sha Na Na, still featuring in all our minds from the Woodstock movie, had us all singing along. Joe Cocker closed the festival. He came on very late as I recall. There was a long wait and he took to the stage in the early hours of the morning. I remember him singing The Letter and Cry Me a River. He was good, but I was tired and cold by that time. All my mates had gone to sleep.
Other memories of the weekend. A large black and white screen above the stage, which worked some of the time. They showed movies on it throughout the night. I watched Marlon Brando in The Wild One, which was banned in the UK (!) at the time. Lots of chants of Wally. People openly selling dope with price lists on their tents. Hari Krishna’s giving out free food. A straw fight during (I think) Lindisfarne’s set. Everyone around me had also been to the Bickershaw festival a couple of weeks before, and were taking about how great The Grateful Dead and Captain Beefheart were. I was dead jealous.
I caught the train back on Tuesday. My mates variously hitched and scored lifts. I arrived home tired, unwashed, and determined to go to as many festivals as I could in the future, which I sort of stuck to for the remainder of the 70s.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lynne on July 11, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    This could be me relating this story! Thank you for reliving this, I stayed ’til Tuesday as it was my 17th birthday on May 10th. I’d forgotten just how many huge bands were on, but I do remember having a brilliant time without a tent in the rain! My friend & I had two sleeping bags, a plastic sheet & a bottle of whisky?… not sure why. I wore 4 pairs of paper knickers & ripped a pair of each day! We got the train home to Southport on Tuesday and my shoulder length hair was matted with straw and we stank. Thanks again for the memories x


  2. Posted by Martin Morris on November 30, 2016 at 1:41 am

    The last night of the festival turned out to be the luckiest of my life. I met a beautiful girl during the Sha Na Na set, and we will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in December 2016.


  3. Posted by Nige Barton on December 20, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Happy but very damp memories of this fest! I was there from Friday till Tuesday,didnt bother to take a tent and used the ‘Crash Marquee’ to get out of the rain occasionally! Some great performances over the weekend,Rory Gallagher was his usual unassuming and brilliant self,playing both Friday and again on the Saturday,a true peoples musician,still sadly missed.The Beach Boys were magnificent,somehow turning a Lincolnshire spud farm in the rain into Southern California for a couple of hours! Aside from the music we had a lot of stoned fun leaping about in the foam field! anyone remember that? I spent the next few summers hitching to many festivals -Reading in ’75 and ’77,All the Knebworths from ’74 to ’78,and the brilliantly anarchic Windsor Free Festival in ’73,but Lincoln has a special place in my heart due to the fact we all overcame the hardships caused by the weather and still managed to create a positive and peaceful vibe.

    Nige B.


  4. Posted by Shirley Quirk on June 28, 2020 at 12:07 am

    Hi I’m 63 now and I remember lincon festival clearly, Slade were fabulous and so many brilliant artists and I wish life was as care free as back in the 70s , such happy happy times❤🌹


    • Posted by vintagerock on June 28, 2020 at 11:40 am

      Hi Shirley

      These were happy, innocent days full of freedom. And the line-up was tremendous

      Pleased you like my blog Best wishes Peter


  5. Posted by Rob Lloyd on July 4, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    Yes I remember that festival. I travelled all night from Hebden Bridge at the back of a van with several people. We got there on very early Saturday morning missing the Friday show. We slept for a few hours before walking to the entrance. I noticed loads of police presence looking to drug bust, which they did throughout the rest of the three days. The days were quite long as the weather wasn’t grea. Lots of haystacks were used to build shelters for those with not tents. I liked the perfomances of Roxy (one of their first gigs) Rory, Humble and surprisingly Sha Na Na! I remember Cocker playing last and on the tannoy they were warning people that the police were getting heavy trying to bust anyone and everyone. We went back to the van late and tried to get to sleep to be woken by the drug squad to search us. Luckily the guy with the dope was still inside the festival getting stoned. When I got home I slept for 12 hours! Great days!


    • Posted by vintagerock on July 4, 2021 at 5:21 pm

      Great story Rob. I was one of the people in the straw hut/tent. I have so happy memories of the event. Happy days Peter


  6. Posted by Charlie on November 20, 2022 at 8:55 pm

    Hi I spent the whole weekend at the festival what a fantastic time from what I remember fantastic times with friends .


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