The Reading Festival 11th – 13th August 1972

The Reading Festival 1972
readingprog I first went to the Reading Festival in 1972 (is it really over 41 years ago 🙂 ?), and continued to go every year until 1980. I missed 1981 as it clashed with a local “Rock on the Tyne” Festival, and have never returned, although I did think of doing so on several occasions. I’m aiming to reflect on one year each week for the next few weeks, starting today with my first Reading experience.
I’d already been to the Lincoln Festival in May 1972 so I felt, as a 15 year old, I was already a hardened festival goer. I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go to Reading, so decided to go along myself. My parents weren’t keen on my idea of hitching so I agreed to go by train. The festival took place over the weekend of August 11th to 13th, 1972 starting on Friday afternoon. For some reason I decided to get the train down to London early on the Thursday night, arriving around midnight. Having nowhere to spend the night I took a tube to Piccadilly Circus and found an all-night cinema. It was showing Elvis films all night; I paid my money and sat close to the front. The cinema was quite empty, the audience was a few couples, some Elvis fans and several people alone like me, and just looking for somewhere to spend the night. I don’t recall which films were shown, I think there were six, and I’m pretty sure one was “Kid Galahad” (which, by the way, is a good movie), and I think another may have been “Fun in Acapulco” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” (not so good). I emerged, very tired, from the cinema in the early hours of the morning, and went across London to get the train to Reading. I didn’t have a ticket for the festival, so when I arrived I joined the queue and bought a weekend ticket. In those days it was all about seeing the bands, so I stayed in the queue to get a good spot in front of the stage. All I had taken was a sleeping bag; no tent; no change of clothes (I told you that I thought myself a hardened festival goer).
reaidnglistThe Friday line-up was: Good Habit, Nazareth, Cottonwood, Steamhammer, Jackson Heights, Genesis, Mungo Jerry, Curved Air. The music started at 4pm and there were two stages set alongside each other to make for quick changeovers. I positioned myself close to the front somewhere between the two stages so I had a good view of both. There was a press enclosure right down front, and an area where the Hells Angels would encamp, so you couldn’t get that close to the stage. I got talking to a guy next to me; he was also alone, still at school and a similar age. We stuck together throughout the weekend, keeping each others place in the crowd, and sleeping there on a night in our sleeping bags. This seems crazy now, but hey I was young and just so excited about seeing the bands. You could sleep in the main enclosure in those days; you had to leave in the early morning so that they could clear up and get ready for the next day. Some clearing happened during the night; this didn’t make for a good night sleep as there was a danger that someone stood on you (this happened to me several times). The organisers stopped letting people sleep in the main enclosure a few years later; a punter was run over by a vehicle that was driving around collecting litter….The bands I recall on Friday were: Good Habit (saw them a few times, they used to were monks habits on stage), Nazareth (this was before “Broken Down Angel”; they played a great version of “Morning Dew”); Genesis (Simply amazing. I was a big fan at the time and have written separately about their set which included The Knife, Twilight Alehouse, Watcher Of The Skies, The Musical box, and The Return Of The Giant Hogweed. Classic); Mungo Jerry (got the crowd rocking), and Curved Air (also amazing; It happened today, Backstreet Luv, Sonja Kristina).
readingtix The Saturday line-up was: Jonathan Kelly, Solid Gold Cadillac, Man, Linda Lewis, Focus, Edgar Broughton, Jericho, If, Johnny Otis Show, Electric Light Orchestra, The Faces. I watched all of the bands, and also took some time to have a look around the stalls in the arena. I didn’t see any need to venture into town (that would come in later years) and spent the entire weekend within the confines of the festival. The weather was quite warm, sunny with a little drizzle now and then but nothing major, and certainly nothing compared to the rain I experienced at the Lincoln festival earlier in the year. Highlights I can dimly recall now are: Jonathan Kelly (Ballad of Cursed Anna simply wonderful), Solid Gold Cadillac (very jazzy), Man (very long guitar solos; Spunk Rock; great!), Linda Lewis (she looked so tiny on that stage and admitted to being scared), Focus (went down well with the crowd and were one of the successes of the weekend), Edgar Broughton (amazing, I was already a fan. Edgar very unspoken as always. Out Demons Out!!), If (jazzy, great guitarist), Johnny Otis Show (just blogged on them), Electric Light Orchestra (this was a very early performance and one of their first since Roy Wood’s departure. Wasn’t sure what to expect; they were good), The Faces (Rod and the guys on great form, lots of footballs kicked into the crowd, Twisting the Night Away and I’m Losing You were big live favourites of mine at the time).
readingposterThe Sunday line-up was: Sutherland Brothers, Gillian McPherson, String Driven Thing, Matching Mole, Stackridge, Vinegar Joe, Status Quo, Stray, Roy Wood’s Wizzard, Mahatma Kane Jeeves, Ten Years After, Quintessence. John Peel and Jerry Floyd were comperes for the weekend. Jerry was the regular DJ at the Marquee Club, who organised the festival at the time. I spend much of the weekend chatting about music to the guy that I met on the first day and we struck up quite a friendship. I made a few friend at festivals in those days and would see some people every year but I never ran into this guy again. Wonder where he is now. Highlights of the day were: Matching Mole (featuring Robert Wyatt), Stackridge (“Slark” was a favourite of mine at the time), Vinegar Joe (Elkie just stunning), Status Quo (this was one of the shows that helped them break back. Peel was a big champion of theirs at the time; I think he introduced them as the “Finest rock’n’roll band in the world”, or something like that. They were playing amazing boogie at the time, with Francis giving it some cheeky banter. Someones Learning was a favourite), Stray (excellent, Del in mirror suit), Roy Wood’s Wizzard (pretty good, very retro rock’n’roll. Ballpark Incident had just been released), and Ten Years After (Alvin’s guitar playing was stunning, I’d just seen “Woodstock” and was a big fan). I left as Quintessence’s took to the stage as did many others (TYA were official headliners) to catch the last train to London. The tubes had stopped so I walked across London. I’d missed the midnight train so I spent the night in Kings Cross station.
Monday morning: I was stiff, tired, and scruffy. I got the first train home and went straight to bed 🙂
Wow! that took longer than I thought it would! The scans come from the newspaper style programme which was produced by the Reading Evening Post. The poster (it looks like a cartoon of Leo Lyons from TYA to me?) is from the middle of the programme. Oh and I forgot to mention the “Wally!” chants, which seemed to go on all night.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dawn on January 25, 2014 at 12:32 am

    What a great line up Ten Years After great band saw them 1974 at city hall ncle with my family and Alivin Lee in 1988 – night of the guitars city hall. I went to Reading Festival 1980 my brothers band was playing i remember going with my friend we hitch-hiked as it was a late decision to go but she left me there could not cope with festival life so i had to go and find my brother.


  2. Posted by david glover on February 4, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I was there – the SUnday was a good day but Quintessence never performed as the show timetable was well behind. They were just brought on stage to wave to the audience. I was disappointed as I had never seen them – never will now


    • Posted by vintagerock on February 5, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Thanks My memory often lets me down these days and it looks like it has here. I remember waiting for Quintessence to arrive on stage on the Sunday night, and knowing that I would soon have to leave if I wanted to catch the train back to London, and start my journey home. I’m sure I can remember them coming on stage, and I thought I stayed and watch them perform a number or two, but that musn’t be the case. I do remember that it was very late when TYA finished their set. Cheers Peter


  3. At 6:00 on August 11, 1972 I stepped out onto the stage at the Reading Festival as the lead singer/songwriter and front man of the Chrysalis Artists band “Cottonwood”. Huge crowd, great reception, and a lot of fun playing our set.


  4. At 6:00 on Friday, August 11, 1972 I stepped out onto the stage at the Reading Festival as the lead singer/songwriter and frontman of the Chysalis Artists band “Cottonwood”. Huge crowd, great response, and great fun.


  5. Posted by Pete Bunyan on July 1, 2022 at 8:06 am

    I was in a pub in Broadstairs watching a blues duo and speaking to one them, Marcus Bonfanti, later he said was playing with Ten Years After and I said I had seen them at Reading nearly 50 years ago! I wanted to see Quintessence but in my memory Alvin Lee of TYA wouldn’t stop playing and some us were asking him to stop in no uncertain terms but to no avail hence we never saw Quintessence.


    • Posted by vintagerock on July 1, 2022 at 11:16 am

      Hi Pete yes Ten Years After are still performing without Alvin Lee and are apparently very good. I have similar memories, waiting and wanting to see Quintessence. Happy days Peter


  6. Posted by Haydn Lewis on January 10, 2023 at 4:40 pm

    That was a festival to remember! I still have that programme with the poster in the middle.
    I was 17 at the time. Five of us took a train from Carmarthen to London on the Thursday with just a sleeping-bag each. We spent the night in Hyde Park. One of us almost got arrested for carrying a bread knife (obviously for practical reasons) and had it confiscated. To Reading by train on the Friday morning and the line-up for the whole weekend was amazing.
    We also slept under the stars in front of the stage. I can also remember the “Wessex Freewheelers”, Angel chapter and kept well away from them!! We lived mainly on free food dished out at the Hare Krishna tent.
    Bands that stood out were: Focus, Vinegar Joe, Curved Air, Status Quo (who we had seen in 1970 at the town hall in Narberth – all packed into one transit van with their equipment), The Faces and TYA who were amazing. I became a big fan of theirs at the festival and I still regard that performance as one of the best ever gigs I`ve witnessed. I distinctly remember that they carried on past their allowed time slot which meant that Quintessence were not allowed to play.
    We went back a few more times during the seventies but none of them compared to 1972!!


    • Posted by vintagerock on January 11, 2023 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks for sharing Haydn. Sounds like we had very similar experiences of a great weekend. Happy days Peter


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