The Reading Festival 22nd – 24th August 1975

The Reading Festival 22nd – 24th August 1975
reading75flyerThe Reading Festival hit its peak of success in the mid ’70s, and the 1975 festival sold out in advance. Although the previous years’ festivals that I had attended all seemed pretty full, you were still able to roll up and pay at the entrance. In 1975 the success of the festival and the draw of bands like Yes and Wishbone Ash ensured the site was completely packed, with hardly any room to be found in the campsites and car parks.
Friday line-up: Stella, Judas Priest, Wally, Kokomo, UFO, Dr Feelgood, Hawkwind. Judas Priest were an up and coming heavy rock band and were gigging constantly, as were UFO. Kokomo were a jazz/rock/funk outfit who were very successful during the ’70s. But the big success of Friday (and arguably the entire weekend) was Dr Feelgood, who were a massive hit with the festival crowd; Wilko and Lee being on red hot form. I was with a couple of guys who had recently become big Feelgood fans; “Back In The Night” had just been released and they were constantly singing it in my ear. “All around visible signs of the Doctor’s now-massive popularity – such as the many home-made banners (“Feelgood”, “Wilko” et al), the rapturous reception, the sea-of-weaving arms” (NME, 1975). “When Dr Feelgood stamped off they had within an hour, transformed this alfresco association into a tiny, sweaty, steaming R&B club. Charisma is too weak a word to describe what the Feelgoods had going for them that night.” (Brian Harrigan, Melody Maker, August 30, 1975). Hawkwind were ok, but it was cold, and they found it difficult to follow the Feelgood’s storming set.
readingprog75Saturday line-up: Zzebra, SNAFU, Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, Kursaal Flyers, Thin Lizzy, Alan Stivell, Heavy Metal Kids (billed simply as “Kids” in the programme), Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Supertramp, Yes.
My memories are of Thin Lizzy delivering an excellent set as always; they were gradually building up their own following and would soon break through to become massive; The Heavy Metal Kids being as OTT as ever; and Yes, who were amazing. I must also mention the Kursaal Flyers, who are sadly often forgotten in the history of pub rock; they would hit the charts in the following year with the great pop single: “Little Does She Know” (“I know that she knows that I know she’s two timing me”). Supertramp were on the verge of mega-success; they had hit the charts with “Dreamer” and had a considerable following. I was, and remain, a big Yes fan and their performance at Reading came at a point where the band were at the peak of their success. I recall it being very cold, with epic versions of “Close to the Edge” and “And You and I”, and a great version of “Roundabout” as an encore (very late and off to our tents). A bootleg exists of Yes’ set that night: Sound Chaser; Close To The Edge; And You And I; Awaken; The Gates Of Delirium; I’ve Seen All Good People; Ancient; Long Distance Run Around; Ritual; Roundabout.
reading75Sunday line-up: Joan Armatrading, Babe Ruth, String Driven Thing, Climax Blues Band, Caravan, Soft Machine, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Robin Trower, Wishbone Ash. My memory of Sunday is of Wishbone Ash. Like Yes they were enjoying massive success at the time, and also like Yes they played a set of pure class, with the twin guitars of Andy Powell and Laurie Wisefield soaring through the cool, late Sunday evening.
Our DJs for the weekend were once again John Peel and Jerry Floyd. The weather was cold, with some rain, and the beer can fights were constant throughout the weekend. The festival had always been an organised, carefully planned event, but was becoming even more commercial. The nature of the festival, and its line-up, would transform further in the years which followed; with the emergence of punk and the re-emergence of heavy metal through the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal). Any elements of the jazz festivals of the 60s had also disappeared.
Thanks to BaldBoris for allowing his image of the festival to be used through the WikiMedia Commons licence agreement.

23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mick Fox on August 18, 2019 at 8:00 am

    Great article. Im now a stately 66 year old but have very fond memories of being one of the thousands of happy dudes that weekend. Armed with little money or food and only a car in the car park to house 4 of us and a bottle of liquid acid to keep us amused we had the time of our lives. Keep on truckin!!!


  2. Posted by Gary on November 3, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    According to Rob this event first brought JP to the attention of the world’s media and let us all know they were clearly worth watching from then on!


  3. Posted by Rod wilkins on February 7, 2021 at 11:24 am

    Yup, aged 19, 1975 was my 1st of many Reading festivals. Dr Feelgood stole the show. A 50 year love affair with Judas Priest started that year when ‘Rock a Rolla’ boomed out. Mud & can fights ensued. We went to see UFO at the Marquee club soon after because i still had my festival band on my wrist.


    • Posted by vintagerock on February 7, 2021 at 12:32 pm

      Happy days Rod. Bring back the mud fights. Wally cheers Peter


      • Posted by Rod wilkins on September 28, 2022 at 1:55 pm

        Hey VR, i I had to leave a reply to correct myself in print! It was JP we saw at the Marquee in Sept ‘75. We had seen UFO there July ‘75 just before the Reading festival. Still rockin’ at 65 tho, saw Smith Kotzen at Highbury ealier this year.

      • Posted by vintagerock on September 28, 2022 at 2:51 pm

        Hi Rod I used to love going to Reading in the 70s and went every year from 1972 to 1980. I must’ve seen Judas Priest and UFO more than 20 times each. Both great bands. Keep on rocking I was 66 recently and intend to keep rocking until I drop! Happy days Peter

      • Hey VR, yup, cannot beat those two bands. Coincidently, i saw the Who at Charlton ‘76 post too. I could not go to that with my mates……I went on my own to see Sabbath at Croydon! I did miss seeing Montrose but saw Sammy Hagar solo at Hammersmith Odeon & Gamma in a support slot at Wembley (Whitesnake i think) Cheer’s.

      • Posted by vintagerock on September 29, 2022 at 11:46 am

        Thanks Rod all great bands! Happy days Peter

  4. Posted by Eddie Wren on January 23, 2022 at 10:17 pm

    It was a wonderful event. One of the more esoteric happenings was that Concorde — still very new back then — flew over, with her wheels down, on final approach and ready to land at Heathrow, and everybody — and I really do mean EVERYBODY — stood up and cheered. It was a hugely ‘feel good’ moment during a brilliant weekend.


  5. Posted by Jamie Colville on January 29, 2022 at 11:09 am

    As I 15 year old my dream was to see Yes and see them I did. I agree, they were stunning. But also I was so pleased (or at least am now) to have seen all those other great bands. Wishbone Ash were also pure class but I also enjoyed Supertramp, Trower, Heavy Metal Kids, Lizzy, the great Caravan and the mindblowing Mahavishnu Orchestra (with Jean Luc Ponty as special guest I think?). Great memories


    • Posted by vintagerock on January 29, 2022 at 12:19 pm

      Yes Jamie. Those 1970s pop festivals had great lineups and Yes were at their peak in 1975. Jon Anderson’s vocals swirled across the field through the mist (at least they did in my memory) and all was well with the world. Thanks for sharing your memories. Yes I think Jean-Luc Ponty was with John McLaughlin that weekend. Happy days. Cheers Peter


    • Hi Jamie
      I too was at this festival and just a tad older than you – I would have been 17, going on 18 – and Yes was also my number one band to see too. And you are right – JLP definitely played with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra that day.
      I have tried to cover each band on my own website which might be of interest.

      Reading Rock ’75

      *Apologies again for advertising, Peter! 😉



      • Posted by vintagerock on January 30, 2022 at 12:40 pm

        No problem at all Roger. Thanks for your memories, Roger and Jamie. Happy days Peter

  6. […] Printre alte numeroase gig-uri, a deschis un turneu pentru Hawkwind, în 1974, și a participat la ediția din 1975 a festivalului Reading, în aceeași seară cu Yes, Supertramp și Thin […]


  7. Posted by Colin green adged 60 on September 27, 2022 at 6:09 pm

    I was there 9years old LM


  8. Posted by andy on November 23, 2022 at 2:51 pm

    I was thinking back and found this the day Wilko Johnson’s death was announced



    • Posted by vintagerock on November 23, 2022 at 2:54 pm

      Very sad news RIP Wilko an inspiration and hero to us all! The early Feelgoods were untouchable. Too many heroes going Peter


  9. Posted by John on November 25, 2022 at 12:30 pm

    Like Andy above I was brought here by the sad news about Wilko J. I’m incredibly impressed with your recall of the weekend and it brought back a lot of memories. I’d forgotten much and I wasn’t even drinking!! But I do remember most vividly Dr Feelgood who tore the place up. They exploded with such intensity and grit in that window between the fag end of prog rock and the advent of punk.


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