The Who Charlton Athletic Football Club 18th May 1974

The Who Charlton Athletic Football Club 18th May 1974
whotix74Support Acts, in order of appearance: Montrose, Lindisfarne, Bad Company, Lou Reed, Humble Pie, Maggie Bell. The support acts were chosen by The Who.
The Who spent some time considering venues for a big outdoor London concert, and selected Charlton ground because, accordingly to Townshend, it had “particular acoustic qualities” and offered “excellent views of the stage from the terraces.” I went to the gig with two mates, travelling down to London by coach, leaving the north east at midnight on Friday night and arriving early on Saturday morning. We then caught the local train across to Charlton. By the time we arrived the ground was pretty full, and fans continued to flood in throughout the morning. By the time Montrose exploded onto the stage at 12 noon, the place was ram packed. The concert was intended to have an attendance limit of 50,000 fans, but breakdowns in security resulted in many additional people getting in, and an estimated crowd of 80,000 (The Complete Chronicle of the Who 1958-1978, Neill & Kent, 2007). I ran into quite a few mates from home on the terraces, several of whom had managed to push or blag their way in without paying. The supporting bill was very strong, with Montrose and Bad Company both going down well. This was one of the first appearances of the new Lindisfarne Mk II line-up. Lou Reed and Maggie Bell both played ok, but didn’t go down as well with the crowd as the others. Humble Pie were pure class, with Marriott on his top OTT “my skin is white, but my soul is black” form. They almost upstaged the main act. There was a long wait before The Who took to the stage, and several reports recall an atmosphere of violence, which I must say I don’t remember. I do remember that it was a very hot day and that there were some fights, a heavy smell of dope with many people openly smoking joints, and lots of cans thrown around throughout the day. Brian Farnon writes of a “lunatic…wandering around with a foot-long spike….sticking it in peoples necks” on the excellent site.
The Who started at 8:45 and played an hour and 45 minute set, starting with “Can’t Explain” and working their way through old classics and some more recent material, including a few from their most recent album “Quadrophenia”. The sound wasn’t that great, even though we had been promised quadrophonic sound, and there were large PA speakers sited around the ground. The Who were excellent, although Pete later admitted that he was drunk and felt that the show wasn’t actually one of their best. To all of us in the crowd it was a great day, and an opportunity to see the best rock band in the world during their prime period. The set included a lot of 60s material, and several songs that I hadn’t seen them play before such as “I’m a Boy” and “Tattoo”. Entwistle performed “Boris the Spider” in his deep bass voice. A lengthy encore included “5:15”, an extended “Magic Bus”, “My Generation”, “Naked Eye”, “Let’s See Action” and the first ever performance of their slow 12-bar blues arrangement of “My Generation”, which is now known as “My Generation Blues”. Pete didn’t smash his guitar.
who74progCharles Shaar Murray reviewed The Who’s performance in NME: “They performed with a freshness and enthusiasm that they haven’t had for quite some time, and generally acted like the epitome of what a rock and roll band should be…The Who are it; as good as it ever gets, and good as we can expect from anybody.”
Pete Townshend admitted (also in the NME): “At Charlton I got completely pissed… I was so happy to get out of it…. I felt really guilty I couldn’t explode into the exuberant and happy energy our fans did….”
When the concert finished it was absolute pandemonium trying to get out through the crowd, and a number of us decided to try and climb over one of the fences. We managed to get over, but one of my mates cut his hand quite badly on the sharp metal top of the fence. It looked quite nasty, and was bleeding a lot, so we decided that we needed to get to a hospital. We pushed our way back into the ground, which wasn’t easy as we were walking against all the people leaving, and made our way to the St Johns Ambulance post, where we all bundled into an ambulance. A poor guy with a pretty cut up face, who had fallen onto a broken bottle, was lying next to us in the ambulance. The ambulance sped through the crowds and 5 minutes or so later we were in the hospital, where we spent most of the night, while my mate had his hand stitched. The hospital was full of fans suffering from injuries, and worse for wear from alcohol and drugs. It was daylight by the time we got out of the hospital, and we walked back into central London and made our way to Victoria where we caught our bus home. The things you do for rock’n’roll 🙂
The Who setlist: I Can’t Explain; Summertime Blues; Young Man Blues; Baba O’Riley; Behind Blue Eyes; Substitute; I’m a Boy; Tattoo; Boris the Spider; Drowned; Bell Boy; Doctor Jimmy; Won’t Get Fooled Again; Pinball Wizard; See Me, Feel Me
Encore: 5:15; Magic Bus; My Generation; Naked Eye; Let’s See Action; My Generation Blues

22 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Robert Keen on August 3, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    I was there and there was no encore. The Who never did encores at that time


  2. Posted by Anthony Phillips on April 30, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    I was there – the only time I ever saw the classic Who line up. They were just brilliant! Don’t remember Montrose playing, maybe because we got into the ground during the Lindisfarne set. I remember enjoying Lou Reed the best of the support acts. He was in his Rock and Roll Animal phase and had a great backing band. He was dressed in all black leather with dyed short blond hair and looked like a camp Action Man – a look that was to become rather influential a few years later!


  3. This was the very first Bad Company gig …… great site by the way


  4. Posted by William Wason Wallace . on July 28, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    I recall Maggie Bell coming on stage , and announcing the score between Scotland and England at Hampden Park . Which was 2 nill to Scotland . There must have been a large crowd of fellow Scots present judging by the roar that was heard .Great gig , great score .


  5. Posted by Keith Lambert on October 31, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    Humble Pie, now we’re talking!!!


  6. I was one of the Scots there along with a Kiwi friend whom I’d been travelling with and what a finale to our European Hitch hiking trip …. denim cut off jeans sitting on the stands soaking up some of the best music and listening to the best musicians ever …. an experience I will never forget! Saw Maggie bell in Edinburgh 3 years ago and still full of energy. London in seventies was the best.


  7. Posted by Joan Lewis on December 29, 2021 at 11:16 pm

    Joanney was there


  8. Posted by Bob Woodcock on February 20, 2022 at 5:18 pm

    I was there,drove down from Burton on Trent in my mk1 Cortina,parked in the street,pretty sure paid on the gate.Different times.


  9. Posted by Dave Taylor on June 14, 2022 at 9:48 pm

    Dave Taylor from Wirral.I was 19 at the time me and 4 mates traveled by bus. Fantastic day very hot. The who were amazing. After the show I got back stage and ended up spending time with Keith Moon. He seemed so sad but was a pure gentleman. Showing me around the stones mobile unit. Best day of my life. To this day I look back with such fondness and memories. Just wish Keith could have got more help with his problems.


    • Posted by vintagerock on June 15, 2022 at 11:28 am

      Great story Dave. Thanks for sharing your memories with us. Yes Keith Moon is sadly missed. He was such a fun character and a great drummer. Happy days Peter


  10. Posted by Oliver mark omar on September 4, 2022 at 7:59 pm

    I was there, It was a great day but unfortunately spoiled by Lou Reed drugged up terrible performance and the who’s refusing to return for an encore( bottle of beer were thrown onto the stage in protest).
    Also i lost the friends i went with, Keith Morris from Muswell hill amongst others, with whom i have lost touch.
    So Keith if you ever read this and you’re alive do get in touch.


    • Posted by vintagerock on September 5, 2022 at 11:26 am

      Thanks Oliver for sharing. I hope this post gets to Keith and you reconnect. That would be wonderful. Fingers crossed for you. Best wishes Peter


  11. Posted by Fran Taylor on September 4, 2022 at 8:04 pm

    I went down with a group of friends on the overnight bus from Lincoln. My friend Sue and I had no tickets and had to buy them on the day. There was a quite scary crush at the turnstiles. Lou Reed, Humble Pie and the Who were my favourite acts. Afterwards we tried to sleep in St James Park but got moved on and spent the night on the floor of Victoria coach station. Went to see the remaining Who members with my husband a few years ago as he had never seen them, but no comparison to the energy of Charlton


    • Posted by vintagerock on September 5, 2022 at 11:24 am

      Thanks for sharing Fran. You’re right it was a special day and The Who were on top form. Happy days Peter


  12. Posted by Joe Griffin on October 5, 2022 at 9:46 pm

    I went with 3 mates. Live at Ross on Wye e had tickets my Len worked in London so boughtvthem direct. We were high up mid-centre stage. With the sun going down the reflection on the Thames was fabulous.
    One of the best days of my life. We got home at 4am.


  13. Posted by john on December 24, 2022 at 8:26 am

    Montrose,Bad company, Lindisfarne and Humble Pie were the best bands there.The Who were Ok but Lou Reed was **** I was 14 years old and love it. Was it the first football stadium to have a rock concert.


    • Posted by vintagerock on December 24, 2022 at 12:29 pm

      Hi Yes it was a great concert. No it was not the first football stadium concert in the UK. I remember Wembley Stadium had the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Show in 1972 I think it was, headlined by many great rock ‘n’ roll stars including Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and others. I regret not going! It was an exceptional lineup happy days Peter


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