The Who Wembley Stadium 18th August 1979

The Who Wembley Stadium 18th August 1979
thewhowembley79tixSupport from AC/DC, The Stranglers and Nils Lofgren.
This was The Who’s first big gig with Kenney Jones as drummer. It was also the first time that the band were accompanied by a horn section, for some songs. A capacity crowd of 80,000 fans crammed into the old Wembley Stadium to see the ‘Orrible ‘Oo; accompanied by a strong support line-up. I went down to London with a group of mates on an early train. When we arrived in the capital some mates went off to Chelsea, as Sunderland were playing there that day. Those of us who weren’t football fans made our way to Wembley, in time to catch the support acts. Nils Lofgren was first on; I recall he had his small trampoline and did somersaults across the stage. AC/DC were great; this was the Bon Scott era band, who were just breaking big at the time. They started with “Live Wire” and played great classics like “The Jack”, “Highway to Hell” and “Whole Lotta Rosie”. Great stuff; really got the crowd going and, other than the Who, were the highlight of the day. The Stranglers were ok, but decided to make the brave move of playing mostly new material from “The Raven” album. This didn’t go down too well with the crowd. A big fight broke out on the pitch during their performance.
I’d arranged to meet my mates who had been to the match, at around 7pm at the back of the stadium. They arrived, quite drunk, full of stories of how the police had directed them into the Chelsea “Shed” section of the ground, where all the home supporters were standing. They stood through the entire match, surrounding by hard men Chelsea skinheads, not daring to speak in case anyone recognised their Mackem accent. If Sunderland got the ball they had to stop themselves from cheering, lest they revealed themselves to the skins. They seemed pretty shaken by the whole experience, but quite proud that they had survived and lived to tell the tale.
thewhowembley79progThe crowd was very mixed; a collection of rock fans, a smattering of Hells Angels who were camped on the pitch just in front of where we were all sitting, and groups of “new mods” in parkas (this was the beginning of the mod revival and around the time of the release of the “Quadrophenia” movie). One of my mates, who had been to the match and was a little worse for wear, insisted on taunting the Hells Angels in front of us. Luckily they started to joke along with him, taking it all in good spirit.
The Who started with “Substitute” and “I Can’t Explain” and played well, although the sound wasn’t good at all. The crowd loved them, and gave them a “returning heroes” type welcome. I enjoyed the gig, but it wasn’t the best time I have seen the Who. We left during the encore ot be sure to catch our train home to the north, which was just as well, as there were massive delays getting to the tubes. The police diverted us away from Wembley Park tube station and round to Wembley Central. Although we left around 10pm, we arrived at Kings Cross just in time to catch the midnight train back to Newcastle.
Setlist: Substitute; I Can’t Explain; Baba O’Riley; The Punk and the Godfather; Behind Blue Eyes; Boris the Spider; Sister Disco; Drowned; Music Must Change; Magic Bus; Pinball Wizard; See Me, Feel Me; Trick of the Light; 5:15; Long Live Rock; Who Are You; My Generation; Dreaming From the Waist; Won’t Get Fooled Again.
Encore: Summertime Blues; The Real Me

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mitch on December 30, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Thoroughly enjoying reading your memories of The Who concerts Peter. Some great stories too.
    I only saw the original line up once and that was at Sunderland Top Rank on 7th May 1971 with Cochise as the support band. I remember buying my 50p ticket from Bergs Record Shop several weeks beforehand and then getting to the concert really early to secure a spot near to the stage. And as I was underage to go to the bar I sat there cross legged on the floor for the entire evening. A great gig.


    • Posted by vintagerock on December 30, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      Thanks Mitch Glad you are enjoying them; still a few Who gigs to go.
      I had a ticket for the Rink gig. I went down with a group of mates; we were all in our early teens and we got turned away by police at the door for being underage. We sold our tickets to some guys outside which I regret to this day as I understand that once the police left the door started letting younger fans in again. We went to the Mecca instead and saw Skid Row, but I wished I’d been in the Rink Cheers Peter


  2. Posted by Hockey on December 30, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Great blog Peter and pretty much how I remember this gig. Like Swansea ’76, there was a good supporting lineup. We were already fans of Nils Lofgren and AC/DC who were both fantastic despite AC/DC’s main PA power cutting out during one song. The backline and monitors were still working so they didn’t really know until was fixed after a few minutes. The Stranglers were really disappointing as they didn’t play any of their classic singles and I think there were a few bottles etc thrown at them by the less forgiving in the crowd. The Who were good but not great, and I didn’t think it was from missing Keith as I saw them at Bingley Hall with Kenny Jones later that year in November and they were still amazing. Perhaps just an off gig for Pete, but it was still worth the trip down from Manchester on a coach, and they went on to do some more great shows in future, both with and without John Entwistle. Maximum RnB indeed! cheers, Mike


  3. My recollections. My very first concert and first visit to London. Left S Wales at the break of dawn in a mark 3 Cortina driven by a friends dad. Got up to the smoke in good time and walked up Olympic Way somewhat in awe of the slightly off white and grubby twin towers. In the stadium we got seats half way up so the view wasn’t too bad. Remember vividly two well dressed college types sitting in front of us smoking a bong with some sweet smelling substance being emitted. I was quite impressed with Nils Lofgren’s ability to play a mean riff whilst somersaulting across the stage. The sound as previously stated was bad. Loved AC/DC as did the rest of the crowd. Thought the Stranglers were awful. In fact I seem to remember the giant rat firework fizzled out half way through and I’m fairly sure they didn’t complete the set as they got bombarded with beer cans, bottles etc. The Who, I really enjoyed. Being only 13, I hadn’t mastered the art of full technical music appreciation, so thought they played the gig to perfection. A few fights throughout the day, but 80000 pissed up mods, rockers and punks it’s kind of expected. The laser show, especially at the end was fantastic. Managed to escape onto the North circular quickly and got back about 3am. Quite a memorable first gig.


  4. Posted by David on October 27, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    Just stumbled across this page as i’m in the middle of a Who retro session. Just finished reading Entwistle’s biography….your comments and all others are spot on….I was 16 years old and travelled from South Wales for the day (2 weeks before we were in Knebworth for Zeppelin)…it was a culture clash…Lofgren fans were the musos…I remember the trampoline and guitarists playing the neck of each others guitar….ac/dc had the rock fans…Angus on Scott’s shoulders (they were outstanding)…stranglers punk fans…poor effort…who fans mods….I remember a scuffle in the stand behind stage right…Daltrey on fine form…sounded like he had a few gears to spare..
    No problem with tube….we slept in car…all in all agreat day…glad to see other comments similar to my own….WHO ARE YOU……


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