Reading Festival 24th – 26th August 1979

Reading Festival 24th – 26th August 1979readingprog79
This was my 8th visit to Reading. The line-up was a predictable mix of new wave and heavy rock. It was also a year of line-up changes. Two of the main bands who were billed to play: Thin Lizzy and The Ramones did not appear. Thin Lizzy pulled out at a few days notice due to Gary Moore’s departure from the band. Lizzy were replaced by Scorpions and The Ramones by Nils Lofgren. Both of these changes were major disappointments. The weather wasn’t bad and the event was well-attended, but didn’t sell out. My recollections of the weekend are below:
Friday line-up: Bite the Pillow, The Jags, Punishment of Luxury, Doll by Doll, The Cure, Wilko Johnson, Motorhead, The Tourists, The Police.
Friday was the “new wave” day. I watched all of the bands from Punilux onwards. Highlights were The Cure who impressed me even though the only song I had heard before was “Killing an Arab”, and Wilko and Motorhead, both acts going down a storm with the crowd, who preferred their rock heavier and more traditional. The Police were riding on the crest of a wave of success, and were amazing, Sting had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and the entire field sang along to the hits. It was great to witness a band at their peak.
The Police setlist: Deathwish; Next To You; So Lonely; Truth Hits Everybody; Walking On The Moon; Hole In My Life; Fall Out; Message In A Bottle; The Bed’s Too Big Without You; Peanuts; Roxanne; Can’t Stand Losing You; Landlord; Born In The 60s
Saturday line-up: Root Boy Slim; Fame; The Yachts; Little Bo Bitch (not sure that they played?); The Movies; Bram Tchaikovsky; Gillan; Steve Hackett; Cheap Trick; Inner Circle; Scorpions
reading79badgeWe spent much of Saturday enjoying the delights of local hostelries and didn’t venture into the arena until later in the day. To be honest, looking at the line-up now, it was pretty uninspiring. We made it into the festival for Gillan onwards. Gillan seemed to play everywhere at the time, and were always good fun. I’d seen them so many times that I was getting to know the new songs, but I also always looked forward to hearing Purple classics, which they did including ‘Smoke on the Water”. Steve Hackett played “I Know What I Like” which prompted a mass crowd singalong. The highlight was Cheap Trick with crazy antics from Rick Nielson and an exquisite performance by Robin Zander. A video of their performance that night is on YouTube. You can find “I Want You To Want Me” here, a bit rough, but still amazing:
For the encore Cheap Trick were joined onstage by Dave Edmunds and Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs for a rendition of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper”. Classic 😄
Inner Circle’s reggae rhythms went down well. Scorpions were great (I really liked “Loving You Sunday Morning” at the time), but we were disappointed that we weren’t seeing Lizzy who had become a Reading favourite and were massive at the time.
readingpaper79Sunday line-up: The Cobbers; Terra Nova; Speedometers; Zaine Griff; Wild Horses; The Members; Molly Hatchett; Climax Blues Band; Nils Lofgren; Peter Gabriel; Whitesnake.
Sunday highlights for me were The Members who were in the charts with “Sounds of the Suburbs” and got a mixed reaction from the crowds with some people liking them, and others lobbing cans, and Peter Gabriel who started with “Biko” and played classic solo tracks like “Moribund The Burgermeister”, “Solsbury Hill” and “Here Comes The Flood”. Phil Collins joined Gabriel for the end of his set for “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”. Whitesnake closed the evening and were worthy headliners (although they weren’t billed as so, with Peter Gabriel and non-showers The Ramones having shared top billing in the pre-festival publicity). They started with an amazing new song “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues” which set the tone for the evening. Ian Paice had just joined on drums and Whitesnake now had three former Purple members (Coverdale, Lord and Paice).
Whitesnake setlist: Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues; Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City; Steal Away; Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick; Mistreated; Soldier Of Fortune; Love Hunter; Breakdown; Whitesnake Boogie.
An enjoyable Reading weekend, if not one of the strongest line-ups.

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Vince on February 8, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Agree with most of the analysis here – an underwhelming event, all told, and one that, in hindsight, I would have been happy to miss once Thin Lizzy and the Ramones (and the Undertones) left the bill. One factual matter: Whitesnake were on after Peter Gabriel, as at points I distinctly remember cheers as the ‘Snake’s gear was set up on the other stage, and Peter Gabriel’s emerging new direction on the third ‘melt’ album was boring the bikers wanting a bit more boogie.


  2. Posted by Pascal on March 26, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Hello , désolé je ne parle pas très bien anglais , i don t speak english very well , Helpdesk me , je recherche pour ma collection les reading post spécial festival de reading 1979 , dont celui titré “festival of peace” . Merci à tous d avance . Pascal


  3. Posted by Noel Lally on June 30, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    My first Reading as a pre O level 15 year old allowed to have one night away from home. Arrived at Reading Station with a packed lunch and 4 sneakily bought cans of cider. For some reason I wore a donkey jacket, in August but that turned out to be the best decision I made all day.
    The size of the field amazed me. Am I wrong in remembering there were 2 stages to cut down the time between acts?
    Couldn’t recall any of the acts pre Motörhead. But glad to now know I saw The Cure.
    My head got split open when a thrown can fight broke out, it was one of the two pint tins Fosters originally exported to the UK pre Paul Hogan days and I have long suspected it wasn’t full of Aussie Lager when it hit me.
    An hour or two in the medical tent, lost me mate meant a lonely evening watching Motörhead, The Tourists and (thank God for) The Police.
    A lonely trudge to Reading Station instead of the all nighter we envisaged as extremely naive 15 year olds.
    Train to Ealing Broadway and walked, yes walked to Wembley. Got home at 0330hrs absolutely wrecked.
    My Mum woke up and came down and freaked out. Covered in blood from head to toe.

    My children have now been at least once each and they come back raving about the best weekend of their lives. They have had to be dropped off moaning about carrying all this stuff. Picked up moaning about how wet, cold, bad the bands were, or how noisy their fellow campers were.
    I still think I had the better time even if it was only one day with no stop over.
    Hope Reading is back in 2021 for more generations to have as much fun as I and my children have.


    • Posted by vintagerock on July 1, 2020 at 11:31 am

      Hi Noel

      Thank you for signing up for my blog. I hope you enjoy reading my memories and that they revive some of your own. Wow! What an eventful day out at Reading. Not only do you have you the memories but you also bore the scars to prove it! Respect. Seriously, looking back those can fights were crazy and very bad. Cheers. Happy days. Peter


  4. Posted by Stewart Aird on September 8, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    Geez. I didnt realise I had missed so much. We got pretty much rat arsed all weekend but saw The Cure Motorhead Cheap Trick and the major bands. However we as a collective decided to miss the Police and see them at the Apollo in Glasgow later. The reason was that NikTurner (Hawkwind) and his Inner City Unit were playing at The Target Bar in the Butts Centre the same night. When we told him about missing the Police whilst having a drink with him at the bar he was well chuffed. That is my favourite memory of that weekend.


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