Reading Festival 22nd – 24th August 1980

Reading Festival 22nd – 24th August 1980
readingpaper80DJs: John Peel, Bob Harris & Jerry Floyd
By 1980, the Reading Festival had become a heavy metal extravaganza. Headliners were Whitesnake, UFO and Rory Gallagher, with a full supporting heavy rock cast including new up-and-coming NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) bands Def Leppard and Iron Maiden. It was the 10th anniversary of the festival being at Reading, and the 20th anniversary of the national jazz and blues festival.
Friday line-up: Red Alert (a heavy rock band, I think and not the North East punk band of the same name); O1 Band; Hellions; Praying Mantis; Fischer Z; 9 Below Zero (a great R&B set); Krokus; Gillan (always a good solid set); Rory Gallagher.
The highlight of Friday was, without a doubt, the reappearance of Rory Gallagher. Rory was a hero of mine, a class act, an amazing guitarist, and always came over as a regular down-to-earth guy. By 1980, Rory had moved to a harder rock sound, dropping many of the classic bluesy tracks which had been staples of his set throughout the 70s. So he was no longer playing Bullfrog Blues or Messin’ with the Kid, as part of the main set, although he would sometimes play one or two of them during the encore. Instead his set was focussing on tracks from his most recent albums; Top Priority, Calling Card and Photo-Finish. But these are minor quibbles; Rory’s performance at Reading in 1980 was, as always, outstanding.
Rory setlist: I Wonder Who; Follow Me; Wayward Child; Tattoo’d Lady; Bought And Sold; Country Mill; Hellcat; Out On The Western Plain; Too Much Alcohol; Going To My Hometown; Moonchild; Shadow Play
Saturday line-up: Trimmer and Jenkins, Quartz; Writz; Broken Home (featuring Dicken from Mr Big); White Spirit (North East NWOBHM heroes featuring Janik Gers); Grand Prix; Samson (the drummer played from inside a cage!); Pat Travers Band; Iron Maiden; UFO
Highlights were Pat Travers who played an intense set, Iron Maiden with original singer Paul Di’Anno at the time of the anthemic “Running Free” and headliners UFO. UFO had released their eighth album “No Place to Run” and the line-up was Phil Mogg (vocals), Paul Chapman (guitar), Paul Raymond (keyboards), Pete Way (bass) and Andy Parker (drums). I was a fan at the time and it was good to see them headlining, and hear heavy rock classics like “Doctor Doctor” and “Lights Out” and more gentle tracks like “Love to Love”.
UFO setlist: Lettin’ Go; Young Blood; No Place to Run; Cherry; Only You Can Rock Me; Love to Love; Electric Phase; Hot ‘n’ Ready; Mystery Train; Doctor Doctor; Too Hot to Handle; Lights Out; Rock Bottom; Shoot Shoot
Sunday line-up: Sledgehammer; Praying Mantis; Angelwitch; Tygers Of Pantang; Girl; Magnum; Budgie; Slade; Def Leppard; Whitesnake
readingprog80Sunday belonged to two bands: Slade and Whitesnake. Slade first. Metal legend Ozzy Osbourne was billed to play on the Sunday with his new band Blizzard of Oz, but he pulled out at the last minute and was replaced by Slade. I have already written about Slade’s amazing performance, and have reproduced some of my previous post here. Slade appeared after glam heavy metal band Girl, and just before NWOBHM heroes Def Leppard. The field wasn’t that full as Bob Harris announced that Slade were taking the stage. Their entrance was greeted with a hail of cans. Noddy wasn’t phased at all by that, and asked everyone if they were “ready to rock”. And then they launched straight into “Dizzy Mama”. And then it started to happen. Slowly at first, the crowd began to cheer. People wandering around the outskirts of the site started to run towards the stage. Slade knew they had to win the crowd over and were working so hard, rocking so hard, and playing the hits. The area around the stage was soon completely rammed and the whole field was going crazy. Amazing. Slade nailed it, and in the space of one hour made sure that they were well and truly back. Dave Hill: “One heck of an experience, ‘cos I wasn’t going to do that gig. Slade manager Chas Chandler talked me into it…the confidence came when there was a reaction, as it built and built, sort of got bigger and bigger. I mean getting that lot to sing “Merry Xmas Everybody” was amazing.” The event was recorded and a few tracks were released as an EP.
Def Leppard appeared after Slade and didn’t go down too well with the crowd. Joe Elliott: “The legend about us getting bottled off at Reading 1980 is a myth really – we got an encore at Reading. We probably had six or seven bottles of piss thrown up – and maybe a tomato – but it didn’t put us off. That ‘backlash’ was all blown out of proportion. We’re living proof that bad reviews make no difference.” Actually they were pretty good.
Whitesnake consolidated their position as worthy festival headliners. They’d closed the festival the previous year, despite not receiving top billing in the pre-festival publicity. This year, however, their headline status was clear, and they deserved it. They had just released Ready an’ Willing their third studio album, which reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart, and featured the hit single: “Fool for Your Loving”. This was a great Whitesnake performance; their set now included classic Purple tracks “Soldier or Fortune” and “Mistreated” and new favourites the aforementioned “Fool for Your Loving”, along with “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues” and “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City.”
Whitesnake setlist included: Sweet Talker; Walking in the Shadow of the Blues; Ain’t Gonna Cry No More; Love hunter; Mistreated; Soldier of Fortune; Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City; Fool for Your Loving
I got back to the camp site after Whitesnake and discovered that someone had nicked my tent 😦 Oh well, you can’t win them all. It was a cheap crappy tent anyway. This my last visit to Reading. The following year my mates and I decided to stay up North and attend the Rock on the Tyne festival, and once the annual cycle of attending Reading was broken, we never returned. For me, family and the pressures of parenthood kicked in, and the heavy metal dominance within the line-up made the Reading festival seem a little less attractive. I’d been 9 years in a row, seen the emergence of Quo, Genesis and Thin Lizzy, the re-emergence of Slade, great sets by the Faces, Rory and Yes, festival favourites like Edgar Broughton and Hawkwind, my personal favorites like Stray, the introduction of punk and new wave to the bill, and the recent growth in popularity of (new) heavy metal. Over the years I have toyed with the idea of returning to the Reading festival, or going to the more local Leeds festival, but have never got round to doing so. I suppose I fear that if I do, I will feel too old, and too out of place 🙂 I had some great, crazy times at Reading; maybe it’s best to leave the memories as they are. If I did go along, it could never be the same as when I was young.

16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kevin on January 6, 2016 at 10:25 am

    I was there too great days,I was mates with the band sledgehammer and used to go to gigs in the back of the tour van ,helping out lugging amps ect about brilliant fora 17 year old kid


    • Posted by vintagerock on January 6, 2016 at 10:47 am

      Happy Days Kevin
      I always fancied being a roadie
      Cheers Peter


    • Hi, Do you remember seeing a band called Red Alert at the 1980 Reading Rock Festival?


      • Posted by vintagerock on June 10, 2021 at 11:33 am

        Hi Georgie Red Alert were a punk band from Sunderland, my hometown! I don’t recall them playing Reading that year; but it is quite possible. Can anyone else help? Peter

      • Hi! Thanks for the response. I think there were possibly 2 bands that went under the name Red Alert – My dad wasn’t the one from Sunderland. I think he said they were formed in Lincoln?

        I found this article about them if they look familiar.

        If not I’ll keep digging, thanks again for the response 🙂

      • Posted by vintagerock on June 11, 2021 at 11:49 am

        Hi Georgie

        Yes there most definitely must have been two different bands called Red Alert. The Sunderland band was a punk rock band. I’m afraid I don’t recall your dad’s band. Sorry I can’t be more help. Can anyone on here help Georgie?

        Best wishes Peter

  2. Posted by Paul Hannah on February 28, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    Great memories! Loved reading this article. Me and a mate aged 17/18 travelled down from Scotland and we still talk about the awesome Reading Rock 1980 to this day. Still have the t-shirt and programmes! Only one we could afford to go to but the best time of our lives!! Great bands that we still listen to today. Wish I could turn the clock back and do it all again…


  3. Posted by Brian on July 8, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Ended up on this page after googling for the image used on the Youtube audio… I wanted to see if I could see myself in the crowd, no such luck but I was there too. As I recall it, Noddy asked the crowd whether there was anything they wanted them to play, and the crowd responded with a single voice…. MERRY CHRISTMASSSSSS!

    Saw them again not many months later at the Roundhouse in Norwich and pretty sure the script was similar then too… we certainly sang Merry Christmas again.


  4. Posted by Mike on February 28, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Great write up… It brought back so many memories.
    I worked those festivals around that time, and actually knew Paul Chapman as he played for a local band just prior to UFO… Lone Star. From Abercarn. 😁


    • Posted by vintagerock on March 1, 2019 at 10:30 am

      hi Mike yes I saw Lone Star several times; they were an excellent and underrated rock band. I also seem to remember seeing Paul Chapman in skid Row after Gary Moore left


  5. Hi, I know this blog was posted a while ago now. My dad was in the band Red Alert. I was wondering if there are any picture of the band in the Reading Rocks ’80 programme. or if you know anyone who took pictures of them playing? Thanks,



    • Posted by vintagerock on June 10, 2021 at 11:36 am

      Hi Georgie my programme is locked away somewhere. I shall try and locate it and have a look. This may take some time. Can anyone else help? Best wishes Peter


  6. I was at Reading Rock, 1980. I was also backstage thanks to some of my dad’s music biz connections. I do not recall any band named Red Alert. I was only 16 at the time, and was more interested in the main bands, and some of the supporting bands of the festival. Decades later, I wished I had kept the backstage passes, although mine were stickers, and I had one for each day. Does anyone know (other than eBay) any site that has the program for Reading Rock 1980?


  7. I was there. I do not recall Red Alert playing during the 1980 Reading Rock. I was only 16 at the time, but via my dad’s music connections, I received backstage passes. I was of course in heaven with all the bands hanging out in the back tents. I wished I had kept my program and passes for memory-sake. Anyone know if there is a site that the program is being sold on, except eBay?


    • Posted by vintagerock on September 9, 2021 at 1:36 pm

      Happy days. I’m afraid the only site I know is eBay. I guess you just need to keep looking on eBay for a programme and one might appear at some point. Good luck Peter


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