Frank Zappa & the Tubes Knebworth 9th September 1978

image“Oh God, Not Another Boring Old Knebworth” said the posters. Line-up: The Tubes, Frank Zappa, Peter Gabriel, Boomtown Rats, Rockpile, Wilko Johnson’s Solid Senders.
This was the second Knebworth festival to take place in 1978, following the Genesis / Jefferson Starship / Tom Petty gig earlier in the summer. I remember thinking it was a bit late in the year for an open air gig and feared the worst from the weather, but actually it was ok on the day; quite fine. I drove down with a group of mates. We argued all the way down about who was the “best” act of the day. Such things seemed to matter a lot in those days. In the car we had a big Zappa fan (me, and I was sure that Zappa was the biggest and best act and should be headlining), a newly converted Tubes fanatic, and a couple of Peter Gabriel / Genesis fans. Zappa and the Tubes were billed as joint headliners, however on the day the Tubes closed the show, which annoyed me a little. We camped and pitched our tents near a big generator (big mistake) which for some reason we didn’t really notice when we set up. However it was humming loudly all night and powering a massive floodlight which shone on our tents, so we didn’t get much sleep.
The show was opened by the Boomtown Rats, Wilko Johnson who had recently left Dr Feelgood and was fronting his new band Solid Senders, and Rockpile featuring Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. All class acts and a great start to the day. I’ve already written about Peter Gabriel and the Tubes in earlier posts. Both were great; the Tubes closed the festival with a massive crazy show. They were joined by Todd Rundgren for encores of Baba O’Reilly and
The Kids are alright, played in honour of Keith Moon who had died just two days before this concert.
Zappa was great, although I didn’t enjoy his performance as much as the concert I saw in Edinburgh the year before. His band had changed and they played very few songs that I knew. Still, it was a good day with a varied, and very strong line-up, although the lack of a major league headliner resulted in a far from capacity crowd.
We spent the night with a big light shining on us, a loud humming noise from the generator, and a few “Wally” shouts (although they were starting to fade away by this point in the ’70s). Very little sleep and a long drive home in the morning.
Zappa setlist: Rubber Slices (The Deathless Horsie); Introduction and Soundcheck; Dancin’ Fool; Easy Meat; Honey, Don’t You Want a Man Like Me?; Keep it Greasey; Village of the Sun; Poor Suckers (The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing); City of Tiny Lites; A Pound for a Brown on the Bus; Bobby Brown; Conehead; Flakes (part 1); Flakes (part 2); Magic Fingers; Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow; Nanook Rubs It; Saint Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast; Father O’Blivion / Rollo; Bamboozled by Love
Zappa band: Frank Zappa (guitar, vocals); Vinnie Colaiuta (drums); Arthur Barrow (bass); Ed Mann (percussion); Tommy Mars (keyboards); Denny Walley (guitar, vocals); Peter Wolf (keyboards); and Ike Willis (guitar, vocals).

13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sarah C. on November 17, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    I remember The Tubes headline set with them dressed as cigarettes at one point,Todd Rundgren’s note perfect Who Keith Moon tribute,ducking as the(then habitual)hail of cans sailed overhead from further back-my mate got a super sized orange juice can right on the bonce.It was hot enough to get sunburned,desert cold at night(old blankets on sale for £3 though)staggered back to my tent in the pitch dark and stumbled in my spike heeled boots on a soft mound:looked down to see I’d trodden on the head of a bloke huddled in a sleeping bag-obviously even more out of it than I was,as he didn’t stir.Sorry mate if you ever read this.Finished the night off in a tiny almost airtight 2 man canvas tent with about 6 mates smoking chillums.A great weekend all in all.


    • Yes I remember the giant cigarette costumes of The Tubes – but can’t find any photos of this. I was there with just a sleeping bag – no tent! It got cold at night. And i was only 15. I confess to falling asleep during the long, long, noodling jazzy set of Frank Zappa. One year later I was a PiL fan and kept quiet about attending this gig.


      • Posted by vintagerock on August 1, 2021 at 4:31 pm

        A great day and a good time was had by all. And you know, there is nothing wrong in liking both Public Image Ltd and Frank Zappa. Actually I can see some similarities……! Happy days Peter

  2. Posted by stuart royle on September 26, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    i was ther too,afine day as early autumn sun kept our spirits up. all the bands were quality but I had forgotten about Gabriel!!, well done to the poster who summed the day up perfectly,. I am apensioner now,still going to gigs but find the big acts too pricy,anyway they were the best happy days.


  3. Posted by David Pallant on September 30, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Great day, loved Peter Gabriel and The Tubes, saw both acts again. Went on a minibus so able to drink (and as I was 18 I did!!)


  4. Posted by Gary Wayne Rudd on September 9, 2018 at 9:04 am

    I recall several Tubes employees dangling in the overhead gantries throughout the day, wiring hundreds, if not thousands, of fireworks in the pattern of the band’s logo.
    When, upon the grand finale, someone ignited the first it fizzled out leaving the rest untouched. Perhaps the most enormous damp squib in showbiz history.
    A couple of years ago in Leeds at a Tubes gig I asked Prairie Prince what it had all cost. He didn’t want to discuss it.


  5. Posted by Phil on December 31, 2020 at 5:14 pm

    I was there, I had had tickets for Zappa and the Tubes at Hammersmith Odeon earlier that year, they both had to cancel (i cant remember why) but i was devastated, I was a huge ZAPPA fan and loved the Tubes ,who i had seen 2 years before ? I remember telling my then girlfriend If they both played Knebworth it could make up for it .
    Well ,my wish came true , I went with my Younger brother Peter and girlfriend,We all took some amazing ACID ,and (what a day) I am still a huge Zappa fan and saw him about
    6 other times before and after that day. ( but never with such a cosmic state of mind)
    I was 20 years old ,wow.


  6. Posted by John Eggs on February 14, 2021 at 10:09 pm

    Thanks I was there too, though totally smashed, amazing day, the Tubes stole the show for me, I had also seen Zappa 77 in Glasgow Apollo


  7. Posted by Geoff Collision on December 18, 2021 at 11:49 am

    This was my introduction to Zappa, I only went coz I love festivals , from then on I bought everything FZ produced and still love him to this day. The Tubes closed the gig coz they needed the darkness for their light show ( which was also damn good)


    • Posted by vintagerock on December 18, 2021 at 12:29 pm

      Thanks Geoff yes I was also a big fan of Frank Zappa from the late 60s onwards. He was a character, a great innovator, excellent guitarist and all-round rock ‘n’ roll star. The Tubes were also good fun. A great day. Happy memories Cheers Peter


  8. Posted by Antony Moore on June 9, 2022 at 7:31 pm

    I remember this show, all my favourites at the innocent age of 19. Anyone remember Bob Geldof pointing out a flag which had 22 written on it, He said words to the effect of…”see that guy has a flag with SS written on it, what a *****!” Zappa stole the show. I can’t believe he’s been gone nearly 30 years,


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