You Always Remember Your First Time

All night gig that is!

I was 15 years old when 3 of us from school went to Olympia in December 1967 to something called "Christmas on Earth Continued". There was me (obviously), Charlie Alder and Jeff. The plan was for each of us to tell our parents that the other 2 had got permission to go so "Could I?". Surprisingly, it worked.

On the bill were acts like Hendrix and The Who, but I was excited by the fact that Keith West & The Tomorrow (it's how they were on the poster) were also on the bill. Now remember I was only 15 at the time and I really liked Keith West's hit single "Excerpt from a Teenage Opera", so was looking forward to hearing it live. I guess I was as excited by that as by the thought of seeing Hendrix! How would they do it? Surely it would be too late for the children's chorus. Perhaps they would use a tape - but I digress.

We sent off our one pound each, received our tickets and waited. Finally the big day arrived and off we set. What an eye-opener - long hair everywhere. We didn't see much of that in Clapham and certainly not at school. Long hair at school was defined as approaching your ear or shirt collar.

So what do I remember about such a memorable night?

Less than I thought once I sat down and tried to put it onto paper. There were two stages to cut down the inevitable delay between acts, fairground rides, Mark Boyle's amazing light shows and scaffold towers for the cameras. The whole thing was filmed but the rumour is that the organisers used old film stock and it didn't survive. That said, there are some surviving clips of Hendrix. So we can always live in hope. As for the groups ...

Pink Floyd played behind screens and seemed, to my young eyes, a little nervous. But then again I was quite niaive with regards to drugs and stuff. And what no-one knew at the time is that this would be the last Pink Floyd gig as a 4-piece with Syd Barrett. The next gig they played, in January, would include Dave Gilmour. Just wish I could remember it better (or at all!). For another memory of this gig see here.

Sam Gopal must have made an impact as I subsequently bought their album "Escalator", which included a young Ian Fraser Kilmister AKA Lemmy.
Other bands left little or no impression; which is not to say I didn't enjoy them but that I have no lasting memory of them.
I do remember Traffic (they weren't on the ads but were a late replacement for The Who). They had the privilege(?) of appearing immediately before Hendrix. We (me, Charlie & Jeff) decided that if we stayed put and didn't move across to the other stage we'd be able to get closer to the Hendrix stage. It was such a good idea that it occurred to just about everybody. So we all waited patiently for Traffic to finish. Imagine actually wishing that messrs Winwood, Mason, Capaldi & Wood would hurry up. Seems criminal in hindsight. After what seemed like a very long time Traffic finished and we waited for Hendrix. The crowd grew and the temperature rose by several degrees. Hendrix came on and it became even more hot & stuffy. It was difficult to breathe but then, when Hendrix was on stage and on form you almost held your breath anyway.

Trying to describe a Hendrix performance seems almost pointless especially when he was at his peak (personal opinion) before drink/drugs/ego affected his music. He was amazing, he had all his stock-in-trade tricks, playing behind his head, playing with his teeth; it was almost enough to make me sell my guitar cos I knew I'd never ever be able to play like him, but then I argued nor would anyone else. Except, for pure playing ability Eric Clapton was so much better. And maybe also Jeff Beck. The thing about Hendrix - and this is me going off on one of those personal opinions - was that he couldn't maintain a solo. I think that he had a real problem with timing. He'd play a bit, get a little lost and resort to a trick. This shortcoming was less noticable on his recorded work as he was reputed to regularly re-record his guitar work until he was happy with it.
Anyway I kept my guitar and learnt another chord to add to the 3 I already knew.

Oh yes, forgot about Keith West. Well he didn't sing "Excerpt……." In fact it was nothing like I thought. Quite simply Tomorrow completely knocked me out, they were brilliant. They had everything, mock fights, Twink on drums and one of the most amazing guitarists I had ever seen or heard. At the back of the stage was Steve Howe, hunched over his guitar and wah-wah pedal sounding like he had at least two pairs of hands (most of this set is available on CD). I was converted. Which subsequently surprised me as I had seen them a couple of months earlier supporting Traffic at the ABC Cinema in Croydon; they had made absolutely no impression on me whatsoever. I bought their album on its release the following month, bought it again on its re-release with 1 additional track (and have the CD which also includes various bonus tracks including 3 by Aquarian Age - see below)). Of course, almost as soon as I decided that they were fantastic they broke up. But I did see Bodast (Steve Howe's next group) and I saw Twink (John Alder) several times after (with both the Pink Fairies and the Pretty Things). To this day the Tomorrow tracks are still amongst my most played. As to what happened to them...... Steve Howe is easy, after Bodast he went on to find fame and fortune with Yes. Twink & Junior (John Wood) formed Aquarian Age with Clem Cattini and Nicky Hopkins, released a 45 in 1968 (re-recorded by Twink on his Think Pink album) and then disbanded. Twink joined The Pretty Things and later The Pink Fairies and recorded a solo lp. He later retired to France(?) only to resurface occasionally to record; possibly when the money runs out. Junior also ended up in France, as a croupier in a casino and, according to an interview with Twink about 20 years ago, Junior made a "lot of money". Keith West moved into production, including the Bodast lp.

To misquote a Four Seasons song "Oh what a night, late December back in '67"

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