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The Gig of my (Keele) Life!
Rock Goes to College... at Keele
The Blues Band at Keele 1980
Rock Goes To College was a BBC series that first ran between 1978 and 1981 on British television. Emerging rock bands were showcased and it was broadcast live from small venues at Universities, Polytechnics and College halls. Tickets were often given away to students to ensure full attendance and a lively atmosphere. Each show was a 40-50 minute set broadcast simultaneously on BBC TV and BBC Radio One.
Keele University featured on 22nd May, 1980 with a performance by the Blues Band at the peak of their individual and combined powers. The Blues Band was and still is a top class good-time blues and boogie band. They performed on 10 February 2017 at the New Victoria Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme to ostensibly a similar audience as 1980 who had aged along with them... Gerry and I went to see them. The Keele performance was captured when they were soaring with their popular The Official Blues Band Bootleg Album. Rock Goes to College with the Blues Band at Keele was released in February 2015 on the Repertoire label and is obtainable online as a CD / DVD set. Gerry Northam (1970) and John Easom (1981)
Mike Beattie (2002) Jools Holland
Jools and his rhythm and blues orchestra was at the 2002 graduation – he played for a good couple of hours and tore the house down. He looked like he was really into the whole night. We had our customary fire alarm go off at the union, and while we were outside the orchestra kept our spirits up by playing a few tunes on the fire escape while we filed back in. Brilliant stuff.
Rob Bartlett (1971) Cream, Pink Floyd, Vaguely
I spent a great 4 years at Keele and had some memorable times there especially in the Students Union where they had some great music in 1966 to 1971 ... e.g. The Cream & Pink Floyd before they got too expensive and my band "Vaguely" used to play in there as well. Here’s a photo of me (left)on bass in the Union stage about 1967. I lived in Hut 28 on Hawthorns till I moved off campus. We used to have a track on the juke box in the Union called ‘Slugs’ ...I appreciate that it’s a million to one shot but I must ask if it is still around? The most memorable experience was standing on the stage leaning against a speaker with a pint in my hand listening to Eric Clapton playing a solo about eight feet way when he was with Cream! Another one was at the annual Royal Ball in the Students Union dancing next to Princess Margaret who was dancing with a long haired student - the President of the Students Union.
Iain Phillips (1975) Osibisa, Paul McCartney
I was at Keele 1971 to 1975. For a few years was on the Social Commitee with our elected rep - John Stokes. I remember coming across Osibisa (an African type band) in a store cupboard!!! The gig was great. I also saw some correspondence to Keele offering the Rolling Stones for £1,000 but it was beyond our budget! Also Paul McCartney played for few pounds after the Beatles break up, as Wings. We had the most amazing social programme!
David Butcher (1972) Jimi Hendrix
I was at Keele from 1968 to 1972, a wonderful period for music of course. In the autumn of 1970, a fellow Keelite and I travelled to Germany on holiday and one of our adventures was landing up at a 'Peace and Love' festival on a little island in the Baltic called Fehmarn. It was a 3 day festival and Jimi Hendrix was top of the bill. It was an amazing adventure about which I could talk for hours about but suffice to say that our adventure culminated in my becoming stage manager and meeting Hendrix. It was his last gig; a week later he died.
Ruth Hayward (2006) Futureheads
The Futureheads in 2006. Used our Keele cards to get into the then Gallery because the ballroom had put up the price for a beer. We were a little worse for wear and ended up drunkenly buying New Order tickets to see them at Wembley. That gig turned out to be the last performance with Peter Hook. Without our Keele cards it would never had happened.
Katie Harrington (2006) Futureheads
I second Ruth Hayward's post! Largely because I was the other person getting drunk and buying New Order tickets! Can't remember all that much about the Futureheads gig but I know it was good!
Richard O’Hagan (1989) Primal Scream, Sandkings, Wonder Stuff, Buddy Curtis
Too many to mention. The most memorable were Primal Scream stalking off stage after about two songs because Bobby Gillespie thought someone had thrown a skiff at him (about 1988) and the La's having to take the stage walking through the audience because Lee Mavers had broken his foot skateboarding a few days before and couldn't climb the stairs. What else? Birdland almost having to cancel because they all got chickenpox, then playing for about 15 minutes before trashing their instruments, Head getting no reaction from the crowd because we were all blown away by their support band, The Sandkings. The very early Wonder Stuff gig, when they were all still alive (natch), the insanity of Buddy Curtis & the Grasshoppers...
Mark Holtz (1993) Atomic Kitten
Atomic Kitten around 2000. Pre-gig interview was longer than expected, and we ran out of questions. Shania Twain was playing in the background, so rather feebly, I asked them "What's the best thing about being a woman?" to which Kerry Katona grabbed her breast and said "THESE!". Now that's class.
Chris Parkins (1981) Pretenders, Hawkwind, Simple Minds, Ian Gillan
Most Social Secretaries had a 'claim to fame' gig. Mine was probably the Pretenders, in the same week that 'Brass in Pocket' was no.1 - supported by UB40. But my personal favorite was the 'Sci-Fi' Christmas Ball of 1979 - Hawkwind, supported by Simple Minds. Ian Gillan (Deep Purple vocalist) jumping off the stage and punching a member of the audience was pretty memorable. Mind you, the guy was asking for it. The Enid divided opinion like Marmite. One guy dropped to his knees after the gig and thanked me for booking them. Another guy threatened to beat me severely for having booked them!
Haidee Van Duyvenbode (1994) Transvision Vamp
Transvision Vamp 1992/3 ish? She was a bit drunk, shouted abuse and fell off stage I seem to recall
Gordon Mousinho (1975) Vinegar Joe, Spirit, Desmond Dekker, Andy Fairweather Low
Vinegar Joe, circa 1973, Robert Palmer, and Elkie Brooks wearing a skirt that can generously be described as 'micro'. There were so many great bands...... Spirit, with Randy California playing in just a jockstrap and cowboy boots! Also Desmond Dekker and the Aces. When Andy Fairweather Low appeared and sang Wide eyed and legless, my girlfriend (now wife) and two of her flat mates decided to get up on stage and accompany him! Then there was the whole rugby/football club serenade of Frankie Miller! Saw lots of bands locally as every major act started their tour in Stoke. In one three week period in 1973 I saw Led Zeppelin, ELP and the Who, all at Trentham Gardens. Also Bowie as Ziggy at Victoria Hall.
David Harris (1970) Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Edgar Broughton Band, Cream, Rod Argent, Ten Years After
Starting in 1967, Jethro Tull almost a resident band. Pink Floyd and the Edgar Broughton Band. Then in 1972 Cream at the royal ball with Margaret dancing with a triple vodka in one hand and a Gauloise in the other. Second half of my Uni career a bit of a blur, but do remember talking to Rod Argent as the Zombies did their last gig at Keele [a little bit of history]. This was the musical wallpaper of our time before the Bee Gees inflicted disco on us. As a tribute to Alvin Lee, who died last week, 10 Years After, was my favourite gig at Keele, yet I haven't come across anyone who was there with me. Alvin took half an hour tuning up with his back to us. Even got a few boos. That guitar was definitely in tune as he turned around and blew the audience away. "The fastest guitar in the west". Rest in rock Alvin.
Andy Irwin (2011) Zane Lowe
By far and away still the most astounding entertainer and on-stage performer I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching at Keele, and one of the best performers I’ve witnessed full-stop, was Zane Lowe in 2011. The entire Union Ballroom moved as one to the set performed by the most in-demand of Radio DJs. His energy is extraordinary, and his ability to work a crowd without saying very much at all (he allows his DJing to do the talking) is legendary. His mixing skills are insanely good and at one point he played a superb mix of four or five current chart hits in quick succession and that was it – the happy crowd of new and returning students were completely in the palm of his hand. His sets are, like his radio shows, high energy, faultless mixing and perfect timing. He understands his audiences, and makes them feel special and unique – even when he’s ‘just’ playing a student union gig, his attention to detail is simply great.
Jonathan Brown (1981) Pretenders, UB40, U2, Cheap Trick, Robert Plant
Pretenders supported by UB40 30/01/1980 - As Chris Perkins says, The Pretenders played the very week that Brass in Pocket got to No1, and I remember a rumour that they tried to pull out for a bigger gig somewhere else. UB40 were unknown at the time and excellent. They were so pleased with the lighting they hired the gear for their upcoming tour. The highlight for me was Chrissie Hind singing’ ‘Gonna use my arms, gonna use my legs, gonna use my . . .’ and then turning around and bending over for the word ‘ imagination’ !
U2 - I’m pretty sure they played in Hawthorns Refectory they were so unknown. I wish I could say I was there, but I couldn’t be bothered to go. And, yes, I lived in Hawthorns C Block, just a stone’s throw from the building. Later (29/11/1980) they played the Union and I missed that too. A couple of years later I enjoyed the album ‘Boy’ which they undoubtedly played then.
Cheap Trick 02/07/1979 - A gimmicky, Spinal Tap kind of band whose lead guitarist Rick Nielsen was the consummate showman. He strapped on more than twenty guitars for one song and progressively removed one and plugged in the next one for each part/lick/solo. He had about 100 picks/plectrums stuck to his mike stand and flicked them into the crowd between licks. Each one had a cartoon picture of him with his trademark baseball cap. I kept one but lost it later. The drummer, Bun E Carlos, was fat, bald, sweaty and smoked through the entire set. The other two were pretty-boy glam rockers. Fantastic stuff. I bought the yellow vinyl live in Japan LP on the strength of that gig but it was awful. Before the gig I threw up all over the Geology department after a geophysics lecture and I had an awful headache during the gig. The next day I went into the health centre with glandular fever and was imprisoned for two weeks by Dr Scott.
Robert Plant’s blues band (not yet the Honeydrippers) – his first gig after the demise of Led Zeppelin – March 1981 (9th or 10th).
This answers Stuart Sanders’ question in the Keele website, and partially confirms the comment here:
This was during one of the balls, and there was no publicity – just an announcement and stampede at around 11pm to the smallest room at the top of the Students’ Union building. I got in with a couple of mates and it was sweaty, electric and unforgettable. Afterwards at about 2am when most had gone home, I had an awful beer with Robert Plant (Richard Eldridge, 1981, was also there). I chatted slightly deliriously about having seen Led Zep at Knebworth 1979 and that Jimmy Page (not present that evening) went to the same school as my older brother and that he (Jimmy Page that is) used to practise guitar in the house in Epsom next door to where I lived (all true). We shook hands and I got his autograph, which I gave that to my girlfriend of the time who probably still has it.
Stuart Sanders (1980) Robert Plant
"Is it true that in 1981 Robert Plant played a secret gig at Keele University, England with his band The Honey Drippers?
Louise Marshall (1981) Robert Plant
I am pretty certain it was the Easter 1981 Ball. (it wouldn’t have been the Fresher’s ball in 1980 — the one that Gary Glitter pulled out of that very morning.... Yes, it was in that upstairs room, and I think they were billed as The Honeydrippers and RP’s name was kept out of the billing. He was rather nice, I seem to remember."
Dave Lee (1982) Robert Plant, Dr Feelgood, The Man Upstairs
"It was 11th March 1981. The Easter Ball at Keele Student Union. Dr Feelgood & Keele band The Man Upstairs played in the ballroom, The Honeydrippers with Robert Plant played upstairs. Tickets were £3."
Chris Parkins (1981) Robert Plant, Dr Feelgood
Louise Marshall (1980) (social secretary 1980/81, and again in 81/82 after Eric Rose) confirms: " Dr Feelgood definitely came on my watch. I remember because they were absolutely foul to me. Robert Plant, on other hand, was a darling "
Trevor Parry (1984) Slade, Big Country
1981 and 1982 seemed to have some great bands, 1983 and 1984 not so good. The best was Slade, complete with toilet rolls. Very loud and a very tight band. Big Country played in Hawthorns refectory. They were late as they'd been involved in a car crash allegedly. Very soon afterwards they made the charts. There was a rumour that only 3 people turned up to a Thomson Twins gig. Jab Jab were fun but I've not found any trace of them. The Bootleg Beatles also played at Hawthorns. I also remember Altered Images, The Man Upstairs (University band), Amazulu.
Penny Jones (1966) Cream
I remember Cream. In the early days of the Union after we left the Nissen hut? Ginger Baker white as a sheet and very loud. I was deafened, I was right up by the stage and my ears whistled afterwards for hours. Amazing achievement to get the on the bill. Great memories
Bernard Balderston (1967) Cream, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
I was a graduate at Keele between 1963-1967 and I was at Keele when Cream played. I vividly remember standing beside Eric Clapton at 5.00am listening to the final set by Vivian Stanshall and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band who were also on the band list. This must have been either 1967 or possibly 1968.
Hugh Springall (1967) Cream, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
No one present could have forgotten The Cream - magnificent, but still the loudest music of any description I have ever heard. Bonzo Dog were a great success, and I saw them and their successors a number of times over the years.
John Meager (1968) Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
Radio 4 Extra recently ran a 3-hour special on Vivian Stanshall of and it brought back memories of the Bonzos' gig at Keele. Alice (Wild) (1969) and I remember the event as a one-off, not part of a Commem Ball or Christmas Ball. Certainly they were one of the most memorable bands we saw at Keele and we still play our CD of Gorilla: "A punk came out of a side-street and said, 'Have you got a light, mac ?' I said, 'No, but I've got a dark brown overcoat.''" Thanks, Viv.
William Arnold (1978) Horslips
Mention of the Keele rappers / folk dance society reminds me of what still is the most memorable concerts I ever attended at Keele or elsewhere. Horslips, the Irsh electric folk group, got the whole audience jigging and reeling, learning by copying the members of the folk dance society. It was one of those gigs where the band feeds of the audience and the audience of the band creating an emotional feedback so the performance is elavated to an epic level. For an encore Horslips played the whole set again and more, proof that they were enjoying it as much as the audience. It was 1977 or 1978 I think.
STOMPING FIFTIES AND SIXTIES STYLE
Ian Cameron (1967) More Ceam!
Penny, I feel sure you’re remembering Commemoration Ball, Monday 26th June, 1967, Penny, and who could forget it? 9pm to 5am, dress optional, ticket price £1 10s, buffet 10pm to midnight & 1am to 2am, and breakfast 3.30am to 5am. In the Ballroom: the Dance Band, Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, the Joyce Bond Soul Show, and …..The Cream! In the Reading Room: Alan Elsdon’s Jazz Band, the Keele Union, and Tex Matthew’s Steel Band. All eight groups did two sets each, covering 9pm to 4.30am. The Cream did a 45 minute set at midnight and another at 2.15am. I remember it as an evening of drums – adrenalin fuelled solos from Ginger Baker and Alan Elsdon’s drummer contrasting with the soothing sound of the Jamaican steel drum band. And I’m still with the girl I was with that night! I have tickets 891 & 892 in front of me now.
Dot Bell (Pitman)(1959) Alan Eldson Band, Stoke City Stompers
1967 is after my time by eight years but I spied Alan Elsdon's band mentioned and this evokes such memories. Phil Rhodes (1958) played trombone in Alan's band. He married Joyce Rhodes (Nelson) (1959 ) and did many of the arrangements for Alan. At Keele he was also a member of the Stoke City Stompers who, with several Keele students (Joe Stephenson (banjo) and Mel Hill (trumpet) and some Stoke people (Arthur on piano and a double bass player) played at Keele many times. Mel, Phil and Joe lived in one of the huts in Horwood Hall - maybe Hut 17. There were others too. Phil joined the Terry Lightfoot band when he went down and later Alan's band. When Peter Bell and I lived in London 1960-62 we were band followers and went to gigs as "manager" and " singer."
Brian "Ned" Lusher (1960) Stoke City Stompers
The trumpet player was Mel Hill. I have great memories of the Burslem Jazz Club with Mel blowing that horn, the smoke and dust rising as we
Norman Bertram (1958) - Ceramic City Stompers
I think they were called the Ceramic City Stompers. I remember Joe Stephenson particularly as when he came up he did not play at all, and we assisted in this learning by not shouting at him to shut up while he practised in Hut 2 originally; but he may have move on later, as I did to the upper ranks behind the Chem block. Princess Margeret was particular to have the Nat Temple band at her Commem (Royal) Ball, in the Fifties, and there were competitions in the Union hops for the 'honour' of dancing with her. Clifford Lloyd Jones (1958) won one year with a delightful mime to 'Only You'. Since it was lese majeste to handle money in the presence of Royalty the Royal Bar was FREE. I had the luck, courtesy of John (Syd) Sutton (1958) to be invited - oh frabjous day. However he swooped when she departed and dumped a cash register on the bar with a cry of delight. I I booked Mel to talk to the Music Society to talk on Jazz.
Tony Powell (1957) - Ceramic City Stompers
I remember the Ceramic City Stompers too, Brian. And I believe Mel Hill is with Stoke Radio these days. There was a Williams on the clarinet - but I forget the rest. I enjoyed it enormously, with drinks at the George across the way!
Jonathan Upjohn (1961) - Ceramic City Stompers
Sometimes the Stoke City Stompers gigs were linked up to Poetry and Jazz sessions. I remember one in the Union (which was still housed in the old Nissen hut by the roundabout) in 1959 / 1960. It was organized by Bill Bernhardt (1959) (a Reed college exchange student who later became lecturer in 1963/64.) The poetry was contemporary, beat and militant. I can’t remember the names of all who read - Bill Bernhardt, doubtless, - Idris Jones (1961) read some Ferlinghetti. What puzzles me though is that for some inexplicable reason, I have still got stuck in the back of my mind a single line from one of the poems, although I never had occasion to use it, or read it again for half a century and more. (“He had the favorite at Bowie, but the track was slow.” K. Fearing – Dirge) Let’s face it – I suppose this is what must be called the long-term beneficial effects of a Keele education !