Hollywood Festival 1970

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POSTED: January 25, 2013

This morning, after reading an online newspaper, I began thinking about the accusations being made against Jimmy Savile: not in terms of whether they were true or false but rather in terms of whether I could remember sufficient details of anything that happened thirty or forty years ago to act as a reliable witness.

This led me to trey to remember as much as I could about the huge rock festival that took place a couple of miles from Keele University when I was a student there. It was one of the first and biggest rock festivals in Britain and I definitely remember the Grateful Dead making their first UK appearance there. They played for what seemed like hours with a set from the New Riders inserted in the middle. (This simply meant that some people left the stage, some people swapped instruments, and John Dawson joined them.) I also clearly remembered walking home while Traffic were playing, and I could visualise being at the front near the stage while Ginger Baker shouted at the rest of Airforce in what seemed a remarkably bad tempered and uninteresting set.

The poster was designed by Brian Plews/Alan Taylor at Circa Design

And, of course, I remember Mungo Jerry. Nobody had ever heard of them, but In The Summertime proved insanely catchy: they kept popping back on to sing it while roadies changed the equipment, and by the end of the weekend it was being written about in the newspapers, paving the way for it becoming the summer hit.

When I stopped to think I realised that the festival must have been in 1971, towards the end of my second year at Keele. I was confident of this, because I had a lot of circumstantial evidence in terms of who I remember going with, and things that happened there, including members of the drama group that performed Paradise Lost diving off the scaffolding towers.

I googled and found an astonishingly detailed description of the festival at UKRockFestivals.com. It turned out that the festival was in May 1970, at the end of my first year. My memories of the tower-diving were correct, but I had remembered the cast wrongly.

Looking through the site with photographs and descriptions of the festival, I suddenly remembered Jose Feliciano playing and saying how happy he was to be in London. Everyone around me agreed that he seemed very out of place. I also regained some flashes of Family and Colosseum playing. The poster said the James Gang appeared, and I had no memories whatsoever of them. However I also had no memories of not seeing them, or of expecting them and then not seeing them. It would have taken very little to persuade me that I missed them or simply forgotten them.

However, it turns out that (according to the site, at least) they never actually appeared and were probably never booked.

The classic logo

In terms of the original exercise, I was at least 50% correct, and the cluster of faint memories that have lingered with me were all more or less corroborated. However, if I had been subjected to a detailed cross-examination about the festival I would have undoubtedly have proved a very poor witness, getting even the year wrong. If I had made, or had to defend myself against, an accusation concerning something that did or did not happen there, then it is anyone’s guess whether I would be convincing enough to be believed, or not.

I do clearly remember liking the New Riders of the Purple Sage much more than the Dead themselves, though, and subsequently purchasing their first three albums.