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Reading Rocked In '75 Toon Traveler recalls a first teenage summer festival experience

Reading Rocked In '75

Toon Traveler recalls a first teenage summer festival experience

by Toon Traveller, Travel Correspondent
first published: September, 2022
Looking back it was a first taste of freedom with no responsibility, that first step into a semi-adult world. Being away with the best school mate, that made the weekend as much as the music.

1975, 
child to youth,
into that space between
kid and kidulthood,
adult and adulthood,
somewhere  between growing up,
and
being grown up. 
Let loose for that first break,
having to make and take responsibility.
Two school mates, 

Music lovers with different tastes,
defined by LP collections defined
some soon rejected and swapped. 
The LPs came from
the Local library - 30p a week, 
up to 4 a week, 
Opening up ears to new sounds and delights.

Pre – (just) 
Punk
Still a few months away.

Live bands, local venues, done ‘em,
But festivals, a whole different level,
Glastonbury, Buxton, Cambridge, Sidmouth Folk, 
bound to have been Jazz somewhere, a gig too far. 

But 1975, me and Al felt ready for a big one,
a grand event, start at the top, and see the best. 

The Press announced a stellar  “A”  list tour package end of August.  

No-one we knew at school, had been to festival.
We’d seen Woodstock, and Monterey Pop, at the Cinema,
and Al had seen Isle or White, but that was it

NME, Sounds, Melody Maker, 50 years ago the doyens of taste, 
ran this advert

Reading Festival 75

We Wanted In!

It was wow, 
“what a line up”, 
non-stop 17-year-old, rock and roll dreams. 

Chats, laughs, “don’t like this”,
“they’re a must see”,
“err you mean they’re crap”,
we’ve all had the conversations,
but the two of us snaffled our tickets, 

From the local record shop,
money paid, excitement high and rising.
We were actually going to ROCK FESTIVAL, us, us two. 

--

Haversacks, shared tent, sleeping bags scrunched in,
money in pocket,
prized ticket better protected,
lift to station,
“train at platform 1 is for  ... Oxford, Didcot, READING, .....”  
who cares where else,
it was Reading, on the Thames,
and we were on our way. 

Seated, excited, music papers in hands, a whistle, judder, jerk,
we were on our way to ROCK.

We knew already Lou Reed would be a no show,
neither of us too bothered, 
plenty of others to see, 
stomp shake hair to, 
and strut those air guitars, 
yeaah we were cool kids, 
who knew the moves, (did we hell). 

Excited at being away for what was for both of us sorta first holiday.
Nervous excitement is my memory setting out on this adventure.  

Entrance gate,
No glass bottles” 
Random bag search,
Tickets flashed and onto the camp zone. 

Spot picked, tent pitched, bags flung, spare clothes stowed. 

Berkshire sun, excited, anxious, delighted, and awed. 
Novices both, not a clue, following the crowds, into the arena,
first band… Wally ??, hmm yeah sounds right. 

A couple of songs in,
obvious why you miss the first festival band,
awful, beer-canned off stage,
shocked, disappointed, and confused,
why waste good beer throwing it away?
suppose it happened a couple o’ times more. 

Friday
was Al’s night,

his bands, culminating in Hawkwind,
me never a fan, their droning space rock,
and synth visions left me cold.
Of course the evening rain during didn’t help.
Thankfully no mud bath, squelshy places, but no lost boots.
Friday line up saw me grooving along to Kokomo.
Never heard of ‘em,
“disco, soul, pap, crap” Al not happy,
me, quizzical, intrigued.
But they did NOT fit in, respected,
but a chorus of “booooos “ long and loud.
Enjoyed the Feelgood’s more than expected,
energy up, great rocking RnB band had everyone dancing, .

Saturday,
tucked in mum’s packed sarnies and bottles of squash,
breakfast finished,
Reading take-a-way treats beckoned…
Festival-wise already, we’d sagely agreed
Zebra they’re crap”
Hot pasties, warm pies, take-a-way sandwiches, apples (we were healthy eaters)
yeah, crisps, more crisps, cheese and bread rolls,
maybe mini swiss rolls and canned  beers. 

Back, rest, check the sounds, both agreed,
The  Kurssals yeah up for them,
a couple of other acts, no impressions, no memories,
Alan Stivell played against a cacophony of dissatisfied chants,
not impressed then, 
but bought a CD decades later.

It was Supertramp for me
and especially Al, biggest Supertramp fan I’ve ever, ever, met.
Drizzle softly fell,
hoods and brollys up, chatted in the crowd,
remember loving the sound despite the rain, 
it cleared. 

Yes there were beer runs,
latrine runs
more for Al than me. I warned him
“the meat pie was yesterdays and reheated”

He paid a heavy price,
but canned beer must have killed the germs.

Superstars Yes hit the stage,
almost classic line up. 
They were touring “Topographic Oceans
by then, whatever. 

Take ‘em in small doses, but left me cold. 

Al loved them.
Yes, saw my first sight of “A lazer show “.
Nothing really just, 6 / 7 Green lights, 
streaking out, into clouds, rotating, 
not in time with the music
huge roars at each rotation,
just same as last time. 

God we were easily impressed in the mid 70s, weren’t we? 

Saturday
memories of the latrine,
trench filled with piss,
portaloos overflowing,
make do, make do, beer the beer tent, cans of Tennents, Carling (we were desperate).
Offers of "grass only £5.00" 
we passed, neither of us were,
or would become prolific smokers,
it was booze for the pair of us.

Two days and two nights passed,

Sleeping bags, crash out.
Sunday to come,
and it much more me than Al.

Sunday
Al would gladly have missed Wishbone Ash
and shortly after Reading my ‘Ash’ albums were traded,  
Al was right they were all the same.
Highlights, Mahavisnu Orchestra, Soft Machine,
both were what I wanted and needed, brilliant highlights of the day. 

As said, Lou Reed had bailed out, replacement?  no idea. 

Robin Trower’s slot sticks;
not the music,
Hendrix copiest, all said. 

Best memory?
Just the time spent with Al,

strangers’ faces and voices long forgotten,
45 years past. 

Warm beer, making decisions alone, what ‘food’ to buy, where.
Getting served at almost 17, in off-licences,
that first whiff of independence,
before all too soon responsibility,
as college then work took me to rented homes,
then mortgages, limited incomes,
shopping,  cooking,  gardening and pension worries. 

Best musical memory, the improvised paper show during Robin Trower,
just sheer magical moment of spontaneous  fun,
perfectly matched the music,
thousands people, one idea, acting as one.
Just a wonderful moment of joy and elation. 

Surprise? probably Dr Feelgood miles better than I expected,
Al was right they were brilliant.
Disappointment, Wishbone Ash,
scales didn’t fall then, but it was the start,
and Al’s words rang true.

Missed opportunity, Alan Stivell, I was just not ready for at least 30 years.

Though I loved Reading 75,
it’d be around 15 years before I Festivalled again,
and that was Glasto’ on the cusp,
as all the festivals were,
of hyper commercialism. 

Looking back it was a first taste of freedom
with no responsibility,
that first step into a semi-adult world.
Being away with the best school mate,
that made the weekend as much as the music. 

Some of the bands are still touring
Caravan, Joan Armatrading,
and I’ve seen Alan Stivell a few years ago. 

As for Al, lives, places and faces change,
work, families, new interests, new people,
circumstances all combine, times passes,
and before you know it, a decade’s passed,
and you’re both in different places,
with different lives,
and different pleasures. 

And now another decade on,
now time travels at light speed. 
Before you know it,
its bus passes,
heart by-passes,
and re-union gigs,
or tribute bands,
The Illegal Eagles, The Bootleg Beatles, Oas-is, The Smyths. 

Even made a local ‘tribute’ festival,
it was sorta ok,
but ignited Reading memories and yeah,
still not a music-festival lover. 

But Reading ’75 was a wondrously, joyful, fun filled delight, 
the beginning of something...
And those delicious memories linger.

Toon Traveller
Travel Correspondent

Born - happy family, school great mates still see 7 / 8 in year, degreed, beer n fun, work was lazy but usually happy, retired. Learning from mum and dads travel exploits.
about Toon Traveller »»

Looking back it was a first taste of freedom with no responsibility, that first step into a semi-adult world. Being away with the best school mate, that made the weekend as much as the music.
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