Lincoln Festival, Great Western Express

Lincoln, Sunday May 28th, 1972

By the end of May 1972, John Peel had switched his allegiance to newcomers Roxy Music whose immediate acceptance by critics was simply a matter of style and fashion. That same weekend there took place at Lincoln the Great Western Festival, an event that was partly financed by the actor Stanley Baker. 

John Peel compéred this event and both Slade and Roxy Music were part of an impressive line-up that included The Beach Boys and The Faces as nominal headliners and another up and coming UK band Lindisfarne. Some 50,000 fans gathered to absorb the music and graze like cattle for three days in the damp Lincolnshire grasslands.

The Archive: a history of UK rock festivals recounts the following information taken from the press at the time.

Groups of damp policemen standing by deserted hot dog stands. A few rain sodden freaks wandering through the village, one half-heartedly sticking out a thumb at a passing bread delivery van,. 

A few miles further out a few fields full of cars, tents water logged and looking precarious in gusting winds that often reached gale force. Low grey clouds without a break. 

Photo © Ian Cater 
The roof of the main stage consisted of polyethylene sheets held up by a crane. A large marquee had collapsed and been abandoned. The absurd 30 metre deep press pit was eventually breached by fans. No more than 40, 000 people came and many of them did not stick out the full four days
Photo © G Williamson

On Friday the rain chilled every ones performance but Buddy Miles raised a few weak cheers and Rory Gallagher set some bodies moving under the protective plastic  coverings.

 By Saturday the site was a mud bath . The first person to stir up any excitement was Steve Goodman, making his UK debut. Wishbone Ash's set was a reasonable explanation of why their 'Argus' album is zooming up the charts.

Photo © Cynthia Bateman
Without doubt the peak of the day was reached when Maggie Bell and Stone The Crows took the stage. Steve Howe of Yes replaced Les Harvey, who died tragically a few weeks before after being electrocuted on stage but Maggie Bell still deserved every cheer and whistle she got.


The first highlight on Sunday was the fantastic reception given to Lindisfarne, with half the audience claiming to be from the groups home town of Newcastle. The bill toppers were the Beach Boys and it was possibly their best UK date ever.

Photo © Chris Keegan
Monday, everyone was waiting for Joe Cocker, the festivals closing set and headline attraction. But first a succession of medium rank British artists like Johnathon Kelly, Jackson Heights and Vinegar Joe. And then immediately before Cocker, came the group which for many people stole the show. Sha Na Na, already pretty big over here, the British feel for nostalgia being what it is. The sun shone for a few seconds and the group had to do three encores. Joe Cocker had already lost but it was made worse by the damp hour wait that preceded his set. He didn't look thrilled by his reception, didn't seem to care. He sang well, but it was his blasé attitude that largely turned off the audience. No Golden Oldies that night and the customers weren't satisfied.

But there were plenty of Golden Oldies to be found elsewhere. The Bishop of Lincoln, Dr Kenneth Riches, toured the site and announced, "They have a lot to teach us, at least in the way they live so simply. These people have proved themselves."

Photo © Cynthia Bateman
Police chief George Terry said that in future he'd have to reconsider his decision not to let his men loose inside the site. "...the misuse of drugs on the site was so great that it must be amounting to a threat to society" he said "you only had to see the degradation we saw amongst the people that we had to arrest, young and otherwise decent people on an LSD trip and stinking of cannabis."

Melody Maker called it "one of the most successful of all British Festivals"

News Of The World called it the "Great Western Flop"

The ubiquitous Julie Ege (she played Voluptua in the movie, Up Pompeii) told a reporter "...its the first time I've been to a pop festival... I love all the the fresh air, the marvellous music and the surroundings. But I couldn't have managed without my waterproof hat."

In Chris Charlesworth's 'Feel The Noize' they recall the event.
"They were terrified of that audience:' says Swin. "They were completely overawed by it all ... it was an underground audience and Slade had become a pop band."
Their fears were justified. When John Peel announced Slade's imminent appearance there was an outbreak of booing from the large crowd.
"Chas did everything he could to delay us going on stage" says Jim Lea "He was waiting for the sun to set so we could benefit from the stage lights and the big screen projection they had. When John Peel announced us he was very unenthusiastic. We just did a fifty minute set ... bang, bang, bang ... all rockers. We had the crowd in the palm of our hand after ten minutes and in the end we walked away with it."
Photo © Repfoto
"....we got a big break. We were invited to play the Lincoln Festival, which was being put on in a vast field in Lincolnshire by the actor Stanley Baker. I don't know why he was involved, except that he was a big music fan. It was a three-day event and the first big festival since the Isle Of Wight. The other acts were all much hipper than us, not your usual pop-singles bands. There was Joe Cocker, The Beach Boys, Rod Stewart and The Faces, Status Quo and Lindisfarne. Apparently, we were only asked to be on the bill because Stanley Baker was a Slade fan.
The festival ran from Saturday through to Monday. It was a May bank-holiday. We were to play on the Sunday, the day that The Beach Boys were headlining. Our slot was in the early evening. It had been pissing down with rain the whole of Saturday and all Sunday morning and afternoon. The audience was drenched and the ground was all muddy. It was a very strange atmosphere. When we arrived at the site, we realised that we were due to corne on straight after Monty Python's Flying Circus. We thought that was a terrible slot. Monty Python was too weird an act for us to follow. In fact, it turned out to be perfect. We later discovered that Chas had really pushed for us to go on then. It was just as well he didn't tell us that at the time. We would have killed him. Chas had worked out that this slot would have us going on stage at exactly twilight, when the sun was setting. It would be the first time all day that the crowd would be able to see the stage lights. Chas thought it was important for us to be properly lit because we were a lot more visual than the other bands.
We got booed when we walked on stage that evening. It was the first time that had ever happened to us. The audience was incredibly hip and they hated pop bands, which most of them thought we were. Just the fact that we had had a No.1 hit was enough to put them off us. It wasn't the whole crowd who booed, but it was enough people to disconcert us. We carried on regardless. There was nothing else to do. As luck would have it, two minutes into our set, the rain went off. Then all the lights came on. Suddenly, the whole audience stood up. They had been sitting down all day.
After the first song, people began going berserk. The place just exploded. We took everyone by surprise, particularly the press. We could see them down the front, ready to slag us off. Even they were on their feet, dancing. We knew we had taken the place by storm. It was a fantastic feeling. We were only allowed one encore, but we could have played on for hours. When we finally came off stage, the crowd was still going mad. They were chanting for us to return. We weren't sure what to do. We looked at the organisers and they were just waving us on to go back out.
My mind was racing about what we should do for a second encore. We had nothing planned. Then I saw Stanley Baker standing with Chas at the side of the stage. Both of them were beaming. Suddenly, a mad idea popped into my head. I went up to the microphone and thanked Stanley for putting on the festival and invited him to come on and take a bow. As he was walking on, I started doing the Zulu chant, from the film Zulu that he had starred in. The rest of the band joined in, then the entire audience. Stanley absolutely loved it. It was the perfect end to our set.
The next week, we were on the cover of every music paper in the country. During the show, I had worn a big bowler hat. The reviews all said that I had looked like a character from Clockwork Orange. I hadn't thought of that. I just liked the hat. I had stuck a badge on the front. It was upside down, but it read, The Pope smokes dope'. There were photos of me on all the front pages, with my arms raised above my head and the bowler hat on. The impact of that gig was amazing."
Noddy Holder: Who's Crazee Now? 1999
In fact, it was the first public outing for 'the coachman's hat' commonly referred to (incorrectly) as 'Noddy's Top Hat'. This would totally eclipse and replace the flat cap (said to have been stolen from Eastmor Castle, allegedly taken following the Sammy Davis gig), with which he'd become associated at the time, and become a national iconic Slade symbol.  The famous, much photographed, bowler hat that Holder refers to, was thrown onto the stage during the bands encore. Also worthy of note is that this occasion also saw Dave Hill dressed in his silver trousers.
"When It was over,” says Swin, "record company men were throwing steak dinners down their mouths and inquiring when their record contracts expired. Chas strode around backstage like that cat that's got the cream."
The Lincoln show was an important breakthrough for Slade, which is more than can be said for Roxy Music. It was a straight fight between fashion and experience. Bryan Ferry's trendy modernists had played but a handful of live shows in a singularly brief career up to this point while Slade had averaged 250 live performances in one guise or another since 1966.
"We stole the show at the Lincoln Festival and 'Take Me Bak 'Ome' went straight to number one the next week. The live album rocketed up the charts too," says Noddy Holder. 

Personal recollections from The Archive
"The weather was average to lousy, but it didn't kill the atmosphere. All in all I have very fond memories, including sharing a tent. Rod Stewart kept complaining about the cold weather, Don Mclean sang Vincent whilst it was pouring with rain. Joe Cocker was totally stoned and had to be supported in between songs, but when he sang he was perfect."
Ron Baker
"I was aged 17yrs when me & two mates went to this festival... Slade got one of the biggest receptions from the crowd, didn't expect that! I might be wrong on this but Stanley Baker coming on stage and announcing something? Lying down in a sleeping bag (covered in plastic) watching some movies on a large screen most the night. There was machine pumping foam into a field, it spread the foam 100yrds about 10ft high in places."
HeY jOe
 "Other highlights included the place going "crazee" with Slade. The chance to see the cast of Monty Python perform live. . . I seem to remember a lot of other things going on as well as the music, there was one area where they had a machine producing foam to a depth of about 5 foot. I had a van and fortunately did not have to sleep rough as did many others."
"What a great start we had. We spent the Thursday night at the Orchid Ballroom in Purley to see the strange combination of Status Quo supporting Slade. After a great set by Quo, we were threatened with knives by some dodgy looking skinheads and retired to the bar where we chatted to Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt during Slade."
Derek Garland
"I recall Gallagher being on 2 nights, the rain, mud, the foam fight with John Peel playing East of Eden's Jig A Jig single and Slade bringing on Stanley Baker."
Dave Elson
"Sunday for me was the Beach Boys set and stomping in the mud along with Slade. And then there was huge applause for the actor Stanley Baker who was something to do with the organisation of the event?"
Big Will
"I remember being completely unimpressed with Slade"
David Hardy (Genesis fan)
"On the Sunday I think there was a little sunshine so we went for a walk. ...we had missed the first 3 bands for that!! Back at the festival everyone was shouting out "Wally". Anyway, we got to see saw Lindesfarne, Slade, Average White Band, Monty Pythons Flying Circus, Beach Boys & Rory again."
David Brown
"I'd already seen Slade in the local Mecca (Locarno) at that point, but my friends with me hadn't. I was trying to convince them that they were a proper rock band, and to give them a chance, but my friends were all young hippies and tended to dismiss Slade as an up and coming pop band. Slade came on stage and tore the place apart. Noddy managed to command a crowd that didn't really want to like the band, but by the end of the set everyone was converted."
Peter Smith (Slade fan)
"Return to main site in time to find mates and receive massive cheers when stash revealed, get smashed and be entertained by Slade, Monty Python, Beach Boys. Hurrah!"
Neville D

Most of the festival info and photos have been stolen from Reverend Barker's labour of love, The Archive: a history of UK rock festivalsAnybody interested in Rock Festivals would be well advised to pay a visit to this fantastic non profit website and those with personal memories or photographs should contribute to this excellent project.  Some trivia courtesy of Slade In England's fab and groovy archives with thanks due to Dave Graham & Chris Selby.




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Unknown said...

I remember it well, I stayed in the field for 5 days. Got there on Friday afternoon, pitched our tent in the field near a chuck wagon. The tent was in a slight ditch which we didnt take much notice of, till later on in the night we were nearly washed away by the water running through the tent, soaking all of our gear. Great times and great memories,
( Dicky) Stuart Dickson.

John Pitt said...

Thanks Anggita, Dicky for your comments and recollections!