Te Rapa Racecourse

Hamilton, New Zealand, January 27th, 1973

Racing began in Hamilton back in January 1866. The Waikato Jockey Club was formed in 1870, and it took 45 years of discussion and argument before it was agreed that the Club's title should become 'the Hamilton Racing Club.' The Te Rapa site annually provides 20 racedays on the track, generating a total on and off course betting turnover of approximately $40m per season.  The Club is the flagship of the "Kentucky of New Zealand" Waikato region which contains the largest number of studs, horses and licensed personnel in what is regarded as the thoroughbred nursery of our country.

In January 1973, The Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival became the first large outdoor music festival in New Zealand. It was held on a farm at Ngaruawahia on the Waikato River, 19 kilometres north-west of Hamilton, for three days from 6th to 8th.

It featured UK bands Black Sabbath and Fairport Convention and a host of Kiwi artists. During their set, Sabbath burned a cross on a hill, asking the crowd to hold their burning lighters in the air. Their guitarist also used somebody else's amp (unauthorised) and blew it up. New Zealand eccentric, Corben Simpson filled the headlines after he removed all his clothes on stage, it was reported nation-wide for the next few days.

Hamilton Times: Tuesday 23rd January 1973

Auckland's Hamilton Times then ran an ad announcing the next festival which would be featuring Slade (Britain's Hottest Rock Act).

In Sydney, Australia, the Sunday Herald announced the next onslaught. The First New Zealand International Rock Festival was to be held at Te Rapa at the racecourse in Hamilton.

Sunday Herald, 21 January 1973 p 37


By Robin Slade

"Having successfully negotiated The Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival we travel a little further south on Saturday to the Te Rapa racecourse and what is billed as 'The First New Zealand International Rock Festival.'
Presented by Force One International Ltd. a newly formed Hamilton company, the Festival has imported such names as Slade, Status Quo, Lindisfarne, Caravan and Blackfeather to perform, in the words of the company, "a curtain raiser for a gigantic entertainment revolution in this country."
While these names will probably raise no more than a sigh of overwhelming indifference in a great majority of the populace, they are nonetheless (especially Slade and Status Quo) names which have used up many miles of printers ink overseas.
Much of this ink has been used to spell out such words as "vulgar," "rude" and "lewd" and it's my bet that if Ngaruawahia achieved a certain amount of sideline notoriety for its on-and-off-stage nudity, Te Rapa could achieve much the same for obscenity.
Kid Gloves
Slade in particular, has a well-travelled reputation for liberally peppering their act with what is known as "obscene language" and have been heard to address the female members of the audience in a rather coarse manner when exhorting them to sing more loudly.
With Dr. Germaine Greer out of earshot, the thought of legal implications arises.
Indications from the police department in Auckland - a force of some 25 men will travel to Te Rapa to compliment the Hamilton police - are that the accent will be on the kid glove rather than the putting-a-sock-in-it approach.
"We'll take things very much as they come." said a police spokesman, "and providing the language isn't too bad, we'll probably let things go on, unless too many people start getting offended."
The police do not have to wait for a complaint before acting when language classified as obscene is used in a public place.
The organisers of the festival follows closely along the lines of its predecessor with security men at the checkpoints and supervising crowd control, offsite parking, medical facilities available, a prohibition on glassware and so on.
With music and security under control, it is fair to bet that Slade and Status Quo will be the favourites at Te Rapa next Saturday and that there is no chance of any outsiders getting in.
The only even money bet is fair weather. 

Slade (above) and Status Quo (below), who are to star at the First New Zealand International Rock Festival.

OK, so those betting on the fair weather were surprised to lose their money when the heavens opened and a deluge spoilt the day. Unfortunately, the promoters had gambled on the fair weather bet too. They hadn't bothered to cover the stage area and the performance area was open to the elements. Australian rock band, Black Fetoather, who were first to play, refused to perform until the stage was covered. The audience were left with a DJ supplying them with records, I assume his turntables were under cover somewhere. Some three hours later, the promoters finally got a tarpaulin over the structure and the festival began.
"I think it was Don that told me about this gig. The Slade roadies had to literally build the stage from nothing - it was made of crates and timber and was really low. To stop fans getting on stage the promoter had to employ an array of weird "bouncers" to stand in front of the stage and stop the crowd climbing up on it."
Dave Kemp

"Its all a bit hazy, it rained hard which messed things up. Some of the organization was a bit amateurish, the organizers rigged up a plastic tarp over the stage which was mildly effective. In fact that weekend I was on the way to the beach for a surf for a few days after the music so I had my wetsuit in the car. For the time when it rained really hard I put the wetsuit on and walked around the festival in the rain no problem. In fact I got heaps of comments about what a good idea it was."
Lloyd Godman: April 2010 

Hamilton Times: Monday 29th January 1973

Arrest made at festival 

"Only one arrest was made at the Te Rapa rock festival on Saturday, Hamilton police said today. 
A man was arrested on a drunkenness charge, but apart from this there were no major incidents, police said. 
Pouring rain spelled disaster for the festival, which started more than three hours late and lost, according to the promoters, up to $25.000. 
Many of the 5000 who arrived early in the morning spent their "free time" drinking beer from dozens of cars, and uniformed private security men were involved in several scuffles."

The only music heard at the Te Rapa rock festival before 11 a.m. today was from a mobile discotheque."

Rock festival 

'financial flop' 

"New Zealand's first International rock festival is a financial disaster, according to promoters. 
Only about 7000 of the expected 20,000 rock fans turned up to hear a top line of overseas rock groups at Te Rapa today.  
The exact number of people who attended the festival will not be known till Tuesday. 
Managing director at Force One International Ltd, Mr Nick Adrian, today said he would never promote a rock festival in New Zealand again.  
The tour, which Includes Australia, cost more than $300,000 to stage:
A total of $60,000 was spent on today's festival, and according to Mr Adrian, the company will not break even.
Up to 10,000 people would have to pass through the ticket boxes at Te Rapa racecourse before the company would break even. Mr Adrian said.
He attributed the failure to bad weather and apathy on the part of New Zealand rock fans.  
Because of a continual drizzle early today the first band to appear, the AustraaIian group Black Feather. was three hours late and did not start playing till 12.30 p.m.  
The bands were to play on an open air stage and refused to play till a tarpaulin was erected overhead.
Each group was conntracted to play for an hour and the music was expected to finish about 5.30 p.m.
Mr Adrian said, dollar for dollar, those fans who did show up at today's festival, got their money's worth. 
"Where else could you listen to top rock groups play for five hours non-stop, with no support groups?"  
The five bands are due to leave for Melbourne tomorrow."
A bit harsh on the groups, I think. Drizzle, I don't think so?
"By the time Slade were on stage - the weather had cleared up, even a little sun- blue sky and the organizers partially ripped the cover off so there were wires running across the stage above them where the cover had been supported. I remember that despite the conditions and the dampened state of the crowd, Slade managed to interact with the audience and build a powerful energy. They really had them rockin' from early on and kept building on this. The set was arranged so this energy built up and up and pulled the audience in, so the final number was a real crescendo and a highlight of the festival."
Lloyd Godman: April 2010 

So another grand slam for Slade, playing with the odds stacked against them. No mention of Quo's performance. It seems to have been a washout down under, I wonder if it poured down in Japan too?

Interestingly, Lloyd's photo has Dave playing left-handed. Fortunately, my editor pointed this out and the revised post has been corrected leaving Lloyd Godman mirrored instead.
"In terms of photographs, the stage was positioned so the light and sun was behind the band and it was difficult to photograph with the backlighting."Lloyd Godman: April 2010 

And that's possibly why there are no photo's of Noddy but in the grand scheme of things, that ain't so tragic.

My thanks for the use of the photographs © Lloyd Godman @ SOUNDZ, who is a genuinely nice fellow. A very big thank you to Susy at Hamilton Archives who did the research for nothing and Chris Selby who, as always, came up with the goods again.

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