Life was much simpler in 1975.
NME was a decent music paper featuring quality writers, gig tickets were obtained by either sending a cheque with a stamped addressed envelope to the promoter or queueing up outside the venue, and beer was about 25p a pint.
The summer of ’75 had seen the music papers full of stories about The Who and the tensions within the band, full on fist fights between Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend seemed to suggest that the band were close to splitting, and an interview published in NME did nothing to dispel these rumours.
Then a new album appeared, The Who By Numbers, and although not particularly well received it did spawn a hit single Squeeze Box, and to promote it The Who were off on tour again, reaching Manchester on October 6th for two nights at The Kings Hall Belle Vue.
Alighting the bus on Hyde Road that warm autumn evening and entering Belle Vue Zoological Gardens through the main gate was surreal. How many gigs require you to walk through a large funfair and then pass by cages of roaring lions and tigers and an elephant enclosure before reaching the venue? This was The Kings Hall, situated bang in the middle of the UK’s third largest zoo.
My ticket incredibly was numbered A1 and checking the rows on entry it really was the front row, however the promoters had removed the first ten rows and so I ended up sitting cross legged on the floor, right in front of the stage with the rest of the seat-less fans. Amazingly we all remained seated for the support act, The Steve Gibbon’s Band from Birmingham, a popular R&B outfit of whom all I can remember is that at the climax of their set, singer Steve Gibbons produced a revolver and shot himself!!!! There was no encore.
And so to The Who. I remember Roger Daltry bounding on stage and kicking a plastic cup of water placed at the foot of the microphone into the crowd and drenching me, there was no pit, I was so close to my heroes as they launched straight into Substitute. Researching this article now, I’m amazed to see that The Who played 24 songs that night but all I could think about at the time was that they were playing all my favourites, My Generation, Can’t Explain, 5.15, Baba O’Reilly, virtually all of Tommy and they even managed to throw in two covers. What I remember is the power of the band, Daltry’s voice, Townshend’s windmill guitar playing, John Entwistles solid, heavy bass sound and of course Keith Moon’s wild drumming, bouncing drum sticks high into the air above him and then catching them and continuing playing without missing a beat.
This was The Who at their peak, a year later they would go into semi-retirement and then the death of Keith Moon meant it would never be the same.
Me, I’ll always remember Roger Daltry’s piercing scream and Townsend flailing wildly at his guitar as the last song of the night, Won’t Get Fooled Again rocked the Kings Hall. I remember thinking this is a real rock band, something that is probably still true today.
Then it was back to Hyde Road for the bus past the now sleeping lions.