No ring on the doorbell, no ring on the phone
And nobody wants to know
Anyone lonely like me
29th August 1970.
Saturday night. It's probably raining; it usually was. The constant drumming of the rain on the caravan roof was the soundtrack to the family summer holiday. I was reading the Westerns by Louis L'Amour and all of the Bond novels in order. Every so often one of us had to take the dog out for a walk. No little plastic bags in those days - leave it where it falls. Sometimes white (whatever happened to white d. . .?). I was fourteen.
My sister had recently split up with her boyfriend (who she later married anyway - I said it was a holiday) and had hooked up with an older lad from Newmarket. I think his name was Pete. He was part of the team switching Stevenage to North Sea Gas and obviously caught my sister's eye. Whilst we holidayed down on the East Coast at Felixstowe (being near to Newmarket) Pete came down to see us - well, my sister I guess. Well: small caravan, rain, dog, parents, irritating little brother - how do you get to spend some time with your new beau? A gig! There's a band playing at the Spa. And little brother seems to like this long hair music.
My sister and Pete offered to take me to the said gig. That means mum and dad can relax, walk the dog, go for a drink, have a row or whatever they got up to (which seemed to be that exact list in no particular order). For a short lived affair, Pete and my sister got on very well - I was even invited to meet his parents once - it was a Sunday and I watched Free and Deep Purple on their tv - can't remember where my sister got to for a while but a whole new world was opening up to me. So, Saturday night and off down to the Spa Pavilion Theatre for a gig.
Now, so far the live bands I'd been used to seeing was the three piece sax, bass and drum line-up mentioned here with their risqué humour. But a real live rock band in a club, wow! So off we went. Fourteen and I'm going to see a real live rock band. Except I had been to Hyde Park to see Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayres, Roy Harper and others totally free. Now this has been mentioned before and is probably a future post. So, live music and me weren't total strangers.
29th August 1970. Saturday night at the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe. The band were called Audience. A month earlier they had appeared on TOTP performing, I think, Indian Summer (great song). But here they were, live on stage in front of me. My first proper paying gig. So, I was starting with A and would, through the years, reach Z (Frank Zappa, Hammersmith 1970-something).
Audience were a strange band even for the early 1970s. Their line-up was a singer who played classical guitar, an electric sax/flute/clarinet player with bass and drums. Howard Werth, the singer, had a really weird voice (he later replaced Jim Morrison in a short-lived version of The Doors) and, rather obviously, they were a Prog band. I enjoyed the gig and saw them a few times later - most notably on 9th April 1971 at an All-nighter at the Lyceum in London (yes, I DO realise how
A year later and we're in a similar situation. Rain, caravan, dog grizzling. Only this time an ex member of Jethro Tull is playing. Unfortunately, the heydays of the Tull and Blodwyn Pig were behind Mick Abrahams, for it is he. By now he was playing with a loose group of musicians under the name of Womit (hmm . . ) but I do remember being able to buy beer at the bar. Yes, yes, I know, I was fifteen. They probably weren't the best band I ever saw live but I will never forget the comment Abrahams made. "We're gonna do a long number called Seasons now - there's a long guitar solo in it so you can go off and have a s . . . " well, you get the idea.
All good fun and the sort of stuff one remembers all these years later. I have been to a few other gigs since then at the same theatre - the Blues Band, Al Murray, Joe Brown, Dave Burland and Simon Nicol amongst others.
And now? Well, Mrs Dave and I wandered past it today and it was all boarded up. The picture above is actually as it is today filtered through a '1970s' style and the black and white one probably makes it look a little timeless. The gardens my parents loved to walk through, where we taught our children to ride bikes and all those years ago we wandered through just taking in the ambience have begun to go now. It was a meridian time. I can't imagine that I was the only youth who was caught up in the music of the time. They were part of the 50p circuit just like the New Resurrection Club back home in Hitchin with weekly gigs by bands like Genesis, Trapeze, Black Widow and monthly ones by a down-on-their-luck pre-Rumours Fleetwood Mac, Rory Gallagher et al (those gigs cost about £1.50).
The reason that the Spa is boarded up is because it can't sustain a profit in these everything-on-the-internet times and, if the place is left alone for two minutes, the kids would break every window asap. Just like they've managed to do with every other building left to rot in this town. Perhaps if the recent owners had managed to put some decent gigs on like those packed houses I was at in the seventies, this place would still be open and supplying great music to them. When I put the gigs on at Stevenage College, I understood advertising was the key to getting an audience. Lessons learnt then don't seem to have filtered through.
I started with Audience and ended with mention of an audience so I guess I've somehow managed to bring things round.
This post was brought to you with an understanding that nostalgia is an acquired taste.