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Our writers and photographers tell of the bands and acts from the past that they would most like to have seen live.
I’m very lucky. I grew up with 60's package tours, 70's festivals, great student union events and iconic concert venues as well as legendary clubs. Over a lifetime of going to gigs I really have seen most of the musicians and bands that are on my wish list, though some later rather than sooner.
But there are inevitably some regrets. I never saw Hendrix or the Doors, but I did see Led Zeppelin and Captain Beefheart. I missed out on Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding, but I have seen the Temptations, Curtis Mayfield, Bo Diddley and Smokey Robinson. I’ve seen James Taylor, Leonard Cohen and Jackson Browne but missed Tim Buckley. I saw Steely Dan and Little Feat at their best. I saw Culture, but not Culture Club. I saw the Wailers on their second tour. I look forward to seeing Patti Smith and Nick Cave again. I haven’t seen Blondie or Madonna and Bjork has cancelled on me twice. I’ve seen Prince and Bowie with the Spiders From Mars. I’ve seen the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, the Hollies and Graham Nash, the Byrds but never the Eagles, Arthur Lee but not Love, Wings but not the Beatles.
I have seen Judy and Joan but never Joni, though I sometimes dream that I have.
I saw Magazine and Buzzcocks, Joy Division and New Order in the early days.
If I could go back in time, I’d head for Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. I’d be tempted by the Lesser Free Trade Hall on June 4th 1976, when the Sex Pistols played there, but I’d aim for May 17th 1966 when Dylan and his band the Hawks played their electrifying electric second half. I know I would have loved it.
The lockdown period has allowed me to dip my toes into certain musical waters that I probably would never have done so otherwise. So after reading a list of the top ten best live rock albums (my favourite being Deep Purple’s 'Made in Japan'), I noticed Kiss’s 'Alive' from 1975. So, as we are going through unprecedented times, I thought I would give it a listen. It may prove to be a good musical companion on my daily permitted walk. But - probably not. I don’t like Halloween either.
After a couple of listenings, I was absolutely hooked. This album is the sonic testament of a great rock band rocking out to songs that have become classics, part of the rock canon. Not only that, but there seems to be an anarchic, punk sensibility at work which permeates deep into every song performance, resulting in a fizzing, aural energy. But the songs are just great and some are simply magnificent: 'Deuce', 'Strutter', 'Got to Choose', 'Parasite'; you are just drawn into a time when Kiss was on the brink of world domination.
Now, I know that the validity of this being a “live album” has been previously questioned, but Kiss would not be unique in adding some post production touches. But I feel that history has been kind to this album: the songs and performances still stand up, loud and proud. I, however, have very little interest in seeing Kiss now, wondering if Paul Stanley is lip synching or not, or being jostled by members of the Kiss Army in their full make-up and costume. But what I would love is to have been at one of their gigs pre-1975, watching Paul, Gene, Ace and Peter giving 150%. Now that would be worth it! So let’s get into our musical Tardis and 'Rock and Roll All Nite' indeed!
Okay, time machine. 1975. Chicago Stadium. Fourteen songs. Best band ever. Led Zeppelin.
You get to pick the night; there were three. Oh, to hear Jimmy Page play bowed violin on ‘How Many More Times?'-so very special, as this would be the last time the band performed it live.
‘When The Levee Breaks’ would just be on the set list for the first few weeks--imagine how amped up the band would be? Knowing they’d have to make this tune explode? And to think that this Memphis Minnie/Kansas Joe McCoy cover would breathe contemporary life!
‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ has the sweetest, folksiest intro. Lyrically, it shows a man proclaiming his love. Imagine Robert Plant crooning gently, but then writhing vocally in a fevered pitch. How would his face and body illustrate that passion?
On Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘In My Time of Dying,’ would Page manhandle the slide or sweep it gently across the fretboard? When Plant worries, “If my wings should fail me” and screams, “Oh, my Jesus,” against John Bonham’s maniacal build and Page’s eccentric response, would my heart stop pumping before the blissful outro?
How emancipating would it be to hear John Bonham’s off-the-charts twists on ‘Rock and Roll’? Would it be "my time of dying" (of happiness) when he ramped up the audience with a bombastic solo on ‘Moby Dick?’ Unless, of course, I passed out first, listening to my all-time favourite from 'Physical Graffiti', ‘Kashmir’!
Oh, that unforgettable, unapologetic keyboard solo and riff on ‘Trampled Under Foot’…. And how the heck does Plant spill out those words in time to the gyrating beat? Not to mention, that tall, cool John Paul Jones was the rock that anchored this classic band’s funky architecture.
I love my elder brother PauL...because, well, he’s the only one I got. But in the summer of 1970 he hitchhiked to The Isle of Wight Festival...and saw the Doors And Hendrix and the Who (and all)...and for that I can never forgive him!
I have seen countless great and legendary bands over the years, but I was perhaps just a smidgen too young to experience some of the giants of the 1960s. I didn’t see the Doors and they are the band I would have loved to see the most, but failed to do so. The Doors formed in 1965, and became one of the most controversial and influential bands of their era.
Sadly, I had no appreciation of the Doors in their iridescent prime, only really becoming aware of their true magnificence in 1979. I spent four months in Los Angeles living in a frat house at UCLA where I made some crazy and weird friends. They managed to snag four tickets to the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard to see the opening night of a new Vietnam film, 'Apocalypse Now'. Part of the film was the rendition of the Doors masterpiece 'The End'. Maybe the smoke in the theatre had something to do with it, but it became a piece of music indelibly etched upon my mind. Back at the frat house we listened to the Doors until morning, interspersed only by several trips out for burgers, pizza etc.
The Doors seem to divide opinion, then and now. Some people love them and some (sadly ) cannot abide them. Some see Jim Morrison as a prophet and even deify him. Other see him as pretentious, overrated, Jack Daniels swigging drunk who wasted his life. But anyone who takes the time to look at the live footage and the videos surely can not deny his extraordinary charisma and stage presence...a man whose leather-clad spectre brought a mystical theatrical omnipresence to 1960's rock and roll. Part of his attraction (and downfall) was his unpredictability. Just watch some of the concerts and you can see his fellow band members looking at him with an expression of “WTF is he going to do/say next?”
They were a four-piece band with no bass guitar, replaced by big, hypnotic keyboards. Three excellent and distinctive musicians and Morrison, the Lizard King, whose soul was inhabited by a native Indian shaman. Songs featured the irrefutable relationship between love and death, taking one to the very limits of consciousness with the aid of pharmaceutical enhancements, mainly LSD laced with whiskey.“ Before you slip into unconsciousness I’d like to have another kiss” ('Crystal Ship').
Constantly pushing at the very limits of acceptability, the band constantly found themselves sanctioned. Banned from the first club they played, banned from the famous Whisky A Go Go in LA, famously having a six week booking on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' cancelled after one number and eventually falling foul of the law facing a variety of charges including profanity, lewd exposure and public drunkennes...what a band!
Anyone interested in knowing more about this remarkable band need only do two things :
1. Watch the live recording of 'The Doors Live at The Hollywood Bowl', 5th July 1968.
2. Watch Oliver Stone’s wonderful 1991 biopic movie 'The Doors', described by surviving band members as ”not completely accurate, but could have been a lot worse.”
Points to note:
1. Morrison died in Paris within twelve months of his last performance at The Isle of Wight Festival and became part of the tragic '27 Club' (Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain etc etc).
2. I forgive my brother partly as the only thing he can remember about the Isle of Wight, was the ferry from Portsmouth...funny that!
3. The Sex Pistols’ famous foul-mouthed performance on Bill Grundy's 'Today' show on the 1st December 1976 was Malcolm McLaren copying Jim Morrison’s behaviour a decade earlier.