Fans of rockers The Who have been sharing memories of the legendary band’s Lancashire concerts with author Richard Houghton
Since putting out an appeal for recollections of their live performances at venues across the county he has been overwhelmed with stories.
Richard explains: “I’ve had some great stories from Who fans of seeing the group up close and personal at different venues in Lancashire. They played in Preston, Blackpool and Lancaster and made several visits to East Lancashire between 1964 and 1970.
“The Who are still performing today, albeit with just Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey from the original line-up. But the gigs they played in the Sixties and early Seventies were in much more intimate venues than the arena shows that bands like the Who play now.”
William Walton saw the Who as a 16-year-old in 1964 in Blackpool when they were still performing under their old name of the High Numbers. He saw them at the Opera House and recalls they made a bigger impression on him than the headline act:
“Myself and seven boyhood friends embarked on a week’s holiday in Blackpool. It was especially memorable as one of my friend’s mum had managed to get us tickets to the Winter Gardens for a show featuring The Beatles.
“On this same bill were The Kinks, The High Numbers (later to become The Who), The Hearts and Adrienne Posta. What I can recollect was being blown away by You Really Got Me by The Kinks and also the onstage performance of Pete Townshend and Keith Moon. They sang I Can’t Explain and some other songs I can’t recollect but the raw rock and roll on show that night totally eclipsed The Beatles, who I was never a great fan of.”
Christine Bowles saw The Who when they appeared at the Floral Hall, in Morecambe, in June 1965. She recalls: “I went with my friend, Anne. The audience consisted of about 50 or 60 people, as The Searchers were on at the Central Pier, the other big venue in Morecambe, and at that time they were much better known than The Who. So everyone else we knew went to see The Searchers. Anne and I had seen the Who on Ready Steady Go and thought they were amazing so we went to see them.
“Some boys we knew who were there said they were sat with them in the bar before the show. We stood in front of the stage as in those days there were no barriers with security men, so it was as if they were playing just for us. I remember they played as if they were playing to 5,000 rather than the few dozen who were actually there. I do not remember Pete Towns-hend smashing his guitar but I do seem to remember that his fingers were bleeding at the end.
“The next time they came was to the Central Pier and it was packed. They played at the Central Pier at least three times more and I went to see them every time. Keith Moon often threw his drumsticks into the audience at the end and I once caught one. Unfortunately I no longer have this as my brother ‘borrowed’ it and I never saw it again.”
Ian Gaskell caught their January 1966 appearance at the Imp in Nelson. He says: “My abiding memory was the incredible volume of their performance – I had ringing in my ears for two days afterwards.
“The Who dutifully arrived via the revolving stage and I was struck by Pete Townshend’s brown suit, which seemed out of character with the Pop Art reputation. Their set got louder and louder and the climax of the show was My Generation, Townshend windmilling his arms with predictable gusto!
“As Moon launched into his drum solo, I observed Pete disappear from stage only to return armed with what looked like his normal guitar. On a closer examination and being a guitar player myself, it became obvious that his expensive guitar had been replaced by a cheap copy! He then proceeded to destroy it against a fake Marshall amplifier which had been on stage throughout the performance but not switched on.”
The Who’s last ever performance in Lancashire was back at the Opera House in Blackpool in October 1971, a show that was witnessed by Jeff Calvert who recalls: “I lived in Morecambe then and a group of about 15 of us got tickets. As we couldn’t drive, we travelled on public transport – Ribble Buses as it was then – to Blackpool.
“I remember wearing my brand new Ben Sherman shirt which was plain white and I thought I looked the business. Not everyone believed it was genuine as that brand was usually striped or sometimes check in design so I repeatedly had to show the label to convince them.
“The concert was superb and Roger Daltrey with his flowing long hair was incredible, as was the volume! I remember seeing something fly through the air so I ducked out of the way, not realising that Keith Moon had launched one of his drumsticks into the audience. Someone three rows back got a great souvenir!”
Richard says: ‘These memories help to paint a great picture of what it was like to be a pop fan back then, both in terms of how approachable and accessible groups were but also to give a glimpse of life in the Sixties. The Who are still performing today, but the gigs they played in the Sixties and into the early Seventies were in much more intimate venues than the arena shows that bands like the Who play now.”
Richard is still keen to hear from any Who fans with memories of seeing them perform during the Sixties or early Seventies.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by letter at 1 Totnes Road, Manchester, M21 8XF.