Chris Joe Beard (The Purple Gang)
recalls the event...
The View From The (organ end) Stage
Through the smokey spotlights, strobes and beyond the heads/sea of faces, I could make out, to my left a Helter–Skelter which we went on later. I got a nice smile off Julie Felix who was stood with David Frost to the right. The noise around the cavernous place was at first intimidating but then uplifting at the same time. This was from having two stages at either end of the venue going hell-for-leather to accommodate all the bands and happenings due to partake in The Underground’s coming out party (…to help the harassed IT editor (and UFO co-organiser)”Hoppy”).
We eased into our new psychedelic dirge “Sing Me The Word Called Love”. This time we had a drummer who was with us to help out on a couple of tracks.over at SOUND Techniques. Unfortunately he was also out of his tree and instead of using beaters on the tom-toms as rehearsed he sort of went “Uuurrgh-aahg yeeee” and stared at me in a demented manner. Before I collapsed with laughter we were saved by “Lucifer” our vocalist creeping forward from rear stage, adorned in scarlet and black satanic robes, shades, sandals(!), with his jaw violently rocking from side to side, in a drug induced spasm. People thought he was chanting some obscure ancient oath (See Miles’ book) but it was his pills. I was definitely relieved that he was not wearing the black hood (as threatened to Joe Boyd) but amused by the sandals and shades.
I spotted “Sheep” and some UFO faces/afros and began to enjoy it. The Wizard went well in it’s usual goth way and Geoff got on piano for our goodtime numbers like Auntie Monica. He had been on washboard complete with it`s cymbal, cow-bell and block, he was in a dinner jacket, beret and T shirt. I was absurdly dressed in bottle-green crushed velvet flares, silver shirt, purple suede boots and a double-breasted gangster jacket. What a mess we must have looked…..but it all didn`t seem to bother anyone. ”GRANNY TAKES A TRIP” was called for by the UFO section and we duly delivered, I was pleased to see more people surging towards our stage. Then I think we came back to do it again but it was all over in no time and the next band awaiting behind.
I got into the dressing room and there was John Mayall (plus lots of even more famous people). I reminded him of home and the old days and had a chat about my band/plans etc. Denny Laine came and sat with me and was playing some new song he was writing and the rest was a blur of well-known faces. Joe and Hoppy were well pleased with us and there was talk of Hoppy going on the organ with it’ s mighty pipes/later.
ANK our jug player arrived with the the two hippie chicks from the stageside who had been throwing things at us and larking around with us during our set. We then heard John Lennon was around outside but couldn`t get in without being mobbed. When he didn’ t show, we all went to go on the Helter Skelter.
On there I got a great view of the whole scene and it was bloody fantastic, then I got pushed and slid down. Half-way down I spotted Lennon and entourage in Yoko Ono’s area, she had a model called Valerie, sat on a stool (naked) wearing cellophane. You were given scissors to cut off cellophane and expose the exposed Valerie….a feminist statement/happening. I walked towards my hero, but so did everyone else, so off he went (he”split the joint” man) out to decamp in the park…in the trees for a smoke.
There was an igloo filled with bananas, Arthur Brown hung from a small crane made a fiery entrance and I saw loads of bands/happenings and public love-making for real.
We also went outside for a smoke and sat a respectful distance away from John and then I went to check our van window. We had been stopped on Oxford street that afternoon in our Purple Gang van by loads of hippies who were hanging onto the sides and all over us ..”Granny “band was getting famous (Jane Easton agency PR machine was at work) I had damaged the window trying to wind it up while someone was hanging on to it.
I stuck around to the end to wait for the Pink Floyd who were late coming over from Holland I think, or Rotterdam. It was getting towards the end of the night (but not the gig) and I wanted to get my spot so I sat down with a few others in a meditation group. I can, 34 years on still smell the dusty floorboards, the hash, incense, body odour and hear that big-hall reverby, crowd din and swirling band noise, drum crashes.
The Floyd roadies began to get the gear organised and the light show people took over.
The dawn was at the gates and everyone was getting a bit tired now and shouting for the band to get their asses on stage. On they eventually trooped looking unhappy I thought a bit of tenseness there (I was glad we’d gone on earlier so we could enjoy the gig)
The shafts of dawn light were now beaming through the high windows and were caught and reflected back off Syd’s mirrored Telecaster. But something was not right and Syd was not up to it..........just sort of standing there out of his tree I suspected.
(We had been warned off acid by one of our friends who we had visited in a mental hospital. He was found naked in a lift with a sword later. He made us promise not to take the stuff when we hit London…..and beside ..we were weird enough !!!)
It seemed apparent that the Floyd were allowing for this as Roger seemed to take over.
I admired him for this and was not happy that Syd had now drifted off. Can’t remember what they played but it would have been the set of the time.
There was a guy eventually who had climbed up the great organ pipes and then up to the ledge HIGH UP where the walls met the roof. ”Hoppy” who had just played the organ (Bach) got a mike and talked the silly bugger down eventually..
”It would be really..like not cool man if you were to stop the gig by killing yourself”..to great applause.
Eventually after another hour of finding everyone we drove off back to Joe’s and crashed down after (as usual) tip toeing around the debris of exotic and fragile instruments left on the floor by the Incredible String Band who were touring.
(we always had to avoid these instruments, a bloody nuisance!!)
Text reproduced by kind permission. © Copyright June 2001 Chris Joe Beard