I Was There

This NME Photo Tribute to The Clash includes this reference to their 1999 live album From Here to Eternity of their best live moments including London’s Burning from the 1978 Rock-Against-Racism gig.

Not only was I there Sunday April 30th, 32 years ago, I do record elsewhere that this was the best musical day of my life. The Anti-Nazi League / Rock Against Racism rally in Trafalgar Square and the  march with 250,000 people from there to Hackney – the banter with the police and the east-end Asian communities – the gig in Victoria Park, and the gig afterwards at the Roundhouse in Camden Town. The Clash, but also Tom Robinson (2,4,6,8 and Glad to be Gay), Aswad, Steel Pulse and X-Ray Spex. And, that evening at the Roundhouse, Graham Parker & The Rumour supported by Blondie (first UK tour) and Devo (first UK tour). What a beautiful spring day it was, as well as the march, we walked most of the way back to Camden too – buses and tube were so disrupted by the day’s events. Exhausted but happy.

Here it is on YouTube – London’s Burning followed by White Riot with Jimmy Pursey of Sham69 on the vocal. You can see how unplanned and disorganized the gig was (*) with the 1/4 million people full beyond the park, the local tower-block residents complaining about the disturbance, and the headline act finishing in daylight.

And here is the NME pre-event story. I see the running order confirms it was intended to be over by 6pm. (Pete Townsend too apparently – provided the PA etc? And the whole thing was a reaction to some crass comments from Eric Clapton about anti-racism politics)

Quite a lot of confusion about the numbers, certainly official estimates were 50 to 100K, according to the police along the way, but we were pretty sure these were estimated prior expectations. Less than half those on the rally actually made it into Victoria Park. Press the following day had estimates 200 to 250K.

[And here Syd Sheldon talking over his photographic record of the day.]

(*) Though, of course, some of the back-stage antics were “staged” for a punk-docu-drama Rude Boy being filmed at the time.

And later that same summer Blackbushe : and that photo of GP with Mr Z (GP is the common thread here.)

And Knebworth that same summer of 78 (June 24) after RAR and The Roundhouse gigs (April 30), but before Blackbushe (July 15), Genesis headlining, but with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (yay) and Devo (yay, wonderful again, but most of the Knebworth crowd hated them) and (I can’t quite believe it) The Atlanta Rhythm Section (pre Dave Anderson). Strangely I can’t recall the Graceless Jefferson Starship either …. did they have Jorma Kaukonen with them … we were into him at the time ?

[Post Note : Yes, that is Kaukonen guitar. Oh and the other common thread – added to the Knebworth bill at the last minute was Roy Harper – all comes flooding back now.]

3 thoughts on “I Was There”

  1. … To the regiment, I wish I was there…

    I never got to see The Clash live (too young), but side one of Sandanista changed my life. That particular day, 30th april 1978, is music folklore history.

    I really enjoyed the stuff the Mescaleros did, but I’m not sold on The Good the Bad the Queen, or The Gorillaz. There’s some good bands knocking about at the minute, but I’ve not heard anything with real dynamism.

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