My usual go-to place for concerts in Leeds was Leeds Poly and there I saw some fabulous acts at very reasonable prices. I seem to remember it was only about fifty pence or so to see acts such as Yes, Fleetwood Mac, Cat Stevens, Mike Cooper, Quiver, Colosseum, Sutherland Brothers and others. The big venues were Leeds Uni and the Town Hall. At Leeds Uni I saw a few bands, such as Family, but I narrowly missed Led Zeppelin and the Who, where they recorded Live at Leeds. I was offered a ticket, but turned it down. What a shame! At the Town Hall I saw King Crimson and Deep Purple, when they were at their height. Court of the Crimson King was followed up with In the Wake of Poseidon and their concert featured one of my favourites, Ladies of the Road. The performance and lyrics of this track were brilliant and funny, but not suitable in our ‘more enlightened times’. The subject of school groupies would now mean the band being subject to cancel-culture and possible prosecution, but at the time, no one paid it any attention. Deep Purple had released Deep Purple in Rock and the friction between Ian Gillan and Richie Blackmore had not become a major issue. I have mentioned before, the drum solo, whilst the rest of the band went across to the Indian Restaurant. The advantage of the Town Hall was that you had seats. The Poly, University etc, had no such luxuries and, in these times, we sat on the floor cross-legged and listened earnestly to music. There was no suggestion of anyone dancing, and as progressive music swept in, this continued for a number of years.
One of the lesser venues was Thomas Danby College which was across the road from the Poly. We went a few times here and whereas I don’t think the hall was either acoustically or aesthetically as good as the Poly one, even so, Manfred Mann Chapter 3 and Stackridge put on very creditable performances. I had heard quite a few of the Stackridge numbers as friends at college, in London, were fans but I knew little of the Manfred Mann material, but they were a much more serious act than the pop band, Manfred Mann. I saw them twice in London when they were Manfred Mann’s Earthband and they were brilliant and for many years I had the tambourine from the concert, as a friend took it off his organ at the end of the show. I hope that he doesn’t want it back.
Another venue that I only went to once was the Mecca. I saw a band called Black Widow. They were one of the bands with a show steeped in the occult and were a bit of Black Sabbath and had more than a touch of Spinal Tap in their stage show at the time. I admit that the start of the concert was quite impressive, but my interest waned. From my memory, I seem to remember sitting on the balcony on seats around a table, looking down onto a less than packed concert floor and quickly losing interest. I believe that the Mecca had some great line-ups over the years and this concert must have been shortly before it closed down in 1970. In the sixties the concerts would have a host of big name performers, who would only play for fifteen or twenty minutes each. I believe that the Who played there on at least one occasion.
Another venue that became quite big for a number of years was the Fforde Grene Hotel at Harehills. It was a great starting out for many bands making a name for themselves and US bands wanting to get a UK following. Def Leppard, The Sex Pistols, U2, Simple Minds, Dire Straits, The Rolling Stones, Bebop Deluxe all played there from the 1970s onwards. I went only a couple of times, unfortunately and the first time it was a band called Limelight. I knew nothing about them, but a group of us went. The main room was packed out and there was a lot of beer flowing, but the band was a Led Zeppelin cover band on the whole and they were brilliant. The atmosphere was electric and despite the volume being overpowering in such a relatively small venue, they provided a great show. I saw Led Zeppelin in 1975 in Earls Court, London. The show there lasted about three hours and the acoustics were not brilliant and on balance I would say that the Limelight concert was better value. There were posters about for the following week and I remember Johnny Cougar from the USA being a coming attraction. He became Johnny Cougar Mellencamp and later the Cougar was dropped and later still, Johnny became John and had international fame. Another band I saw there was in the lounge bar and they just played whilst the drinkers sat around. They were well kitted out with brand new Gibon SG guitars and looked the part, but after the first, not bad number, they just became a blur of noise in the background.
I do remember a couple of bands playing at Allerton Grange School. The hall was quite large, rectangular and had a Proscenium stage with curtains. I don’t think that they were on the same night, but would have been around 1972 when I was in the Sixth Form at Roundhay School. One of the concerts was Hawkwind. They had had the hit, Silver Machine, and was mixture of boogie and psychodelia. Lemmy, later of Motorhead was the bass player and apart from the hit single I can’t remember the rest of the concert being very good, but somewhere in my memory I seem to remember a topless, seemingly stoned dancer, but that could just be my wishful thinking.
As an aside, I do remember seeing Pan’s People topless at a concert in London. This was a Jethro Tull concert at Hammersith Odeon. Fanny, who are back together, an American all-girl band, were the start-up and then Stirling Moss came on and said, “I can’t believe that I am doing this. I was asked to come and act as compare just yesterday, but here I am and here are Pan’s People!” The Top of the Pops stalwarts came and did their rather tame dance routine, but with something that you wouldn’t have seen on the television, they wore dresses and certainly appeared to be topless, apart from large red sequins strategically stuck in place. They did receive a rapturous round of applaud, a few suggestions from the audience that I won’t mention and left a lifelong impression on me. All I can say is that Babs, (one of the dancers) was aptly named. Now for many years, I wondered if I was imagining this event, but I bought a DVD of twenty-five years of Jethro Tull way back and in a section of extras there are photographs and amongst them is a picture taken of Ian Anderson and Pan’s People, dressed as I remember, but the topless quality appears to be a sheer fabric. Oh, the disappointment!
The second concert was a band that was a favourite of John Peel of Radio fame and he gave them quite a bit of coverage, before he moved on to something new. They were Principal Edward’s Magic Theatre. This was not a band in the normal sense and was more of a circus troupe with music. There were jugglers, dancers and musicians and the performance was more of a spectacle. Again, they were interesting, impressive at the start, but I lost interest and can’t say that I enjoyed it.
There were other even smaller venues and one was Allerton Grange youth club. Here I saw a Pink Floydish band, can’t remember the name, and that meant long improvisations and not a lot to hold on to musically. Again, not much of a night, as music goes. Other schools would hold concerts with bands sometimes and so did youth clubs, but usually these were venues for school bands and some were quite good, and some Like Arthur Brown from Roundhay had hit records. Fire was a mammoth hit for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, in 1968. He was famous for not only the record, but the act where his head was aflame. I remember Les Lees, Head of the Sixth Form, coming in one morning, telling me that he had been invited to see Arthur perform the night before and he was quite impressed, even though it wasn’t quite his thing. Apparently, Arthur was jumping around inside an inflatable syringe on stage and this left a lasting impression.
I saw Christie perform Yellow River and San Bernadino (their spelling) early 1970s at a garden fete near Lawnswood Cemetry, at a rugby club I think. They were in a marquee and were quite a tight band, but not my kind of music, but both songs were worldwide hits.
I suppose I can’t let the Harehills County Primary School connection to Paul and Barry Ryan miss its mention. The twins had 8 top 50 hits in two years from 1965, before they split, as Paul wanted to just write songs and Barry carried on having a massive worldwide hit with Eloise. I have half a memory of seeing them sing at Harehills CP School, but that might be wishful thinking.
Since these early days there have a been quite a few success stories from Leeds: Soft Cell, Chumbawamba and the Kaiser Chiefs being probably the most notable.