‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Let the Music Play Live. Hot Snot Disco, Snooker, Discos and Concerts. (Leeds Poly, Thomas Danby College 1960s-70s)

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Whilst still attending Roundhay School, I started going to Leeds Poly at weekends. I managed to get in originally by looking older than I was, a skill that is only beneficial when one is underage, and by having my older brother’s Student Union Card. The union at the Poly had a couple of snooker tables, cheap beer, discos and, best of all, regular concerts, all at a cheap price.

 I wasn’t aware at the time, but the University circuit for bands was only just starting and we enjoyed fantastic bands, at fantastic prices and in venues that were small enough to have great views and be up close and personal with the acts. I was trying to think what the very first band was, and I think it was Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum. Their album was Those Who Are About To Die Salute You and they were a jazz, rock, blues band. I have checked and can’t see it mentioned, but I believe there was a xylophone player and one of my friends who had had too much to drink kept pushing the xylophone around as he could reach it from where he sat at the front of the stage. I think a roadie intervened to stop his antics, much to the relief of the musician. Being an audience member at these times was quite serious and most of the concerts were full of earnest sorts with long hair, sitting quietly on the floor and appreciating the musicians and their music. I wasn’t completely taken by Colosseum, but I was captured by live music.

From then on, I was a regular at the Poly and saw Yes when they were doing their version of Paul Simon’s America and they had the Poly packed. I have checked and this was October 23rd 1970. They were brilliant. I had never seen such musicianship, and I loved Chris Squire’s bass playing, Bill Bruford’s drumming and Jon Anderson’s vocals (my wife hates his voice). America was only released on a sampler album, at the time, but was released on a compilation cd years later. Cat Stevens was also there, February 12th 1970, when Tea For the Tillerman was a major hit. I did learn to hate the record, as I took part in a 24 hour table tennis hit-out, whilst attending the Methodist youth club at Roundhay, near St Edmunds. I can’t remember what we were raising money for, but a small group of us had to play continuously. There were six of us and we took turns playing whilst the others rested. We played singles and doubles and we slept in the same room, camping on the floor. There was a record player and someone had just bought the album. It was played constantly over the twenty-four hours and by the end it drove me mad, when added to the constant noise of the table tennis ball being hit or bouncing on the table. Anyway, we managed it, but it put me off table tennis and the record. Cat Stevens’ performance was fantastic, and he had a beautiful voice, calm manner and a great band. I saw him about a year ago and he still sings magnificently and he doesn’t look all that different, hair just shorter.

The cost of tickets was around the 10 shillings, fifty pence mark, but even that was quite a lot when I was young. As a result, my friends and I would attempt to gain entry through the back of the Poly building to avoid paying. This worked quite well, but security became wised up and for a while there was a bit of a cat-and-mouse game, before finally it was a mission impossible and we paid like everyone else. Unfortunately, alcohol was also a new experience for me at around this time. I am ashamed to say that I was only fourteen when I started, and this is something that, if there are any children reading, I would not recommend. I looked older than my years, so I got away with it. Looking older than I was is an attribute that has long since lost its appeal, but I suppose we are only young once and being foolish is something that all youths have excelled at over the generations.

My latest thriller novel, set in Leeds and I am sure you will recognise many of the local areas and landmarks. It is available from Amazon as a paperback and Kindle as an eBook.

A friend reminded me that on one of the concert nights, another of our ‘acquaintances’ set fire to paper towels in a bin in the men’s toilets. This was a totally irresponsible, and could have had very serious consequences, but was fortunately extinguished very quickly before anyone was hurt. It was possibly the result of other substances than alcohol. Unfortunately, they saw it as a big joke. I suppose being a teenager is a high-risk period and fortunately, most people learn from their poor decisions and grow to be upright citizens. Some never get the opportunity to learn.

The end of the concerts meant a long walk home as most of the buses had stopped running, or were so infrequent as to make it not worth waiting. Many nights I wove a meandering path down towards the Spencer Place part of Roundhay Road, through Harehills and then up past the Clock Cinema to Gipton Wood Crescent. It was probably quite a risky walk, late at night, but I never gave it much of a thought and I never experienced any problems. To be honest, I never had anything that would have been worth stealing and never had much money left at the end of an evening.

Another band that left an impression was Fleetwood Mac. They performed after Peter Green had left and Christine McVie (Christine Perfect as she was) had joined them on 21st Jan 1972. She had been in the band Chicken Shack and joined Mac for Kiln House in 1970. I must admit that I can’t remember a great deal about the performance and listening back to the album, I feel it lacked the spark of Peter Green’s Mac and Lindsey Buckingham’s Mac years later. One thing I clearly remember is that another friend, I think it was Chris, but other friends think it was another friend, was sitting under the PA stack that was set on tables. We didn’t take much notice of him as we were pretty drunk at this point. Fleetwood Mac was a very tight band, if not a patch on the previous version. Suddenly, mid-number, the sound of the guitars and keyboard stopped, and we were left with just drums and the bass. I must admit I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to happen that way, but Mick Fleetwood and John McVie just carried on as if it was meant to be. The instigator of the power cut crawled from beneath the stack of speakers with a sly grin. He was very lucky, as a pair of rough and big roadies suddenly appeared with confused and not happy expressions. They searched around to find the cause of the power outage and one climbed under the speakers. He reappeared with an even angrier expression. He gave the other roadie a brief explanation, and sent a signal up to the band whilst the first roadie re-plugged the power cord into the socket and the number continued with a full complement of musicians. The looks on the band’s faces were of relief, the looks on the roadies’ faces were set to kill. Luckily, my friend had made his escape, and he never learned the error of his ways. How John and Mick just carried on playing showed what a talented pair they were and still are. Fantastic!

I am sure that other names of bands will come back to me, but there were several lesser successes that I do remember. Quiver, later to join the Southerland Brothers and enjoy some success on the singles charts, played. Mike Cooper, who was a folksy rocker, impressed me enough for me to buy The Machine Gun Company with Mike Cooper. The album was ok, but not as good as he was live.

The Poly also had the benefit of a large common room and they would play some great music there and hold discos. The information below was provided by Tony:

Hotsnot Discos at the Polytechnic evolved from a Wednesday evening in the student common room in the early 70s when a student brought a copy of Led Zeppelin’s first album in to play on the Union’s Dansette (type) record player. All present at the time got up to jiggle about, air guitaring, as was the fashion amongst we hippy types back then. All thought it was a fun evening, and we decided to repeat the experience the following Wednesday. Word spread quickly and twin decks were sourced by a couple of lab technicians and a more professional event quickly followed.

I cannot remember who coined the name, Hotsnot, but it was a catchy winner for sure. It wasn’t too long before the Wednesday evenings out grew the common room and the refectory/canteen provided a larger space. An extra evening was added and Saturdays joined in the fun. The evenings were organised by the students with the help of a group of working friends who lived locally. Even I got roped in to DJ for a very brief period during the exam prep times as I was, by then, a working outsider.


I probably moved on from the Poly sometime in the mid-70s, but I know Hotsnot went from strength to strength. In fact, I came across a framed copy of an article about the disco in the Tartan Bar of Leeds University many years later. Tony

A few years later, I was playing in a band with friends and we used to practise there on Sunday afternoons. The place hadn’t changed a bit and we could play all afternoon and work on new material. The band was a combination of our first band, Atlantis and Dave B’s new band. It was a short-lived combination and I think we were The Men From Planet X. Good times!

Recorded in the common room at Leeds Poly 1977. Apologies for poor sound quality.

 Across the road from the Poly, was Thomas Danby College. I think it was a further education college, and there I went to see Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three and Stackridge. Chapter Three was formed in 1969 after Manfred Mann broke up, and I think they were newly created when I saw them. They were clearly more experimental than the previous pop band and I didn’t know the material. I can’t say that I was over-impressed. However, I saw Manfred Mann’s Earth Band twice at Imperial College in the 1970s, and they were fantastic. I had bought Nightingales and Bombers on cassette in 1975 and they did a few songs by Bruce Springsteen, who I hadn’t heard of at the time.

With Stackridge, I didn’t know what to expect, as I hadn’t heard their music. Another friend loved them and I went along, not sure what it would be like. What I did experienced was a strange and wonderful evening’s entertainment, full of humour and it was unlike anything I had ever seen or heard. They were relatively short-lived as a band, breaking up in 1977.

Of course, there were many other venues in Leeds and I will cover some of them another time. These were fantastic times for live music and, being a teenager who loved music, this was heaven! This was a period where bands played live to promote their albums. Album and single sales were where they made their money, but now the process has completely reversed. Live performances are where bands make their livings and ticket prices have become very expensive, whereas few people value music and buy it, as they can stream it for free.

2 Replies to “‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Let the Music Play Live. Hot Snot Disco, Snooker, Discos and Concerts. (Leeds Poly, Thomas Danby College 1960s-70s)”

  1. Leeds Poly was one of my favourite spots for bands. I used to go there on intermittent weekends when I came home from Liverpool University in the 1965-68 timeframe. It seemed that the universities and technical colleges at the time were the places to be to see performances by what are now household names – and all at reasonable prices!

    I saw Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac at Leeds poly – he had just left John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Interestingly I had seen Green with the Bluesbreakers some months earlier – on the Royal Iris ferry of all places on the River Mersey. They had a terrible job playing; it seemed that the ship’s generator was slightly off frequency and Mayall’s organ was slightly off-key. This was OK for the guitar and bass who could retune to suit the organ, but Mayall’s harmonicas were out of luck.

    John Hiseman was a great jazz-rock fusion/prog rock drummer, and his band, Colosseum was one of the late 60’s – early 70’s stalwarts of the genre. Dave Greenslade would have been the vibraphone player (not xylophone to be really pedantic) and I really like the ‘Those About To Die…’ album.

    I never saw Yes until about 2015 when they did a US tour. ‘America’ was eventually included on the 1975 album (vinyl) titled ‘Yesterdays’.

    Cheers,

    Terry,
    Virginia, USA

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brilliant, Terry. I realised afterwards it wasn’t a xylophone. I hadn’t realised it was Dave Greenslade. I bought several of the Greenslade albums that came afterwards. Ireally loved his work.
      Best wishes
      David

      Like

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