Reading Festival 1983

Back in 1983, at the age of 16, I went to the Reading Rock Festival on a £15.95 three day ticket. It was my second time there, although when I went the year before I only had a ticket for the Friday and missed most of the best bands. This time I would get to see them all, although, I actually can’t remember much about the weekend now if I’m honest. I don’t know who I went with, where I stayed (a tent for sure, but I don’t know whose tent it was), or most of the bands I saw. I’ve really had to dig deep into the memory banks to come up with much at all. I had completely forgotten that I’d seen The Stranglers until I saw the poster again, and I love The Stranglers so how the hell could I forget that! Here’s the line up poster for 1983:

reading-83-advert

There’s not much video available from the weekend, which is unsurprising as camera phones hadn’t been invented yet, probably, but the Stranglers set was broadcast on the radio, and here it is if you feel like a listen, oh, and the set list, though I don’t think it’s the full one, just what was broadcast on the Friday Rock Show:

01 Nuclear Device
02 Toiler on the Sea
03 Ships that Pass in the Night
04 No More Heroes
05 Golden Brown
07 European Female
08 Thrown Away
09 The Raven
10 Duchess
11 London Lady
12 Down in the Sewer

Here’s what I can remember of the bands I saw:-

Hanoi Rocks: I’m pretty sure I saw them and wasn’t all that impressed at the time, though later on I did buy one of their albums on vinyl, mostly because of their version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Up Around The Bend’, the album was’ Two Steps from the Move’ released in 1984, it was pretty good, in fact, I probably still have it somewhere.

They were one of the very few acts whose set was filmed, I have no idea why, but here’s the whole thing even though it’s quite rough footage taken from the stage it gives an idea of the crowd and suchlike, and how just about all the bands where bottled at some point, which was stupid:

Pipeline
(The Chantays cover)
Oriental Beat
Back to Mystery City
Until I Get You
Motorvatin’
Mental Beat
Don’t You Ever Leave Me
Tragedy
Malibu Beach
Taxi Driver
1970

Big Country: I recall rather enjoying Big Country, although by the end of their set I was ok about it being over as I think I’d had enough by then, finding the sound somewhat one dimensional. I’m sure it was great if you were a big fan, but I was a casual listener. This was probably their biggest gig up to this point having been touring their debut release, ‘The Crossing’, which I did buy eventually. I found their set list for that night, here it is:

01 Harvest Home
02 A Thousand Stars
03 Close Action
04 Balcony
05 Lost patrol
06 Porrohman
07 The Storm
08 In a Big Country
09 Chance
10 Angle Park
11 Fields of Fire

Steel Pulse: I’m not sure they even managed to get through the first song without being bottled off, which was a shame as we all had to stand there and listen to nothing instead. People can really be stupid sometimes.

Lee Aaron: I do remember the set, but didn’t think much of it at all and I’d never heard of her before she walked out on stange, and never heard of her again actually, it is about the best bit of footage I’ve found though

Night Riders
Lady of the Darkest Night
Metal Queen
Under Your Spell
I Like My Rock Hard
Deceiver
(Different Lyrics)
Shake It Up
Hold Out
Head Above Water
We Will Be Rockin’

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble: I enjoyed this set, not least because they did a version of Voodoo Chile but also because I knew that Vaughan had played on Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, although that was pretty much all I knew beforehand. Just like a lot of other bands, he was bottled, fortunately he just got on with it.

Testify
(The Isley Brothers cover)
So Excited
Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
(The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
Pride and Joy
Mary Had a Little Lamb
(Buddy Guy cover)
Love Struck Baby
Texas Flood
(Larry Davis cover)
Come On (Part I)

Marillion: If somebody had asked me yesterday if I had ever seen Marillion live I would have answered a definitive no, except I have, and had forgotten all about it until I looked at the Reading 83 line up again. My recollection is very vague indeed, but it’s there. I had seen quite a few posters for 12” singles (Probabaly ‘Market Square Heroes’), in Birmingham I think and the graphics were intriguing, and this was the year that they released ‘Script for a jesters tear’, which I hadn’t heard at the time of the gig, but I’m sure I had heard them on ‘The Friday Rock Show’ and made the obvious Peter Gabriel era Genesis connections myself, so I did already have a leaning towards liking them. Below is ‘Garden Party’, probably the only track I knew at the time, followed by ‘He Knows You Know’.

Grendel
Garden Party
Script for a Jester’s Tear
Assassing
Charting the Single
Forgotten Sons
Market Square Heroes / Margaret / The Web
Margaret
He Knows You Know

Black Sabbath: This was just awful, at least i’ve always remembered it as such, apart from the fact it was Ian Gillan on vocals, which I just found odd, the PA was affected by water and kept cutting in and out, and I actually laughed out loud, not in a good way, when they started to play ‘Smoke on the Water’. I suspect I was very guilty of music snobbery at this point as Gillan did a perfectly fine job, but I think I would have just rather it have been Ozzy or Dio, maybe I felt a bit cheated. I do seem to recall there was a whole Spinal Tap Stonehenge set there as well. Also, I think Bev Bevan was on drums for this. Some of the tracks are below, I couldn’t find all of them:

Supertzar
Children of the Grave
Hot Line
War Pigs
Born Again
Supernaut
(with Drum Solo)
Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor
Disturbing the Priest
Keep It Warm
Black Sabbath
The Dark
Zero the Hero
Guitar Solo
Digital Bitch
Iron Man
Encore:
Smoke on the Water
(Deep Purple cover)
Paranoid / Heaven and Hell

Suzi Quatro: Surprisingly decent set for the head to toe leather clad bassist/vocalist. Not really my thing but she went down very well with crowd. She must have come on about 6 ish and done around 45 minutes

01 Intro
02 Never Been in Love
03 I Know What I Want
04 She’s in Love
05 Good Girl
06 Strange Encounter
07 Can the Can
08 Devil Gate Drive
09 Tear Me Apart
10 encore break
11 Keep on Knocking
12 Bye, Bye Johnny 

Thin Lizzy: I think this may have been their last UK performance, or certainly close to it. They were probably the most anticipated of the bands at the festival for most people and they didn’t disappoint it was a high energy set with plenty of favourite tracks included. This was the end of a year long tour promoting the ‘Thunder & Lightening’ album. Within 3 years Phil Lynott would be dead, a sad loss.

Jailbreak
Thunder and Lightning
Waiting for an Alibi
Are You Ready
Baby Please Don’t Go
A Night in the Life of a Blues Singer
(Phil Lynott song)
The Holy War
The Sun Goes Down
Emerald
Cold Sweat
Cowboy Song
The Boys Are Back in Town
Suicide
Sha La La
Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend
Baby Drives Me Crazy
Rosalie
(Bob Seger cover)
Dancing in the Moonlight (It’s Caught Me in Its Spotlight)
Encore:
Still in Love With You

Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul: I vaguely remember being bored by almost the whole set.

Climax Blues Band: There was definitely a harmonica involved.

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel : I only knew one song, there may have been a bowler hat on stage at on point.

I really don’t remember any of the others at this point, though I guess some of it may come back. Right now my 16 year old son is there for his first festival, over 30 years after I went. This is what he can expect to see (Click for bigger version):

reading_2015_line-up_final_24.08.15

I really hope he enjoys it.

9 Comments

  1. fishface

    I went to Reading for several years in the 70s and also find it hard to remember exactly what I saw at times! Pity about the bottles flying, it was the same when I was there. The line up looks very decent, would have liked to have seen SRV and his band.

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  2. verian

    There was talk about there being a load of National front supporters there and they started the bottling, but I think it was just a ‘Thing’ at the time.

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  3. Michael Craddock

    I too was there and although it was my final year being a teenager, I have fond memories of the weekend… Stumbling around the campsite, sitting by fires and having inane banter with strangers… Your reviews of the bands were very similar to my recollection. The stand-out acts for me were Stranglers, Marillion, Thin Lizzy although Big Country and Suzi Quatro kept me from wandering off… Pity about Black Sabbath though eh? Thanks for theweb post, I’m now gonna work through the attached recordings 🙂

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  4. Anonymous

    Thanks for the memories. cannot forget Steel Pulse getting bottled off despite the pleas of Stuart Henry who was compering. Also the attitude of Lips from Anvil to the bottling which went something like “Right you mother******s, we’ve come all the way from Canada to play for you and we damn well will” to which the bottling petered out and they played a cracking set.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anonymous

    Not only but also: just dug out the radio one recording of “Still in love with you” by Lizzy on youtube. Wow! just wow! Takes me right back to the day. Stood there transfixed in tears as the arena emptied. Must have been a premonition that it would be the last time i saw them.

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  6. Ralph

    Having just told various offspring, who went this weekend, that my last visit was circa 1983, to Reading Rock & Blues Festival, a quick search brought up this site.

    I well remember Stuart Henry saying, after a couple of pleas, ‘…right, that’s it, you’ve lost the band’ and off went Steel Pulse. Somewhere, I’ve some poor photos, of that tremendous bottle fight, when the air was full of plastic bottles, half of which had been re-filled. One poor bloke, stood just in front of me on Saturday night, copped a glass one that some idiot threw from behind us, that knocked him out for several minutes.

    I also recall Marillion, spending what seemed their entire set of about 40 minutes, simply tuning their instruments; very disappointing. Big Country were good though.

    Sadly, I cannot remember a single thing about Magnum (one of my favourite bands in the 80s) and wonder if they were there?

    I quite enjoyed Black Sabbath (Bev Bevan of ELO on drums) even though their pyrotechnics were all over the place.

    I suspect today’s festival-goer would be aghast at what the ‘raw festivals’ of Reading and Glastonbury were like in the 70s and 80s

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  7. verian

    Hi Ralph, sorry for the long delay in replying, I have been without computer for several months. I bought Tribute To The Martyrs by Steel Pulse recently and it’s fantastic, and I can say I saw them, even if they barely made it to the end of the first song (did they? I’m not sure they did). It was only in researching Reading 1983 that I remembered anything about a seeing many of the bands. If somebody had asked me if I had ever seen Suzi Quatro I would have confidently said no, except I have!

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