Flashback: When The Who came to Coventry Theatre in 1967.
Pete Clemons recalls a frenetic live performance from the legendary rock band.
The Who, pictured in 1967
The Tremeloes were in top form, The Who’s Pete Townshend was having another ‘smashing’ time, The Herd’s Peter Frampton was a solo success, there were screams for Traffic’s Stevie Winwood, an impressive debut was made by The Marmalade, a nightmare for The Dream and compere, Ray Cameron, was trying to retain a level head while chaos reigned all around.
These were all quotes used in a review of another legendary package tour that once passed through Coventry Theatre for two shows on Sunday October 29th 1967 and which featured all of the above mentioned bands.
With the shows scheduled to start at 6pm and 8:30pm respectively there was little room for error. But, despite the best efforts of the bands involved, it seemed that a mix of backstage and equipment problems almost stole the day.
The review also went on to note that the six groups, along with their combined total of sixteen road managers and around ten square yards of equipment, were all trying to fight their way on and off the stage.
First up was The Dream a band who undertook the tour for the publicity rather than the financial reward. They blasted their way through three songs with fire and confidence and, despite equipment issues, found a lively audience to greet them.
But it was the arrival on stage of Peter Frampton and The Herd that the action really started as hysterical screams pierced the atmosphere. The quartet of Frampton, Andy Bown, Gary Taylor and Andy Steele began their set with what sounded like a gospel song. It was followed by another called ‘Que Sera’. And by the time they got to play their final song ‘From the Underworld’ the audience was out of their seats and dancing in the aisles.
Next up came Traffic who, according to the review from the show, ‘play music that must be way above the heads of most provincial audiences’. Traffic had been formed during March of that year after pin up boy Stevie Winwood had quit The Spencer Davies Group and teamed up with Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason. I guess, with the benefit of hindsight, Traffic were not a good fit amongst the other ‘pop’ type acts.
The Coventry Theatre
The review went on to say that ‘Traffic also give the impression of playing purely for their own enjoyment, and their music frequently verged on jazz. Their song ‘Feeling Good’ was a highlight but if any one tune in their set could be called the biggest success then it was ‘Hole in my Shoe’. That particular song had been composed by guitarist Dave Mason. Apparently ‘Hole in my Shoe’ was disliked by the other three members of the group, who felt that it did not represent the band's musical or lyrical style. Despite that it still managed to hit number two in the UK charts.
The second half of the show opened with The Marmalade a five piece group from Glasgow who were undertaking their first major package tour. The previous year this band had been known as The Gaylords but after being seen perform by The Tremeloes, who themselves had been touring Scotland, soon found themselves in London after being recommended to Starlite Artistes. Both The Marmalade and The Tremeloes were managed by Peter Walsh who, jointly with Kennedy Street Enterprises, organised the tour.
The Marmalade stuck to well known tunes like ‘Mister Tambourine Man’, ‘Summer in the City’ and ‘The Letter’ along with their own song ‘I See the Rain’. The band must have been really pleased with the reception that they got.
Next to hit the stage were The Tremeloes who were incredibly popular back in 1967. Since Brian Poole had left them they had had several top ten single, including a number one and that success continued for the rest of the sixties and into the 1970’s.
Their popularity was displayed by what seemed like half the auditorium storming down to the stage only to be met by a wall of bouncers.
And of course The Who could and did. Their set included twelve songs including the mini opera ‘A Quick One’. ‘Summertime Blues’ along with their then recent single releases ‘I Can See For Miles’ and ‘Pictures of Lily’ which Pete Townshend himself described as ‘power pop’ were also included.
1967 had been an incredibly busy year for the quartet of vocalist Roger Daltrey, lead guitarist Pete Townshend, bass player
John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. They had played Coventry earlier in the year as part of their first British tour of that year but the band also completed two tours of the U.S. that year. In total they played over 200 gigs, including the Monterey Pop Festival, and were on the road for well over half of that year.
The Who would go on to have unparalleled success and became known the world over. They were formed in Shepherd's Bush, West London, United Kingdom, in 1964 as ‘The High Numbers’. Total worldwide record sales are apparently in excess of one hundred million. Apart from Monterey they performed at other iconic festivals. In fact they have been described as "possibly the greatest live band ever". In addition to ‘A Quick One’ more rock operas were completed of which one, Quadrophenia, was successfully re-interpreted as a film for cinema.
And fifty years on The Who continue to tour, albeit sporadically, to this day.