I have Hat to thank for organising a lot of these. Hat’s real name was Francis Jacques but because Hattie Jacques was such a household name everyone called him Hattie and that became Hat. When I was sixteen, seventeen and eighteen Hat always knew where it was happening, who was on and how to get there.
Hat was the epitome of cool back then. At fourteen he had this bit quiff and sideburns. His hair was long enough to reach his chin. He wore skin tight jeans and Cuban-heeled boots and not only that but he kept trying to nick all my girlfriends.
Hat and Booker had customised these old LD scooters by taking all the fairing off them, dropping the seat, putting a motorbike petrol tank on and ape-hangers. It created a really low-slung oddity. Hat then put a car windscreen washer on so he could go past people and squirt them. It was particularly effective against bus queues.
Hat organised us going down to Brighton camping after our O Levels. We went to the notorious Brighton Shoreline club and got thrown out. There was this big sign saying ‘WAY OUT’ and Oz thought it was an exit and was yanking at this door. Needless to say it was supposedly cool poster and not an exit. A bouncer took a dislike to Oz’s antics and threw us out.
We picked up three girls camping in the tent next to us and almost got to see Heinz and the Wildcats. It was quite a week.
Hat took me and Liz out on our first date in 1967 to see the Dream at Middle Earth. It was very weird and far out with its lightshow.
Hat organised to go to the Windsor Jazz and Blues festival. I think it was the first festival I had ever been to. I was disappointed that Pink Floyd cancelled but it was an incredible line up the Small Faces were great, the Move were incredibly loud, and Tomorrow were very trippy. I don’t remember anything about Marmalade, Zoot Money, Aynsley Dunbar, Amen Corner or Time Box. I should have paid more attention. I certainly paid attention to PP Arnold though. She performed in a white crocheted dress with black undies (or was it a black crotched dress and white undies?) anyway she was the sexiest thing I’d ever seen and was backed by the Nice. The Nice replaced Floyd and did a great show complete with knives and flag burning. I then didn’t remember Arthur Brown.
It was the final day that stood out for me. Not only were there the wonderful Fleetwood Mac but also John Mayall and Chicken Shack. Then there was Jeff Beck. On top of that we had Donovan and Denny Laine, Blossom Toes and Pentangle.
What a line-up. But it wasn’t that which sticks in my memory. Headlining was none other than the great Cream at the very height of their power. But even that was not the thing that made it so special. It was 1967 and I was 18 years old and out with a couple of mates (Hat and Booker). So we got this empty fag packet and ripped it up into oblongs. Then we wrote PRESS on them with black biro and pinned them on our jackets with safety pins. We walked up to the front and presented ourselves to the security heavies who, unbelievably, waved us through. We spent the entire day in the Press enclosure in front of the stage. We popped backstage to grab a bite to eat and take a pee. Hat had a pee next to Ginger Baker. We didn’t dare go out because we knew we’d never get back in. I got to stand right in front of Clapton as Cream did the best set of their entire lives. I watched the sweat on Jack’s brow and every expression on Ginger’s face as he worked those drums. It was the most awesome gig ever, mainly I think, not just because it was such a brilliant gig, which it was, but because we shouldn’t have been there. Stolen fruit always tastes better!
Can you imagine in this day and age of top security that anyone would wave through a few young kids with biroed name tags? Not in a million years!
Festivals were social events. You went there to hang out, meet people, rap all night, smoke and chill out. The music was as much a backdrop as a focus.
Opher circa 1971
Hat organised us to get to loads, Windsor, Bath, Plumpton, Woburn and Hyde Park. I can’t remember how we got there, who we saw, or where we stayed. I can remember meeting loads of people, sitting around talking and sharing and having a great time. The festivals were a great part of the culture of the day. The music was the backdrop, the atmosphere was brilliant and the vibe was all important.
Festivals were our celebrations when we all came together and were invigorated.