Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music 1970

Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music 1970

infobox music festival
music_festival_name = Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music 1970

caption = The stage – Donovan is just starting
location = Shepton Mallet
years_active = 1970
founders = Freddy Bannister
dates = 27-29 June 1970
genre =
website =

The Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music was a music festival held at the Bath and West Showground in Shepton Mallet on the 27-28th June 1970.


The festival started at midday on the 27th (a Saturday) and finished at about 6:30 am on Monday morning. It featured a lineup of the top American west coast and British bands of the day, including Mothers of Invention, Santana, The Flock, Led Zeppelin (headlining act), Hot Tuna, Country Joe McDonald, Colosseum, Jefferson Airplane (set aborted), The Byrds (acoustic set), Moody Blues (unable to play), Dr. John (acoustic set), Frank Zappa, Canned Heat, It's a Beautiful Day, Steppenwolf, Johnny Winter, John Mayall, Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention, and Keef Hartley. [cite web|url=|title=Bath June 25 to 28 1970 : The CBS American Invasion:|publisher=British seventies rock festivals|accessdate=2008-08-07] This lineup eclipsed the more famous Isle Of Wight festival held in August of the same year, but as it attracted less press coverage at the time and was a smaller affair, it has generally received less attention in the years since.

Bath was the brainchild of promoter Freddy Bannister and his wife Wendy Bannister , who had held the smaller Bath Festival Of Blues within Bath itself in 1969. The 1970 show attracted a significantly larger crowd of 150,000,cite web|url=|title=The Bath Festival|publisher=UK Fock Festivals|accessdate=2008-08-07] but, like the Isle of Wight festival, an audience of such magnitude created some serious on-ground difficulties. The logistics proved to be too vast for Bannister's small team to adequately cope with, and his security staff stole large amounts of gate receipts, resulting in a far smaller profit than expected. [cite web|url=|title=Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music 1970|publisher=A guide to Bristol|accessdate=2008-08-07] The festival also suffered from inclement weather on the Sunday night, with Jefferson Airplane being rained off half way through their set and The Moody Blues not playing at all due to the wet stage.

Actually getting to the festival itself was another problem for many of the throng of fans. The country lanes leading to the site were swiftly blocked by cars, also meaning that many of the bands' equipment trucks could not get to the site. On Sunday morning this lead to Donovan casually walking out onto the empty silent stage, to address the expectant but bored crowd -which were slowly drying out from the drenching received during the night. Being a folk singer, his genre was not what the crowd had gone there to hear. So to test the mood of the crowd out, he engaged in a bit of small talk, where he explained that he had spent the night in his van in a nearby field and so on. Then worked around to asking if they would like him to play a song whilst they waited for the billed act to arrive. A lively rendering of "jump down, turn around, pick a bail of cotton" raised the crowds spirits. Then he played some of his classics. As the crowd seemed to appreciate this, electric guitars, amps and a few reluctant musician (or rather stage-hands that knew a few cords) were pressed into accompany him. Still no bands came, so Donovan continued. His impromptu and free performance eventually filled in for a 2½ hours of what otherwise would have been silence.

As a consequence these delays, the festival ran behind schedule and many bands had to play to diminished crowds in the small hours of Monday morning. The last act, Dr John, hit the stage at dawn on the Monday.

The festival featured many innovations, including projections of the bands on screens on the side of the stage, a good quality PA system, on-site tents for the patrons to sleep in and larger tents which projected films such as "King Kong" throughout the night . The expenditure on these items ate into the profits, and many people decamped with the tents, which were hired. This was another expense that had to borne by the promoters.

The festival was captured on both film and on video, in varying quality, but a lack of post-festival organisation led to the footage being lost for many years. Much of it has now been recovered, but the black and white footage is of poor quality and is in many different hands. It is considered unlikely that it will ever see the light of day as a legitimate release since no one can agree on who owns the copyright. This situation could be contrasted to the Isle of Wight Festival, which was professionally recorded and filmed in colour.

The festival was widely bootlegged, and several audience tapes are now in circulation. It is rumoured that excellent soundboard tapes also exist, though to this point they have not publicly surfaced.

An 'alternative festival' was staged in an adjoining field where the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind played on the back of a flatbed truck. [cite book |url=|title=Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins |last= Abrahams |first=Ian |year=2004 |publisher=SAF Publishing Ltd |location= pages=p.28|isbn=0946719691] This was a precursor to the many free festivals of the 1970s.

Led Zeppelin performance

Led Zeppelin accepted an offer from Bannister to headline the festival at a fee of ₤20,000. They took the stage at about 8:30 pm, as the sun was setting. The band's performance is widely considered by music critics, and members of Led Zeppelin itself, as being one of the most important of their career, representing a turning point in terms of the amount of recognition they received in Britain (until that point their on-stage success and popularity had largely been borne out on numerous United States concert tours). At Bath the band played five encores. [cite web|url=|title=June 28 1970|publisher=Led|accessdate=2008-08-07] Their setlist from the show is as follows:
*"Immigrant Song" (debut live performance)
*"Dazed and Confused"
*"Bring It on Home"
*"Since I've Been Loving You"
*"Thank You"
*"That's the Way"
*"What Is and What Should Never Be"
*"Moby Dick"
*"How Many More Times"
*"Whole Lotta Love"
*"Communication Breakdown"
*Classic Rock Medley ("Long Tall Sally" - "Say Mama" - "Johnny B. Goode" - "That's Alright Mama")

Pink Floyd performance

At the concert Pink Floyd premiered their new suite, "Atom Heart Mother", which at that time was announced as the "Amazing Pudding". The performance featured a complete brass band and 12 string choir, and took place at precisely 3 am, due to major delays. As well as the Atom Heart Mother suite, the band also played tracks from "Ummagumma", "Soundtrack from the Film More" and "A Saucerful of Secrets". The band's setlist from the show is as follows:
*"Green Is the Colour" (Waters)
*"Careful with That Axe, Eugene" (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason)
*"A Saucerful of Secrets" (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason)
*"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" (Waters)
*"Atom Heart Mother" (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason. Geesin)

External links

* [ History of Bath Festival]
* [ British Seventies Rock Festivals]
* [ Replica posters and Memorabilia]


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