75p Gig tickets, those were the days!

I would imagine all of us have kicked ourselves for missing out on gigs that we really should have been at.  A good friend of mine (yes, you Boot) still gets his leg pulled on a regular basis for not going to see Led Zeppelin at The Baths Hall in Ipswich in November 1971. Apparently he had some homework to do that night and has always regretted missing Suffolk’s greatest rock gig. I wasn’t there either but as I was only 12 at the time and yet to discover rock and pop it’s not been a regret of mine. I do have a ticket from that night though. It belonged to my late friend Adrian Sheehy and it’s a piece of pop memorabilia I will not be parting with.

Although I have been to hundreds of concerts at the Ipswich Regent down the decades I too have missed some good ones. My first gig there, when it was known as The Gaumont, was Wizzard’s performance in 1973. Poor old Roy Wood had to cut the show short that night because of a troublesome stomach ulcer. He and the group did return a few months later, only to play exactly the same set! From then on I was hooked and have been very lucky to catch virtually all the big names who’ve graced the stage there. My big regrets from the early days of my concert-going years were not attending gigs by two of my favourite acts – Bad Company and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. I’ve since both bands since but by then Bad Company were missing Paul Rodgers and SAHB were without Alex.

Before Alex and his fellow Glaswegians broke through in the early 1970s he’d cut his teeth in musical theatre. Another acquaintance of mine, Barry Dye, recalls Alex’s first Ipswich appearance at the First Floor Club in the summer of 1970 : “I got very friendly with Alex Harvey and the band which also featured Derek Wadsworth on trombone and Bud Parkes on trumpet.  I then booked Alex and the Hair Band for a special night at Copdock for the Olive Leaf Heavies in December 1971. That was a Sunday and they came down early to do a lunchtime session at The Chev Club.  I still have the contract Alex signed for me  and the total fee for both gigs was £235. There’s a little scribbled note from Alex on the back! The fee we charged to go into Copdock that night was 75p.  Supporting was of course The Sonics. The place was heaving and we had to turn people away.”

Barry has kindly sent me a picture taken at the First Floor concert which also featured another star in the making – soul singer Maxine Nightingale – who a few years later was in the charts with the dancefloor filler Right Back Where We Started From.  Another star of Hair at the time strutting his stuff at Ken Bean’s place was Peter Straker who eventually returned to Ipswich in 2017 as part of the New Wolsey Theatre’s production of Tommy.

Alex Harvey’s next appearance in Suffolk’s county town would be at The Gaumont in 1975 when his aptly named band brought their theatrical take on rock to East Anglia’s biggest theatre. I still don’t know how I managed to miss the show. Maybe I’d spent all my money on the latest vinyl from Ear Records! By all accounts it was one of the best gigs of that era. Some 20 years or so later and long after Alex’s passing I did get to introduce The Sensational Alex Harvey Band on stage in a big marquee at the back of The Railway pub in Ipswich. A few months later I was in Ipswich magistrates court explaining why the gig had over-run causing a noise nuisance to a nearby resident! The reason was that the group hadn’t played Delilah and we couldn’t possibly let them leave town without them doing their party piece.

My 2019 diary is already filling up with more gigs to go to. I can’t imagine life without concerts and long may the live music scene continue. This magazine is certainly doing what it can to ensure that’s the case. If you like the look of a show then do your best to be there. No regrets now!