Memories of watching The Who in Great Yarmouth in the swinging sixties
PUBLISHED: 16:16 07 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:16 07 January 2017
A music writer researching performances by rock band The Who in Great Yarmouth says he has been overwhelmed by the response of readers to a call for stories.
As well as a string of hit records including My Generation and Pinball Wizard, The Who were famed for their headline grabbing antics of smashing guitars, drum kits and hotel rooms. And fans of the legendary foursome - Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon – have been in touch with author Richard Houghton with tales of seeing them on stage in Norfolk to help him write his “people’s history” of the group.
Richard said: “I’ve had some great stories from Who fans of seeing the group up close and personal in Great Yarmouth in 1965 and 1966, which they visited a total of six times playing either the Tower Ballroom or the Britannia Theatre.
“The Who are still performing today, but those gigs they played in the Sixties and early Seventies were in much more intimate venues than the arena shows that bands play now.”
Michael Ladbrooke recalls seeing them on Britannia Pier when they played a run of Sunday nights through August 1965.
He told Richard: “We didn’t have to queue to get tickets. They were still a bit of an acquired taste even then so there were always more middle of the road acts in Yarmouth on Sunday nights to attract other people.
“They didn’t have their future repertoire of hits to play so a few covers were included, mainly Motown and Beach Boys. Much to our disappointment we never saw them smash any equipment although there were always plenty of holes in Pete Townshend’s amps!”
Reg Garrod worked at the Britannia Pier and remembers one of those performances in particular.
“The audience start to leave the auditorium because stink bombs were being let off in the theatre. We asked our security man to go and investigate the source. Much to our surprise he came back to tell me the culprit was the drummer Keith Moon who was throwing them in to audience from the stage. So our general manager John Powles went and had words with their manager.”
Steve Dunn appeared on the same bill as The Who on three of those August 1965 performances:
“At that time I was the lead singer with a Yarmouth band called The Mi££ionaires and we appeared on several of the Sunday shows. My memories of our participation in the Who shows are still vivid, with images of Keith Moon wrecking his drums and Pete Townshend demolishing one of the many guitars he destroyed on stage.”
Colin Stanley saw The Who at the Tower Ballroom when they appeared on 23 March 1966. He remembers Roger Daltrey banged the cymbal and cut his hand on the side and all the girls threw handkerchiefs up on the stage. He picked some up and wiped his hand on them and threw them back into the audience. They were fighting over these handkerchiefs.”
Don Walker was on holiday in in June 1966 when The Who returned to Yarmouth for the final time to play the Britannia Pier as part of a package tour headlined by Donovan, who failed to appear. Don was there with a group of apprentice friends from Rolls Royce in Derby.
“When The Who came on the place erupted with the audience yelling “Smash your guitar, Pete.” He did not. When Donovan failed to show, we all expected The Who to come on again but no luck.
“A local band finished the night but after their first song, the place was empty. Leaving the show we came across a Ford Thames van that would not start. My mate Stu, being a motor mechanic, dived in to fix the problem. Of course it was the Who`s transport. What a night - and what memories!”
Richard said: “These memories help to paint a great picture of what it was like to be a pop fan in the 1960s, both in terms of how approachable and accessible groups were back then but also to give a glimpse of life in the Sixties.”
He is still keen to hear from any Who fans with memories of seeing them perform in Great Yarmouth or anywhere else during the Sixties or early Seventies.
Richard said: “It’s a story of The Who in the words of their fans that I want to tell.”
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by letter at 1 Totnes Road, Manchester, M21 8XF.
Richard has written two “people’s histories” of popular music – The Beatles: I Was There (published by Red Planet) and You Had To Be There: The Rolling Stones Live (published by GottaHaveBooks).
The Who: I Was There will be published by Red Planet in 2017.