Chris McGregor' Brotherhood of Breath, Bridgwater Arts Centre February 1975
Great at time - in retrospect must have been sensational. Stumbled across the Band in a pub before the gig. Unbelievable line-up - the South Africans of McGregor, Pukwana, Feza etc. and various Softs connections - Elton Dean, Charig, Evans and Skidmore. Totally anarchic set - wonderful group and individual performances. Also memorable for sleeping overnight on Bridgwater station.
Soft Machine, Birmingham Town Hall, March 1975
Never saw classic line-up - too young but only missed it by 6 months. Drat! Saw Jenkins/Hopper/Ratledge/Marshall a couple of times at Malvern and Wolverhampton. Both were disappointing - but I did get close to the band when they walked into the Civic Hall at Wolverhampton when I arrived early and was getting a ticket. Too awe struck to do anything more than stare and look embarrassed. I had not intended to go to the Birmingham gig - Softs with a guitarist seemed not quite the thing. But this was incredible - played in quad with Mike Ratledge seemingly more interested in the technology than the music. Holdsworth, however, was just out of this world. His opening guitar solo from 'Bundles' was frightening - about 10 minutes long. Usual Softs approach - never said a word to the audience.
Gong/Hatfield, Paignton, probably sometime in 1975
Another student gig from our base in Exeter. One of those early Virgin double headers. Gong on first this time - must have been classic line-up. Remember them being unbelievable stage act - Daevid, Gilli and Steve Hillage in particular. Why I never got into the albums till the 1990s remains a mystery. Hats for me suffered a bit - technically superb but Gong were difficult to follow. Enjoyed them more when I saw them in Exeter a few months later - Steve Miller/Coxhill also on that bill. Phil Miller's sound was perfect that night.
Henry Cow, Birmingham Town Hall, June 1974
Back home from College in Midlands. Really went to see Beefheart who had been bizarre and wonderful previous year. Knew nothing about Henry Cow, but their supporting set was so new and exciting. One of best gigs ever - Frith, Hodginson, Cooper - everyone brilliant. 'Legend' is still one of my all time favourite albums. Beefheart for me very commercial and disappointing (he had just signed with Virgin). Saw Cow once more when band was on point of splitting - arguably one of worst gigs ever - lots of anger in band, totally free set - I left before the end!
Gong, Birmingham Town Hall, April 1996
Yes something recent. Canterbury favourites rarely play in the Midlands - mind you when I go to some jazz events in Birmingham crowds are low so it's not surprising. This was just fantastic. They played just about everything from the Trilogy and some of the 'Camembert' material. Daevid still an inspiring stage presence - Steffi did the Steve/Tim bits really well - and the whole band was excellent.