Saturday, February 5, 2011
The Small Faces and The Who 1968 Tour
In late January 1968 The Who, The Small Faces and John Paul Jones the ex lead singer of Manfred Mann came to New Zealand as part of their first tour down under. It was a controversial tour as you will see.
For the New Zealand leg of the trip concerts were scheduled for Auckland (29 January) and Wellington (31 January). Tickets went on sale for two shows per day in each city, a matinee (6pm start I think) show and an evening show. I managed to get a ticket for the matinee show in Wellington which was to be held in the Wellington Town Hall.
Getting to Wellington was a long trip and took around 24 hours. First there was the train ride from Invercargill to Lyttelton which in those days of steam would have taken about 12 hours stops included. The next leg from Lyttelton to Wellington was by overnight ferry – the Wahine. As fate would have it the Wahine foundered a couple a months later in April 1968 at the entrance to Wellington harbour with the loss of 56 lives.
In those days of overnight ferry’s passengers arrived at the terminal just opposite the railway station and very convenient for those wishing to catch a train north. These days the ferry terminal is used by the Cook Strait Bluebridge ferry.
In Wellington I stayed at the People’s Palace which is a budget hotel located on Upper Cuba St. The original hotel building is still there and is part of a large hotel complex.
The tour was controversial, although at the time most concert goers would not have known the full extent of what happened or was to happen. The following piece from click here sums it up nicely.
"The "Big Show" tour by The Who, The Small Faces and ex-Manfred Mann vocalist Paul Jones should have been a dream ticket, but the only Australian/NZ visit by both the two legendary Mod bands was unfortunately a disaster in many respects. Almost from the moment they stepped off the plane, the groups ran into conflicts with the establishment and the media, who saw them as a dangerous and corrupting influence.
The rebellious image of the " 'Orrible 'Oo" naturally attracted the attention of the Australian press, who had long since acquired a well-earned reputation for being difficult, insensitive and often downright provocative. Even the media-friendly Monkees ran into problems with belligerent Aussie journos during their tour later that year when they were aggressively grilled about their attitude to the Vietnam War.
The hostility of the Aussie press corp is recounted by both Ian McLagan (who devotes a whole chapter to the tour in his excellent memoir All The Rage) and by Keith Moon's biographer Tony Fletcher. Both describe the hostility which erupted after a jet-lagged McLagan (of The Small Faces) told Aussie journalists to "fuck off" when questioned about his recent UK pot bust. (see below). This resulted in the touring party being harassed on a daily basis by the press.
According to rock historian Paul Conn, there were constant conflicts with the promoters over the "appalling" sound system. Fletcher and McLagan both mention problems at the Sydney concert, including the Stadium's revolving stage - according McLagan, the stage was actually pushed around manually, and when Steve Marriott got "pissed off" with the men pushing it they simply left it in one place, to the considerable annoyance of group and audience alike. By the next day, the press had the bands pegged as "Bad Tempered Louts". Several other incidents upset the establishment, including Pete Townshend allegedly punching out an Australian journalist (who can blame him?), altercations between band members and aggressive 'fans', and the groups' public expressions of frustration with the concert arrangements.
Not all of the tour was a bad experience, though -- McLagan fondly recalls their reception in Adelaide, where the groups were met by a troop of expatriate English Mods, who gave them a "scootercade" escort into the city, took them to the pub, and then down to the beach.
The problems and frustration finally came to a head during the flight back to Sydney from Adelaide on 28 January. Ansett Airlines in those days did not permit in-flight drinking but, according to McLagan, members of Paul's Jones' Australian backing band had smuggled bottles of beer onto the plane and were passing it around. A stewardess complained to Who roadie Bob Pridden, who was evidently in no mood for a lecture, and told her "...in no uncertain terms where to get off." (McLagan).
The stewardess immediately complained to the pilot, who radioed ahead and arranged for the touring party to be intercepted by airport security and police at Melbourne's Essendon Airport. The party was escorted off the plane and into the First Class lounge -- where, to their great amusement, they were served with drinks! -- after which they were escorted onto their flight to New Zealand.
Prime Minister John Gorton sent Pete Townshend a telegram telling The Who not to come back to Australia; Townshend reportedly sent back a fruity reply and left Australia swearing never to return -- a promise he has kept faithfully to this day! Once in New Zealand, things calmed down briefly, although they again ruffled establishment feathers in Auckland when Keith Moon indulged his famous penchant for wrecking hotel rooms.
A more detailed account of the tour, are contained in Tony Fletcher's 1999 biography Moon: The Life and Death Of A Rock Legend, and from Ian McLagan's wonderful memoir All The Rage (1998).
In 1998 New Zealand born British writer Andrew Neil published a special book about the tour, called A Fortnight Of Furore (Mutley Press). It covers the tour in great detail, and includes exclusive interviews with key participants, previously unpublished photos and memorabilia, a full reproduction of the rare, original tour programme, and a complete Australia and New Zealand Who/Small Faces discography.
There was a comical postscript to the story in 2000, when Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle returned to Australia as part of another "Big Show" -- the Ultimate Rock Symphony tour -- which included guitarist Simon Townshend, younger brother of Pete. It was reported in the Sydney press that at one of the shows, Daltrey made pointed reference to the events of the '68 tour and the Gorton telegram, and vented his "anger" by smashing a guitar on the stage. Unfortunately, instead of using his own guitar, Daltrey inadvertently grabbed Simon Townshend's prized $2000 Maton acoustic guitar and reduced it to matchwood!”
To be honest I can’t remember a great deal about the actual concert. John Paul Jones opened the show followed by the Small Faces and lastly the Who. I was up in the circle looking down on the stage as the photos above show.
There has been much written and spoken about the Small Faces/Who tour. There is a series of Radio New Zealand pod casts available online about the tour which were aired around the time the Who returned to New Zealand in March 2009 click here . You will need to scroll down to find the audio files but it is well worth the while to hear what Andy Neill has to say and to listen to Simon Morris’s exaggerated account of the Wellington show.