Oval Gas Works


International Times, October 4-18, 1972

Oval Gas Works
16th September 1972

Promoting rock is always fraught with danger, as the brothers Foulk found out (yet again) last Saturday afternoon. Few people expected them to lose money on a line up like Jeff Beck, Zappa and Hawkwind, but they certainly did – the factors being poor weather and expensive tickets – with the result that the green was never more than half full and the raised seating round the periphery hardly used. But, as well as being a good tax loss, it was also the best music I have seen at a one-day event for a long time, and what's more you didn't have to queue for anything. I got there half way through Man's set, complete with a blue blazered male voice choir from the valleys, and their relaxed but insistent set got things off to a good start.

Jeff Beck in a leery white suit made his first British appearance with the ex-Vanilla Fudge rhythm section, Tim Bogart on bass, and drummer Carmine Appice, a line-up he first mentioned several years ago, and together they ripped out a set of fast, funky and impeccable rock 'n roll. Beck was in good form, and ranged as far back as 'Hi Ho Silver Lining' and 'Over Under Sideways Down', and these brought a cheer from the shivering crowd beneath the grey gas works, but all the same I thought the sound was a bit thin in places, places where a bit of Max Middleton and good ol' Cozy Powell wouldn't have come amiss. After a quick encore they were gone, and we settled down to wait for nightfall and the coming of the Grand Wazoo.

After a lot of messing about, mainly because the lighting was making the giant p.a. hum, the Machiavelli of rock limped forth and introduced the members of his 20 piece jazz orchestra by means of an elaborate and prolonged balance check. The crowd got interested as the 10 minute mix went on, and when they finally came together and burst into 'Big Swifty', from the 'Waka/Jawaka' album, they had the inexorable power of a musical express-train. There is something awesome about a loud medium-size jazz orchestra roaring out into the night, and the small scruffy Zappa stood in the middle and beat out time with his Wazoo's wand like an infant-school music teacher. There was nothing infantile about the music though, he handled the complicated score and made it swing as only the composer could, particularly on a new piece 'The Adventures of Gregory Peccary' (a species of small wild pig native to South California, and how he avoids being made into a pair of ladies' pigskin gloves) and added between movements that in case anyone was getting restless there'd be a shuffle along real soon. This appearance was a lot different from the ad-libbing insanity of Mark and Howie, but we got a flash of Mr Zappa's serious side, particularly in the passages when he played guitar. We got a rendering of what he chose to call 'Dog Meat', a medley of the King Kong theme from Uncle Meat and the 'Dog Breath Variations', one of his most evocative and haunting compositions, but sadly no 'Peaches en Regalia', which I hoped would be an ideal choice for this current medium. At the end, he hung around the stage and seemed to be disappointed at his reception, which was a shame after what happened at the Rainbow fast year.

By this time, the thing was running well late but little Linda Lewis did a quick set while the Sonic Assassins set up. It was a bad place to squeeze her in, between strong stuff like Zappa and Hawkwind and she didn't come over half so well as at Bickershaw, the last big crowd I saw her facing.

Then the lights darkened, the boggies leapt to their feet as they heard Del and Dikmik's oscilla ors speeding up, and we all faced our private crises on Spaceship Earth, while the giant words 'Life Supply' and 'Functional' winked on and off in the heavens. These boys are no longer Ladbroke Grove aristocracy but genuine wasted Sergio Leone-type pop-stars and the act has tightened up enough to keep this together. There was a strong feeling of deja vu about the Wind's set, a strong echo of the early Floyd, not musically but in the incredible vibes built up between an audience and the sounds they identify very strongly with. It was a shame Mr Brock and the boys' piece de resistance, the firework display, had to be cancelled due to lack of time and increasing charyness by the genteel cricket club officials already narked by the bonfires blazing away the sacred turf. A shame 'cos a bonfire and fireworks scene would have been a good lift at the end of a good Oval.

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