Wednesday, December 09, 2015

'No ordinary pop show': the 1967 Stax/Volt UK tour

Tomorrow will be the 48th anniversary of Otis Redding's tragic death. The Stax/Volt tour of the UK in 1967, which starred Otis, has gone down in soul folklore as one of the greatest soul shows ever. After more than 48 years it's hard to remember the show in detail, although the excitement of the performances by Sam and Dave and Otis, in particular, stay in the memory. The popular consensus is that Sam and Dave's act was the highlight.
I was lucky enough to see the show at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon. What's more I wrote a review for the Croydon Advertiser, where, as a 20 year old, I worked as a trainee journalist. I didn't keep a copy of my review so I haven't read it in all the many years since. But yesterday I tracked it down on the micofiche at Croydon Library and I thought it would be interesting to report on what I actually thought at the time. The following is the review that appeared in the Croydon Advertiser of March 31, 1967 under the headline 'No ordinary pop show',
'From the moment that Booker T and the MGs strode on to the stage of Fairfield Hall on Easter Monday it was obvious that the Otis Redding Show was going to be a rip-roaring success.
The audience were shouting and stamping their feet right from the start, but this wasn't an ordinary pop show - not the usual crowd of 12 year old girls screaming over their particular idol - this was an audience who knew what to expect and wanted to hear at least some of what went on.
And, excited though they undoubtedly were, they caused no real trouble. They rushed the stage a couple of times but soon returned to their seats when told to.
The accent was on beat, and this was laid down loud and fast throughout. Booker T and the MGs kicked off proceedings and it was soon clear that the reputation they had brought with them from the States was justified.
We sat and marvelled at Steve Cropper's magnificent guitar work and Booker T's brilliant organ playing as they rocked through numbers like 'Green Onions' and 'Summertime'.
This group were on stage throughout, providing the backing for all the other acts and they were soon joined by the Mar-Keys, who added body to the backing with two saxophones and a trumpet.
In their own spot, the Mar-Keys played 'Philly Dog' and 'Last Night' and sounded very much like their records.
But when at last a vocalist appeared, the fragile-looking Arthur Conley, it became obvious that the backing was just a little too loud. His voice was almost drowned. Nevertheless he gave an exciting performance of a couple of Wilson Pickettt numbers - 'Midnight Hour' and '634-5789' - and he really got the crowd going with his new record, 'Sweet Soul Music'.
Closing the first half was Eddie Floyd, who jumped around the stage as though he had a wasp in his trousers. His numbers included 'If I Had A Hammer' and his biggest hit 'Knock On Wood'. An impressive performance and an exciting one.
So far there hadn't been a weak act on the bill and most of the audience were tired out from shouting, clapping and stamping. But could this last?
It didn't take long after the interval to find out. Sam and Dave ran onto the stage and almost immediately the audience was on its feet applauding.
The programme described their act as 'Double Dynamite' and it wasn't a bad description at that. They danced, they jumped and, for once, we could hear what they were singing about.
They stole the show. Their act was polished and professional and they generated so much excitement that I thought the roof might cave in at any moment.
They finished their act with a ten minute version of 'Hold On I'm Comin'' and when they eventually left, the crowd was yelling for more.
It looked like a difficult moment for the show's compere. Emperor Rosko, of Radio Caroline, but he was unperturbed and he managed to get the crowd yelling not for Sam and Dave but for Otis Redding, the star of the show.
And suddenly there was Otis doing his jigging routine on numbers like 'Mr Pitiful', 'Satisfaction' and 'Shake'.
I could hear little because of the noise from the backing group and from the crowd, and personally I found the numbers rather tuneless. It wasn't until he sang a couple of slow numbers, 'My Girl' and 'I've Been Loving You Too Long', that I became really enthusiastic. On these, particularly the latter, he was brilliant. If anyone did not know before, they certainly knew then what soul music is all about.
The climax of his act was 'Try A Little Tenderness' - which started very slowly but became wilder and wilder. His 15 minute version of the song went down well with the audience, but I thought the seven or eight carefully planned encores were a bit corny.
This was surely the most exciting show that the Fairfield Hall had seen in a long, long time.
N.C. (Nick Cobban)


At 1:52 pm , Blogger grahamej said...

brilliant. Thanks Nick.

At 11:33 am , Anonymous Daphne said...

Just read your review Nick and what memories that shook up! I was there at the show too having persuaded my boyfriend (who didn't want to go!!) to drive my cousin and I up from Portsmouth, hang around 'somewhere' and then drive us back to Pompey. Great review - Fantastic show!

At 10:25 am , Anonymous Dave said...

Nick. Fascinating to read your report. I was at the concert, too and I was also a young, local reporter but for the Surrey Mirror in Redhill.


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