Yet More...

That solitary set-list from Vienna in 1969 with the band as the headline act (Status Quo was further down the bill) reads:

You Need Loving

Song of the Baker

Long Black Veil

Every Little Bit Hurts

All or Nothing

Tin Soldier

So what do we see? The Willie Dixon track that got turned into Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love followed by an album track sung by Ronnie Lane, a murder ballad that’s a cover from Music From Big Pink, a slow soul ballad and a one-two knockout punch at the end. Given the restrictions that come with the territory, that’s not a bad set list, though it didn’t necessarily guarantee a great performance.

In that context it’s worth a side track into the world of the sixties packaged pop procession to underline how restricted your working environment was in that setting. Take, for example, the notorious “Big Show” tour of Australia and New Zealand in January 1968, noting there were two shows each night, the first at 6:00 and the second at 8:45. Start the first, and you’ve got two and three-quarter hours before the second, with the need to clear the house after the first and let the crowd in for the second.

Had I been able to obtain tickets there’s a fair chance I would have given my eye teeth to be there for either of the shows at Brisbane’s Festival Hall on 20 January, though in twenty-first century terms you’d probably feel shortchanged with what you were actually served up in a show that couldn’t have run much over two hours including changeovers.

A click on that hyperlink two paragraphs back will reveal the headline act was The Who, with second and third billing going to The Small Faces and ex-Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones and support acts in the form of Billy Thorpe and The Questions. There’s nothing to indicate whether we’re looking at four or five acts in that time frame, but it’s safe to assume the running order was something like a two or three song set from Thorpe, who was in the process of reinventing himself, one or two from The Questions (Doug Parkinson’s first band), then with Parkinson leaving the stage there’s be a mini-set from Jones, followed by The Small Faces and The Who.

In that sort of context the set list detailed above is probably as good as, and about all you could reasonably expect.

In the context of live performance, you’d expect as the effects of mass hysteria took over, certain tracks would have been ideal vehicles for vocalists to take off into the stratosphere. That’s not suggesting that there was a conscious plan to induce, say, some of the physical and vocal euphoria associated with the whirling dervishes of the Sufi world, but the waves of hysteria were certainly headed somewhere that was significantly different from the prim and proper world of the sixties generation’s parents and grandparents.

The call-and-response aspects of a track like Van Morrison’s Gloria were at least partly designed to work performer and audience into a state which may not have been Sufi enlightenment, but had some aspects of it. That might not, of course, have been a deliberate and conscious decision, at least, not in the beginning. In many cases one suspects performers mightn’t have been aware of what they were doing, but having done it once and enjoyed it, set out to do it again.

The use of Van Morrison as a reference point here is quite deliberate. Having heard a number of unofficial Morrison concert recordings, there are nights when Van definitely seems to be heading in that direction. His widely noted inconsistency as a live performer would, in such circumstances, be caused as much by the difficulty of consistently reaching that state as it would by his notoriously volatile personality.

The astute reader will have twigged to the fact there's a much more obvious example of what we might term divine inspiration than Sufi mysticism, which is, of course, why I veered away from referring to the gospel roots of the old rhythm and blues. 


B© Ian Hughes 2012