WEELEY - LET IT ROCK!
In the summer of 1971, the nation's top rock bands descended on Weeley. It was a festival to remember. T. Rex, Rod Stewart and Status Quo were amongst the artists making Weeley the capital of cool.
Forget Glastonbury or Woodstock,
Weeley was the place to be in August 1971.
Weeley is a small town outside Clacton in Essex but for a few days in 1971 it became the rock 'n' roll capital of Britain.
Weeley rocked with a music festival on an epic scale featuring a star-studded line-up including The Faces, T.Rex, Status Quo and Mungo Jerry.
So squeeze yourself into those hotpants and grab your platform boots
as Inside Out Extra spacehoppers you back to the wildest event of '71.
From donkeys to rockers
Status Quo, T.Rex and Rod Stewart are impressive festival
headliners by anyone's standards.
|Rockin' all over the Weeley - Quo get down and dirty back then|
But when the festival organisers
are the Clacton Round Table, you have to applaud their efforts in securing a top line-up.
Visitors to Weeley in previous summers would
have been treated to the annual Donkey Derby charity event organised by
the same Round Table.
But this was 1971 and the world was changing - the Weeley 'Tablers' decided to break with tradition.
They waved goodbye to the donkey derbies and
began to organise a small concert with half a dozen local bands instead.
|What happened to the Weeley bands?|
- Marc Bolan tragically died in a car crash in 1977. Bongo player Mickey Finn died aged 55 in 2003.
- The Faces
- Rod Stewart is a top solo artist whilst Ronnie Wood is a Rolling Stone. Ronnie Lane died of MS in 1997.
- Status Quo
- Rossi and Parfitt continue to rock
around the globe.
- Barclay James Harvest
- The band continue to pursue solo projects. Drummer Mel Pritchard died in January 2004.
- Mungo Jerry
- Still touring after 30 years.
Mott the Hoople
- Ian Hunter continues to tour and record as a solo artist. Mick Ralphs found fame with Bad Company. Overend Watts runs a successful antiques shop in Hereford.
- King Crimson
- Now in its fourth decade, the band has just released a studio album Robert Fripp has worked solo, and is married to Toyah.
Mungo Jerry, who had had a number one that year with In The Summertime, was the
first band to be booked by the organisers.
Expected numbers rose from a few thousand to 10,000.
Artistic Director Colin King was brought on board securing
acts such as Rod Stewart and the Faces, T.Rex, Julie Felix and King Crimson.
The whole event mushroomed out of proportion and became much bigger than anyone had expected.
The line-up of bands was staggering - Status Quo, Lindisfarne, Curved Air, Rory Gallagher, The Groundhogs, King Crimson, Barclay James Harvest, Mott the Hoople... the list is endless.
"Rod Stewart and the Faces, T.Rex - this was little
old Weeley," marvels Mike Sams of the Clacton Gazette.
"No-one had ever heard of it and here was T. Rex coming
down - marvellous!"
And little old Weeley never looked back. "It was almost an exodus," recalls Steve Harley
of Cockney Rebel fame.
"Thousands upon thousands of us coming from all over
Britain," he remembers.
"Hitching, walking, anyway you could to get to a
place most of us had never actually heard of."
Peace, love and understanding
Ticket sales reached 100,000 just days before the concert
and in the end, more than 150,000 attended over the August Bank Holiday.
Many fans simply turned up on spec and tried to get in free.
|Sweet dreams. The round-the-clock rock marathon was exhausting for some|
As a result the site was bursting to saturation point, and in the end the organisers made a plea that no more people descend on Weeley.
The number of bands playing also rocketed.
There were so many bands involved that they had to play continuously 24 hours each day
from Friday night through to Sunday morning.
The hippies lapped up the atmosphere, raising flags outside their tents, dancing and making bonfires.
Despite being full to capacity, the event went without
a hitch thanks to security provided by the Hell's Angels.
There was just one small "bust up"
between the caterers and the Hell's Angels, making it one of the most peaceful festival events ever.
Anyone who was cool and hip was at Weeley that year, and the festival proved to be a memorable experience even for seasoned rockers like Steve Harley who attended as a fan.
|Thousands of hippies join the loved-up atmosphere|
"Of all the experiences I have had in my life before
or since, Weeley was pretty special," remembers Steve.
"When we came to the outback of north Essex to Weeley, to see this many people, nothing could have prepared us for this.
"It was an amazing sight - it really was."
Colin King agrees with his sentiments, "It was just electric. It was magical. It was something that had never happened before".
"On the first night I drove around the site and I felt like a general directing his troops about to go off to the battle at Agincourt," he recalls.
Once in a lifetime
Despite the large numbers attending, the event didn't raise a huge amount for charity.
"In hindsight we didn't do what we set out to do
- raise serious money for charity," explains Graham Syrett, ex-Clacton Round Table.
|Twentieth century boy -|
T. Rex ecstasy at Weeley
"We had an experience. As it turned out, it was a bit too big for us to
handle really. Perhaps we should have stuck to our donkey derbies."
But the thousands attending the festival were glad they
Whilst it was an unforgettable experience for both festival
goers and the Round Table alike, it was also an unrepeatable one.
"It was something I was glad I was involved in, but
never want to be involved in another," says Graham.
But for one glorious summer, Weeley rocked. To a generation
of Brits, the name Weeley will be forever synonymous with an amazing atmosphere,
some fantastic bands and of course, the Round Table!