TODAY, we’re winding the clock back almost 30 years, thanks to some old pictures we recently unearthed in our library. The date is 22 September 1984, the venue is Knavesmire and the event is the York Rock Festival.
Former Evening Press journalist Tony Mallett was one of the co-promoters of the event, and agreed to share his memories. Here’s what he remembers from the rock festival:
“Many stories come to mind about that great day and the run-up to it. First of all, the line-up was a total accident. We’d originally tried to bag U2, Simple Minds and The Alarm for a classic rock gig – we even toyed with Marillion – but none were available.”In the end, we went down the ‘alternative’ route and had pretty much lined up Siouxsie and the Banshees before Robert Smith chose that summer to go full-time with his other project, The Cure. So, without their guitarist, the Banshees backed off.”
That year, Echo and the Bunnymen had been scoring some chart hits with singles from their album Ocean Rain so, finally, we signed them up. Getting Spear of Destiny, The Sisters of Mercy and The Chameleons was a massive bonus.
2. heartland (Andrew steps on bass-chords so the bassguitar stops working)
5. walk away
7. A rock and a hard place
9. Alice (2 times starting)
10. Body electric
11. Gimme shelter
12. Sister Ray/ Ghost rider
“On the day itself, there was plenty of drama. One occurrence had its roots in an event the day before: I decided to do a site visit to the racecourse to check out that the stage was all sorted, only to discover that the roof was too low I hadn’t been in charge of the stage specs, I might add. Once the lighting rig was in place the spotlights would virtually have been on Ian McCulloch’s head during the set. The lad would have fried so I had to get the stage builders to raise the roof by several feet a day before the gig.”
At six thirty on the Saturday morning I received a call from one of the ovenight security guards pointing out that it was raining heavily and the quickly modified stage roof had a leak. I got onsite about an hour later with my then girlfriend’s pink hairdryer and spent 45 minutes blow drying Spear of Destiny’s drum kit. Fortunately, they never knew.
“Later that day, after The Sisters had been on stage, their lead singer Andrew Eldritch requested an extra bottle of Jack Daniels as part of their rider clause. I took him down from their changing room at the top of the racecourse grandstand to get him to sign for the extra bottle, then we took the lift back up.
“Unfortunately, the elevator promptly got stuck between floors. Thank the lord, I had a walkie-talkie and managed to get us rescued after about twenty minutes. Myself, Andrew and a bottle of JD had entered that lift and I’m slightly ashamed to say that only two of the three came out intact. And it wasn’t the Tennessee whiskey.
“A couple of hours later, as the Bunnymen were coming to the end of their headline set, I was standing alongside Don Hoad, who was City of York’s environment chief.
“Now, Don was a great bloke but part of his job that night was to ensure that the gig was over by 10pm so, with five minutes left, he quite rightly told me that if the concert over-ran he would have to pull the plug.”At that point; I raced to the back of the stage as the band were considering an encore, explained that we now had only three-and-a-half minutes and said ‘Do you know any short ones, lads?’ They laughed but, all credit to them, they flew through an encore and finished right on the nose.”Of course, a few moments afterwards McCulloch famously got punched by a stage bouncer which ended up in a court case some months later. It was a bizarre end to a truly amazing day. I had just turned 23 years old and was pretty proud of myself, to be honest, if somewhat shattered. Do it all again? You betcha.”