Thirty Years Ago Today

Today is the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Knebworth Fayre, headlined by Deep Purple. David Meadows shares his memories of the day.

It’s 1985. Thirty years ago today, as I write this. I’m a student in Sunderland and I’ve just passed my 20th birthday. And I have only recently been introduced to rock music by the people I’m living with. I grew up without much knowledge of contemporary music at all. I listened to my parents’ music. My sister bought all the pop records in the household, and I didn’t think much of most of them. I listened to classical music, some folk, some jazz, and mostly what these days they would call the “Great American Songbook”. So I’m only just starting to listen to rock music, and deciding that while a lot of it is rubbish, some of it might not be bad at all. The first rock LP I buy is something called Bat Out Of Hell, and I think it’s incredible. My friends go up to rock gigs in Newcastle every few weeks and come back telling me it was the best concert they’ve ever seen (which seems a silly thing to say; how can they always get better and better?) but I never want to go with them. It doesn’t seem like it would be my kind of thing.

So there’s suddenly this buzz about an old band called Deep Purple who have reformed and are going to be playing a big show in someplace I’ve never heard of called Knebworth. I’ve heard Deep Purple: a friend loaned me a compliation called Deepest Purple last summer, and some of it is not bad at all. More intriguingly, Meat Loaf, the Bat Out of Hell guy, will be on the bill.

The whole thing is well worth a read.

Almost every rock fan I know seems to have been at that gig. It was the hard rock equivalent of that much mythologised Sex Pistols gig in Manchester, except that everyone who claims to have been there actually was.

The thing we all remember the most is the rain. And Meatloaf being absolutely God-awful, And the rain. And Mountain missing out the good bit from “Nantucket Sleighridge”. And the sun coming out briefly during Blackfoot’s excellent set. And then the rain came back. And The Scorpions, at the peak of the powers, stealing the show from the headliners. But most of all, the rain.

The other thing that sticks in the memory is walking back from Kings Cross to Paddington, covered in mud, and having to cover two and three quarter miles in 45 minutes to catch the last train back to Slough at 1:40am. We made it with just seconds to spare.

I’ve seen Deep Purple a couple of times far more recently, but it’s still the only time I have ever seen Ritchie Blackmore live.

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