Who Was There? 50 Years On...

Barry Lucas and Paul Tomlinson 'When Rock Went to College'
Barry and Paul Tomlinson launch 'When Rock Went to College'

The Who were the first Great Hall concert booking on Friday 15th May 1970 - exactly 50 years ago. Barry Lucas, former Entertainments Manager at LU reflects on that gig and the ones that followed when 'Rock Went to College'

"As Dame Edna would have said, 'Spooky!' Friday May 15th 2020is EXACTLY 50 years on from Friday May 15th 1970 - the day The Who played on the stage in the Great Hall.

Well 50 years, where did that go? 50 years since The Who jumped onto The Great Hall stage and started 15 legendary years of rock at Lancaster University. In February 1970, I was elected social secretary of Lonsdale College and my mate, Gas Taylor, became social secretary of Bowland. We pooled our budgets, brought in Furness, and booked The Who for three times more than had ever been paid to a band at Lancaster before. Two, wet behind the ears, 18 year olds and their first ever booking. The Politicos went crazy, believing we were going to bankrupt the student body, they tried to stop us, but we just managed to get the signed contracts in the post box in Alexandra Square before they could ‘arrest’ us. In an act of defiance we added Quintessence to the bill and then a third support act called Hammer.

In the subsequent 14 years Lancaster hosted around 800 acts, many of them iconic figures in rock history :

Sabbath, Free, Wishbone Ash, Kinks, Floyd, T Rex, Traffic, Pretenders, Ramones, U2, OMD, Human League, Tina Turner, New Order, Velvet Underground, Chuck Berry, Paul McCartney, Ravi Shankar, Roxy Music, Bob Marley, Genesis, Quo, Bad Company, Queen, 10CC, AC DC, Clapton, Blondie, Nils Lofgren, Thin Lizzy, Boomtown Rats, Jam, Lynryd Skynyrd, Clash, Van Morrison, Dire Straits etc. etc.

How on earth did it happen? Even as I write those names and recall the countless other world superstars listed in ‘When Rock Went To College’, I cannot really believe it happened -- and I booked them all. So, after the first edition of the book sold out, Paul Tomlinson and I created a second edition with new stories, photos and posters. The book sold all over the world from Canada and the USA to China and Australia. It was sought out by many in the music business who wished to have a record of those fantastic years. Even artists including Paul McCartney, ACDC, and Andy Powell, through promoters, agents and major record companies all bought copies.

It was amazing, and a bit scary, that some stories I had recounted in numerous bars and at countless dinner parties - had not been remembered accurately! Luckily, the new edition meant that I could make corrections. The third support act for The Who I always insisted was Amazing Blondel, but when Robb Winn, the agent responsible for booking The Who, contacted me from his Florida home, he confirmed it was in fact a little Hull rock band called Hammer. I had totally forgotten. Robb said the keyboard player was a pain the butt and the band broke up a couple of years later. However, the keyboard player ended up in the US, became a renowned songwriter for George Benson and Michael Jackson (including Thriller and Rock with You) and won a Grammy for his work with Quincy Jones. The other major apology was to The Ramones who I blamed for damaging the music studio and an antique harpsichord. Well, after 40 years Geoff Campbell told me the real culprits -- The Clash. I suppose it actually fits their image better anyway! "

Barry Lucas and Paul Tomlinson's book 'When Rock Went To College' is available from Carnegie Press

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