Knebworth Frestival 1974

Knebworth Frestival 1974
Authored By John Nicholson

This was the very first Knebworth - a one day festival on the grounds of a stately home. From 1974 to 1980 were its glory days, each show was always a stellar line-up and 1974 was no exception.  

However, this was still 1974 and that meant, in UK especially, what we might call 'facilities' were basic. The toilets were, in fact, a massive long stinking trench over which scaffolding had been built and planks with holes in put across the top. Possibly apocryphal tales of people falling into the trench abounded every year at Knebwoth. Having seen the trench in 1979 and been terrfied by the effluent of 200,000 people, I can confirm it was little short of being a humans rights crime. 

However, its important to remember that the 1974 rock punter was a hardy soul and saw such tempoorary deprivation as a counterbalance to the materialistc society they had left to witness the rock. It was part of a lifestyle, even if just for a weekend. Also we lived harder lives back then. Many still had outside toilets and let's face it, we did not expect any better. When you have no expectations, you cannot be let down.

A line-up of Tim Buckley, Alex Harvey Band, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Van Morrison, Doobie Brothers and the Allman Brothers Band, covered a lot of musical territory. 

The notable thing here is that all except Buckley were selling a lot of records and pulling big audiences at this time. By all accounts, Buckley was largely ignored but delivered a great set all the same. SAHB were a fierce live proposition, with Alex playing the Glaswegian ringmaster. Vambo Rules. Then and now. 

The Mahavishu’s were serious musos and with chops to burn. This incarnation had Jean Luc Ponty on violin and Narada Michael Walden on drums, while John McLaughlin played that gorgeous 12 and 6 strong double neck and only ever wore white on stage (of course) After the theatrics of SAHB this was a time to stroke your beard.

Next up was Van the Man who played with a small tight band, including Pete Wingfield on keys. By all accounts he went down a storm playing stuff like Into The Mystic from Moondance.

Doobies played a classy set from opener Listen To The Music to closer China Grove. 

Headliners Allman Brothers Band played a wonderful set of their classics opening with Wasted Words and ending with Whipping Post. The 'Wipe The Windows' double album was pretty much their typical set at that time. 

Most of these sets are available as bootlegs. All Knebworth shows should've been made available on a triple live album. But I suppose getting clearance for such a thing might've been difficult. 


Scroll To Top