Friars Club, Vale Hall, Aylesbury : 22/11/75

First, we had to endure the support band 'Secret Oyster' - anyone remember them? I wish I didn't. They were the remnants of a once fairly fine Danish band 'Burnin Red Ivanhoe' but they were now a pompous prog-rock band of the most tedious kind with a keyboard player who'd obviously got some new equipment with lots of new noises he could play with and pretend to be Keith Emerson (and who needs another one of them) ...

..but to cut to the chase...

The last time I'd seen Don was in 1973 with that great storming Magic Band. Since then I had become somewhat disillusioned because he seemed to have lost the plot completely - by that I mean releasing the distressing albums 'Unconditionally Guaranteed' and 'Bluejeans & Moonbeams'. However there had been some good news in that he was touring with the Mothers (had I heard 'Bongo Fury' by this time ... I'm not sure?) and he had played at Knebworth (which I have to admit being at but must have been too far gone to remember any of it apart from the opening drum beats of 'Moonlight on Vermont' and a few other snatches of songs!!). So going to see him again now was worrying me - would he be any good? ... would my faith be restored? ... who would be in the Magic Band?


When the band finally took the stage they seemed tired - which is not surprising after driving down from Scotland. It soon became apparent there was an anti-Captain element in the audience. My recollections of the first part of the gig - lazy, lack-lustre and out-of-tune - playing, are coloured by the bad atmosphere created by this small bunch of tossers. I know it was not unusual for Don to be heckled - I'm just ashamed I had to witness it. If this happened regularly I'm surprised Don didn't give up touring a lot earlier. He got so exasperated with interruptions during 'Orange Claw Hammer' he ended up shouting 'Fuck you, man' and during 'Beatle bones..' he stared one guy down, leant forward with microphone in one hand, pointed straight at him and beckoned him to come closer - not surprisingly Don's offer was declined. Eventually the hecklers gave up/crawled back under their stones/turned back into pumpkins and for me a cloud lifted. It seemed as if the band sensed it too because the performance took on a greater urgency and conviction.

(Having since heard a tape of the gig I was pleasantly surprised to hear just how good the music was - the first part was definitely nowhere as bad as I'd remembered.)

I remember thinking that the set list seemed odd. But maybe that was due to lack of rehearsal time - presumably 'Poofters Froth Wyoming' was only included because most of the band knew it from the Bongo Fury tour with Zappa and the blues jam section was a filler and geared to Winged Eel Fingerling and Denny Whalley's abilities. This Magic Band was not the best by any means, although it had the great advantage of John French in his Drumbo seat. But they made a good showing of 'Beatle bones..', 'My human gets me..' and 'Electricity'.
Bruce Fowler's 'air-bass' didn't really cut it for me on the break in 'Abba Zabba' but for the rest of the set it provided a unusual throbbing undertow.

One of the more bizarre highlights of this tour at each gig had to be Drumbo's Tap dance...
every drummer at this time was expected to do a solo - but they usually had a vast battery of drums, snares, cymbals, gongs etc etc. So it was rather incongruous when Drumbo started going to town on his very small kit. It then became hilarious as, banging his feet on the stage to create more sounds, he eventually stood up and tap danced his way around the stage accompanied by some cheesy trombone from Bruce Fowler. It had to be seen to be appreciated - the perfect antidote to the pomposity of rock drummers and drum solos.

Overall this gig was not a great one, although it had its moments. But I came away at the end reassured that Don was back on the right track again after the Tragic Band episode.


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