Max Boyce was given to end a rambling story about incidents at a Welsh international rugby match with the deeply felt words – “I know, because I was there”. Recently, the magnificent Danny Baker gave over part of his Saturday morning radio show to a phone-in on the same topic, which made me consider where I stood on this topic. I think I am less nostalgic than many people of my age – when it came to the sixties, for example, I remember a decade with poor central heating, no drugs and precious little sex or rock’n’roll.
However, I do have some “I was there” stories to claim. My father used to take me and my brothers to see Charlton Athletic, and we were there on the 27th December 1957 when they beat Huddersfield 7-6 having been 1-5 down, only ten men on the pitch and twenty minutes to go. Exciting ? My dad was surprised that people didn’t die of heart failure. The attendance was (I read now) 12,535, but you’d never know it from the number of grey-beards who lean against the saloon bars from Catford to Bexley, from Erith to Lewisham, and give their memories on the great day. The other historic event I attended was the fabled 1966 Bob Dylan concert at the Albert Hall, when he played a set with electric guitars. The first half of the concert was played acoustically, with Dylan alone on stage singing the protest songs from the first couple of albums, which greatly pleased the crowd in duffel coats. The second half was the controversial one, with what became later The Band backing the great man: the hum from the amplifiers as they walked on stage was louder than most bands we’d heard. The incident when a folkie shouted “Judas” took place in Manchester, not London, but at the Albert Hall I do remember one pompous prat in a voluminous sweater asking “What would Woody say ?” as he – well, not exactly stormed out, but shambled to the exit. I was there, and I have witnesses who also crammed in to Rick Watson’s red Austin A35 van.
Now, though, one must confess the times when I wasn’t there. I was sitting in a bar after playing rugby when a friend came up and said he had a spare ticket to see The Who play live at Leeds. Like an idiot I said I was a bit tired and missed one of Keith Moon’s last gigs. And a few years ago, a friend encouraged me to see a band he really liked at Sheffield’s Boardwalk. Down we went, and heard the set, which I didn’t like very much at all, so we finished our drinks and went home, missing the next band of promising locals who my son-in-law had come to watch – the Arctic Monkeys. Ho hum.