Uncut’s Worst Gigs! – Online Exclusive

Today: Free play dead in Salisbury, 1972

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In last month’s UNCUT, our writers, friends and favourite musicians reminisced about their favourite gigs.

Well, in this month’s issue we’re looking back on the worst gigs we’ve ever seen – including The Stone Roses, Bob Dylan, Kevin Rowland and David Bowie – with rare photos from the shows too.

We’re also going to publish one of the worst gigs every day, with online exclusives, so feast your eyes on this, and be glad you weren’t there!




Salisbury City Hall, 1972



Living in the rural West Country market town of Salisbury, we were pretty much grateful for any band that deigned to come our way. Marble Orchard, Jerusalem, Stray… any old no-mark hard rock outfit was guaranteed a hero’s welcome just for crossing the border into Wilts.

But every now and then real stars would descend from Valhalla to blow our tiny, adolescent minds. Led Zep had swaggered into town late in ‘71, Page, with his violin bow, an absolute warlock. Jethro Tull had mesmerised at the Alex Rooms, Ian Anderson a drooling tramp majestic. In misguided tribute, I recall we nicked our dads’ dressing gowns to wear after school for a few days post-Tull until we realised the girls were all snogging suedeheads in Crombies. And now – joy of joys! – Free were on their way to the City Hall as part of their comeback tour.

Free were bona fide bigtime. They’d had proper hits, been on Top Of The Pops. Local bands in village halls bludgeoned through the opening riffs of ‘All Right Now’. Pedro, the acned, cool, conspicuously stoned sixth form hippy who had hair down to there and, so legend went, never (itals)ever(itals) washed it, had actually stopped and spoken to me – a mere fifth former! – because I happened to have a copy of Free’s Tons Of Sobs album conspicuously tucked under my arm.

They were cool and they were proper – men’s men, steeped in the hard labour of the delta blues. Paul Rodgers, the rugged singer, looked like the sort of geezer who had to shave four times a day just to keep the stubble at bay. Bassist Andy Frazer had something of the Mexican switchblade bandito about him. Drummer Simon Kirk was a character in an era when drummers – Bonham, Moon, Palmer – were characters. And Paul Kossoff, the guitarist, he could make that axe of his weep, rage and bleed.

So it was in full anticipation of a masterclass in musical machismo that me and my mates raced out after tea and convened at the Brewery Tap, a pub near the City Hall, where they’d happily sell real scrumpy to 15 year olds. It was my mate Tiny’s birthday as I recall – we called him Tiny because he was nearly six feet tall and covered in bumfluff. Three pints in, he slid off his chair and cracked his head on the table, opening up a nasty gash above his left eye. Someone had to cart him off to the hospital just down the road so he missed the show. He was the lucky one.

Back then you never had the faintest idea what was really going on. Melody Maker, Sounds, NME, Record Mirror… we bought ‘em all every week but such was the way of the world back then, rock stars’ problems – personal or chemical – were never remotely mentioned. As far as the tabloids were concerned, rock was just a mad epidemic, bound to pass the way of all teenage fads. So it was something of a mystery why Free, who I think I’ve already mentioned were on a comeback tour, had broken up in the first place.

It took about 10 seconds of the show starting for the truth to become all too apparent. There were four dudes on stage, but only three appeared to be actually alive. Kossoff was sort of slumped against the right hand speaker stack like he’d been invisibly lassooed to the fucking thing to keep him upright. I don’t remember what they played but I do know that Kossoff barely hit a note. All you could see was sweaty hair and it looked like he might have pissed himself. At one point it actually seemed from where we were, about 12 rows back, as if he was asleep. The others in the band, as I recall, completely ignored him.

Listening to Free churn out their greatest hits sans guitar was not, even to youthfully unjudgemental ears, what the doctor ordered and, indiscriminate though we were, we fucked off back to the pub after about half an hour, stunned to realise that bands could actually be rubbish.

Later, of course, the truth all came out. Poor old Kossoff was addicted to just about every drug known to man and when he finally passed away, on a plane I believe, it was said that all of his vital bodily functions – heart, liver, lungs etc – gave up the ghost simultaneously, a scenario virtually unprecedented in medical history. That Pete Doherty’s got some way to go.



Not even UNCUTs war-weary gig-hounds have been to every show in history – but you lot probably have.

Email Allan_Jones@ipcmedia.com to share your memories, of the ones we’ve published or any which we have missed, and we’ll publish the best in a future issue!


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