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Wednesday 6 January 2021

Treasures From The Attic No.2: Seeing The Byrds at Manchester Free Trade Hall - by accident

When I reached the age of 15 I was desperate to go to my first rock gig.

I’d heard The Strawbs were good, so my dad queued up in Manchester to buy tickets.

A few days later we saw them on a TV show called Disco 2.

They strummed their guitars, playing jangly folk rock – and they were bloody awful.

Dad and I looked at each other and said, as one: “Naaaahhh....”

He managed to swap the tickets for the next gig onsale at Manchester's Free Trade Hall – by The Byrds.

Roger McGuinn’s Byrds. McGuinn, Clarence White, Skip Battin, Gene Parsons.

Lovers of the bayou.

I wanted to fit in so my dad took me to a shop in Blackpool where I got kitted out.

Yellow flowery shirt, blue flares, a big steel buckled belt, a suede jerkin.

If he raised an eyebrow, I missed it. I thought I looked the bee’s knees.

Truth was, I looked more like a very camp window cleaner.

We got to the Free Trade Hall on May 11, 1971 to find everyone wearing faded T-shirts, denim and greatcoats.

I didn’t care. We loved every minute.

Support band for the night was Rita Coolidge, then backed by her Dixie Flyers and the first artist I ever saw live (other than a childhood panto appearance by Freddie & The Dreamers).

Then The Byrds played an unforgettable show.

Eight Miles High stretched out to nigh on half an hour. I was hooked.

The set included all the songs you'd want to hear, and then some.

It was based on the set that appeared on the live disc of the (Untitled) album.

Here's the setlist...

Lover Of The Bayou
You Ain't Going' Nowhere
Truck Stop Girl
My Back Pages
Baby What Do You Want Me To Do?
Jamaica Say You Will
Black Mountain Rag / Soldier's Joy
Mr Tambourine Man
Pretty Boy Floyd
Take A Whiff On Me
Chestnut Mare
Jesus Is Just Alright
Eight Miles High
Hold It
So You Want To Be A Rock'n'Roll Star
Mr Spaceman
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
The Ballad Of Easy Rider
I Wasn't Born To Follow
Hold It (Reprise)

You can actually hear the Free Trade Hall gig at the wonderful Wolfgangs concert archive here 

Sadly, I've long since lost the ticket for my first ever gig but here's the programme.

Thank God The Strawbs were so awful that night on TV...

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