Manchester University 1970-1971: Thirty eight live acts in two semesters…No problem!

We all had this tremendous appetite for live music.  Coming from disparate corners of the UK, all of us being 17 or 18 years of age, escaping the boredom of living at home with families in sleepy neighborhoods, we just could not believe the plethora of live music many nights of the week at the University of Manchester Student Union, the Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), downtown venues and surrounding colleges.  My recollection of those times was that our ‘band of friends’ would venture out most weekend nights for one of two performances, and also mid week when possible.  I recently came across my first year (freshman) student union card, on the back of which I diligently recorded the band/artist roster for the first two semesters of that first year.  A list-making & collecting compulsive/obsessive pattern that has followed me into adulthood.

A total of Thirty Eight performances over the first two semesters – here is the illustrated list with a few annotated memories.  This is a pretty amazing list in retrospect.

Starting with the most memorable for me – Led Zeppelin at the Students Union, March 19th.  Although it was March, the Union Hall was packed solid, standing only and getting very hot.  I recall making my way over the tall window on the west side and climbing onto the ledge – fabulous view over the heads of all and then cracking open the window to help cool the room.

mcnahester71tkt manchester1971_postermanchester_11-24-71_a manchester_3-71Act #2: John Mayall

John_Mayall_3Act #3: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

This performance started at midnight in the Free Trade Hall downtown, Manchester – I don’t recall any other act doing that and not sure how Frank worked it out.  After the concert we had to walk home. which would have taken more than an hour – but then realized there was a ‘sit in’ at the university so we “slept in’ there until morning.


Act #4, 5 and 6: The WHO – THREE TIMES

OK – I confess that one performance was in Liverpool.  I still can hear quite well……


Act #7: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

ELPAct #8: Pink Floyd

Also at the Free Trade Hall, downtown Manchester.  The front row audiences freaked out a little during the performance “One of these days” when someone (a roadie, I suspect) appeared out the darkness in a gorilla suit and started to frolic with the audience, then it started to get weird.


Act #9: The Rolling Stones

Again, at the Free Trade Hall.  Keith was on great form that night.


Act #10: Johnny Winter

A mind blowing performance at the Free Trade Hall with rick Derringer, who was equally if not more virtuoso on the guitar.  At the end of the concert, the management opened the doors of the concert Hall while the band was still playing encores.  Hippies everywhere dancing, on the seats, hair flying – and then this elderly couple must have heard the noise and wandered into the Hall.  They were so cute just holding hands staring at this alien scene of loud, electric music and seemingly out of control youth.  And the appearance of Johnny Winter to consolidate the freakishness.

Johnny Winter

Acts #11, 12 &13  All in one concert: Genesis, Lindisfarne and Van der Graaf Generator


Vand der Graff – we LOVED this band.

Van der graafLindisfarne

lindisfarneGenesis (1973 photo).  Peter Gabriel from another planet.


Act #14: Traffic


Act #15 Deep Purple

Deep Purple 1971

Act #16: T. Rex

Although T. Rex became the ultimate teeny bopper band, they were still remembered at this time as Tyrannosaurus Rex and that progressive rock sound fame, as discovered and promoted by the fabulous Liverpudlian DJ John Peel.


Act #17: James Gang

James gang

Act #18: IF


Act #19: Pentangle

Obviously from this picture, they were in New York in 1971, as well as Manchester!

Pentangle- Central Park New York May 1971 sheet 574 frame 8a

Pentangle- Central Park New York May 1971
sheet 574 frame 8a

Act #20: Curved Air

curved air

Act #21: Slade


Act #22: Tom Paxton

Tom Paxton2Act#23: Purple Gang

Purple Gang

Act #24: Colosseum


Act #25: Supertramp


Act #26 & 26: Free (Twice)

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Dezo Hoffmann/REX (155628eb) Free - Andy Fraser, Paul Rodgers, Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke Various

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Dezo Hoffmann/REX (155628eb)
Free – Andy Fraser, Paul Rodgers, Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke

Act #27: Goliath

Goliath with early drummer

Act #28: Duster Bennett

Duster Bennett

Act #29: Argent


Act #30: Kevin Ayers


Act #31: Andy Robertson

Andy Roberts

Act #32: Graphite


Act #33: Blodwyn Pig


Act #34 & 35: Family (Twice)


Act #36: Lifetime




Act #37: Third Ear Band

third ear band

Act #38: Bridget Saint John

bridge st john

And that was it – Final exams, summer break and onto the second (sophomore) year….

6 thoughts on “Manchester University 1970-1971: Thirty eight live acts in two semesters…No problem!

  1. Thanks again Cliff for you big help ! I know I have ask you perhaps too much but concert memories are always worthwhile !
    I know FREE played Liverpool – Empire Theatre 20th November 1968 (also on the bill WHO, SMALL FACES and JOE COCKER)
    All Th Best,

  2. Hi
    I am an Italian fan and collector too of FREE. I am looking to identify any gig played by FREE during the Seventies. Are you able to let me know when / where exaclty you were lucky to see FREE in concert in Manchester University in 1970 and 1971 ? Thanks in advance ofr you kindly attention and help too !
    Best Reagrds,
    Alessandro Borri

    • Hi Alessandro,
      I do not have exact dates, I am afraid, for the concerts. One was definitely in Manchester University student union hall. The second one was probably at The University if Manchester Insitute for Science and Technology (which today is part of the main university). Sorry I cannot be more helpful. I also saw them in the late 60s just after they formed at the Liverpool Lyceum.

      • Thanks for your kindly reply ! Much appreciate !
        As I have an updated Concert File log about FREE gigs played between 1968 and 1973 I know FREE played in Manchester the followingg gigs:
        – Manchester – College Of Commerce (perhaps during 1969 – exact date unknown)
        – Manchester – Institute of Science And Technology 10th May 1969
        – Manchester – Granada TV Studios “Doing Their Thing” TV Show (Broadcast date 24th July 1970 – perhaps recorded in June 1970)
        – Manchester – Union Hall 5th February 1972
        Well perhaps you have seen one of those gigs…or you surely attend only gigs exactly during 1970/1971, during your stay at University of Manchester Student Union, the Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) ?
        Sorry for all my questions but any kind of memories / additional information is very helpful for my additional gig reserach. Did you know more of FREE gig played in Liverpool – Lyceum you were lucky to attend ? Was in early 1968 ? FREE were headliner or support band ? Did you remember anything of this gig in Liverpool ? I didnt’ know of rock gigs played in Liverpool Lyceum (I know only London – Lyceum who hosts so many rock gigs of several bands). Any kind of additional information is welcome (if you or anyone you know in those days at Manchester Unviersity has additional memories will be a pleasure to learn more)
        Thanks for everything. Your help is really much appreciate !
        As I am a rock music fan and collector too I would like to let you know some interesting fan music site that worth a visit, as follows:

        BLACK SABBATH (Rob Dwyer is a friend – we share many updates recently about BLACK SABBATH gigs played between 1968 and 1978 – my Black Sabbath collecting gig era)
        LED ZEPPELIN “Tight But Loose” website and magazine (Dave Lewis, a friend of mine, is the greatest Led Zeppelin expert of all – many books and magazine too about Led Zeppelin has been published since 1978)
        FREE “Free Appreciation Society” (David Clayton, a friend of mine too, is the greatest expert about Free, Paul Kossoff, Paul Rodgers, Andy Fraser and Simon Kirke too – he runs the fanzine since 1979)
        DEEP PURPLE (Tony Steenhagen is a friend of mine too, greatest expert and ticket collector of Deep Purple)
        GENTLE GIANT (Jack Skelly is a friend of mine too, greatest expert of Gentle Giant progressive rock band)
        RAINBOW (Frans van Arkel is a friend of mine too, greatest expert of Rainbow rock band)
        YES (Steven Sullivan website about YES – many updates provide by myself in the last couple of years)

        All The Best,
        Alessandro Borri

      • Alessandro,
        Thanks for the information. As this was along time ago for me I have had to really think back. Here are some of my thoughts: the student union card that I show on my blog was only used in my 1st year – we had new ones issued every year. So I know that I saw all of those bands between September 1970 and June 1971. So I do believe FREE played at, at least one of the venues In Manchester during this time.
        As for the Liverpool concert – I now recall that it was the Liverpool Empire. That has been one of the main concert venues for many decades with many big names. I saw FREE as the first act of a show that had many artists. This was before I went to university so it was likely in the late 1960s, probably 68 or 69. I am unsure why these concerts were organized with so many acts, each one only performing a few numbers. The concert that I saw with FREE as the opening act also had the Small Faces, Alice Cooper and The Who…plus others that I cannot recall.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s