Friday, January 13, 2012

Christmas on Earth Continued: 1967 The Winter of Love

I came across a priceless (for me) clip of Traffic playing live in 1967 the other day. It turns out to come from an event called Christmas on Earth continued held at Earls Court on 22 December of that year.

Marmalade Skies (from which I have borrowed the illustration here) says of it:
The last major underground event of the year is “Christmas On Earth Continued”, billed as an “All-Night Christmas Dream Party” and held in the vast London Olympia on the 22nd. Pre-publicity is hopelessly inadequate and this, plus a particularly severe winter freeze, results in a sparse attendance and financial disaster for the organisers, despite a fabulous line-up of acts—Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burdon, Pink Floyd, The Move, Soft Machine, Tomorrow, Graham Bond Organisation, Sam Gopal and Paper Blitz Tissue. The Who fail to turn up!
And someone writing on the Pink Floyd fan site A Fleeting Glimpse disproves what they say about the sixties by painting a vivid picture of it:
Olympia was a much more cavernous venue than the Ally Pally, and the focus was on two stages, facing each other across the vast hall. Bands were playing alternately, causing the majority of the 10,000 crowd to turn, first left for fourty minutes, then right and so forth, like a colony of paisley penguins! 
The light shows, if anything, surpassed the amazing Ally Pally event the previous July, with the wall to wall coverage and dreamscapes. ( Mark Boyle's Sensory Laboratory was specifically billed as support for Soft Machine, and the Floyd had announced the first appearance of their fabulous new '3D lightshow'.) We were absolutely wired for a good time and the bands didn't disappoint us. 
Soft Machine, with Kevin Ayers resplendent in pre-punk black string vest, climaxed with the ultimate Dada version of 'We did it again' as Robert Wyatt leapt into a full bath of water, that just happened to be on-stage with them! At least, we assumed it was water. 
Tomorrow powered through their unique mix of heavily Beatles influenced psychedelia. During 'Strawberry Fields Forever' Twink(drums) and Junior (bass) performed a mimed fight whilst being subjected to the most powerful strobe light effects I've ever witnessed. Steve Howe was a revelation, moving from raga to classical to Barrett - style anarchy with an almost arrogant ease. 
Traffic, still with Dave Mason, even performed 'Hole in my shoe'. Steve Winwood was into his white cheesecloth period, and their music was so unlike anything else around that they occupied a totally original space. The song, 'Here we go round the Mulberry Bush' was very typical of their trippy, watery sound at that time. 
Hendrix - voom! All light shows were killed for his performance. Noel Redding was constantly niggling Jimi, playing bass behind his head as Jimi performed his tricks with his guitar. It was the first time I saw Hendrix with his Gibson Flying Arrow, and the tension on-stage produced some electrifying music.
Christmas on Earth Continued is also remembered for a sad reason. As Alison's Wonderland says:
Sadly, the Christmas on Earth festival also marked Syd Barrett's last major show with Pink Floyd. By the time of the concert, Barrett had suffered a significant mental breakdown due to stress and excessive drug use, allegedly exacerbating symptoms of schizophrenia, though Barrett's sister denies this diagnosis. At the concert, Barrett was observed to just stand on stage with his guitar, his arms hanging limp at his side, while Roger Waters played the same bass line over and over again.
Anyway, here is that clip of Traffic. They play Dear Mr Fantasy (which Steve Winwood still plays today) and Giving to You:

And here are various clips of Jimi Hendrix playing at the same event:


wolfi said...

Those were the days!

Around that time I had the fortune to get to London several times (I was still a student with not too much money ...) and it was fabulous very time, though I missed this - and also Blind Faith playing in Hyde Park by just a few days ...

But I saw Family and a few years later Johnny and Edgar Winter at the Roundhouse and many other less known bands ...

Thanks a lot for all those memories!


Do you know anything yet about Steve Winwood's plans for this years regarding concerts ?

Jonathan Calder said...


I must put a Family track on the blog one day: they were a Leicester band.

Winwood seems to be touring a lot at the moment - some people wish he would record more new songs! Keep an eye on his website.

wolfi said...

Thanks, Jonathan!

I've been following Steve's homepage for a long time (there's also an "unofficial" German fanpage for him) but there's no info yet on touring in 2012 - so we just have to wait ...

Dave said...

I was there. Two stages on opposite sides of the Great Hall. Far too big a venue for the numbers of people there. Hendrix took a long time to get the people going. Traffic were Traffic. I think, but can't be sure, that this was the only time I saw them. I went to a lot of the Hyde Park Free festivals but not theirs, or Blind Faith's. The poster brought back memories. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I was there aged 15. I suddenly remembered the name the other day. Can't remember anything about it at all except that Hendrix was there. Excellent clips.

ed lake said...

I too was there. There were two amin stages on opposite sides but I also recall two smaller stages at the remaining ends. Hendrix, Traffic played main stage, Soft Machine smaller stage.
We knew Hendix was shortly to appear when extra stacks of speakers were brought on stage. He opened with Purple Haze and there was a shock wave through the audience with the first chords. At the end of the number Hendrix asked if he was loud enough. Someone near the front responded with "No, turn it up."
During Traffic's performance (?Dear Mr Fantasy), I recall Dave Mason leaning against a speaker stack, then rocking gently forward and backwards. The stack moved with him!
A highlight of their live gigs, as then, was, for me, "Feeling Good", on which Steve Winwood's vocal excelled.
If my memory serves me, a treat was The Honeybus doing 'I Can't Let Maggie Go". But the memory on more than Hendrix and Traffic is a little lost in the mists of time.

Anonymous said...

I was there aged 18 - just started at university at Imperial College. I was so impressed with the Soft machine and Pink Floyd lightshows that I bought an old movie projector from a thrift shop and me and my flatmate spent hours putting color slides into the projector grate and watched them melt psychedelically on the wall!

Unknown said...

I was there with some friends from school. I remember how surprised I was at so few people. The place seemed half empty but the weather didn't help one bit. The only act that I actually remember was Soft Machine who were brilliant. I seem to remember that The Who turned up lseveral hours late. I seem to remember the guitar smashing antics of the Who but may have it wrong. Afterwards we all went back to my mates sisters flat and I remember waking up in the morning to see her walking around stark naked amid a group of sleeping 18 year old

Francis. said...

The who did not appear!

Jonathan Calder said...

I think Traffic were a late replacement for The Who, which is why they are not on the poster.

Anonymous said...

I was there at 15 y.o. Olympia was only two buses away from home, so I went with a friend. I remember hesitating to go in, and now I know why - it was a £1 admission. Inside, it was surprisingly empty - I had forgotten how cold that December was, which had kept people away. In the film clip, Hendrix is telling someone to "Be careful with your ears!" That was to a guy leaning his head against the enormous speakers. Eventually, he was moved away, I think. I remember a film projected on the walls, as shot by a hand-held camera running through a wood. All the guys were watching expecting it to become a blue movie, but it was just on a continuous loop! I remember a fairground at one end from which you could hear a Doors track playing - magical. Wanted to stay longer but, frankly, some of the groups weren't playing that well - except for Hendrix, who stood apart; and it would have meant staying until the buses of the next day began.

Chris K said...

I've come late to this so I may be talking to myself! but I was there with a friend. We were 16. I've often mentioned the bloke with his head against the speaker when the Experience were playing - and I just saw that ed lake identified him as Dave Mason! No, the Who were advertised but they weren't there and likely they were never going to be. Not unusual in those times. Hendrix was the highlight for me. He did most or all of the Axis Bold as Love album. I bought it (I think the next morning) and still have it.

It was an odd location. Really big, with all the stages and so much room. It wasn't very well advertised and if the promoters failed to make a pile of money, they did provide us with a music highlight of the year. Really pleased to be able to read about it again.

Anonymous said...

I lived near Olympia and when home to bed in the middle of Jimi’s set because I was TIRED!. Still bugs me to this day. I remember milling around the entrance hall with my mates before entering, and Jimi came out into the throng looking for someone. Think he had some tickets to give them.

Unknown said...

I was there aged 17, remember it was cold,as London could be then. Olympia was cavernous and dark,the acts being brilliant pools of light,strobes, smoke,with the huge spaces amplifying the sounds, so it was loud.I remember Soft Machine and Floyd, before they got big. Also The Sam Gopal Trio,on the floor like buskers, but quite mesmerising,a sort of raga blues .These guys lived the spirit of the time.
But who I remember best was Hendrix, playing songs from the 'Experienced' album,with his black hat and feather (I think). I don't seem to remember that many people there, in a semi circle around the stage. He was playing for us.and looked curiously smaller than expected, with his round black hat with a feather ( I think, memory can become contaminated). But when he played Red House he became a giant,I was just stunned. It was for me one of those experiences of a lifetime.It just seemed to sum up the spirit of the time,the power of the music and the ethos. And he was maybe at the height of his powers,seeming to contain Kings Road Sixties,the new free spirit. And I was right up close. I was impressionable - but what an impression, and in retrospect lucky to be there.
The reason JH asked the audience if they wanted him to play 'louder? Louder? Louder!'. And then doing it, was because the Olympia technicians at rehearsal had told him to turn the sound down (like asking Ken Dodd to keep the jokes to a minimum).With inevtable results. A terrific all-nighter,unique. Somewhere out there is a film of the event, properly made (unlike the unwatchable other stuff).
Christmas on Earth was described as the last event of 'The Underground', otherwise know as The Sixties. There was a lot going on at the time, difficult to grasp if you weren't there. It permeated ( almost) everything,probably more than is realised today.A unique event, not to be missed!

Unknown said...

Above post by Jonathan Newby

Jonathan Calder said...

Thanks for the comment, Jonathan.

Unknown said...

Your welcome,Jonathan.Thank you for creating the site.To be fair we are lucky to have any film at all,so that amends my comment.All the best,Jonathan.

John Digby said...

Oh yeah! I rememer it well.... We friends attended, aged 17 - 18 and had the night of our little lives. My mates were all Apprenticed to some or other industry and I was - a wages clerk - the odd one out. How things have changed! Now all retired and strewn by the four winds to anywhere but the East End, our - then - home.

We were at the front for Hendrix and he WOWED us, as always. We were in the refreshments queue as Tangerine 🍊(thanks emojies) Dream, began that dirge that you referred to as: "I did it again" and after what seemed like an hour, we walked away empty-handed as the queue hardly moved and they were still reiterating (what we thought was - and always refered to as;) "I'm living again"! This - and sore feet - were amongst the abiding memories of the night - mainly, that bloody song!

The feet were due to standing for around 10 hours in 2" heels and 1" souls whos liners had softened and given up the ghost by 4am and collapsed down into the grid-work that formed the inside of the aforesaid heels and souls, so from then on it seemed like walking on small milk crates. Followed by a hike to a station - as Olympia did not re-open when the concert closed, as we had expected.

As is testament by these abiding memories, this was a never to be forgotten - nor repeateed - event, that will accompany me to the grave, in the distant future (thanks to the Hon Aneurin Bevan) with a smile on my lips and a tune in my head; a "slight return" of:- I'm living again; I'm living again; I'm living again......

Tony Foster said...

I was there with my muse Georgie. However she overdid it on white ladies and snowball so she slept through most of it.
So many young people gasp when I tell them I saw Hendrix live!
I'm still in contact with Georgie but she doesn't seem to remember!