By the time I had moved to Bournemouth as a 5-year-old in 1965 the Winter Gardens had already hosted The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The next few years of childhood saw me also fail to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, Elton John, David Bowie and Queen due to the really poor excuse that I was too young. I cannot remember exactly who I lost my gig virginity to or what year it happened by I do know at some point I was compelled to endure The Bay City Rollers by my first girlfriend. Give me a break – she was my first girlfriend and I had no idea if I would ever get another and the promise of a snog was too much to ignore.
Readers will be happy to note that this piece is not a recall of Les McKeown’s ability to rise above the screams of pre-pubescent girls. Supertramp at the Bournemouth Winter Gardens on November 7th 1977 sticks out as my first real memory for a number of reasons. As a 14-year-old with limited access to funds I had parted with my hard earned paper round wages to buy ‘Crime of The Century.’ I had liked the single ‘Dreamer’, I thought the album cover was classy and enthralling and, most importantly, nobody else in my class would go near it. A tendency to row against the tide of popular opinion that has never left me.
Fast forward. Loved the album, bought the subsequent follow ups ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ and ‘Even in The Quietest Moments.’ So, to the Winter Gardens and, as ever, to endure the support act. In those days the bar shut during performances so retiring for an illegal brew wasn’t an option. Some bloke with a guitar came on singing about The Lord and The Devil playing chess on a Spanish Train and a stripper by the name of Patricia. A world away from the keyboard driven drama the audience had come to see. Early polite applause had, by the end, turned into huge ovations and wonder at this hugely original singer and teller of stories. The bloke’s name was Chris de Burgh, barely heard of in the UK and light years before he was to be somewhat unfairly defined by ‘Lady In Red.’
From the first notes of ‘School’ Supertramp were class. The finer points of the gig are lost in the addled brain of a 60 something but the performance sticks for two reasons. ‘Another Man’s Woman’ from the ‘Crisis’ album hadn’t been a particular favourite beforehand but the live set blew me away. The deep bass groove and piano solos seemed to go on for ever and was a track that was elevated to a whole new level here.
The second reason the gig sticks relates to my pre-car status as a 17-year-old. By the time the encore was due it was clear I had a choice; leave now and catch the last bus home or be faced with a 6 mile walk if I stayed. I stayed. I was on such an adrenaline rush that I vividly remember running the first 2 miles although that also may have had something to do with the mean streets of 70s Bournemouth. I could have got Dad out to collect me but as a surly git, unsociable teenager that was never going to happen.
I went to loads of gigs at the Winter Gardens, John Miles and Thin Lizzy stick out as particularly memorable. We soon sussed buying the cheapest seats at the back knowing we would be storming the front and annoying all those who had paid top dollar at the front soon enough.
In an act of grand stupidity by a council that was famous for it the Winter Gardens closed in the early noughties before being subsequently turned into a car park. The council put all its eggs into a new, big, bold Bournemouth International Centre which was a death sentence for the Winter Gardens. A much bigger venue lacking any kind of soul or anything like the acoustics, the BIC, as it is unfondly known remains to this day. As for me, I moved to Dorchester and soon discovered the musical desert that is Dorset.
I saw Supertramp at a peak musically before the fall into more commercial and radio friendly pop with ‘Breakfast in America’ saw me lose interest. As for Chris de Burgh I am not ashamed to say I saw him on numerous occasions subsequently. As his name grew so did his gigs and he knew how to put on a show, including a number at the BIC. Typically for me, after ‘Lady In Red’ his popularity was such that I had no alternative but to drop him as he left his folky story telling far behind.
I saw the same tour at the (in)famous Apollo in Glasgow. I agree that Chris DeBurgh was better than we expected. I must have a box somewhere with a set of slides from that gig…I could never afford more than one roll. And I deffo have some of John Miles. I was right against the apron of the stage thinking that John and his bass player were nice people posing and smiling just for me when a thunderflash went off aabout three feet away from me, taking most of my eyebrows with it. They were pros and carried on even though they were creased up…
I went to one more Supertramp gig before deciding that they could manage breakfast without me…
De Burgh supported on the Crime of Century tour which I caught in January of 1975. I think they were on the same label, Unusual to find the same support 2 years apart.