Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas on Earth Continued: December 22, 1967

To mark the Christmas season here in Wonderland, we are commemorating the last gasp of the British underground scene in 1967, the Christmas on Earth Continued festival, held on December 22nd at the Olympia in London. Billed as an "All Night Christmas Dream Party," the festival boasted an impressive line-up of some of England's best musical acts. Where else could one witness The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Tomorrow, The Move, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Soft Machine, Pink Floyd and Graham Bond all on the same bill? Unfortunately, lack of publicity and a bitter winter freeze hampered attendance. The Who didn't show up, and the Grateful Dead, hoping to make their UK debut at the festival, were barred due to permit problems. Already, the festival appeared doomed.

The Olympia was a massive hall, as indicated in the rare photo of the Christmas on Earth stage posted above. Liquid slides and underground movies were projected onto every surface by three scaffolding towers. DJ Jeff Dexter recalls, "It was cold, although that summer seemed to go through to December. People were walking around in hippie clothes thinking it was still July." Steve Howe of Tomorrow (and later of Yes) remembers the event as momentous as well. "It was undoubtedly a major event," Howe notes. "After that, everything seemed like a bit of a hangover." "We got up on stage, played our set and hung out the whole evening. It was magnificent," relates Tomorrow's lead singer Keith West. "Later we watched some of the footage. The film looked absolutely brilliant."

The promoters had planned on releasing a film of the proceedings, but to this day the only footage to surface is that which is posted above: The Jimi Hendrix Experience performing "Sgt. Pepper," "Foxey Lady," and "Wild Thing." The film failed to emerge apparently because the filmmakers used cheap film stock which resulted in poor picture quality, and later, the film itself mysteriously disappeared. A distorted but interesting audio recording of Tomorrow's set was released in 1998 on the RPM label.

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. After he left Pink Floyd, Syd went on to record two solo albums and numerous demos. Barrett was a sensitive, brilliant, beautiful man with immense intelligence and talent. Without him, Pink Floyd would have never existed, and to some of us, they never surpassed the works they created with Barrett at the helm (although those albums are indeed excellent).

The top picture in this post is of the fantastic psychedelic outfit, Tomorrow, followed by the Christmas on Earth stage, a promo poster, Pink Floyd celebrating Christmas with a traditional British Christmas Cake, another ad for the concert, and a rare photo of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Soft Machine taken the night of the festival.

So to conclude our Christmas in Wonderland, I would like to wish you all a Happy Crimble and a very Gear New Year!

Jon Newey's liner notes for the RPM release Tomorrow - 50 Minute Technicolor Dream
Watkinson and Anderson - Crazy Diamond: Syd Barrett and the Dawn of Pink Floyd


steveG said...

Not long turned 16, I was at this gig with my new girlfriend, in my long black army greatcoat that I was so proud of. In the morning we returned to her place where her mother was sound asleep and made love in the bathroom - our first such encounter. Am starting a blog as if from 1967 and 1968.."faint echoes from NW6".

Leffo said...

I was there with three friends. We blagged our way upstairs to where the bands' dressing rooms were and got into Pink Floyds' dressing room while they were on stage. We then found Jimi Hendrix's dressing room and tried to get in but we were turned away by one of his crew. Eventually, Jimi came out to perform and we walked down to the stage with him and chatted with him before he went on - a wonderful memory!

Chris Moise said...

I'm conducting research on Christmas on Earth Continued, in particular Pink Floyd's performance, so I'd love to hear from anyone else out there that attended the gig.

Chris Moise
chrismoise01 (at) gmail (dot) com

mandrohne said...

Yes I was there too. If I recall it was £1 to get in, a lot of money in 67 when I was only earning £5 a week. To raise the cash I went carol singing around the mews' of Belgravia; however, when I arrived at the gig and tried to buy a ticket a chap in a uniform waved me through for nothing. He saw my guitar and thought I was an artist. Gig security was rubbish in 67. Unforgivably I walked out during the Pink Floyd's set which took an eternity to get started. As I had to be at work by 9am it seemed the right time to make an exit.

Anthony Harland said...

That lost film may be about to resurface. Someone has just posted Traffic (original line up) playing at this show on You Tube. You can see it here:

If you look at right hand side when on You Tube there's also a link to the Jimi Hendrix section of the same concert


Tony Foster said...

Took my 60s muse and pop fanatic Georgie just back from Uni. She particularly wanted to see Hendrix , but , sadly, having overindulged on snowballs fell asleep before he came on!