The Picnic At Blackbushe Aerodrome 30 years on

Posted: July 3, 2008 in music
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

On this day before Independence Day, my first as an American citizen although we always celebrated the 4th of July in our family because it was my mothers birthday, I started to think of all the picnics I had been to before. After all the 4th of July is renowned for it’s picnics. And hands down, the best picnic I ever attended was July 15, 1978 at Blackbushe Aerodrome.
Not just Bob Dylan, but also Eric Clapton, Joan Armatrading, Graham Parker & The Rumour & Lake, all of whom were supporting that day. This gig has since passed into legend. So I guess I attended at least one legendary concert.
This was an awesome day. Me and my mate Dave arrived around 8.30 to 9.00 am. We wanted to be there early to get a good spot. We parked just around the outside of the “arena”, this was our first mistake. The “arena” was really a huge grassy area fenced of with a corrugated iron fence. The gates were not supposed to open until noon, but after a short while there was so many people waiting they decided to let us in early. We scooted across the grass, heading for the stage with out blanket and our case of beer (2nd mistake, only one case and no cooler. Not sure if they had been invented yet in England, but that’s OK I drank warm beer in those days).
So we sat and waited, and drank some beer. The good news, we had a great spot. About 20 feet from the stage almost front and center. Any closer and we would be among the chosen few going home with a serious crick in their necks.
All in all couldn’t be better.
Then on stage came Merger who if I remember were a Reggae band, other than that not too much to remember about them. They were quickly followed by Lake of whom I remember nothing.
Then came Graham Parker and The Rumour. They sang their hit and a few other songs, not one of my favorites so I wasn’t that into them. It may have been at that time I went around the stalls to see what tat was for sale. I did buy a sweatshirt which I kept for many years, when I finally disposed of it in a yard sale a few years ago the possibility of it ever having fitted me looked remote.
I think they then changed the running order since Eric Clapton and his band came on next. They switched sets with Joan Armatrading. I have always maintained that the reason that did that was so Eric could have a breather between sets and get ready to come back and jam with Bob.
You can get bootlegs of both Eric and Bob‘s sets. Although I hear they are not too swift. Bootlegging in those days wasn’t what it is today, the sound quality leaves something to be desired. But you can at least see the set lists there.

While talking about the generalities, can you believe my ticket to this fantastic line up cost me £6 (approx $12). You can still buy them today, probably not for £6.
And the crowd had by this time swollen to around 200,000 although it seemed more like a quarter of a million.
You also have to remember the times, there was no large video. So if you were up the back (about half a mile it seemed) you didn’t get to see much. But we were real happy on our close proximity blanket. The only time we couldn’t see much was on the long trek to the toilets. Beer and concerts cause that kind of problem.
Anyway as mentioned Joan Armatrading was on next and she performed a nice set. She was big at the time with Love and Emotion and Show Some Affection. Although I was not her biggest fan I was not bored.
Then, with a lightning flash down the side of his pants out come Bob Dylan. And the rest of the night was a rapturous time. Except for some strangeness in the middle when he introduced some other “singers”. But all in all Bob performed for about three hours.
Then we had the fun of getting home, now you take 200,000 people who all day have been flipping peace signs to one and other, taking the odd beer, hitting the odd joint and let them loose on a big field with the equivalent of 10 lanes of traffic. Also bunches of other lanes of pedestrians, and the lanes slowly dwindle down to two to actually leave the grounds and what you have is a clusterfuck of huge proportions.
We took it in turns to drive and jump out of the car to wake the driver in front who had gone to sleep again. And all that happy hippy stuff just disappeared. Everybody turned into road ragers. We eventually got home around 4.30 am, and we only lived about 20 miles from Blackbushe. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
So there was no video from Blackbushe, but here’s something added by jjmc60 with some photos and images from the concert.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice work. I was there too, aged 20. All I can remember really was a personal problem with a huge boil on my ass that burst due to sitting on it for 14 hours, and Bob’s `Gates of Eden’ encore, followed by the `clusterfuck’ exit. I think we slept in the car for a few hours and then got out early morning. Got home to Somerset to find the cat hanging by its neck from the bathroom window-light. I wished it was Eric Clapton. Except that the cat lived. A terrible event, as I had expected, having already been appalled by Dylan at Earls Court a few weeks earlier. Net result: having been a devotee (to the extent that I was sued by CBS as a bootlegger that same summer, although I was really a collector and disseminator) I didn’t listen to Dylan again for 10 years.

    How can I put this? For me, the summer of 1978 was when Bob went from being a genius to being an oddball. I still revere everything he did before that, but would probably rate everything since (apart from Chronicles 1) as inferior to Graham Parker and the Rumour’s set at Blackbushe

  2. positivelyme says:

    I was also at Blackbushe and I fell in love with Dylan then and there and haven’t looked back over the last 30 years. I’ll never forget the magical feeling as he walked onto the stage. A brilliant concert despite being miles from the loos and taking hours to get home to Farnham – just down the road!! I recently saw Bob in Toulouse and he still does it for me!!! His version of Desolation Row was to die for!! Thanks for your post. Veronica

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