Email This Post Email This Post
Home » Dave Lewis Diary, TBL News

Knebworth 1979 : Your Memories Required 30 Years On

2 May 2009 7,595 views 15 Comments


This August will mark the 30th anniversary of the final UK Led Zeppelin gigs staged at Knebworth on August 4th and 11th 1979. Tight But Loose will be celebrating this event and to that end we need your help. If you were at either of the Knebworth gigs we’d like your memories – How you got a ticket, the journey, the day itself and obviously the performances and your overall impressions. In effect your personal recollections from out in the field 30 years on.

Word count up to approx 800 but basically as long or as short as you want to make it.

These responses will form part of a special commemorative TBL focus on Led Zeppelin at Knebworth to coincide with the 30th anniversary in August.

E-mail your replies marked Knebworth Memories to – the sooner the better. We look forward to soaking up a host of your reminiscences from those historic final UK gigs of nearly 30 years ago.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)


  • Paul Miller said:

    Bloody Hell 32 years ago. I cannot remember how I came by a ticket to the 2nd show, but the weekend is imprinted on my mind. I was working in Hythe,Kent at a medical equipment company on my year out in industry from Trent Poltyechnic, and remember riding my trusty Honda CD175 up to High Barnet, London on the Friday to stay at my friend Val’s parents’ house (Val Stagg, ex of Leicester Polytechnic Buiseness studies HND,if you are reading this, please try to contact me on remember meeting Val’s friend Trish, who made a massive impression on me that night. The following day, we went to Knebworth in a rather cool MGB GT V8, and I have a strong memory of really enjoying Chas and Dave, which was certainly not expected. Prior to “Zep” coming on, I enjoyed smoking some biker’s “jazz tobacco” while listening to Todd Rundren’s Utopia doing a storming cover of The Who’s “I can see for miles” right down at the front. Led Zep rather disappointed me, as they seemed to be a bunch of incohesive musicians fighting each other when compared with the time I saw them at Earls Court in 1975, although, when I have seen bits of the Knebworth shows on DVD, they really seem to have been rather better than I remember. After the gig, I remember ending up back at a tent with a bunch of people from Glasgow, having more “Jazz Baccy” and finally waking up in the morning in a tangle of semi-clothed bodies….oh, happy times!

  • Brent Walker said:

    We went as a gang of several on motorbikes and cars from Coalville in leicestershire (I was pillion on my best mate Dave’s Honda 400-4) and had arranged to stay in a friend of friend’s empty flat in Stevenage for the Friday night. We all showed up mid afternoon and entered the barren flat and made camp with the usual buffet of cans and crisps and not much else. We all tried to get some shut-eye but it was pointless and even more so when we got raided in the early hours by the Herts. Drug Squad, who had been advised of our presence by curtain-twitching neighbours I presume (I imagine we were quite rowdy…), sadly for them and for us – we were quite clean as none of us were into dope etc.

    After this we thought we would make for the venue so we set off in the dark with our provisions for the day (more cans and crisps) and sheets of see-through plastic. Which were all quite heavy so when we walked through Stevenage town centre and past a local supermarket (I forget which one) the sight of all those shopping trollies was too much to bare so we acquired one and loaded it up and pushed it in the dark along the lanes to the House.

    As we approached the venue (it was still dark) a copper flagged us down and said “I’ll take that lads” and asked us to wheel our faithful trolley into a field by the side of the road – This I duly did and was rewarded by the sight of what seemed to be hundreds of trollies waiting to be returned to their rightful supermarket owners…

    In the venue we were about 150 yards back and dead centre and I remember the tedium of the support acts – with the exception of Utopia who were great and the joy of wathcing two very drunk guys in the crowd standing up when everyone else were sitting, who were hand-jiving to Chas and Dave.

    When Zep came on I remember thinking ‘how small they looked’ and how strange it was to see them on the telly screens – my expectations were massive and to be honest I felt a bit let down by it all. Perhaps it was the distance (Dave went to the front on his own and said the atmosphere there was better). I just felt they were past their peak, still great but not monumental. However saying that the big set piece songs (Kashmir, Achilles etc) were fabulous, and I was really pleased they finished with the first Zep song I ever heard (Communication Breakdown). I remember we all tried to recreate the ending of the first gig, by holding up torches and lighters etc (this had become a legend in 7 days) – but again it just didn’t happen for me…

    I have absolutely *no* recollection of what happened after the concert and how we got back to the flat and then home – which is all very weird when I think of it…)

    But the whole experience was great and I was proud and pleased to see them and to say 32 years later “I was there”

  • yvonne Hunter said:

    The best day of my life, I had just turned 17 and had come from ‘snall town’ wales, where hardly anyone had really heard of Zeppelin. My brother had escaped to go work in the midlands and had bought our tickets there.

    My most enduring memory has to be the comradarie and the most amazing atmosphere. I could never have imagined that Zeppelin were just that big a part of the lives of everyone else around me.

    The whole experience has stayed with me ever since, every time I hear a zeppelin track (which is often as both my kids are now huge fans)

    I still live in ‘small town’ wales, but now, almost every young person KNOWS of Zeppelin, my kids mates treat me like some kind of heroine because I was lucky enough to see them, still intact, with Bonham still on drums.

    If I could relive one thing, it would be re-experience then playing ‘kashmir’ again…wow, it was about midnight I guess, there was a lovely cool breeze, the air was thick with weed and bonfire smoke..and this bear was in heaven…

  • David Hatton said:

    Hey David

    I still have the original bus ticket. I never claimed my 3 quid back. Didn’t know you could. Good on yer mate!! Were you a Pheonix regular? – takes me back to that small sweaty place.Pheonix Fridays UMIST Saturdays

    And I agree the 4th was a far better show

  • David Mills said:

    Scary, I read the David Hatton Manchester comment and it all came back to me, you did the same as me(4th August, long hair, 17 years old, Phoenix, Paperchase and the coach)Paperchase was on Exchange Street off market street and there was this little booking office downstairs where you bought the tickets with second-hand vinyl and posters all over the place. Apart from the excellent performance, the thing that stuck in my mind the most was the massive images of the band that were being projected behind the band, the band seemed so proud performing to the audience that could not wait for them to take the stage. The apologies when the amplifier blew up (was that made in Newcastle did Plant say). My big mistake was not buying an official T-Shirt, regretted it for years. still got the official Knebworth badge though! I seem to recall walking though endless miles of cornfields with paths cut through them. I remember Tuesdays gone fading out and Celebration day with the long guitar solo, would love to have seen that band there 3 years earlier when the Stones supported them (LOL). They played a lot of Skynyrd at the phoenix in those days.
    I had mates that went to both the 4th and the 11th shows, they all said the 11th show was better. I have bootleg DVD’s of both shows, must say I disagree the 4th was the best. I expect David Hatton has left it too late now but I got half my money back from Geoffrey Abbott (or was it Charterplan)Coaches for them leaving early and leaving me to spend the night in Stevenage Station (took the train home, just enough cash left after not buying the T-shirt). PS not sure if Pagey and co are reading this but hows about (as Jimmy Saville would say)an official release of the Knebworth shows on DVD to mark the anniversary.

  • andy kitson said:

    Whenever I pass the Knebworth site on the A1, I always think back to those two fantastic shows. At the time I had a summer holiday job from college driving a delivery van, and passed Knebworth every day. The anticipation was incredible, passing the site, envious seeing early campers arriving.

    I think we queued at a record store in Cambridge for our tickets and I think this was very early on a Sunday morning weeks before. There around 7am and the queue was already horrendous. But what a relief to have them! I can’t remember when the 2nd show was announced, but we got tickets for that too, can’t remember how, so I went to both shows. Needless to say, after the storming first gig, back at work driving past the site during the week between, the next Saturday couldn’t come soon enough!

    Back to the first gig, we arrived with our tent sometime on the Friday and were camped right against the fence by the A1, where the Novotel is now. I also recall word getting out that the gates were opening, at about 4am, so there was a mad rush with our cans of beer which eventually became a massive wide queue along the path to the site, only to find the huge gates in the corregated steel fence around the concert field firmly shut until about 9am!

    So a long wait in the early sunshine. When the gates did open there was a mad rush to get a good spot, we were about 300 yards back I suppose sort of centre. Settled down to try and catch a couple more ZZZzzz’s and trying not to realise it was still 12 hours before Zep came on stage. Things I remember were the wafts of ‘grass’ and despite the intensely packed crowd sitting and waiting with few empty green bits, two guys carrying a huge 3 seater sofa across the field with no chance of finding a hole to put it in!

    I too was not really impressed with the line up, although Todd’s Utopia were pretty good. When Zep finally came on it was incredible, there infront of me was Led Zeppelin…couldn’t believe it and the sound was amazing! I remember we thought it funny that Robert thanked all of the support acts by name, except Chas’n’Dave!

    Jimmy’s solo was amazing as was the pyramid of light around him, but I remember thinking ‘I wish they would switch the big screen off behind him now’ so we get a better effect. At the second show they did!

    Other memories include queuing to go for a pee, and after reaching the long urinal that ran down into a big round tank, a huge cheer as someone was swimming in it..the tank was about 12 feet across and buried in the ground, nearly full to the top with no ‘lid’ on it. I hope he didn’t swallow any..

    Also noticing a big pall of black smoke in the distance during the morning, then hearing distant fire engines and then the PA asking for owners of several cars to report to the info booth…turned out they had used a flattened corn field for parking, which had ignited.

    Also strange, at the end of the second gig on our way out, one of the lighting towers which had the spotlight operator on it was on fire…the guys up there were frantically trying to save the expensive equipment. But at both shows, I also recall the long long wait to get out of the car parks and camping sites, despite being next to the A1 dual carriageway. Proud to say I was at Zep’s last two UK shows (although we didn’t know at the time of course), they were awesome!

  • Dave Wells said:

    Well my, my 30 years indeed. I went to the 4th August show so missed Ronnie & Keef but what a gig this was – pure magic. The boys themselves, Utopia, yeah even Chas & Dave. Those above who put Lynard Skynard are wrong – they were there in 1976 with Stones. I went with 3 friends two of me mates and one of their girlfriends who I managed to shag twice. Once on Knebworth car park floor the night before and once in one of portaloos (not recommended I can tell you). I had just graduated from Swindon College of Art too. I also remember the fences being flatened too which made it much easier getting out. Highlight for me has to be Seven Rays by Utopia and the EPIC Kashmir. Fantastic times.

    Dave Wells.

  • Nik said:

    Doesn’t time fly? Some of the memories are a bit hazy… but on the train going up there I remember seeing my first mobile phone – some guy ringing up Uncle John (Bonzo no less) asking if he could stay at his farm for the week!
    Then arriving at Knebworth amongst many thousands of fans trying to find somewhere sensible to pitch our tent. Had thoughts of joining the queue at 8pm that evening which was already half a mile long and 9 deep! The queueing was abandoned in favour of relaxing about 30 minutes later but not after someguy who was hungry decided to strip off and get food thrown at him… that was funny!

    Waking up at stupid o’clock we joined the now mile long queue again and spent nearly an hour trying to get into the field.

    An amazing day though I hated Devo very little of it spoiled our day apart from the stench from the pits that were designated as the toilets… and the plague of greenfly that drifted back and forth across the field as the sun slowly began to drop.

    I don’t know if anyone else can remember something weird (for me) as Zeppelin came onto the stage – the effect lasted for 20 minutes before I realised what was happening… while watching after 20 minutes there was what I could only describe as a flash of black and I couldn’t at first figure it out, then there was another and then they started to get a bit longer which was when I realised the stage had been continuously lit by camera flash light.

    Going home was just as much fun as getting there – stinking and in first class for an extra quid on our train fare – we had practically the whole carriage to ourselves.
    Still cant quite believe it is 30 years though

  • Nige said:

    Went to the Aug.4th show.I was 17 and just a fan.When i came away from the show i was a FAN.
    I can remember the whole weekend as if it was yesterday.But i have one question,Who was it who took a goat?

  • Paul Ketcher said:

    WOW is it really 30 years ago. I remember my step-brother announcing that Led Zeppelin were going to play Knebworth, he heard it on OGWT.

    I was 17, unemployed and in possession of a ticket. I set off at midnight from my home in Suffolk, armed with some sandwiches and a couple of bin liners and I think about £7.

    I got picked up first of all by a car full of ladies on their way home from the local USAF air base and I think I got dropped off about 15 miles away. Actually I didnt know where Stevenage was except …South.

    So I was wandering along the road when I was greeted from the other side of the road by as it turns out an American serviceman. Once he had heard where I was going he suggested we have a smoke. He produced a beer can and promptly punched holes in it. An Air force pipe he called it, anyway it was very welcome and we parted and went on our journeys.

    Anyway eventually at about 4am I arrived at Knebworth, it was pouring with rain and I was soaked through. I was alone and cold, but I was there and laid down on the grass and covered myself up with my bin liners and slept.

    I too recall being awoken by Chas n Dave and brilliant sunshine. Had my sandwiches and settled down for the day. I remember seeing lots of people in afghans, kaftans, denim and people of every age.

    The line up wasnt spectacular but I was there for Zeppelin. It was rumoured that “The New Barbarians” were going to steal the show, this was a band of superstars that included some members of the Stones. Anyway they didnt.

    Yes I recall the beer can barrage, to which I just covered my head and hoped I didnt get hit.

    Eventually Led Zeppelin appeared. I dont remember all of the song order but I recall Achilles Last Stand and Kashmir standing out.

    Zeppelin were immense and I was stoned and drunk, all freely donated I will add, thanks guys, Whoever you were. I had no recollection of time but I do recall leaving during “Whole Lotta Love” or at least making my way home.

    After getting a lift with some guys in a van and heading for London. I was dropped off and started my way East or so I hoped.

    Arrived back home on the Sunday at 2 in the afternoon. What a fantastic day.

    Thanks for sharing your memories.

  • Chris Loydall said:

    I remember the date being announced in ‘Sounds’ and queing up outside ‘Brees,’in Leicester, at 6.00 in the morning,for a ticket, wearing my brand new afghan waitcoat and cheesecloth kurta (oh,to be 16 again!). I read and re-read Howard Myletts paperback in the weeks leading up to the gig itself. The issue of ‘Sounds’ that was published a few days beforehand, containing a review of the warm – up gigs, only served to increase the anticipation.
    Saturday morning and my long – suffering Mum drove myself and my friend John Mills down to Knebworth. I remember stopping off at a service station on the M1 and seeing loads of coaches with ‘Zep’ banners in the windows. Mum dropped us off with a cheery “Have a nice time and I’ll see you back here later”!!!!!
    The run up to ‘Zep’ was kinda boring, musically, but Todds “Peruvian basket weaving song” was cool. We were towards the back of the arena but the atmosphere was still incredible. As it started to get dark, fires began to be lit and everybody around us seemed to be waving green glo – sticks. A cheer made its way up the hill so we knew something was happening onstage. A few guitar notes rang out and there was that tantalising shaft of light at the back of the stage that turned out to be the amazing video screen. Opening chords of ‘Song Remains’ and there they were – the mighty Zeppelin! The next three hours flew by. So many magic moments (perfectly described by Dave Lewis in his Final Acclaim book) – the lights and pyro for ‘Achilles’, the laser pyramid, the crowd singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. During what we guessed was the last encore, we decided to go look for my Mum. We’d only walked a few yards when we saw her talking to a policeman! Because the fences had come down, she just walked in and ended up watching an hour or so of the gig.”They’re quite good aren’t they? Are you ready to go?”. I guess we were back home before some people had realised that the gig had ended!
    An amazing day and the real talking point when all the ‘yetties’ got together for the first day of 6th Form, a few weeks later.

  • Alex Machin said:

    With the excitement almost too much to bear, a small convoy of cars left North Kent on the Friday evening in the naive belief that we would be the first to arrive at Knebworth. On arrival we soon discovered our error, with a large crowd already encamped and an atmosphere akin to a medieval fayre with all manner of flags and banners, and every kind of subculture and age group in attendance.After a raucous evening in a local hostelry we settled down for a long sleepless night by the perimiter fence like a small platoon of eager commandos. Around 4am word got around that a hole had been found a few hundred yards away, and sure enough on arrival, we found a scene similar to ‘The Great Escape’ with shafts of light illuminating figures running hell for leather. So off we went with all the enthusiasm of a bunch of cub scouts only to find yet again our hopes stalled by the reality of the tall coruggated interior fence
    that would not let us enter for some hours yet.Around 9am with the drawbridge raised we all charged into the arena like a mob of screaming dervishes to settle a little way back from centre stage.
    With a lacklustre support bill the day passed in a sleepy haze, and as the sun set the anticipation and excitement grew again, until at last with the red l.e.d’s on Jimmy’s amps flickering in the darkness an almighty roar from the crowd heralded the triumphant return of Led Zeppelin, their first appearance on these shores since those dreamy nights at Earls Court. Suddenly, there they were, lights ablaze and the unmistakeable opening bars of The Song Remains the Same.After a shaky start, we were treated to a concert of staggering highs and power. The giant video screen added to the spectacle enabling us all to share in the close-ups of the passion reigning onstage. Robert had a new set of shapes to throw and we were stunned by the first appearance of the lasers during the guitar solo and the spinning ‘strobe pyramid’. A magnificent set list led to the climax of Stairway to Heaven, a quick goodbye and they were gone. After a brief wait, we were treated to the stunning encores, all of us holding torches of blazing cardboard aloft, adding to the sea of lights that sparkled across the arena. We left Knebworth exhausted, a magical concert etched in our memories and the imminent release of ‘In Through the out Door’ a final epitaph.

  • David Hatton said:

    30 Years gone. I was 17 years old. Long hair, Afghan, flares. When The Old Grey announced the show my phone rang and rang. All wanted tickets. We queued up at ??? in Manchester – can’t remember the place, could have been paperchase – anyway we got tickets and booked the coach. Sorted.

    The night before, the Pheonix club in town was packed with heads. Sleeping bags & ruck sacks.The DJ banged more Zepp on and the excitment was growing. The coaches left Piccadilly gardens at midnight and we all chatted, smoked and drank our way down south.

    The sound of “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rab Rab” – coming over the PA as i woke up was my next memory. Who on earth chose Chas & Dave?
    The rest of the day was taken up with sun bathing and occassionally listening to what was the worst bill at a festival I can remember.

    Utopia lifted the spirits though – I was a huge fan of them. Todd was on excellent form.

    As 9 ish approached I squeezed towards the stage- -there was a beer can fight – usual dick heads. I remember the odd full one flying around and it was greatfully received.

    Next to me was an Italian head. He had a large bag of grass with him. And as the last sound of “Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynard Skynard drifted from the PA there was a roar – like nothing I’d heard. He passed me a joint. Bang !!!! The Song Remains The Same – there they were – Led Zeppelin, I was there too – with thousands of others, it was the most magical moment of my short life.I got such a rush from the grass and Jimmys guitar – that i just grinned.

    The whole night was magic- the warm August evening, the Encores the fires being lit, the fact that we missed the coach home was inconsequential. We didn’t care. We had seen the best gig of our lives.

    We slept on the M1 and hitched home.
    I recently watched the show again courtesy of a boot DVD and it is a great performance considering the nerves, the crowd

    Does it seem 30 years ago? No it does not !!

  • Phil Harris said:

    After a day’s work at HMV in Bedford, I drove down to Knebworth on the Friday eve 3rd Aug with the niave idea that I could meet up with you and Mr T Locke. (just like that in a crowd of thousands and before mobile phones)!
    Was directed to a car park about a mile away so had to carry large hold all of beer all the way back. Needless to say, planned meeting did not take place and as beer bag was getting heavy decided to start drinking it! Did bump into a few guy’s from Bedford but decided to return to my car for nights sleep.
    Was woken early the next morning by a guy tapping on the window offering a joint for breakfast ( might have taken a drag or two).
    Long walk back to arena started with only two cans of beer for the day! As I walked past the main car park almost the first car I saw was the Princess of Mr Locke (so near and yet so far in the dark of the previous evening)
    Once inside, found a strategic seating place for the day as ‘Billy No Mates’ pretty much dead centre to the stage but quite away back.
    A bunch of guy’s from Wales were sat in front of me when one of them knocked over a pint of milk on their ground sheet so when they saw my large sheet of bubble wrap they suggested I joined them and covered their sheet with mine and they would look after the drink supply for the day(result). I remember them making numerous trips back to their van and returning with back packs of beer and cider. After a storming gig these guys left before the end to make their way home (sacrilege, like walking out before the end of a cup final).
    Then it was the long walk back to the car and even longer escape from the car park, but one hell of a day and a half.

  • Chris Wright said:

    I’m so old….
    Completely forgot that Knebworth was 30 years ago in August.
    It’s been a long time, as Percy might say.
    Better get scribbling then.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.