A music writer researching two performances by rock band The Who at the Downs Hotel in Hassocks says he has been overwhelmed by the response of readers to a call for stories.
As well as a string of hit records including My Generation and Pinball Wizard, The Who were famed for their headline-grabbing antics of smashing guitars, drum kits and hotel rooms.
Fans of the legendary foursome – Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon – have been in touch with author Richard Houghton with tales of seeing them on stage in Hassocks, to help him write his ‘people’s history’ of the group.
Richard, 56, said: “I’ve had some great stories from Who fans of seeing the group up close and personal at the Downs Hotel in Hassocks. They performed there twice, in January and again in September 1966, when they were already well known as a chart act and were on their way to mega stardom.
“The Who are still performing today, but those gigs they played in the 60s and early 70s were in much more intimate venues than the arena shows that bands like The Who play now.”
Rick Divall remembers the show at the Downs Hotel on September 11 1966.
He said: “At that time I was playing in a local band and we supported The Who. We started off as Rob and the Dominators, but Rob left so we became a harmony band as none of us would admit to being a singer.
“The Who turned up very late which meant we had to play much longer than expected, which was annoying especially as they got paid massively more than us. The Who smashed up their gear which was expected and one of Pete Townshend’s pickups flew off the stage where one of my friends managed to retrieve it. It has been on one of his guitars ever since.”
Mick Blackburn was also at the Downs that night. He said: “I helped set up equipment for the Dominators.
“We commented on the state of their amplifiers, especially Pete Townsend’s, which was covered with a Union Flag to disguise the many attacks it had received from Pete’s guitar.
“In fact, at this gig Pete managed to break the neck off the guitar and as it was of no further use he left it
“Rescued at the end of the show by the Dominators’ lead guitarist, it was subsequently repaired and used for many gigs afterwards. When I think back at all the now famous bands that played in Hassocks on a Sunday night it reads like a Who’s Who of the music industry, if you’ll excuse the pun!”
Jan Bundy remembers the show and the owner of the Downs Hotel.
She said: “It was owned by a chap called Captain David Brown. The hotel was at the top of Keymer Road and was knocked down years ago.
“We also saw The Hollies, The Small Faces and lots of other great groups of the 60s there. And yes, Pete Townsend did smash up his guitar at the end of the evening and it was quite wild! Great days and lots of fun.”
Richard said: “These memories help to paint a great picture of what it was like to be a pop fan in the 1960s, both in terms of how approachable and accessible groups were back then but also to give a glimpse of life in the 60s.”
Richard is still keen to hear from any Who fans with memories of seeing them perform at the Downs Hotel or anywhere else during the 60s or early 70s.
He said: “I’m interested in any stories, however faded the memories might seem to be, of seeing The Who and people’s recollections of who they went with and what they paid for their ticket. It’s a story of The Who in the words of their fans that I want to tell.”
Richard has written two ‘people’s histories’ of popular music – The Beatles: I Was There (published by Red Planet) and You Had To Be There: The Rolling Stones Live (published by GottaHaveBooks).
The Who: I Was There will be published by Red Planet this year.
Richard can be reached at email@example.com or by letter at 1 Totnes Road, Manchester, M21 8XF.