April 7, 2020, by Nicholas Blake
Live on Campus! – the 1970s
This guest blog was written by student placement Jessica Clarke, 2nd year Music. Jess trawled through our holdings of student newspapers, the Entertainments Committee minutes, and Students’ Union ephemera, to research bands and performers who played at the University of Nottingham.
The 1970s were a different time: almost no one had a computer, most music was played from vinyl and the internet was not yet available to the public. It was an exciting time for the music industry, with new bands and genres rapidly appearing.
The decade kicked off to a good start with Fleetwood Mac, one of the biggest bands to play at the University’s Students’ Union. They had only been around for a few years but were well received by the crowd in the Portland Building on Thursday, 5th November, 1970. Unfortunately, they played for less than their allotted time, so the Union Social committee withheld some of their fee!
Two years later, on a Tuesday afternoon, Paul McCartney strolled into Portland with his new band, Wings, and offered to play a free gig. At lunchtime the next day – 9th February 1972 – they played to six hundred people in The Buttery (the Students’ Union bar) in the band’s first ever live performance. They only had 11 songs to play so they had to start repeating some, pretending that they were special requests from students.
Societies occasionally had live music for their events and often booked artists who were just starting out, some of whom later made it big. In 1972 Shakin’ Stevens played for the Medics Ball as part of a four–act line-up. Since he didn’t achieve much success until the 1980s when his hit single Merry Christmas Everyone came out, he was advertised as just another act, sharing the event headline with “Buffet Supper – Cold Table or Salmon, Turkey, etc”.
Another group who achieved festive success was Mud, whose song Lonely This Christmas was released two years before their 1976 performance at the Sports Centre. They became one of a few groups who returned to Nottingham when they played at Lenton Hall in 1980. As that performance was on 28th November we can be fairly sure Lonely This Christmas would have made an appearance.
In early 1977 Ultravox played in the Ballroom of the Portland Building. They had been together since 1973 but didn’t achieve mainstream success until the release of their 1980 single Vienna, which spent four consecutive weeks at number two in the UK charts without ever quite making it to number one.
Two years later, another band who hadn’t made it big yet performed in the Portland Building. Simple Minds were a Scottish rock band who are best known for Don’t You (Forget About Me) which was released in 1985 on the soundtrack of the hit movie “The Breakfast Club”.
Later on in the 1970s and the early 80s, the use of the Portland Building as a concert venue became controversial due to disputes between the Students’ Union and the University over who was allowed into the events. Because of this, the Sports Centre was used for larger concerts, where it hosted Siouxsie and the Banshees in January 1979, and The Jam fourteen months later.
Now, over thirty years later, we don’t have many live bands performing at the Students’ Union, all their publicity comes from Spotify and YouTube rather than university gigs. In lots of ways the internet has improved our lives and given us access to a wide array of bands, artists and genres, but it will never replace the magic of the live show.
The material consulted in this article is held by Manuscripts & Special Collections, King’s Meadow Campus, University of Nottingham. Please visit our website for more information and access to our online catalogues.
Hello. I was at the Paul McCartney Concert. It was not played in The Buttery. That was basically a bar or two downstairs at the time. It was played in the main Portland Building Student Union Hall that was used for big (up and coming) bands/artists like Pink Floyd, Sandy Denny and Free who I saw there between 1969 and 1973. There were balls at the beginning and the end of the year (Sept to July) where multiple groups played and at one I saw Supertramp playing to a few people in a side room just before they became famous.
David Gouldbourne is correct on Pail McCartney my,now, wife went to this but I had to miss it due to playing football! On Fleetwood Mac playing under time, this was because they received a muted response from the audience most of whom did not know Peter Green (RIP) had left. They played none of the Mac’s hits and as I remember it was mostly slide guitar stuff by Jeremy Spencer. They went off and did no encore. The band only survived due Stevie Nicks and Lyndsey Buckingham joining The ref is history! I do think FM milk Rumours and charge a lot. I am biased as Helen and I are massive Springsteen fans – over 100 gigs between us
The Damned/Adverts 1977
The Beat no year
Penetration no dates apart from The Damned.
In the early 70s Nottingham University didn’t have a large onsite venue for music so struggled to get the top groups at the time. But it sometimes got lucky or clever in booking a group on the way up or down. So I saw The Faces and Free in the Portland Building. The then new Sports Centre also was used and I remember Roxy Music played there as oddly they wandered into Sherwood Hall JCR before hand.