A truly spectacular event, 1967’s “Christmas on Earth Continued”—a super-concert described in one promo poster as an “All Night Christmas Dream Party”—gets sadly remembered as the last major show Syd Barret played with Pink Floyd—ending the set dazed and motionless onstage, his arms hanging limp at his sides. Barrett’s breakdown wasn’t the only thing that kept this massive happening, “the last gasp of the British underground scene,” from taking off as it should have.
As the blog Marmalade Skies recalls, the concert, held in the “vast London Olympia,” had “hopelessly inadequate” publicity.” This, and a “particularly severe winter freeze” meant sparse attendance and “financial disaster for the organizers.” In addition, a planned film of the event failed to materialize, “owing to poor picture quality of the footage.”
Despite all this, it seems, you really had to have been there. The lineup alone will make lovers of 60s psych-rock salivate: Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burdon, Pink Floyd, The Move, Soft Machine, Tomorrow… The Who didn’t make it, but the unbilled Traffic did. We’re lucky to have some of the footage from that winter night. Check out Traffic below (with a very young Steve Winwood), playing “Dear Mr. Fantasy.”
Liberal England blogger Jonathan Calder calls the Traffic clip “priceless” and quotes Marmalade Skies’ vivid description of the nights festivities:
Soft Machine, with Kevin Ayers resplendent in pre-punk black string vest, climaxed with the ultimate Dada version of ‘We did it again’ as Robert Wyatt leapt into a full bath of water, that just happened to be on-stage with them! At least, we assumed it was water.
Tomorrow powered through their unique mix of heavily Beatles influenced psychedelia. During ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ Twink (drums) and Junior (bass) performed a mimed fight whilst being subjected to the most powerful strobe light effects I’ve ever witnessed. Steve Howe was a revelation, moving from raga to classical to Barrett – style anarchy with an almost arrogant ease.
Traffic, still with Dave Mason, even performed ‘Hole in my shoe’. Steve Winwood was into his white cheesecloth period, and their music was so unlike anything else around that they occupied a totally original space. The song, ‘Here we go round the Mulberry Bush’ was very typical of their trippy, watery sound at that time.
Hendrix – voom! All light shows were killed for his performance. Noel Redding was constantly niggling Jimi, playing bass behind his head as Jimi performed his tricks with his guitar. It was the first time I saw Hendrix with his Gibson Flying Arrow, and the tension on-stage produced some electrifying music.
At the top of the post see Hendrix in backstage footage, effortlessly coaxing some beautiful 12-bar blues from that Gibson flying V. The film clips of him onstage—blowing an obviously very turned-on audience’s collective mind—will convince you this was the only place on earth to be on December 22, 1967.
And that fateful Floyd performance? We don’t seem to have any film, but we do have the audio, and you can hear it below, slightly sped up, it seems. The band were debuting their new 3D lightshow, which—as much as Barrett’s sad loss of his faculties—left quite an impression on the crowd. One anonymous commenter on Calder’s blog, who claims to have seen been in attendance at the tender age of 18, writes, “I was so impressed with the Soft Machine and Pink Floyd lightshows that I bought an old movie projector from a thrift shop and me and my flatmate spent hours putting color slides into the projector grate and watched them melt psychedelically on the wall.” No doubt impressionable youngsters all over the UK indulged in similar kinds of good clean fun, with Piper at the Gates of Dawn on the hi-fi. If like me, you were born too late to experience the zenith of the psychedelic 60s, then flip off the lights, let your trippiest screen saver take over, and listen to Pink Floyd deconstruct themselves below.
via Liberal England
Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock: The Complete Performance in Video & Audio (1969)
Jimi Hendrix Plays the Beatles: “Sgt. Pepper’s,” “Day Tripper,” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”
Pink Floyd Plays With Their Brand New Singer & Guitarist David Gilmour on French TV (1968)
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
That Floyd link is a Syd show from 1970, not the Floyd show from ’67!
I remember this concert well having been to the 14 Technicolour Dream earlier in the year and then a regular at UFOs in Tottenham Court Road on Friday nights.
London in 1967 was a special place with great music and small clubs all over the place. Free concerts in Hyde Park rounded it all out.
Also not known widely but Brian May from Queen was in his schoolboy band, 1984 (with Tim Staffell) and they played this gig too.. Tim and Brian went on to form Smile with Roger Taylor. Then Time left and suggested his roommate Freddie join up with Brian and Roger….
I was there. 17 yrs old. An American student in London with no idea what i was about to see. We spent our weekends at the marquee club and hyde park. An extension of the Hippie psychedelic experience complete with visual gel screens strobes in a cavern of a venue. Eric Burden was a big draw, Hendrix Floyd…what a show! the last gasp from the scene. Thanks for reminding me.
I was there, just back from the front when Jimi came on. All the lights went out, Jimi smashed s lighted cigarette against the mic stand and away they went. I swear I got Hendrix spit on my parka. I remember the magical blues on the Flying V and Spanish Castle Magic. I also remember tension between Jimi and Noel. At one point Jimi was tuning and glared and barked at Noel ‘Give me an F’. Magical night.
I was there, and in fact, the ‘Marmalade Skies’ quote is actually a lifted quote from my pieces on the Pink Floyd website ‘A Fleeting Glimpse’. Not often mentioned was the no-show of The Move, who were originally going to play. But Hendrix was ace, and yes, openly angry with Redding during the performance; Traffic were brilliant, Soft Machine were fantastic, and Eric Burdon was good. Floyd were good as well, even with a non-functioning Syd. His guitar wasn’t plugged in as I recall. Not as good as the Ally Pally in the summer, but a great all nighter all the same. And yes, the end of a short but beautiful period for psychedelia.
…or also, the Who, who didn’t show either – Moon had been injured. And a mention for Tomorrow, the great unsung band of the flower power period.
You must have been on something,the Move Did play,just before Hendrix on the stage opposite,in fact l think they might of stood in for the Who! They had an effigy of the then prime minister Harold Wilson on stage,which they stripped throughout their gig ending up giving it a good going over!
Hendrix was out of this world,l stood near Eric Burdon who kept on saying ‘He’s too fucking much man,too fucking much,
What a night..sorry about Syd…the rest of the band did us justice, and have done ever since!
The flowers given to us on entry would cost more than the concert…thanks 1967
The no-show was by The Who. There were a few rumors circulating as too why, but not worth repeating as it was so long ago. The Move were there and already scheduled to appear, so they weren’t acting as a stand-in act. An altogether never to be forgotten and amazing all nighter. Happy days.
I was there with Georgie my muse at the time . Sadly she overdid it on snowballs by the time Hendrix came on and so she was fast asleep! Saw Sam Gopal many years later. Place seemed half empty?
I was there with a friend. I was just 17. The set up was unusual with two stages at opposite sides of the huge Olympia hall and no seats only plywood platforms with sloping edges to lean against or lie on.
We noticed Hendrix setting up on the opposite stage and went and stood right next to it. The stage was not high and I reached out and touched his foot. Then he adjusted his amp and asked us if that was OK. I mean we were fans chatting to Hendrix as he set up! He played with just his feet fingers, teeth and behind his head and he was amazing.
The other highlight besides Eric Burdon was Traffic, we were told their first ever gig. They were truly amazing. And, no one mentions, the band currently enjoying a hit then with Teenage Opera song about Grocer Jack .
For us the other memorable moment was when Pink Floyd came on early in the morning, maybe the last band (it did go on all night) and we were lying on those platforms and this amazing sound and light started escalating. We thought it was great. Sorry it’s written up as a terrible performance, to some of us it was pure magic.
You really did have to be there and if you were you won’t forget it.
And yes I too created my own light show after that: coloured food dye neutered sheets of slide glass in a slide projector and a strobe light with a mechanically driven aluminium plate with a hole.
Not being a super critic
I was there, noticed Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell setting up half way along whilst another band was, I thought playing at the far end.
So I positioned myself right in front of the very low stage, I was probably next to you! I had long blond hair and a beard which I’d managed to keep during months locked up in the Middle East. Got back in March that year to arrive half-way through a friend’s down my street two week party – and then the Summer of Love, Wow! What a time to be young, we were so lucky.
I was there and Hendrix is the only performance I can remember. Will never forget that.
My wife Di and I were there. She had been on an Oxfam fast at Eros in Piccadilly and was rewarded for her efforts with free tickets for the show. I remember so well how uncrowded it was. We got so close to Hendrix and watched his whole set including his trademark setting the guitar alight with lighter fuel. I can’t say as I remember any of the so called tension between him and Noel Redding.
I also remember seeing The Move and The Animals and above all, a fantastic set from Traffi. Can’t say that I remember Graham Bond or Tomorrow. Perhaps if I’d been better informed in those days, I would have wanted to watch Steve Howe whom I later (1969?) saw with Yes – a supporting act for The Nice at Ther South Bank. Yes., great times to be young and free. The next summer featured trips to Hyde Park for the free concerts. And we did finally see the no-show Who at Hammersmith – Bloody loud!
I was there, and remember Pink Floyd as being very boring, but Jimi as being very exciting. And Tomorrow as being great. But my undying memory is of the strangely sloping “things” to lie/rest on. ( sorry I cant think of the right word ). And getting off with a girl from my past I didn’t know fancied me! And getting home the next day – morning.
A great time to be young!
I was there, I remember the Move but not much more.
I was there. Nineteen.years of age. Marc Bolan stepped over my outstretched legs and said to me. Excuse me man. God I feel old.
I was there, a 17-year-old naive kid just arrived in London from the sticks. Hadn’t a clue what I had walked into. I was actually wearing a suit, believing that a night out required me to “look my best” The place was huge, with a small funfair running alongside the music being played on two stages. I was there to see Eric Burdon, who, like me, was from “up north” Hendrix came on, and I stood there amazed, and soon realised “that this ain’t Kansas anymore” I left in the early morning and dumped the suit.
Christmas on Earth.
I was there.
I did not go to UFO and Middle Earth.
But I had read about swinging London, the underground, the beautiful people, the alternative society in newspapers and magazines.
Here was my chance to meet these wonderful people with alive minds and brilliant ideas.
What did I find?
The floor was covered in a paste made of spilt beer and cigarette ash, they put their beautiful embroidered Afghan coats down on this floor, laid on their coats, and just gazed up at the ceiling or closed their eyes. They didn’t see the bands. I did.
No one spoke to me and I didn’t speak to anyone except the three friends I went with. Where were all these brilliant minds I had read about? Were the beautiful people, swinging London, hippies, the alternative society etc just an invention of the media?
What a disappointment!!
Christmas on Earth was a great night from which I remember walking home in south Fulham. Traffic was a great surprise as a favourite band although disappointed that The Who did not show. The funniest memory was of fans migrating from watching Eric Burden /Animals at one end of the hall to see Traffic setting up and performing. The only time I saw Pink Floyd as more a Tomorrow fan-still remember Twink standing up and drumming. Great opportunity to see Jimi Hendrix Experience perform which provides me with godlike status when discussing with younger music fans. The Move surprisingly fitted in a psychedelic night.
The hall reeked of cannabis. The whole night for £5.00