Lot's of people say they were there, when you mention Knebworth to them, this is because they can't handle the fact that they missed Queen's final gig. Throughout the times that I went to see Queen live, I always tried to make sure I went to the last gig of that tour. Not to do with morbid fears of them splitting, more to do with last gigs being notoriously the best shows, as the band in question will let their hair down, and do things that they wouldn't normally do.
When the 'Magic' tour was scheduled, Wembley was at the back end of the tour, but by no means the last gig, with that honour scheduled to happen in Marbella, Spain. Yours truly had tried to get tickets for Wembley, but on the back of 'Live Aid', the demand for tickets was phenomenal, and you couldn't get them for love nor money. I thought 'Oh well, I'll miss them again!'. But in the UK, some tickets are sold off to coach tour companies and small amounts to box offices around the country. I had tried about 15 coach tour operators and about 6 or 7 box offices with no luck. One day we went shopping in Oxford, and just happened to walk past the Apollo there, on our way back to the car. They had a small chalkboard in the window, saying tickets available for various bands, and one of those was Queen. Now I'd already tried the Apollo about 2 weeks before, so I wondered where they had suddenly got Wembley tickets from. We had to wait around another hour or so, for the box office to open, and I queued up. On arrival at the counter, I didn't care which gig, I just wanted two tickets, end of story. This was when they told me it was Knebworth, and I suddenly became a little sceptical, "But they're not playing Knebworth, I've seen the tour schedule on promo posters!" The guy said "Do you want these tickets or not?". I only had to think for about 4 nanoseconds, before I handed over the cheque for them.
The day arrived, and we jumped in the car at about 0930 am for the hour and a half drive to the town of Stevenage, about 30 miles North-West of London. About five miles away from the place, the traffic was grid-locked, and nothing moved faster than slow walking pace. We eventually got to one of the car parks, and I'd never seen so many parked cars and coaches. They scattered the fields everywhere, and when we parked up and started following everyone else it took 15 minutes to get to the wooden fence that surrounded the venue. My thought then was "How the hell are we going to find the car?" and that wasn't even taking into account the fact it would be dark, when we needed to. After passing the huge skips, that everybody's drinks that they'd brought with them, were being thrown into (there must have been hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of Coke, Pepsi etc in those skips), at the ticket entrance, we moved around the outside of the place quickly, visiting the toilet, refreshment stalls and merchandising stalls, as we went. The toilets were disgusting, they consisted of a long metal row of seats with flimsy partitions, suspended over a shallow channel which then went off to a tank. So, as you were sat there, you could see everyone else's business floating by.
We chose a vantage point, one that we knew we would have to be in for a long time. It was about 1230, and as you look out from the stage, centrally there were two tents, a small one about 100 metres from the stage, and a bigger one about 250 metres from the stage. We were about halfway between the front tent and a stage left lighting tower, about 120 metres in a straight line away from the stage. MTV was a new thing in those days, and it was being broadcast via the sound system and a huge screen suspended above the centre of the stage. First band on, at about 2pm was a group called 'Belouis Some' and they were absolutely sh*t. The crowd were throwing 2 litre Lemonade bottles at the stage, with such intensity that you could hardly see the stage. Of course, none of these bottles ever got as far as the stage, they were landing on the crowd in front, who were picking them up and throwing them back from where they came from. There was then about an hour's gap before Status Quo came on. I could live with that, they had the crowd bouncing up and down, playing their inimitable, but slightly repetitive style of 12-bar blues. At one point, one of their roadies was spotted 85 ft up in the air on top of the 'Star vision' screen, with a big cardboard cut-out of a guitar, head-banging to one of their songs. The crowd went wild, and Quo thought it was them that had made the crowd wild. When they found out in the reviews of the gig, they sacked the roadie. I thought this was a bit extreme, and haven't bought a Quo record since, purely because of that.
Backstage, there were funfairs, including dodgems, beer tents and lots of other amusements for the 'kling'ons'! (hangers-on and record company exec's) who were allowed there. Throughout the afternoon, helicopters were flying over, filming the crowd, or so I presumed, but on a couple of occasions, two flew close together over the crowd, and the crowd was shouting at them, but I didn't know why until months later when 'Live Magic' was released, and you could make out all the logo's on the side of it. It was in fact bringing Queen into the venue. An hour after Quo had finished (they were flying off to do the second of three gigs that day, to Switzerland), Big Country took to the stage. Now to me, all their stuff sounds the same, so I found them boring and was rather glad when they had eventually finished. Every song they did came with a free 'bagpipes style' guitar solo.
At around 8.50 pm, ambient light was starting to fade off, and the muzak they had been feeding us faded out. The crowd suddenly surged forward, and packed so tight, you could nearly tell what religion the guy was, standing behind you. The familiar 'God moves in mysterious ways' intro to 'One Vision' came out of the sound system at about twice the volume of anything previously. And the crowd was really getting into it now, bouncing up and down, clapping, and on the final keyboard chord before the guitar, Freddie appeared and the crowd went completely ballistic (If you hear the 'Live Magic' album, turn it up as loud as you possibly can stand. Shut your eyes and imagine a fifth of a million people in a relatively small field all around you! All pushing into you. All going mental. You just can't buy this, really it IS quite unique).
Just before the end of the song I remember looking around at the crowd behind me. As far as the eye could see, was just a huge sea of people, and I just thought "Bloody HELL!!!!!!!!". As most of the songs on 'Live Magic' ARE Knebworth Park (the exceptions being 'Under Pressure' & 'A Kind Of Magic' – Budapest; 'Is This The World We Created' – 1st night at Wembley; and 'Hammer To Fall' - 2nd night at Wembley), I won't try to explain each song. Suffices to say, that they played very well, the show was excellent and by the time 'God Save The Queen' came on, my legs felt like they were falling off. As soon as 'GSTQ' finished, all the lights went out, and you had nearly 200,000 standing in a field in the pitch black of night. I have never been that scared of being in a middle of a tragedy, as that moment, in my life. The crowd, carried you out of the place shuffling like a penguin, because there wasn't enough room to walk.
Eventually after about 20 minutes of this, we made it out of the field, and you had room to actually see your feet, if it hadn't been dark. Now started the search through four huge very dark car parks trying to pick out a particular needle in a haystack of similar needles. After about 2 hours, we had a stroke of luck, and it was luck because we could easily have been there all night looking, we stumbled across our car, and just sat in it for another three hours as nothing was moving out of the car park very quickly. We found out the next day, that the Police were looking for a murder weapon, as a fan had been stabbed and had bled to death about 50 metres behind us, at about the time in 'One Vision' that I had looked around. One goes, another arrives, a woman had given birth in the crowd at Knebworth, as well.
This was the last time that anyone saw Queen live on stage, and forms an indelible memory in my head. You can watch this sort of stuff on video, and say, "Yeah, that was good!", but you miss the thing as a total experience. Being there is just on a totally different level, and how it connects in your head. Everytime, I see 'The Show Must Go On' video, and you have that part where the helicopter is behind and over the stage at Knebworth as Queen take to the stage, I just burst into tears, the emotion of the event is still THAT strong after 15 years. I hope that I have put 'what you missed' into words that reflect the gravity of it all.
Hi, just read your story on the Knebworth show and it brought lots of memories flooding back to me. I and two of my mates managed to get 3 tickets for the show. I was in hospital the week before, as I had been ill and was found to be diabetic. After I was shown how to inject myself, I told one of the nurses about the show I was going to. She told me it was up to the doctor if I would be able to get out of the hospital to go to the show. They weren't too keen to let me go such a distance but as my mate's mum was diabetic and he was able to inject me till I was able to do it myself, the hospital gave me the ok to be out early to get to the show. We hired a car and drove the 700 miles and managed to get a couple of beds on the floor at a hotel which was full cause of the show. We had a good night drinking on the friday night, up early next day.
A guy gave us a lift to the show but we had to get dropped off mile from knebworth as the traffic was at a standstill. Like you said, Belouis Some were pretty poor but I enjoyed the Quo and Big Country. After Big Country the crowd began pushing forward, pretty frightening, as I don't really like big crowds so you can imagine how I felt with 125000 people there. The build up to Queen coming on was absoloutly brilliant and the show was superb, one of there best I think. I had already seen the band 6 times before. We got lost coming out but had arranged a meeting point for outside. We eventually met up about hour after the show and the guy from the hotel came and picked us up and took us back to the hotel where we ended the night with a few drinks before bed. We were up early on Sunday, showered, had breakfast and then set on the long journey back home to Sundee, Scotland. As you say in your story, watching the snippet from Show Must Go On, with the helicopter flying over, always brings a little tear to me as well, mate. I never ever thought it would be the last time Queen ever performed and I've had people doubting me about being there until I produce the ticket from inside my wallet, where it's been for the past 18 years, and shall remain TILL I FUCKING WELL DIE :-) What an event, and will remain with me always. Love to all Queenies out there.
I had seen Queen in 1986, my brother bought me a ticket for my birthday, thanks Rich! We got tickets for the Maine road show thinking this would be the only show we would get to. The Knebworth show came up and I had to beg my mum and dad to buy me a ticket: it was the week before my 16th birthday so they bought it for me the princely sum of GBP 9.00! The day came so me and my mate Martin went to the coach station in Leeds, met up with my brother and off we went. We got there I think about 12ish I think, my brother went off on his own, he had seen Queen loads of times so he was used to it. Me and Martin wandered around and found a place maybe 100 yards or so from the stage so there we were for the day! We had not much money and we got a very small bottle of pop each to last us about 12 hours. Belouis Some came on, I thought he was ok, he had a couple of hits in the 80's but he introduced a song called Target/Practice cue the bottles not very nice I admit but for a couple of teenagers it was quite funny. Then later on the Quo came on, now I was a fan but remember being a bit bored; the highlight being the guy up on the big screen playing the air guitar. A couple of hours passed by, then came Big Country, the worst band ever, boring was not the word I think. Martin and I sat down for their set until they played Honky Tonk Woman at the end.
We were very excited, then about 8.30 or so Martin was saying I can see Freddie. I didn't believe him but with that the lights dimmed and One Vison started and that was it, the boys were here. I dont remember too much about the concert itself, i remember Freddie swearing that shocked me and Brian's ear piercing screech during the guitar solo. At the end it was very dark and it seemed to take hours to get out of the park and to try and find our bus. I remember we met up with a guy from Wales, now he was ladened up with T-shirts, posters, books etc. He decided to go to the toilet so he gave us all his stuff to save for him. Now we could have nicked off with this stuff but being the kind souls we are, we waited for him and gave him it all back. The truth is it never entered our heads to run off with his stuff, it would be worth a fortune now. Anyway we eventually found our bus or rather <artin did (he's good at that, still is thanks mate).There was my brother vitually on his knees cos he didn't have a drink (no-one did), poor fella. The bus set off and seemed to take hours just to get out of the park. We were eventually on the motorway on our way home to Leeds. We got home about 6 in the morning, 3 of us piled into Richard's 2 seater car and then we were home. Shattered but very happy. We knew it was the last concert of the tour but not the last concert ever - at least I can say we were there. I am nearly 40 now, Martin being a bit older and Rich a bit older; still and all of us massive Queen fans even now. Thanks Brian, Roger, John and Freddie.
Yes, what a day that was! Myself and a friend had already done 8 other dates on this tour, kicking off at the Foret Nationale in Brussels and so here we were arriving at Knebworth station for the final date. We got into a waiting coach which then got stuck in this bloody traffic jam and seemed to take forever. Having arrived at the venue we made our way round the nine foot high security white boards fencing that encircled the venue until we found the entrance to the guest enclosure. It was much quieter back there and only a few crew were milling around. The day was very warm and sunny. My friend went off inside to get the guest passes and I waited outside, looking across the fields and the distant scenery. Some time later she emerged with one pass and said that there was no other pass available from her usual source (who had kindly let us into some shows and provided passed to others before on the tour)... It was difficult, she said, after all we were back near London and for the Wembley shows I'd relied upon pre-bought tickets - because everyone wanted passes for the London shows. We had a discussion about it and she disappeared back inside and I waited some time then for a pass to be procured, which it eventually was thanks to my old friend Jacky getting one from Gerry Stickells - who I gather wasn't very pleased!
Whilst I was waiting for this I heard a helicopter circling which appeared to be getting louder and then I noticed it was getting ready to land nearby across in the field next to me. I was all on my own there as I watched it touch down with the Kind of Magic logo on the side... I watched as a Range Rover drew up alongside and the band spilled out onto the field. They climbed in and it drove off to backstage.
My friend appeared with the pass and I made my way inside towards the guest enclosure. I found Jacky and said thank you and then we met Jim Jenkins again, who we'd seen at many other dates on this and previous tours. They were then looking at my hair in horror and fascination and I couldn't understand why. Unfortunately where I'd been sitting outside was right beside long grass and my hair was apparently full of tiny flies. There were so many they couldn't be removed by hand! I thought there was no sense in worrying about it and eventually they all flew away.
The gig itself was wonderful, better than both Wembley shows and as great as Newcastle and Brussels. I was standing the other side of two fences overlooking an enormous mass of people and was glad to have been there, for the crowd was huge and went back as far as the eye could see. In fact it was like Hyde Park 1976 all over again. The band looked relaxed and had fun: it was a great show. I don't remember much more about the gig but I do vividly recall I was standing by the fence when some of the crew standing in the middle between the fences suddenly became visibly agitated and anxious and it was then that a long of them started running up and down, talking upon walkie talkies. They seemed alarmed about something and the next thing I knew was that an ambulance had backed up to the fence inside the enclosure and that the crowd parted over the other side of the fences and two people were helping this guy walk along. They got him over the fences and into the back of the ambulance and it drove off at speed. I couldn't believe later that he'd died because I saw him walk out. It was very sad. Later on the police held everything up as they searched each vehicle and coach leaving the venue.
At the end of the gig I felt exhilarated but pretty tired and had a awful headache which somewhat spoilt things. We were invited to hang around to go backstage to the Funfair but unfortunately I decided that I had to go home as I felt really rough which was maybe a combination of the heat of the day and too much brandy!! I never knew that this would be the very last time I'd see the band live but I feel priveliged to have been there and grateful to those people whose generosity at that time has provided me with such special memories.
I was at Knebworth. Front row! What an amazing night... little did we know that it was Queen's last concert with Freddie. The thing is, I was already living overseas by this time... since January 1983, but chose to time my trip back with Knebworth. I had seen Led Zep in 1977 and Genesis in 1978 at the same venue (IIRC) and fancied Queen in a big field.
I'd seen them at Stafford Bingley Hall in 1977 (again IIRC - this is all from memory, as I wake up in Japan and stumble across this amazing site). This is going to be, by the way, more of a "how Queen affected my life" story as opposed to one single concert experience! The things that Queen have meant in parts of my life is quite amazing...
My first single was Seven Seas of Rhye, my first album was A Night at the Opera... Stafford Bingley Hall was amazing.
I was already travelling the world as a DJ by 1983 and getting back for Knebworth was a stroke of good timing and a memory that will last my lifetime.
This, by the way, was the FIRST and, as far as I know (unless he'd been forced to a Take That or One Direction concert by the wife or daughter in the last decade or so!) and LAST concert that my younger brother attended AND we had made our way to the front row, crushed up against some barriers by the time Quo came on! I think he came because I'd bought two tickets just in case, at Cyclops records in Birmingham... I didn't want to go all by myself... I can't remember too much about the transportation!! I think we drove and left the car in some field miles away but my mind's a bit of a blank there!
The helicopter came down to our left (it is called "stage right"?) and the crowd went nuts...
One Vision was a mega-opener and they surprised (me anyway, in those days you didn't see set lists from previous concerts immediately - the surprises are good sometimes!) with Hello Mary Lou (didn't Roger come out and sing it? Or some of it?)... I am digressing :-)
So great day, great night, great memories...
I eventually settled down in Japan and have since begun "singing" too, and one of the first songs I ever jumped on stage and did - and now it's a regular thing is Crazy Little Thing Called Love... and I am married (25 years in Feb. 2017). My wife is Japanese and the first concert she ever went to? 23rd April, 1975 (St. George's Day! - Queen Live in Kobe!
Queen - never equalled!