Queen in Hertford, UK on 14.11.1970 (written by Mike Cole)

By coincidence I was actually the Social Secretary at the College at the time and was personally responsible for booking the bands at that Winter Ball that took place on November 14th. As I recall, the actual bookings of acts were made (through a company called London Management) sometime early in the autumn term. This would most probably have been in late September. The contract was for a band called 'Smile' to be second support on the bill. The posters and other supporting material were printed up as 'Smile' - unfortunately this contract has long since vanished.

It was not until the band turned up and we saw the drum kit with 'Queen' painted on it that we quizzed them - we at first thought that this was a substitute band and not the one we had booked. They informed us that they had recently changed their name to 'Queen' since appearing at the Cavern Club - they then tried to squeeze a bit more money out of us on the basis that they were now more famous having played on the same stage as the Beatles!

The Liverpool gig was I believe a couple of weeks before the gig at our college - so if they did change their name following the Liverpool gig, our assertion is correct. Certainly the management company was still booking them as 'Smile' in late September - it could not have been any earlier than this as I have a note of a Ball committee meeting dated 12th September 1970 in which I was delegated to book suitable bands and given a budget of GBP 200 with which to do it (from memory I think Queen were paid GBP 50). So allowing time for contacting the management company, they coming back with quotes and decisions being made it would have been no sooner than the last week of September 1970 that the booking would have been made.

So what do I remember of the performance, to be brutally honest - it was not particularly memorable - I can recall them playing on our second stage - but I cannot recall any of the items that they played. I am sure that the performance was OK as the hall was full, if the bands were not up to much the halls would empty as if by magic as everyone went to the bar! I would love to be able to say that one could see a genius in the making, but that was not apparent that night. I suspect that they were still learning their trade. If only one knew!!!


Queen in Hertford, UK on 14.11.1970 (written by David Cripps)

I was fascinated to see the Early dates section and to read the story about the Queen/Smile gig on 14th November 1970 by Mike Cole, who was a fellow student (known as DD at the time because of the beer he drank - Double Diamond).

I was a student at Balls Park College Hertford from 68-71 and formed the college band in 1969 with Phil Walsh on guitar and others. I was and still am a drummer. As the college band we played at every gig and supported every act that played at the college in those years. We were called Full Frontal Nudity - named after a Monty Python sketch - and we were the support band to the band booked that night for the Winter Ball... Smile. I remember them arriving and announcing that they had just played The Cavern Club in Liverpool and were playing that night under their new name... Queen.

We played our first set and, as we left the stage, they took their places on stage. We shook hands as we passed each other, wished them luck, etc. They played their set and we passed them again as we took the stage to play our second set.

I would love to say that they made a huge impression on me and that I could see in embryo form the legends they were to become... but that would not be true. I remember thinking they were really good and I watched some of their set... but there was a girl that I was after and she occupied my much of my attention.

Later my band changed its name to Rainbird and was one of the few bands, in those days, playing Bo Rap. One of our agents knew the Queen guys and we were told they wanted to see us do it live. We were told they would come to a club in Loughton, Essex that we played regularly and we were amazed one Saturday night to see Brian May and Roger Taylor standing at the bar. They chatted to us backstage after that set and told us that they didn't do it on stage without backing tapes whereas we did the whole song live including the acappella intro. However, instead of the opera section, we used to go into Killer Queen and then back into Bo Rap for the heavy lead and end section.

Rainbird is still performing live Rock and Roll whenever we can get a gig and the band still features both me and the original FFN guitarist Phil Walsh. Next year 2009 will be our 40th anniversary!

Regarding the change of the band's name: they said explicitly that they'd decided on the way down from Liverpool to change their name to Queen and that this was to be their first gig under their new name. We had just finished setting up and sound checking when someone announced that the main band/s were arriving and we went out to meet them in the car park, show them the best way to get their gear in, show them exactly where they were playing etc. That's when the conversation took place about their name change. I remember Freddie as being very small especially compared to Brian who had big hair (as did I!!!) Freddie was also very shy. I chatted to Roger because he was the drummer as am I.

Of course, it may have been just something they said every time they arrived at a gig to explain why the venue hadn't been notified of their name change. They were definitely booked for the college as Smile - I remember the posters and I was also the editor of the weekly college newpaper "Grapevine" and, the previous week, I had designed the ad for the gig showing the names of the bands that included Smile and Full Frontal Nudity (my band). In those days long before computers, we typed copy by hand onto Gestetner duplicator skins and we had to draw any art work by hand onto a skin using a special tool or an empty ball point pen!

We have looked everywhere for a copy of that issue or for any bits from that era and, while we have managed to retrieve other issues, sadly not that one. We have staged four very successful reunions on the site. My band played each time and, during the event, we asked people for any souvenirs of that time that they still have. A few bits like have emerged but nothing relating to that particular Winter Ball.


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