I was there: Dinu Logoz

In spring 1968, when I was a sixteen years old blues fan attending grammar school in Zurich, I was glad to learn that Switzerland's first big pop festival, the so called Monsterkonzert, was going to take place in May 30 and 31 at Zurich's Hallenstadion. The concert flyer announced not less than seven groups: As headliner The Jimi Hendrix Experience and then Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Traffic with Steve Winwood, The Move, The Cream and two locally known acts, The Koobas and the homegrown Anselmo Trend.  I didn't care much about The Move or The Animals but of course I had to go there to watch Jimi Hendrix and The Cream. I was a huge Hendrix fan, trying to imitate his guitar playing, but my perfect dream would have been to see John Mayall, my biggest idol, live on stage, together with Mick Taylor, another guitarist I adored and I tried to copy. Well, sometimes dreams come true in life. As Cream were still touring the States end of May, they had to be replaced by – you guessed it – John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (of course I would have preferred the Move were touring the States instead of Cream and I could have seen Hendrix, Mayall as well as Cream, but I knew that would have been ungrateful).
On Friday evening, 31 May 1968, I was in heaven. From the place where I was living with my parents, I could take a twenty minutes walk to the Hallenstadion, a huge indoor sports stadium with an unusually horrible acoustic. As it was May 1968, and I was sixteen and a hippy, I've put an incense stick in my mouth (I didn't smoke and I was dead against drugs, my drug was the blues!), strolled along my old school house, full of expectations and glad to see my idol live for the first time. The concert started with the two lesser known acts, and it was still daylight, when the latest bunch of Bluesbreakers entered the stage. It was the very line-up of the forthcoming album Bare Wires, the 7-piece with Hiseman, Reeves, Mercer, Lowther, Heckstall-Smith and Taylor.
New Musical Express wrote about the Thursday performance: "John Mayall turned up on the other end of the vast stage and worked his way through some real blues numbers. His act, however, was interrupted by one enterprising youth who managed to scale the 30 feet on to the stage and nick John's lighter. Mayall stopped playing until it was returned. Meanwhile the youth was pursued round the wooden cycling track, which rings the stadium, caught and taken outside, where he was set on in no uncertain manner by the police bullies." Mayall (or the 'leather stocking of the blues', like the local press later named him) threatened the thief with stopping the concert when "the gentleman of Swiss nationality" wouldn't return his lighter immediately.
Chris Mercer remembered: "On the second night, we played more or less to ourselves as the crowd was engrossed in watching the police beat off members of the audience determined to scale the stage." I remember that very well too (it was May 1968, and Berlin and Paris had already ignited with student protest and outright rebellion) but didn't care a lot about such minor matters and was fully concentrated listening to the Bluesbreakers. I hadn't come for the riots.
The only song I remember (or that I could identify in that atrocious acoustic of the Hallenstadion) was B. B. King's Sweet Little Angel, one of my favorite slow blues numbers. And I was especially impressed by Dick Heckstall-Smith, even using his knee to dampen up the sound of his tenor sax.
When it was Hendrix's turn to play, it was amazing to see how all the other musicians assembled in a row on the side of the stage, watching him with their mouths open. Only Mick Taylor was sitting down, cross-legged, contemplating and admiring his hero.
Jimi Hendrix got quite mad when the crowd started throwing beer mats towards the stage. Masses of chairs had been broken and the concert ended in brutal fights between some hot-heads and a police that was obviously unable and over reacted. With truncheons drawn and attack dogs snarling, the Swiss police came down as hard as they could.
But as I said, I didn't take much care about that and neither did apparently the Bluesbreakers, who laid claim to a big Chevrolet Impala for their three days in Zurich, enjoying their first concerts in Switzerland before travelling back to Britain.
Photos in the French magazine Rock & Folk from August 1968 showed Mayall and Hendrix as close friends informally in front of their common hotel Stoller at Zurich's Albisriederplatz.

Dinu im April 2014

Foto: Dinu 1968