In keeping with this weeks festival theme I managed to dig out these two fine gems. Sounds was a weekly music paper which rivalled New Musical Express during the 70’s and was a big supporter of outdoor rock festivals during the time and will always be remembered at these gatherings for giving away copious amounts of free badges.
Sounds was always more rock orientated than the other pop music weeklies which also included Record Mirror and Melody Maker, so it was no surprise to see them backing these denim dominated weekenders. In its early days Sounds carried a free A3 colour poster and it provided fitting wallpaper for the previously dour students common room at the Wellington Walker Technical College during the early seventies as massive pictures (nearly always from a live performance) of the Who, Carlos Santana, Yes, Deep Purple, Sonja Kristina and Joe Cocker brightened up the environs.
It would also to be true to say that Sounds was a much less complicated read than NME and would champion bands such as Bad Company, Black Sabbath, Rush and Lynyrd Skynyrd rather than lengthy introspective pieces on Bob Dylan or espouse the upcoming talents such as Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Marley which the NME and its coterie of talented, clever, but ever so slightly indulgent writers would advance. Sounds was a much more safer bet than NME, if you wanted stuff you like and wanted to continue liking. The big divide came as the punk era emerged with the NME readership pre-prepped on the musical revolution while Sounds took the journey more cautiously – straddling a tight line between its ZZ Top fans at the same time as introducing relatively non-threatening acts like the Vibrators and the Jam.
It also introduced the world to Garry Bushell with his own particular tunnel vision take on proletariat punk at the same time Geoff Barton was creating absurd musical labels such as NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) which unleashed the likes of Iron Maiden and Def Leppard. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on Sounds as by 1977 it carried some great pieces on the Clash and certainly wouldn’t shy away from putting the likes of the Sex Pistols, X-Ray Spex and Siouxsie and the Banshees on the cover.
For me though the Reading / Sounds axis will probably always be associated with guitar hero Rory Gallagher and as a tribute to the prodigiously talented down to earth Irishman who sadly passed away in 1995 I’d like to dedicate this set of badges to him – the mere sight of his battered Stratocaster would automatically lift any festival crowd, particularly when following a dreary set by someone like the Doobie Brothers.