London Calling

As part of their 1976 UK tour, Lynyrd Skynyrd played the Hammersmith Odeon, London. This was the band’s fourth visit to the UK, on this occasion supported by the Birmingham blues masters, the Steve Gibbons Band. Here is Gibbon’s take on that tour and his recollections of witnessing Skynyrd in a live setting:

“Because they emerged quite quickly, I knew very little about their music. The first time I saw them was on the Old Grey Whistle Test (October, 1975), they were playing live, and it wasn’t in the studio. Ronnie was goading them to play better and harder and louder. At the time it went over my head and didn’t appreciate it.

Above: unpublished photo of Gary Rossington, Hammersmith Odeon, February 15, 1976

“It was only when we got to tour with them that I saw the effect it had on audiences, and how blistering they were, they were just a phenomenal band. They really cooked, which was what British bands aspired to do, you know that southern boogie, and it was just unstoppable. You couldn’t help but like it. They worked so closely together, it was brilliant and though I say it myself, they were absolutely superb.

“I think Ronnie was very proud of what he had achieved, and rightly so. He definitely led the band. He was in charge from the moment they went on stage. When I watched them on the first gig, well, it was just phenomenal what they had going.

“He would whip them into frenzy where it would get bigger and bigger, but not just volume, the playing was just so brilliant. It wasn’t volume for the sake of it, they were loud, but it was stunning, the playing was so great.

“Ronnie was really proud of where he’d come from and that Neil Young song really did get to him, I think. He wrote Sweet Home Alabama, that brilliant riposte, and that was part of their make-up, the fact that they were blue collar. You couldn’t argue with their brilliance.”

Photo copyright Iain Monk