Music fan who’s seen 600 acts play over 55 years
From Dylan to Led Zeppelin, the Stones to Simple Minds, Ken Beveridge has been to all their gigs
BACK in August 1963, the manager of Dunfermline’s Kinema Ballroom received a letter from a local music fan. The letter writer said that, because he was under age, he was asking for permission to attend a concert by Gerry and the Pacemakers.
The manager lived opposite the 12-year-old’s aunt, who put in a good word for him. The manager gave his assent and, come the night of the show, the youngster, Ken Beveridge, and his friend waited in line to see the band. Older fans offered them substantial sums for their tickets, but they declined.
Young Beveridge was not to know it but that gig was the start of a remarkable lifelong devotion to concerts. Over the decades he has seen more than 600 acts, from Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Joe Strummer. He saw Dr John in New Orleans. He has attended countless festivals (although he has been only twice to Glastonbury, the most famous of them). He has been to concerts in Los Angeles, Nashville, Byron Bay in New South Wales, Dusseldorf and Melbourne. At one Browne gig, he found himself a few seats behind Billy Connolly.
On one memorable occasion, Beveridge paid for an artist to play in his living-room. Rab Noakes, accompanied by harmonica player Fraser Speirs, played a blinding set in Beveridge’s then-home in Bicester, Oxfordshire, in September 2008. That gig makes his list of all-time favourite shows (see panel on opposite page).
He has seen Dolly Parton (“under much coercion, it must be said”), The Waterboys, Tom Paxton, Peter Green, David Gray, James Brown, Mavis Staples and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He has also seen numerous Scottish acts: Stealers Wheel, Lonnie Donegan, Donovan, Deacon Blue, Del Amitri, Teenage Fanclub and Simple Minds. He has seen gigs by bands whose name is known, perhaps, to only handfuls of fans. He never saw The Beatles or Elvis or Sinatra, but wishes he had. He saw, but wishes he hadn’t, seen Sting, Thunderclap Newman and The Gaslight Anthem.
And now, at 67, the retired civil servant has put it all down in a book, A Life in Live Music. “I dread to think how much money I have spent following my hobby,” Beveridge writes. “I do know that on the whole it has been worth every penny.”
He had already caught a couple of local bands at the Kinema, but Gerry and the Pacemakers were the first famous group he saw. Music had been in his blood, he says “from when I was five, six or seven, when I would listen to Radio Luxembourg and watch TV shows like the Six-Five Special. “I was listening to the likes of Elvis Presley and a lot of American bands in the late fifties, and got into The Beatles when I was a bit older, and I was introduced to the music of Dylan when I was about 12.”
Indeed, Beveridge saw Dylan at Edinburgh’s ABC Theatre in May 1966, just three nights after the singer’s infamous concert in Manchester when a fan shouted “Judas!”, furious at him for abandoning his folk roots in favour of electric guitars and rock ‘n’ roll. Beveridge also saw Dylan at the 1969 Isle of Wight festival, when the singer played his first public show since a motorbike accident three years earlier.
He owns everything Dylan has ever done but in the book he is candid enough to declare that, although he has seen Dylan between 15 and 20 times, “he has been worth the entrance fee on about three of these occasions”.
He counts himself as “extremely fortunate” to have seen Led Zeppelin at two long-ago summer festivals – the Bath Festival of Blues in 1969 and the Bath Festival of Progressive Music the following year. In between, he caught them at Newcastle in January 1970. The powerhouse performances at each, he can never forget. He and his friends had no option but to buy tickets and hire a minibus for the Newcastle gig as the band were not playing any Scottish dates on that tour. A week before it took place, however, Zeppelin announced an Edinburgh show, after all. Nevertheless, the Newcastle gig was “one of the loudest and best concerts I was lucky to be at”.
Of the two Rolling Stones gigs he has seen, the first, at Wembley Stadium in 1991, was outstanding. “They were fantastic, absolutely superb,” he says, but the second, at Twickenham in 2003, was marred by what he describes as an “atrocious” sound system.
In the sixties and early seventies Beveridge attended lots of festivals, including Shepton Mallet (venue of the Bath Festival of Progressive Music) and the Isle of Wight in 1969.
“I got married in 1974, when I was still going to the occasional concert to see the likes of Harry Chapin, Dylan or Van Morrison, or Jackson Browne,” he
Dylan has been worth the entrance fee on about three occasions