Wednesday, 30 July 2014

New Year's Eve 1968 "Surprise Partie" with The Who, Small Faces, Booker T, Pink Floyd, Joe Cocker, Fleetwood Mac... Dawn of the Rock Revolution

Surprise-Partie” (see clip below) was broadcast on French TV on December 31st 1968 from the ORTF Studios in Paris and features The Who, The Small Faces, Booker T and the MGs, The Pink Floyd, The Troggs, The Equals, Joe Cocker, Fleetwood Mac and French band Les Variations.

Nowadays New Year's Eve TV pop / rock specials are the norm - in the UK Jools Holland's Hootenanny has been running for nearly 20 years now - but back in the 60s Rock music was not accepted as mainstream family entertainment nor as prevalent on TV as it is now so this program is actually pretty cool and progressive for its time. Auntie BBC certainly weren't doing this kind of thing in the late 60s.

The Who

The Pipers at the Gates of Dawn
The program may have been a novel idea for its time but it also seems to show mid 60s pop culture in the last throes of its show-business trappings and on the cusp of the new age of rock. 1968 is remembered as a chaotic and revolutionary year - in France it almost brought the downfall of the government - but a musical revolution was also brewing which would affect all the bands here. 1968 can be seen as the last year in which rock'n'roll would still be seen as teenage "entertainment". The rock revolution of 1969 was about to turn it into an "art form" to be taken seriously and the hitherto "underground" hippy culture would go mainstream at Woodstock. The stage was set for change and some of the bands seen here, like The Who and Fleetwood Mac, would reinvent themselves and ride the new wave. Others, like The Troggs or The Equals, would soon find themselves cast adrift by the new rock cognoscenti who found their lightweight punk pop to be frivolous and ephemeral.

The transformation of The Who is perhaps the best example of the changes about to occur. They'd had a run of top 20 hit singles from 1965 to 1967 but had suffered a year long commercial dry spell in 1968. They were even starting to look washed-up. Yet at the time of this (mimed) performance of old hits they were just months away from releasing their rock opera Tommy, triumphing at the Woodstock festival and becoming one the great 1970s stadium rock bands.

It's also worthy of note that this show took place only 3 weeks after the band's stunning and show-stealing live performance in the Rolling Stones Rock'n'Roll Circus film. They didn't know it yet but The Who were about to have their most successful year ever in 1969.

The Small Faces

Unfortunately for the The Small Faces things looked bleaker. They were only weeks away from breaking up and this performance is possibly their last for TV. Singer and guitarist Steve Marriott, aware of the way rock was about to change and frustrated at being unable to shake off the band's Lazy Sunday / Itchycoo Park novelty "pop" image, went off to form rock boogie kings Humble Pie and conquer America. The Small Faces eventually cracked it by recruiting Rod Stewart and Ron Wood and reinventing themselves as the Faces.

Note - Look closely here, you can see Pete Townshend and Keith Moon sitting at the back of the stage - no doubt offering encouragement or the occasional acerbic witticism.

Fleetwood Mac were about to leave the blues behind and find considerable crossover success with chart hits like Albatross and Man of the World.

The Pink Floyd, however, were still finding their way after the loss of Syd Barrett 12 months earlier and were now on the way to becoming the premier live space rock band of 1969 - to which the live half of Ummagumma (recorded 5 months later) would be excellent testament.  

Joe Cocker, like The Who, was to find super-stardom the following summer when he put in a stunning performance at the Woodstock festival.  

The Troggs and The Equals, who might be about to find the new rock revolution a little tougher going, are certainly on fine form here and perhaps act as a portent of the late 70s punk era's return to the ethics of power and simplicity.

Fleetwood Mac

France's Les Variations are worth noting. This show was actually their TV debut and they soon left behind their rather splendid garage punk posturing here and started to write harder rock material that showed a strong north African and Moroccan influence. They became one of France's most successful bands of the early 70s and also the first French rock band to tour America and sign with an American label.

Booker T and the MGs

The Performances
All performances are live except The Who and The Small Faces who mimed for some reason. Did their gear get lost on the Channel ferry?

The Booker T and the MGs set is outstanding although there seems to be a bit of a mystery with regard to the date. The Stax / Volt tour of Europe with the MGs, Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, Carla Thomas and Sam and Dave was in early 1967. Did the MGs return on their own the following year?

The Equals, who were one the UK's first racially integrated bands, perform a frantic set of soul stompers. Fleetwood Mac are also on fine form with Jeremy Spencer, in full-on Elmore James mode, taking the lead on two of the three songs.  

Les Variations are simply classic 60s garage rock. Playing before an, at times, wildly enthusiastic home crowd this is an impressive TV debut. I'm sure many of those present would even have claimed that they stole the show.

Les Variations

All in all, this is great stuff. Like Hugh Hefner's "Playboy After Dark" it is another classic example of late 60s grooviness from a glittering day-glo era which was just about to change into a darker shade of denim and take itself far more seriously...

See below for artist order and tracklisting.

01 - I’m A Boy
02 - I Can See For Miles
03 - Magis Bus
Roger Daltrey : vocals
Peter Townshend : guitar, vocals
John Entwistle : bass
Keith Moon : drums

01 - Odgen’s Nut Gone Flake
02 - Song Of A Baker
03 - Rollin’ Over
Steve Marriott : guitar, vocal
Ian McLagan : keyboards
Ronnie Lane : bass
Kenny Jones : drums

BOOKER T & The MGs live at “Bibelot", unknown date”
01 - Green Onions
02 - Hooker Loo
Booker T Jones : organ
Steve Cropper : guitar
Donald “Duck” Dunn : bass
Al Jackson : drums

PINK FLOYD live at “Bilboquet" - Paris, Sept 7, 1968
01 - Let There Be More Light
David Gilmour : guitar, vocals
Richard Wright : keyboards, vocals
Roger Waters : bass, vocals
Nick Mason : drums

01 - Softly Softly
02 - Equality
03 - Baby Come Back
Derv Gordon - lead vocals
Lincoln Gordon - guitar
Eddy Grant - guitar
Pat Lloyd - bass guitar
John Hall - drums

01 - Around & Around
02 - Everybody Needs Somebody
To Love
03 - Satisfaction
Joe Lebb : vocals
Marc Tobaly : guitar
Jacques “Petit Pois” Grande : bass
Jacky Bitton : drums

01 - I Can’t Control Myself
02 - Peggy Sue
03 - Somewhere My Girl Is Waiting
Reg Presley : vocals
Chris Britton : guitar
Pete Staples : bass
Ronnie Bond : drums

JOE COCKER live at "Tour de Nesle" - Paris, unknown date
01 - I Shall Be Released
02 - With A Little Help From My Friends

01 - Homework
02 - My Baby's Sweet
03 - Dust My Broom
Peter Green : guitar, vocals
Jeremy Spencer : slide guitar, piano, vocals
Danny Kirwan : guitar
John McVie : bass
Mick Fleetwood : drums

Bonus tracks
Other artists who performed on the show but are not included in the clip above: Davy Jones, Marie La Foret, Jaques Dutronic, Aphrodite's Child, Antoine, Herbert Leonard, Johnny Haliday, Francoise Hardy and PP Arnold. The latter two are worth seeing though PP Arnold suffers from a bad sound mix.

Francoise Hardy - À quoi ça sert / Où va la chance / Suzanne

PP Arnold - If You Think You're Groovy
The Small Faces played on the recording but, funnily enough, are not here to mime to it.

More stranger than known

Hugh Hefner's "Playboy After Dark" 

Peter Green - "A Mind To Give Up Living" - The Blues of Despair and Salvation

The Faces BBC Sessions - 5 Guys Walk Into The BBC...

Parallax - The Pink Floyd BBC Sessions 

Amazing Journey - The road to "Live at Leeds". The Who Live in Philadelphia 19/10/1969


  1. Why can't this be bought on a dvd ??? would love to have a copy.

  2. Thanks for the info. I've just discovered the original Fleetwood Mac & found your post.

  3. Why was Aphrodite's Child(Vangelis)left out of this video if they were there?? Damn shame....