GOD knows, there wasn’t too much to cheer about in the May of 1979. Margaret Thatcher defeated James Callaghan and took over at Number 10, occasioning the sort of cheery tabloid headline (“It’s Mrs Prime Minister!” - the Evening Times) that looks slightly unfortunate in retrospect.

At the end of that month, however, Scotland’s youth had something new to look forward to. The country’s biggest-ever outdoor rock festival, out at Balloch’s Cameron Bear Park. It had a good selection of groups over the weekend, too: The Stranglers, Dr Feelgood, The Skids; the Boomtown Rats, Average White Band and The Buzzcocks.


All sorts of idiosyncratic behaviour was on show. An ambulanceman was photographed wearing padded ear-phones to shut out the din. A music fan carried his car-seat inside, presumably so that he could watch the proceedings in comfort. The Stranglers’ singer, Hugh Cornwell, told fans from the stage: “There's a lot of police here tonight so, if you've got any drugs, you'd better take 'em all now!” The singer and lead guitarist from the band Sneaky Pete reportedly cooled off in the loch after their set - and were promptly picked up by police in a boat and charged with indecent exposure.

There were drug arrests. Some 200 people were treated for everything from cuts and stab wounds to drug overdoses. Music weekly Sounds headlined its report, ‘Never mind the Balloch’. The local pubs had their busiest weekend in years.

The owner of the park, Major Patrick Telfer Smollett - a war hero who had, incidentally, won the Military Cross - said the whole thifcorng had been “quite splendid … The Room Town Rats, or whatever they’re called, came up to the house. Splendid chaps”.


Afterwards, the promoter, bookmaker John Caulfield, who had invested £100,000 in the festival, said he was “quite happy with the 17,000 turnout considering it was Wembley weekend [England beat Scotland 3-1]” and announced plans for a second one.

The follow-up took place over June 21-22, 1980, at the same venue. The main acts on the Saturday included The Jam, Stiff Little Fingers and Bad Manners, while there was more of a hard-rock element on the Sunday - Wishbone Ash, Gillan and Saxon. The Saturday was partly marred by battles between Mods, punks and skinheads and rockers. ‘Bottles fly at Loch Lomond’, read the front-page headline in The Sunday Post.

“My dad and his friends were into The Jam and they took us”, recalls Jamie Menzies, who was 12 at the time. “We were all baby Mods - we were into Madness, The Specials and The Jam. My dad took me, my older brother Terry and his friend’s son.”

Jamie and Terry were dressed for the part, which is why they caught the roving eye of photographer Janette Beckman. Jamie wore a smart pork-pie hat and a mini Mod parka, bought from Freedman’s in Paisley. His gran stitched ‘The Who’ on the back.

“I remember the route up to the gig - there were loads of wee scooters heading towards the venue. There were people there who were absolutely wasted. And I remember all these skinheads and Nutty Boys and hundreds of Mods”. When it came to the fighting, “I remember surges of people, all running. We were getting protected. There were bottles and alcohol getting thrown about.

“But it was a fantastic day. The Tourists [pre-Eurythmics Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox] played that day. Bad Manners. Stiff Little Fingers - their lead singer, Jake Burns, came out. My dad had given me a Dexy’s Midnight Runners poster flyer, and I got Jake to sign it. He was in hysterics at my Mod gear and pork-pie hat. It was on my bedroom walls for years, but sadly I don’t know what happened to it”.


Janette Beckman is a London-born documentary photographer who lives in New York and has exhibited widely. In 1978 she shot the cover of the Police album, Outlandos d’Amour.

“I was working either for Melody Maker or The Face at the time [of the 1980 festival] … My thing was always, I liked to photograph the fans as well as the band, because I was really into the style stuff.

“I remember going to Loch Lomond though I cannot remember exactly how I got up there. I remember it was raining. There was mud everywhere: it was just so typical of a Scottish summer. I walked around with my camera, waiting for the bands to come on”. She took many photographs of the fans – Jamie among them. She recalls a photo of one kid lying in a pool of mud, playing air-guitar and surrounded by floating beer cans.

“There was a huge mix of fans there - Mods, punks, all sorts of different people – and that was the thing I remember, because it was rare when you didn’t go to concerts and see so many different types of fans hanging around together. That was really cool.


One of the acts that weekend was the Cuban Heels – but, 37 years after the event, their memories are extremely hazy. “Apart from the terror of playing in front of a sea of people”, John Milarky messages me on Facebook, “and drawing a moustache and beard onto the face of a very drunk Richard Jobson [of The Skids] with felt-pen, nothing else comes to mind”.

“It was a great experience, but a strange one for me in that it put me off festivals for life”, says Danny McConnell, who was 16 at the time, and now does a punk-rock online radio show. “I’m a guy who goes to gigs all the year round, every week, but the festival experience was very strange. It was my first festival, and I remember going on the train. Going there was exciting, being there was exciting, seeing the bands was exciting, but it was full of drunken, bad behaviour. There were people urinating in each other’s tents. Everyone seems to remember this, which I don’t … In the 1970s there was lots of fighting going on - gang fights, football hooliganism - and seemingly that impacted on the festival in the res

pect that The Jam had a Mod and punk following, and The Chords had too, and they were on the bill with all these punks. I remember lots of stand-offs on the day but I didn’t see any fighting.”

Danny laughs as another memory occurs to him. “Back then, I had hair. You didn’t have hair-gel, you just made do. And I had toothpaste in my hair, to make it stand up when I went to see the punk bands.

“It was a great time for music. Punk rock was slagged off but it has stood the test of time. I was at Loch Lomond to see The Jam, Bad Manners and Stiff Little Fingers”, he adds, “but I was impressed by The Tourists – I remember thinking they were really good. Stiff Little Fingers and The Jam were fantastic.”

How was the weather that day? “Horrific. We were soaked to the bone during the last two or three bands. We were supposed to be staying in tents but I went home. I still get slagged to this day, because I was the only guy who went home. But I wasn’t prepared to stay in tents that had been pissed in, and I wasn’t prepared to stay soaked to the bone. I loved the day, but it’s not something I would want to do on a regular basis”.

The fighting did not impress Annie Lennox, who tried her best to calm things down. Recalling the episode in 2005, she said: There were usually quite a few fights when we were playing much to my consternation and disgust, because I honestly thought that a lot of the punk attitude was pretty cheap and nasty. It was just an excuse for had behaviour”.

Ian Williamson was “crazy” about The Jam at the age of 17 and could not pass up the opportunity to see them at Loch Lomond.

“I had seen them at the Apollo and it was great seeing them in a festival setting. They were headlining, too, so it was 10pm or whenever they came on, and it was getting dark at that point.

“It wasn’t a very nice day, though: I remember the rain and the mud starting to form. At the time it just didn’t bother you. Compared to what we get these days, the facilities were fairly primitive, and there was just the one stage: one band would finish and there would be a half-hour switcharound before the next one came on”.


Among Ian’s memories: a Glasgow band called Ra Bears, whose line-up included a bloke whose wife had been Ian’s art teacher at high school; being lucky enough to meet Paul Weller offstage – “I remember him wandering about with a cigarette and we shouted him over, and he came over. I also remember Dave Stewart, from The Tourists asking us, ‘Have you seen Annie?’

“I also remember the guitarist from The Chords who was doing a Pete Townsend-style windmill action with his hand and slicing it open on his guitar. His hand was covered in blood and he went off for a few songs but he came back, I seem to remember with his hand all bandaged”. Ian walked home through the night back to Milngavie.

Stuart Sutherland set off from Falkirk “with my T-shirt and denim jacket. I got to Balloch and it was just chucking it down. I went because I was an obsessive Jam fan” He was 15 at the time.

“But I don’t know how people got back from the event. The last train was before the end of the festival.

“The music was brilliant but the whole day was tribally violent. It was almost like it was choreographed, and I hated it all, because I liked all of these bands.

“You had this little mound at the side of the stage and it was almost like different groups agreed to occupy it so they could lob stuff at the people that were down the front, depending on who was on the stage. You had all these skinheads for Bad Manners and when Stiff Little Fingers were on they were lobbing stuff at the punks, and vice versa when Bad Manners were on.

“Both of those tribes and the Mods were kicking ten shades of crap out of each other. I can distinctly remember, and it was quite horrifying, seeing a Mod in a fishtail parka ripping a really thick branch off a tree and using it as a weapon. And yet none of this felt frightening; it just felt like, ‘oh, it’s a bit like going to a football match’.

“So all that was kicking off, but that was just the hard-core nutters in each crowd. Most of the time, people were trying to find bits of plastic to hide under, because of the rain”.

Stuart remembers “fantastic” sets by both Stiff Little Fingers (Jake Burns autographed his ticket) and The Jam.

“My only plan for getting home was I knew my mate’s girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend, who was a copper, would have his car there, and if we met them we’d get a lift back to Falkirk.

“I got home at two in the morning, like nothing had happened. Obviously I got a bit of a telling-off. My parents said to me, was there any trouble? and I went, no, none at all. And later the Sunday Post lands on their … I had to get up for my paper-round about five hours later and I remembered crapping myself as I did it, thinking, ‘Oh Christ’.

“I got grounded after that, because not only did I go to this event that was ridiculously violent but was also fantastically exciting: it was a really great line-up”.

Tom Russell, long one of Scotland’s best-known rock DJs, went to the Sunday show in 1980, aged 32. “It wasn’t a bad day, though the field was a bit muddy. Denny Laine was playing in Paul McCartney’s band at the time and the rumours that flew around on the day were that McCartney would make an appearance with the Denny Laine Band – and, of course, it was just rumours, probably started by the promoter”, he laughs.

“Everybody was aware of the big festivals – Woodstock, Isle of Wight – and I think there was wee sense of us Scots – well, if everybody else can do it, we can do it. Let’s support it and make it a success, an annual event. It didn’t become an annual evet, but the buzz amongst the punters was, we don’t need to go down to Castle Donington or the Isle of Wight to have a festival. Why can’t we have [top stars like] Dylan or whoever, up here?”

There are clearly lots of memories from both 1979 and 1980, then. But not every fan was happy. One man, John Kelly, travelled from Coventry to see his idols, the Average White Band, at the first festival. Trouble is, he thought they were playing on the Monday – by which time everyone had packed up and gone. All that was left for him to do was to wander around the arena, disconsolately kicking at the beer cans and the other litter.

** TRNSMT takes place at Glasgow Green this weekend. Thanks to John Neil Munro and http://lair.thestranglers.net.