In the latest in Retro’s occasional series looking back at concerts from Preston Guild Hall down the years Donna Marie Sladen recalls the day David Essex came to town in Novemebr 1974.
In the 70s rock ‘n’ roll struck Preston Guild Hall in the form of teen idol David Essex.
In a complete sell-out in 1974 as fans scrambled for tickets, as the singer-songwriter performed a show-stopping setlist of hits including Lamplight, Gonna Make You A Star and On And On, with supporting acts glam rock group Merlin and Trinidadian group Batti Mamzelle.
Award-winning Poulton-le-Fylde born musician Andy Summers also took to the stage.
Notably the guitarist for British rock bands The Animals and The Police, Summers played in Essex’s band for a brief time during this tour. Despite the small size of the theatre and an all-seated capacity, these photographs fail to disappoint as they grasp the electrifying spectacle of the gig.
The close up shots show a fearless, yet focused Essex as he performs track after track to a crowd of euphoric fans pictured cheering and screaming.
In an archived Lancashire Evening Post review of Essex’s, November 25 1974 gig, the reviewer compares the fans reaction in reverence to the days of the Beatles:
It read, “SUPER star David Essex showed how he earned the label in a show at Preston’s Guild Hall when he had an audience of 2,000 at his feet.
“The adulation of the Beatle days was there as the fans screamed, cried and clutched at their idol.
“Essex parodied himself as a pop idol, striding, teasing, and remaining cool in an emotionally charged atmosphere.”
“The gesturing hands were there with the hip wiggle as Essex sang his chart-topping hits Lamplight and Gonna Make You A Star.
“But beneath the parodying there was talent and when he stopped taunting the straining, heaving fans Essex showed his star quality.
“When he sang the haunting On And On he was every inch a star in his satin-edged white suit, with a single light on his face in the darkened hall”.
“His delivery of the songs, compelling and powerful, began to weave a spell over the fans who had become quiet.
“But this was the only gentle moment in the evening and from then on the pace stepped up with the hysteria and Essex only had to turn and face one section of the audience to have the girls on their feet screaming and reaching for him.”
Supporting acts on the night Merlin and Batti Mamzelle left the reviewer’s ears ringing, describing them as: “also enjoyable but my ears would have appreciated a few decibels less.”
In anticipation for Essex’s gig and his noteworthy fame, this was a moment where staff at the Guild Hall had to take extreme safety measures, fencing off the stage area with crash barriers to avoid over-excitable fans gaining access.
Those who were able to cast their minds back include Heather Bee, from Preston, a big Essex fan who was one of the lucky ones to bag a ticket:
“I always loved David Essex and when he strolled on to the stage wearing his white suit, with twinkling sexy eyes, and beautiful curly hair, all the fans just melted, especially when he sang Hold Me Close’
“It’s just sent a tingle through me - remembering the concerts I attended. I even vaguely remember that the fans would sleep at the Guild Hall overnight to get their hands on tickets - I certainly did for the Bay City Rollers! Happy memories. David Essex would usually stay at the Crest Hotel (now the Holiday Inn) next to the bus station.
“There was always a huge crowd of screaming fans outside there and at the lift at the side of the Guild Hall.”
David Essex performed at the Guild Hall during 1974 and 1979.
John Flynn, a former professional drummer from Garstang, said: “Essex was brilliant! A true performer and had all the girls screaming.
“The place was sold-out. One of the best artists ever to appear at the Guild Hall and he would always pack the place out.”
Sue Goodbourn, from Preston said: “I saw David Essex when he was playing at the Guild Hall - the real thing! Think I’ve got a photograph somewhere.
“It was the first time I had been to a concert and it was really good. My friend and I really enjoyed it!”
A YouTube review of David Essex performing at the Guild Hall recalled: “I saw him in Preston when he did the tour promoting the album and bought the blue limited edition of the album at the gig - hell of a good night!
“Fond memories of a great night along with some of the top 70s and 80s artists who graced us with their presence in the Preston Guild Hall”.
To date,David Essex continues to wow crowds of adoring fans with his performances and his Preston Guild Hall gigs will remain one of Lancashire’s truly iconic moments from the early days of the city centre venue.