Yannis Philippakis of Foals crowd surfing at the Royal Albert Hall – an unimaginable scene in 1972.
Considering the breadth and range of rock and pop events that take place every year at the Royal Albert Hall, it’s a surprise to learn that Hall management indefinitely banned rock and pop concerts in March 1972.
In the years leading up to this ban, Royal Albert Hall council meetings report unprecedented destruction at pop and rock concerts.
In fact, only one of the 23 rock and pop shows held in 1971 passed without disorder, vandalism, rioting, injury or destruction to the Hall; vilified bands include Deep Purple, Yes, Gordon Lightfoot, Mott the Hoople, James Brown and The Byrds.
Curtains were torn, door and chairs broken, property stolen and extensive damage caused to boxes by people dancing. Bands caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage to the Hall this year.
‘Some members of the audience in Second Tier boxes became so enthusiastic and jumped and stamped around so much that the ceilings in two boxes in the Grand Tier below fell in. It is for reasons like this that we here do not like concerts at which the audience stamps and dances.’
Staff made it clear that they would not work at these events, where they were often subjected to insulting and sometimes violent behaviour.
‘Mass hysteria is deliberately incited and encouraged by the performers. This results in large numbers of the audience leaving their seats and attempting to reach the platfor, sometimes breaking down doors in the process’
One of the most controversial events occurred on 26 June 1968, when an American flag was burned on stage by The Nice.
In the years before the the ban was announced, the Royal Albert Hall had already begun to turn bands away.
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention’s February 1971 concert was cancelled at short notice on the grounds that ‘the work contained a lot of unpleasant words… parts of the script were filthy. It was was distasteful in the extreme.’
‘It’s ridiculous. We are all very upset. It was alright for us to appear at the Albert Hall when the place was black and dirty. Now they’ve had the place cleaned up, they don’t want to know us’
In March 1972, the Royal Albert Hall made the decision to enforce a complete ban on these type of performances.
One of the first concerts to be affected was The Who’s rock opera Tommy, scheduled for 9 December 1972. Guests including Rod Stewart, Steve Winwood, Ritchie Havens, Ringo Starr and Richard Harris were due to perform, but the gig was deemed ‘unsavoury’ by the Royal Albert Hall.
The ban, however, turned out to be short-lived and it wasn’t long before the ban was repealed and rock and pop returned to the Hall. Tommy was finally performed at the Hall some 17 years later on 2 November 1989, with Steve Winwood, Patti Labelle, Billy Idol, Phil Collins and Elton John appearing.