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It is 1976

The summer of 1976 was the hottest summer in the UK since records began. As well as the heat, Britain was in the middle of a severe drought.

The temperature reached 80°F (26.7°C) every day between 22 June and 16 July. The truly remarkable heat wave was in late June and early July. For 15 consecutive days from 23 June to 7 July inclusive, temperatures reached 90°F (32.2°C) somewhere in England on each of these 15 days. Furthermore, five days saw temperatures exceed 95°F (35°C). On 28 June, temperatures reached 35.6°C (96.1°F) in Southampton, the highest June temperature recorded in the UK. The hottest day of all was 3 July, with temperatures reaching 35.9°C (96.6°F) in Cheltenham, one of the hottest July days on record in the UK.

The great drought was due to a very long dry period. The summer and autumn of 1975 were very dry, and the winter of 1975-76 was exceptionally dry, as was the spring of 1976, indeed some months during this period had no rain at all in some areas.

The drought was at its most severe in August 1976. Parts of the south west went 45 days without any rain in July and August. As the hot, dry weather continued, devastating heath and forest fires broke out in parts of Southern England. 50,000 trees were destroyed at Hurn Forest in Dorset. Crops were badly hit, with £500 million worth of crops failing. Food prices subsequently increased by 12% [1].

The effect on domestic water supplies led to the passing of a Drought Act by parliament and Minister for Drought, Denis Howell, was appointed. There was widespread water rationing and public standpipes in some affected areas. Reservoirs were at an extremely low level, as were some rivers. The rivers Don, Sheaf, Shire Brook and Meers Brook (all in Sheffield) all ran completely dry, without a drop of water in any of them, as well as Frecheville Pond and Carterhall Pond (Carterhall Pond was permanently dry until 2007, when floods hit, and has never dried since).

In the Central England Temperature series 1976 has the hottest summer for more than 350 years and probably for much longer. The average temperature over the whole summer (June, July, August) was 17.77°C, compared to the average for the unusually warm current decade (2001-2008) of 16.30°C.[1] There have in other years been hotter specific summer months, though.

For the entire period much of Europe was bathed in continual sunshine with the United Kingdom seeing an average of more than 14 hours of sunshine per day. 1976 was dubbed "The year of the Ladybird" in that country due to the rise in the mass numbers of ladybirds brought on by the long hot period.

"The long hot summer of 1976 which eventually ended in September of that year, was the culmination of a 16-week dry spell - the longest recorded over England and Wales since 1727.


The king will come? He has never been away!

Reports of the death of twin lead guitar rock bands have been VERY greatly exaggerated!

Wishbone Ash at The Cluny, Newcastle Upon Tyne – November 12th 2014

By Ashley S

Like me, I suspect you are one of the thousands that lie awake at night and ponder the dreadful and dire state of modern “music”. The endless talent show wannabees, awful ‘boy’ bands, the trendy Coldplay and Elbow, singer songwriters with all the sincerity of a Tory political promise (and no tune) and worst of all, the appalling genre of hate filled, misogynist, vitriolic filth called gangsta rap.

Salvation is at hand though. Harking back to a friendly time when musicians mastered their instruments and did not rely on the latest Apple Mac or app, the venerable rockers Wishbone Ash are once again on the road proving that Dad does know best! Led by Ash original Andy Powell and comprising three seasoned professionals, Bob Skeat (Bass), Muddy Manninen (Guitar) and Joe Crabtree (Drums) they create a sound and atmosphere that quickly transports the listener back to the glory days of British rock.

Wishbone are touring and re-creating the classic “Live Dates” album, some of which was recorded in Portsmouth Guildhall in 1973. The album, recently re mastered, led to Andy Powell speaking warmly of it’s new, fresher sound and he also explained, somewhat surprisingly, that it is Ash’s biggest selling album surpassing even the mighty Argus!

Expectations were high as 9 PM approached and as the sounds of piped in Planet Rock dissolved, the lights dimmed and the 150 or so “AshCo’s” roared their approval as Andy led his band out. Blasting straight into “BLUE HORIZON”, the title track from their recent CD, the band began to warm up nicely with each performer going through a loosening up session rather like an athlete before a race. After Blue Horizon Andy greeted the audience with sincere thanks for their loyalty and then announced the set would be based around the Live Dates album with one or two extra songs for good measure.

And so it began, that gentle and oh so familiar ‘twinkle’ from Powell’s weapon of choice…the Gibson Flying V. Tightly and beautifully mixed behind him came Muddy on the Gibson Les Paul. They musically bantered against each other, each guitarist increasing volume and complexity over the previous passage; the audience were in raptures as from the first chord they knew “THE KING WILL COME”. How they cheered and so Powell’s smile just got broader and broader. He must have played this song a thousand, ten thousand times but it still sounded so fresh, so clean, so sharp. Perfect. As perfect as the day, in 1972, that you first played Argus! The bass of Skeat and drumming of Crabtree kept the whole thing tight, so tight it took your breath away. The sound was superb. The guitars reaching a crescendo and then Powell came to the mike and began to sing those never to be forgotten words. ”In the fire the king will come”. The guitars duelled throughout the instrumental section with the PA system able to reflect the differing styles and sounds being produced. “THE KING” led into WARRIOR” and “THROW DOWN THE SWORD” More rapture from an audience already drenched in the nostalgia of youthful thoughts and desires for which Wishbone Ash were the background.  Following the album’s track listing meant that the dedicated fans were word perfect as a personal sing along developed to classics such as “LADY WHISKEY” and “ROCK AND ROLL WIDOW”. Changing guitars brought a different sound for The PILGRIM and once again Powell rose to the occasion with breathtaking speed and flexibility giving this song a new depth of character and sincerity.

It got even better

If you want to take the roof off a venue then you go for something that everyone knows is a great song and so that is what Ash did. Powell steps up and says “I think you might know this one”…..half a chord in and the roar went up as “BLOWIN’ FREE” thundered across the auditorium. How the memories flooded back..”Her hair was golden brown, blowin’ free like a cornfield..” The crowd were all there, in their minds it WAS 1972 again! Once again the guitar duelling reached fever pitch and for 5 and a half minutes we were treated to a master class in rock musicianship.  Another quick instrument change and we were treated to a 17 (yes, 17) minute version of “PHOENIX”, quite simply, awesome. The set was finished with some hard blues numbers powered, once again, by the work of Powell but also the slide guitar playing of Muddy Manninen. Purists may have been disappointed by no drum solo but it would be wrong to use this as a criticism of the groups overall performance. Powell thanked everyone for coming and promised they would be back. This was an example of experienced, professional musicians playing the right songs for the right audience and I was privileged enough to be there.

Rock on the Ash!

Star Ratings: (out of 5)

Venue : ****

Band : *****

Songs: *****

Sound: *****

Beer: *****


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