New Summer of Love
It's a Summer of Love revival going back to its rock festival roots. Robin Bextor's the man making the magic happen.
Robin, you’re better known as a TV producer and film maker, why music festivals?
I used to do a lot of music programmes at the BBC. During that period, I helped set up Childline with Esther Rantzen. I was one of the original trustees. Most charities were set up in Victorian times, so the money was invested to continue funding it. We had nothing. So we made a charity record (The Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends) with Wet Wet Wet and I did the video. That was the first music video my daughter Sophie (yup that Sophie Ellis Bextor), appeared in.
After that I was always doing music events – Opera in Tokyo, Clapton at The Albert Hall. When Sophie went into the business, she met and fell in love with her backing guitarist, Richard. He’s in a band called The Feeling and they learnt their skill in the Alps. VH1 commissioned a film about the early days. At the end of our trip to the Alps, we did an impromptu concert on the piste – 15,000 people turned up. Sophie, Richard and I kept going back. The likes of Squeeze, 10CC, UB40 would all come out for a week’s free skiing and we put on a gig. So On Track For Summer wasn’t a stretch.
So tell me about On Track For Summer?
I was asked to make a documentary about the history of The Marquee Club. It was during that job that I discovered the National Jazz and Blues Festival at Balloon Meadow in Windsor. The festival actually pre-dates Woodstock and Isle of Wight. It started at Richmond Rugby Club at something called the Crawdaddy Club. It used to be a music club that met once or twice a week, created by a guy called Giorgio Gomelsky. It became the birthplace of rock music.
It outgrew it’s Richmond home and moved to Windsor in 1966. Purist jazz and blues musicians got shunted off and Small Faces, The Who or Donovan would headline.
Last year was the 50th anniversary of the first Windsor festival so I thought why not try and get as many of the original acts together and have a day of celebration. This year is celebration of 1967 – the Summer of Love. Cream, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Donovan, Arthur Brown and people like that performed. About 3,000 people turned up to see them and anything that wobbled got painted.
So who’ll be tearing up the stage this year?
It’s been a tough year, and the UK’s been in the mixer. I loathe Brexit. So I think we could all of with a Summer of Love. Space rockers Hawkwind will be headlining with dancers and a circus troupe. Other artists from the original bill include Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown featuring the god of hellfire himself. He would appear on stage with his flaming crown and hoisted on stage with a crane.
Cream played in ’67, and now Pete Brown who wrote some of their greatest hits (and Eric Clapton’s writing partner) will appear on stage this year. I’m really excited to hear Sgt Pepper and Pet Sounds performed in their entirety by Brighton’s brilliant Psychedelic Orchestra of Great Britain.
Will your daughter Sophie Ellis Bextor be making an appearance?
She’ll be there, but she won’t be performing. She grew up on this kind of music.
Do you mind being known as Sophie’s dad?
She’s my daughter. I’m incredibly proud of her. She does things on her own terms. She has four kids, writes everything herself. She sets a mould for people. She has been famous most of her life and I think she’s a fantastic role model.
Best piece of advice you have shared with your kids?
Be on time. And know what you’re going to. Working in television I met a lot of stars who turned up late and didn’t know why they were there. It was just rude. It’s the best advice I can share with my kids.
What would your fantasy festival line up look like?
Headline act would have to be Pink Floyd – if you can get Roger [Waters] and Dave [Gilmour] to talk to each other. Fleetwood Mac. They have a bizarre history. They played the Windsor Festival in ’67. But back then they were a London-based band fronted by Peter Green. Long before the crazy Californians took over. Sophie Ellis Bextor – Sophie is the best in the business to get people dancing. You need her in the mix. And something quirky to open like The Kooks.
Where do you go from here?
Every year you think of for the next 5 years is really just amazing and by the time you get to 1972 you have the Floyd at their peak, you’ve got Led Zeppelin and all of those other bands plus the dawn of prog rock, it could be fantastic. Next year, I’d love to do a Saturday and Sunday. There’s genuine reason for the festival’s existence. It’s a fun day out – family friendly, nice food at a beautiful place. I’d like to have a day the original bands perform and another for modern bands influenced by that era. We’ll see.
It’s only a matter of time before we see Sophie on her dad’s festival stage.
Robin Bextor is the organiser of On Track For Summer at Windsor Racecourse on Saturday 22 July. Tickets £35, VIP £75 and Family (2 adults and up to 3 U18s) £95.44.