Book on when Paul McCartney and The Who played Lancaster

Paul McCartney.
Paul McCartney.

What do Queen, Paul McCartney, U2, Eric Clapton and The Who all have in common? Answer - they all played gigs at Lancaster University.

Astonishing, but true. Between 1971 and 1984, the university Great Hall was a magnet for the biggest bands of the day.

This colourful rock ‘n’ roll era, and the man who made it all possible, will soon be the subject of a new book.

Barry Lucas from Morecambe was entertainments officer at the uni during this amazing period.

He was the man responsible for bringing these big names to Lancaster and has unbelievable tales to tell.

Like when Paul McCartney and Wings turned up unannounced in 1972, four days earlier than scheduled, and Barry had to rush around campus with a megaphone convincing bemused students to come along.

And when he was offered The Rolling Stones but the date clashed with finals, and Barry went to the vice-chancellor in a failed effort to beg him to move the exams!

“It really was a moment in time,” said Barry.

Originally from Leeds, Barry first arrived at Lancaster as a student in 1968, then became Lonsdale College social secretary in 1970.His friend Gaz Taylor was in a similar role for Bowland College, they pooled their budgets and booked The Who!

The gig sold out quickly, with tickets even shifting on the black market.

He then became campus entertainments officer and the superstars began to flood in.

In those pre-internet days, all Barry had to do was pick up the phone, negotiate a fee, and the acts would come.

Lancaster University became a major date on the UK tour calendars of some of the most famous stars who ever lived. Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Marley, Tina Turner, Madness, Status Quo, T Rex, Slade, The Smiths, Elvis Costello, The Undertones, even comics like Billy Connolly, all played Lancaster.

“The demand was incredible,” said Barry.

“People would come from all over to the gigs, not just students.

“We had Van Morrison on, and people slept out in sleeping bags to see him.

“But there was pressure. I had the Alex Ferguson problem. We were expected to win. Every act had to be major.”

Barry recently returned to the university to give a talk about his time as booker to the stars, to a backdrop of stunning photos of the acts by photographer Geoff Campbell.

The crowd was enthralled by his tales.

Stories included how he turned down Abba for £30 just before they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, because he didn’t rate Swedish pop bands.

And how he booked Eric Clapton for £10,000 on a night when the iconic guitarist’s support act was Chas and Dave!

In 1984, after his final gig headlined by Toyah Wilcox, Barry gave up his role and left because “if I hadn’t, I’d have stayed forever”.

Thirty years on, Paul Tomlinson from Slyne, a graphic designer and printer who works at the university, is compiling a book.

As a younger man, Paul went to see many of the gigs between 1973 and 1976.

His highlight was a Mott the Hoople concert, where the support band was an up-and-coming foursome. Their name? Queen.

He also saw Thin Lizzy, Sparks, AC/DC and Supertramp, on a night when he hitched a lift home after the concert only to be picked up by the band themselves in their tour bus!

“I’m keen to hear from people who have interesting tales to tell like these, and they may appear in the book,” said Paul.

“For example, I’ve already spoken to somebody who stood in a queue for the chippy next to Debbie Harry from Blondie, and someone who had a beer with Bob Geldof.

“There will also be original gig posters by Lancaster artist John Angus and of course, the memories of Barry Lucas.”

Paul also hopes to obtain quotes from the who’s who of rock stars who performed at Lancaster.

He has already spoken to Ray Dorset, from 1970s one-hit wonders Mungo Jerry.

“When I mentioned Lancaster University to Ray, he gave a big smile and said it was the most fun gig he ever played,” said Paul.

Such was the impact made by Barry Lucas, a man who turned an unlikely dream into reality.

If you have a story for the book, please email Paul at paultomlinson@me.com .