IT WAS a grey day in more ways than the weather. Under an overcast sky the ageing »greats« of rock gathered in London's Hyde Park yesterday for one of the biggest pop concerts in Britain for 20 years.
Up to 150,000 music lovers converged on the park to see performances by such legendary names as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and The Who's Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, as well as the 1970s' glam-rock star Gary Glitter.
Young "mods" on their scooters, attracted by the first live performance of The Who's Quadrophenia rock opera, mixed with grandfathers as rock rolled back the years in aid of the Prince's Trust charity. Organisers expected the Mas ters of Music concert to raise £500,000 for a variety of the trust's charitable projects. Prince Charles, Mick Jagger and Billy Connolly were among the audience.
The massive concert was opened by a band of eight young unemployed musicians from the charity's rock schools with a selection of well-known songs. "It was breathtaking, amazing, just overwhelming," said Olive Thomas, 25, a backing singer from Leamington Spa. "Before that all I'd done was a couple of karaoke nights in a pub when there were about 100 people listening."
The Who regrouped to give their first live stage performance since the 1980s. Critics have suggested they are a little old to be hurling themselves around a stage: over-enthusiastic preparations led to Daltrey, the lead singer, receiving a black eye after being accidentally hit by a microphone swung by Glitter during rehearsals on Friday. An eye patch with the old mod target marking covered Daltrey's eye yesterday.
Younger fans who could not remember the days of mods and rockers were treated to a performance by Alanis Morrisette, a 21-year-old Canadian star who has achieved a cult following and huge record sales in the past two years. For others, how ever, the biggest draw was Dylan, performing for the first time in Hyde Park. Alec Sutherland, 57, a community care manager with Help the Aged, who had travelled from Manchester with his wife Joyce, 54, and son Simon, 22, said: "I just think he has been the major influence on rock music."
Dylan, however, apparently forgot the words to the song Seven Days, according to Ron Wood, the Rolling Stone who was his backing guitarist. "He came to me and said, 'How does the last verse go?'," said Wood. "I said 'I don't know, you wrote the song', and then he said, 'Give me a clue'."
Meanwhile, at the Old Trafford football ground in Manchester, 60,000 people rocked in the rain to a younger generation of super groups, including Simply Red and M People. At both concerts every rock cliché, down to lit matches held aloft, was honoured.
For some, however, it was all a far cry from the rock festivals of the Swinging Sixties. Alcohol was banned from Hyde Park, as it is in all royal parks, and the event was sponsored by Mastercard.
Festivals have come to something in this country when they have a credit card company for a sponsor and when you cannot get a beer," said Andy Kershaw, the rock critic. "It lacks that festival fragrance of English beer spilt on crushed grass."