"Europe", says Rick Kemp emphatically, "is not funny. It means being driven around by maniacs a 190 kms an hour, it means crooks and unprofessional promoters and it means lunatic tours". Which is why Steeleye virtually ignored Europe for many years. Until the spring of '75, the band had only played 9 concerts there - possibly a mistake as it's so close and such a vast and eager rock market. Since then despite Rick's wishes the band have crammed in 6 European tours, festivals and TV Specials.
Paris may be the nearest and most obvious European capital, but Steeleye have never succeeded in playing there, though they have tried twice. In May '72 the band was headlining at the Theatre Bobino, where a rock package show was running two-and-a-half hours late. They got on stage and were half way through the first song when the theatre management decided the show had gone on too long and switched off the power. Anglo-French understanding was not improved by the band's reaction.
Three years later in May '75, Steeleye tried again. This time they were booked to play at the Paris Olympia on the same night that Gong were scheduled to perform at a later show. Arriving at the hall they found that Gong had already set up their equipment and refused to move it. There was no room for Steeleye to set up so their appearance had to be cancelled. The band were compensated by being invited to a party which some band members wrongly thought was being given in their honour and acted accordingly. It wasn't and Anglo-French understanding was damaged again.
Germany was quite a different matter. Hamburg audiences in particular, usually went wild about the band and Tim remembers the last concert in September'77, as being the best of them all. "They were cheering and dancing from the start and we were called back for encores time and time again". It was a special triumph in view of the reaction the band got on their first-ever performance there. "We were following Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and playing to a hard-line folk audience. They decided that all folk music had to be acoustic and so they booed throughout. We'd forgotten that some folkies used to react like that ...."
Scandanavia was another good area for Steeleye. In Denmark, 'All Around My Hat' was a Top Ten single and the '76 Roskilde Festival was the band's most dramatic Danish show. It was held in a park outside Copenhagen on a hot summer afternoon with the crowd reacting in true nordic style by first getting drunk and then almost all stripping off Steeleye bravely continued with 'Sligo Maid' and Maddy decided not to dance through the audience.
One encouraging reaction to Steeleye's European tours was that local bands followed their example and started investigating their own national folk heritage. The emergence of groups like Fungus in Holland and Folk in Norway was at least partly due to their influence.
© Boyesen Enterprises Ltd 1978