1.Workin' For MCA 4:55 (Edward king - Ronnie Van Zany) Recorded Knebworth Fair, Hertfordshire, England, August 21, 1976 2.I Ain't The One 3:48 (Gary Rossington - Ronnie Van Zany) Recorded Knebworth 3.Saturday Night Special 5:21 (Edward king / Ronnie Van Zany) Recorded Knebworth 4.Whiskey Rock-A-Roller 4:38 (Billy Powell,Edward king - Ronnie Van Zany ) Recorded Knebworth 5.Travellin' Man 4:19 (Leon Wilkeson - Ronnie Van Zany) Recorded Knebworth 6.Searching 3:53 (Allen Collins - Ronnie Van Zany) Recorded Knebworth 7.What's Your Name 3:31 (Gary Rossington - Ronnie Van Zany) Recorded Asbury Park, New Jersey, July 13,1977 8.That Smell 5:51 (Allen Collins - Ronnie Van Zany) Recorded Asbury Park 9.Gimme Three Steps 4:48 (Allen Collins - Ronnie Van Zany) Recorded Knebworth 10.Call Me The Breeze 5:54 (J.J.Cale) Recorded Knebworth 11.T For Texas (Blue Yodel No.1) 9:02 (Jimmie Rodgers) Recorded Knebworth 12.Sweet Home Alabama 6:39 (Edward king - Gary Rossington - Ronnie Van Zany) Recorded Knebworth 13.Free Bird 11:41 (Allen Collins - Ronnie Van Zany) Recorded "Day On The Green," Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Oakland,California, July 3,1977 14.Dixie 1:08 (Daniel Decatur Emmett) Instrumental Performance by Bruce Brown
Ronnie Van Zant Vocals
Allen Collins Gibson Explorer & Fnder Stratocaster Guitars
Gary Rossington Gibson Les Paul & Gibson S.G. Guitars
Steve Gaines Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul Guitars & Background Vocals
Leon Wilkeson Fender Precision Bass Guitar & Background Vocals
Billy Powell Steinway Grand Piano & Keyboards
Artimus Pyle Slingerland Double Bass Drum Kit
Backing Vocals: The Honkettes
(Jo Jo Billingsley, Cassie Gaines, Leslie Hawkins)
All tracks previously unreleased except "Whiskey Rock-A-Roller"
which appears in a different mix on the self titled
"Lynyrd Skynyrd" box set (MVCM-20063-65)
The rumor was that the Knebworth Fair was to be the last Rolling Stones concert ever. At that time, Jagger, Richards and company were going through a stagnant period, caught up in the excesses of the 70's. Speculation in the British press ran rampant that this concert to thank British fans for their past support would indeed be the grand finale to the illustrious career of "The Would's Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band." However, according to the Stones' management, their appearance would simply be the last time the band would play...at Knebworth.
It was August 21, 1976, and England was in the grip of the worst droughts in recent memory. The third annual Knebworth Fair was to be a massive all-day rock festival on the sprawling grounds of the Knebworth House country estate in Hertfordshire, England. In keeping with the scope of the concert's vast setting, 50,000 pound had been spent to build a mammoth, mouth-like stage, modeled on the Stones logo, which was canopied by a giant pair of inflatable red plastic lips, with a long runway that stuck out into the crowd like the moniker's protruding tongue.
By the early morning hours of that blistering summer Saturday, nearly a quarter of a million rock-hungry fans had converged on Knebworth Park, filled with happy expectation, with many already sporting "Stoned at Knebworth" T-shirts. People were literally handing from the stately English Oaks that dotted the Estate, eagerly awaiting the 11:00 a.m. start of the day-long program of rock 'n' roll, which promised appearances by the Stones, 10cc, Todd Rundgren's Utopia, Hot Tuna, the Don Harrison Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Knebworth would be Skynyrd's most important British gig ever. Early in their career, the Jacksonville, Florida-based outfit had been called "The Next Rolling Stones." Now that elder band's crown appeared to be up for grabs, the hungry Southern upstarts were going to get a chance to prove it. The opportunity to play on the same bill with the Stones was the result of a shrewd marketing plan by Skynyrd's manager, Peter Rudge, who coincidentally managed the legendary British supergroup as well. the gentlemanly-rock-impresario was one of the hottest managers in rock 'n' roll, guiding the fortunes of both the Stones and The Who. Rudge had promised to put Skynyrd in the same league. It was during the band's first big-time gig, opening for the Who's "Quadrophenia" tour in 1973, that Rudge had met the Rebel Rockers, and since taking over the band's management after their top 10 hit, "Sweet Home Alabama", he had, according to Skynyrd lead singer Ronnie Van Zany, "took us off Bull Durham and put us on Golden Grain."
Rudge hoped Knebworth would put Skynyrd over the top. He had showcased the band in the UK before on three separate excursions, but at Knebworth the group would be playing in front of a crowd that outnumbered all of their three previous British tours combined. Coming off a strong performance at a warm-up concert two days earlier in Hemel, Hempstead, Skynyrd was ready to plant the rebel battle flag on the Stone's turf.
Now, backstage before their set, a confident Skynyrd band prepared to face the teeming mass of English humanity. However, ahter realizing that celebrities like Paul and Linda McCartney, "Papa" John Phillips, David Gilmour, Jack Nicholson, and perhaps even the Stones themselves would be looking on, the band hastily forified themselves before heading on-stage by tossing down quick shots of Jack Daniels.
Skynyrd had originally been scheduled to appear at 3:15 p.m., but due to a late start and various delays, the group suddenly found themselves moved into the prime slot on the festival set list. At around 5 p.m., in the fading light of afternoon, Ronnie Van Zany greeted the crowd with a "Hello, How Are You!" and without further warning, unleashed his guitar army.
Part redneck, part rocker, the long haired Van Zany wore his black cowboy hat pulled down over his eyes like an outlaw, suggesting he might also be part gunfighter. His dangerous, menacing aura and the nasty snarl with which he delivered his mythic tales of whiskey, women, and saturday night specials was amplified by his band, whose violent three-axe attack exploded through the dry afternoon air with the relentless fury of an artillery barrage. From the opening notes of "Workin' For MCA," Skynyrd's tight set built with the momentum of a blitzkrieg until the barefoot lead singer could feel the stage burn beneath his soles from the searing guitar lines of his band's thunderous finale.
By the time the final chords of Skynyrd's ninety minute set reverberated over the Knebworth Park around dusk, even the inscrutable Mr. Nicholson had become a convert. The band's hellfire brand of Southern boogie, which a reviewer called "one, long frontal assault on the senses, " instantly won over the partisan English crowd and the group's soon-to-be legendary encore performance is to this day, one of the most inspired moments ever witnessed on a British stage. By the time Skynyrd had finished with the Limey crowd they were crying "more", with the Confederate "Stars 'N' Bars" being waved ecstatically along-side the British Union Jack.
Skynyrd 's powerful, professional set turned out to be the highlight of the festival, drawing unanimous raves from even the most jaded members of the British press. Their performance grew in stature when compared to the subsequent fiasco of the headlining Stones set, a belated affair which was delayed over four hours and finally concluded in the wee hours of the morning, eventually being dubbed by one critic as " a shambling parody." Skynyrd's Knebworth performance gave the group instant credibility in Britain, paving the way for a headlining tour of the mother island the following Spring.
For Skynyrd guitarist Steve Gaines, the Knebworth show was a previously unimaginable experience. Since joining the band only two months earlier, literally straight off his Oklahoma farm, the road-hungry Oakie picker had already had a huge impact on the tour-weary rockers. "He's scared everybody into playing their best in years, " Van Zany grinned, as he watched Skynyrd's established guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins kicking up the gears to match the country boy's torrid pace. Gaines' twangy, biting Start runs perfectly complimented Collins' slashing Claptonesque leads and Rossington mournful wail, blending immaculately to restore the powerful three-guitar attack which had been the band's trademark until guitarist Ed King had succumbed to the group's relentless touring pace over a year earlier.
In the months to come the quiet, self-effacing singer-guitarist Gaines would inspire Skynyrd to unparalleled heights of virtuoso song-writing and performing, including their first million selling album, "One More From The Road," a two-record live set recorded at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, just after Gaines joined the band. By 1977, with record sales at an all-time high and a string of consistently sold-out headlining dates under their belt, the group had built the momentum for a final breakthrough to a place among rock's super-elite.
Another reason for Skynyrd's revitalization was their swearing-off of hard liquor and drugs. "It's the first time we've seen our audience in eight years," Van Zant remarked, only half-jokingly. The band's reformed attitude could be summed up musically in a new composition, "That Smell," Van Zant's apocalyptic response to Collin's, Rossington's and pianist Billy Powell's drug-and-alcohol related car wrecks in late '76. Comparatively sober, the group had spent most of '77 writing and recording a new studio album to follow-up their multi-platinum live success. "It's the best we've ever done," Van Zany proclaimed when Skynyrd emerged from Atlanta's Studio One in late August with the finished album masters.
After a decade of turmoil, "Street Survivors" symbolized Skynyrd's final triumph over adversity. The album cover eerily portrayed the struggle of Shantytown kids turned stars, depicting the group on a narrow street, seven abreast, standing their ground while flames engulf everything around them. By the early October release date, advance orders for the record confirmed that it would be their first album to ship gold. By October 17, 1977, the album's street date, Skynyrd had already played the first week of their "Tour Of Survivors," which was intended to be their biggest headlining American tour ever. Their ultimate success seemed assured.
The subsequent plane crash and the tragic deaths of Van Zant
and Gaines have often overshadowed the brilliance and artistry
of Skynyrd's last triumphant year. This collection of great live
performances from the soundtrack of "Freebird...The Movie"
will surely add to the legacy of this legendary band. They shed
new light on the reputations of Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins,
Gary Rossington, Steve Gaines, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and
Artimus Pyle, who could boast that they had once done battle with
"The World's Greatest Rock And Roll Band" and - in the
words of Artimus - "blew them off the stage."
Sound Produced by Paul Ratajczak & Jeff G.
Waxman for Cabin Fever
Entertainment Inc. in Association with Freebird Film Production, Inc.
Soundtrack Album Produced for MCA by Ron O'Brien
MCA A&R and Coordination: Andy McKaie
Original 1987 Knebworth Mixed by Tom Dowd at Criteria Studios, Miami, FL
All tracks courtesy, of Freebird Film Productions,
"What's Your Name" & "That Smell" courtesy Metropolitan Entertainment Inc.
"Free Bird" courtesy Bill Graham Presents Supplied by Diamond Time US Limited.
Soundtrack Mixed at Ground Control Studios
Special Thanks: Paul Abraham, David Alexander,
Bryan Arenas, Thomas Chan,
Evelyn Dametta, Charlie Daniels, Tony Grazia, Gary Haber, Judy Van Zant Jenness,
Geoffrey Menin, Tom Molito, Rose Ragosta, Bruce Resnikoff, Mat Snow,
Jan Sutherland, Leon Wilkeson, Jaan Uhelszki
Art Direction: Vartan
Design: Wilson Design Group
Photo Coordination: Geary Chansley
Photography: Marti C. Griffin, Michael Putland, Michael Zagaris
Original Knebworth program courtesy Reed Huenink
The soundtrack is dedicated to our beloved friends
who are no longer with us.
We love you and we miss you.
Liner notes C 1996 Ron O'Brien