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Humble Pie: Bugie Brigands

In 1971 Steve Marriott’s mad mod-rock brew blew up big style, taking the rest of Humble Pie with him – for better and for worse. In 2010, Classic Rock told the tale

It's July 3,1971. The morning dawns grey and there is a persistent drizzle. In London’s West End a crowd is starting to gather, descending upon Hyde Park for a festival. There are posters on lampposts that announce ‘Free Pie In The Park’. Britain is in the doldrums but things can’t be that bad, can they?

Walking down Oxford Street or Bayswater or Knightsbridge you can hear the muffled noise of a giant PA system. And then you arrive at the old hunting grounds to join the masses who will enjoy the biggest free rock event of the year, with a bill featuring Heads, Hands And Feet, headliners Grand Funk Railroad – one of the many self-styled biggest bands in the world at the time – and, sandwiched between them, Humble Pie, an antidote to supergroups but now in their absolute pomp.

Backstage, the Pie men are hopping about their trailers, keeping an eye on their fleet of Bentleys and Rollers. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Steve Marriott is buzzing about. He’s 5’5”, full of nervous energy, dressed in a scoop-necked long-sleeved T-shirt, brushed velvet bell-bottoms and white stack-heel shoes.

Lead guitarist Peter Frampton emerges from his caravan wearing a green suit from Mr Freedom. Bassist Greg Ridley and drummer Jerry Shirley, less flamboyantly attired, are smoking a large spliff and cracking jokes with all and sundry.

Out front, the atmosphere is tense thanks to the presence of scores of Hells Angels from the South London chapters and an unsettling number of skinheads. The occasional bottle or Watney’s Party Seven keg sails through the air; a festival regular known as Jesus wanders among a crowd that includes Alexis Korner, Andy Fraser from Free, and future – then unknown – members of the Sex Pistols and The Damned. Later today Jim Morrison will be found dead in a bath in Paris. Rider on the storm.

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