The Who break noise records at The Valley: It happened here
Two years after playing their first show at Charlton Athletic‘s ground on May 18 1974, The Who rolled back to the Valley for an even more famous show. It was here on May 31 1976 that they made it into the Guinness Book Of Records for the loudest ever gig, measured at 120 decibels from 50 metres away. That‘s the kind of volume that the other WHO (the World Health Organisation) can have kittens about: 120 decibels is what they call the ’threshold of pain‘.
Punters at the Valley didn’t just have ear-bleeding to worry about. Anyone turning up for the all-dayer was told to either drink the alcohol they’d brought before entering the stadium, or put it in a skip. Most chose the former option, and were drunk before they’d even made it in. To make matters worse, thousands of forged tickets meant the official 75,000 figure is thought to be well below the actual crowd. The result was scuffling, overcrowding and delays caused by fans climbing floodlights.
Worse still, it rained for most of the day, meaning most people were soaked and cold by the time The Who eventually took to the stage. Indeed, when they did, Roger Daltrey slipped onto his backside and made a quip about ‘The Who on ice’. But although the band were bickering among themselves – Keith Moon, resplendent in full hunting outfit, firing out vocal barbs – it’s considered to have been one of The Who’s greatest shows. The finale featured lasers pinging up from the stage to mirrors at the top of the floodlights, sending beams criss-crossing through the sky.
The Valley continued to be Charlton Athletic’s home until 1985, when they were forced to leave after the Football League criticised its safety. They returned to the ground in 1992 and it’s now a tidy 27,000-capacity all-seater. On Sunday, it will welcome Elton John for a stadium show. If Elton’s hoping to replace his old muckers in the record books, he’ll be disappointed. Guinness gave up listing ‘world’s loudest gig’ years ago, after it was deemed a somewhat irresponsible record to challenge people to beat.
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