My wife thinks I’m going deaf. I blame The Who and Status Quo!

PUBLISHED: 19:15 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 19:15 16 October 2019

David Clayton says the noise level at gigs in the 1970s by bands like The Who, pictured, may have contributed to his hearing difficulties

David Clayton says the noise level at gigs in the 1970s by bands like The Who, pictured, may have contributed to his hearing difficulties


David Clayton’s wife thinks he’s going deaf – but he can point the blame at two bands that might be the reason why

I sat there reading in the EDP about the experienced musician who is urging us to protect our ears at music festivals and concerts. I reluctantly nodded in agreement. I'm sure my hearing is fine. No, really it is, except my wife occasionally mumbles and I have to ask her to repeat something. In fact, she seems to be doing that more often these days and precedes any repetition with "Oh, for goodness sake!"

It may just be that anno domini is catching up with my faculties but come to think of it when The Who came to Norwich Lads' Club in 1970, I was there. I started queuing very early so found myself at the front of the auditorium, directly in line with Pete Townshend's stack of speakers. There was nothing between me and the excessive wattage of his guitar except Townshend himself and he never kept still. So, I felt the full onslaught of decibels. Not only did my ears feel it, the power of the sound resonated through my bones and internal organs. It never occurred to me that this assault of my senses was in any way damaging. Roger Daltrey's party-piece was whirling his microphone out over the audience in lasso style, I was too busy concentrating on ducking at the right time to concern myself with the sound levels. The band were magnificent, by the way.

Great though it was to see The Who, I was a devotee of Status Quo, who I first saw at Yarmouth's Tower Ballroom on August bank h oliday Monday in 1970. They had just thrown off their sixties psychedelic pop image, gone heavy in scruffy denim and were brilliant.

I don't recall them being overly loud, but I started to follow Quo to places like the legendary and now long-gone Cromer Links Pavilion. When full to capacity, and then a bit, the place was claustrophobic and the wooden building deadened, then concentrated the awesome sound Quo were making. Later I recall they supported Slade at St Andrew's Hall in Norwich around 1973 - a double-bill to savour. I'm surprised the ancient place still stands.

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This was prior to the refurbishment and the old building throbbed to the two bands' decibels. Quo were louder than ever, and Slade were no shrinking violets either. I reckoned the third echo was the best one as the sound reverberated around the walls possibly dislodging the odd chunk of plaster on the way. I do remember my head hitting the pillow that night and still hearing something. Goodness knows what Francis Rossi and Noddy Holder were hearing.

Around the same time, I was DJing at The Canary public house on the Heartsease estate a couple of nights each weekend. We used to get good crowds and the genial manager, Jim Tyler, came over to me one night very apologetic as the brewery, who owned the place, had installed a decibel meter. If I turned the disco volume up too loud, a light above the stage would flash and the mains power to the stage would cut. It did, rather too frequently. The full sound of Motown seemed to trigger it much to the crowd's annoyance, not to mention mine. All I knew was the "safe" volume was so safe the lively banter at the bar seemed louder than the hits I was playing.

Wearing some form or ear protection at a concert seems counter-intuitive to me but that appears to be the wise advice now, if you go to lots of concerts and festivals and want to avoid something like tinnitus in later life.

I've no idea, really, whether my overload of Quo or Townshend turning it up to 11 has affected my hearing, and most of my working life I've had headphones clamped to my head, too. I reckon I can hear OK, but my wife has a different view. Anyway, Who's fault is it if I can't?

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