The Magic Highway


An exciting pop concert series staged in massive Spanish bullrings was floated in 1971, and Christie were among the acts invited to take part in the first shows. But after much hype, the concerts were cancelled by the Spanish government without any proper explanation.

A clipping from New Musical Express, May 1971

"BRITISH holidaymakers in Spain this summer will be able to see the Hollies, Julie Felix and Christie - abd possibly the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Faces and Manfred Mann - in an ambitious series of concerts in resort bullrings set up by British promoter Alan Lubin.
  He told NME this week: "Artists are actually asking to be taking part. It looks like the idea could turn into a Spanish Woodstock."
  The shows will take place at the Plaza de Toros in both Benidorm and Ibiza, with the same bill in each case. The Hollies, Felix and Christie are definites for Benidorm on July 21 and August 11 and 25, and in Ibiza on July 23 and August 13 and 27.
  The other names are being negotiated for September, and it is understood that Spanish TV would also cover the event."

BUT after a great start at Benidorm, further concerts were suddenly cancelled at the last minute by Spanish officials for no official reason, much to the musicians' managers' anger. The acts were already staying at the El Montiboli in Villajoyosa, between Benidorm and Alicante, rehearsing for the gigs. The following NME clipping reported the incident:

New Musical Express, July 1971

"THE Hollies, Julie Felix and Christie were involved in an incident on the Spanish holiday resort of Ibiza last Friday, when a concert they were due to give in a bullring was cancelled at the last minute, and for no apparent reason. Some 8000 tickets had been sold for the event, all the artists' work permits were in order, and posters had been advertising the shows for several weeks.
  On the night of the concert, the audience was admitted, but no power or lighting was provided on stage. Then the performers were told that show was off and workers commenced hosing down the platform, causing considerable damage to the groups' equipment.
  Hollies manager Robin Britten said: "We ecnountered this farcical situation because a local official had apparently changed his mind at the last minute. Even now, we have not been given an official explanation for this cancellation. And as a result of this I am quite determined we shall never set foot in Spain again."

  Spanish media at the time referred to Spanish businessmen wandering through the backstage of the concert with hands on their heads, telling anyone who would listen that the shows were going to sustain a loss of three million pesetas. Apparently the artists participating in the show had been paid in advance and there was no clause in contracts requiring them to refund the full amount or part "by reason of a suspension". But if such concerns were so great, they failed to explain why the Benidorm show, which had been a success, was allowed to proceed.
   A more likely explanation was that the Spanish authorities felt a need for retribution against UK unions which prevented Spanish musicians from working professionally in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
  A telegram was sent to The Spanish Association of Musicians Association (ASME ) on July 21 ... the same day as the Benidorm concert .. from the Balearic Provincial Association complaining that its musicians were barred from playing in the UK, and strongly suggested "union reciprocity" regarding English performers playing live in Spain.
  It is understood that the telegram had been issued not as a result of the bullring shows, but in protest at a scheduled performance of UK singer Matt Monro on the Balearic Islands, which forced its cancellation. By extension, a few days later, ASME felt it also had to can the Ibiza shows and planned future gigs at Benidorm.
However, for Christie, there were two blessings in disguise. Jeff loved the hotel so much he stayed there several times over the next few years for holiday breaks. It was during one of these stays that he wrote Iron Horse.
   And as mentioned in the article above, the cancelled Spanish shows had been promoted by Alan Lubin, who introduced his brother Lem to Jeff when the band were at the hotel. A year or so later, of course, Lem was invited to join Christie as its bass player.
   And unlike the Hollies, Christie were more forgiving and returned to Spain several times to play more shows, after restrictions were relaxed. In particular, they were very successful in promoting Iron Horse in Spain, where it was a massive hit.

September 1972