Andy Kershaw: The band played there because the students were very professional

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The Independent Online

The legendary Live at Leeds gig was 10 years before my time. I was at junior school when The Who played the Refectory. But as ents officer for the Leeds University student union between 1980 and 1982, I was acutely aware of the place's great rock history and the standards which were there to maintain.

Live at Leeds was always the benchmark. I hope I did maintain the standard. We had The Clash, Elvis Costello and the Attractions and The Pretenders, among others, in my time.

It was when I was back on the refectory stage last year, talking to the university vice-chancellor after accepting an honorary degree, that I was told of plans to mark the concert with a blue plaque. Just two weeks later I was at Womad and had just watched Robert Plant headlining on the Friday night when I met Bill Curbishley, who manages The Who as well as Plant, and told him about it. "There are only two people who can unveil that plaque - Daltrey and Townshend," I told him. "And while they're there...." Bill finished my sentence. "They'll do it," he said. And that's how the idea of a concert began.

Leeds University managed to get The Who to perform simply because the students who were running the gigs there at the time, Simon Brogan and Ken Hind (who later became a Tory MP), had a reputation for doing a highly professional job. Most student unions were amateur. Leeds was different.

We've put together a list over the past few months of the bands who have played the venue down the years. It's extraordinary. The weekend before The Who it was Led Zeppelin and 13 months after the Live at Leeds gig - on 13 March 1971 - it was the Rolling Stones.

Mick Jagger loved the place. "Everybody wants to play here," he said at the time of the 1971 gig.

The refectory was - and still is - a student dining area, but as well as its practical uses it has an extraordinary atmosphere. The stage is set in a bay window, there's a low ceiling and a balcony that runs around to the corners of the stage. Jagger called it "The Smartie tube."

The product of The Who's gig was a great live album. Now I would like to see it complemented by the release of the Stones' concert there.

The Stones were intent on producing a live album just like The Who had done and had a mobile recording studio in place for that purpose. The resulting album came out on bootleg but only one of the tracks was ever released - a cover of Chuck Berry's Let it Rock, which was the B-side of Tumbling Dice.

It's The Who this year so who knows, maybe it will be the Stones next year? After this concert that's my next Leeds project.

'School of Rock', the first of a three-part series by Andy Kershaw on great college and university gigs, is on BBC Radio 4 at 10.30am on Saturday. The third programme examines the 1970 'Live at Leeds' concert