I know it’s a bootleg, but I was there at that concert, so I ought to have some right to listen to it again… shouldn’t I?

It was August 1978 in Philadelphia. The location was Penn’s Landing, a strip along the Delaware River waterfront that the city had just turned into a park for the 1976 Bicentennial. It was a free outdoor concert sponsored, and broadcast live, by WIOQ (Q-102), one of Philly’s three-count-em-three progressive FM radio stations at the time. The band was a British progressive rock supergroup called U.K.

U.K.’s eponymous debut album from earlier that year had been promoted heavily on the radio with ads featuring a Mahsterpiece Theatre-esque British voice saying, “Collectively, Eddie Jobson, John Wetton, Bill Bruford and Allan Holdsworth have played in some of the world’s greatest rock bands. Bands like King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Roxy Music, and Soft Machine.” The track “In the Dead of Night,” from that album, was in the background of the ad and getting serious radio airplay. It was a spiffy prog-rock tune in 7/4 time featuring Wetton’s vocals, Jobson’s atmospheric synths, Bruford’s crisp drumming, and a magnificently sculpted liquid-lightning guitar solo from Holdsworth.

I was a high school junior and getting into prog-rock.  But all I knew of those musicians was that Bill Bruford was the original drummer in Yes who played on tracks like “Roundabout” and “Starship Trooper.”  I wasn’t sure whether Eddie’s last name was pronounced “job” as in “work” or “Job” as in the Biblical figure. I had never even heard of Soft Machine.

But I liked “In the Dead of Night.” So when a group of my friends — including a girl I had a crush on — wanted to go see them at Penn’s Landing, I was in.

I remember having a good time … not that I could hear or see much, sitting on a blanket about 300 yards from the stage. I heard a Q-102 DJ introduce the band, intoning the members’ names just like on the radio ad (sans British accent). By that time, I had heard (and possibly bought) the debut album, but I didn’t recognize much of the music they played. I knew that Eddie Jobson played violin, and I remember hearing a violin solo. “In the Dead of Night” was the band’s set-closer… before they came back for encores that I didn’t know either.

Fast forward a few years to my days in college radio and my deep dive into progressive rock and fusion. I played guitar (badly), and Allan Holdsworth had become one of my idols. Bill Bruford was my hands-down all-time favorite drummer. I bought every album I could find that either of them played on — which was a lot of albums by a lot of different artists. I even interviewed both of them for the radio station. I discovered the great King Crimson lineup of 1972-74 with Wetton and Bruford, and that Jobson had played on Roxy Music’s best-known records after Brian Eno left the band, as well as with Frank Zappa.

In short, U.K. had become much more significant to me than it was in 1978. I had bought the band’s second album, Danger Money, recorded after Bruford and Holdsworth had left the band. Terry Bozzio, whom Jobson brought in from Zappa’s band, had replaced Bruford; he was a technically dazzling drummer with a wild style that got straightjacketed in the confines of U.K.’s heavily arranged prog. The new lineup was a trio with no guitarist. The album was less progressive, more monochromatic, and generally not up to the level of the debut.

U.K. split up for good after Danger Money, not counting a perfunctory live album. The band represented a moment in time in the history of prog-rock: the end of its glory period in the 1970s before it had transmuted into fully commercial arena-rock and punk had moved in.

It’s hard to keep a supergroup together, because the different members come to the band with different experiences and ideas for musical directions. (And if they do stay together long enough, they’re no longer called a supergroup. Viz: Cream, Bad Company.) This was the case with U.K. John Wetton was a powerful, gutsy bass player who did the singing in Crimson; he was focusing on vocals and wanting to be a rock star. Holdsworth had no use for arena rock and wanted to play jazz fusion. Bruford’s drumming style — which he had honed to perfection by 1978 — was utterly distinctive but also tended towards fusion. The versatile, multitalented Jobson was sort of caught in the middle.

The musicians’ post-U.K. career paths bore this out. Bruford organized a solo band with Holdsworth, the young fusion virtuoso Jeff Berlin on bass, and the  idiosyncratic keyboard player Dave Stewart from National Health, a cult band that Bruford helped start after Crimson broke up in 1974. The Bruford band’s sound was, for lack of a better description, sophisticated Euro-fusion. Subsequently, Bruford rejoined Robert Fripp in a rejuvenated King Crimson and did copious journeyman work on the fringes of rock, fusion, and avant-garde music.

Holdsworth became a guitar God who would grace the cover of many an issue of Guitar World and Guitar Player magazines. Eddie Van Halen cited him as an influence and produced one of his solo albums.

John Wetton, meanwhile, realized his dreams of stardom. He formed and fronted the mutant arena-schlock-rock band Asia with Yes-men Steve Howe and Geoff Downes, and Carl Palmer from ELP. Asia lasted longer than U.K., the members being united in a common desire to get rich. Jobson briefly joined Jethro Tull (for whom U.K. opened on their 1979 tour as a trio), then settled into a low-key career of producing, film and TV scoring, and occasional solo albums.

Both Wetton and Holdsworth sadly passed away last year. That prompted Jordan Becker, my college radio comrade-in-arms who accompanied me to many a Crimson and Holdsworth gig, to write a blog post commemorating the many influential guitarists who died in 2017. This in turn led me to discover the existence of digital files of the tapes of the radio broadcast of that August 1978 U.K. concert in Philly.

What an amazing experience it was to listen to that gig forty years later, armed with all the knowledge and context I had gained since then. The tunes I hadn’t recognized that night turned out to be a mixture of songs from the then-forthcoming Danger Money and Bruford’s One of a Kind album. The Danger Money tunes had different dimensions with Holdsworth on guitar and Bruford’s more distinctive drumming style. The two tunes from One of a Kind (“The Sahara of Snow” and “Forever Until Sunday”) got more aggressive rock treatments from Wetton’s bass and Jobson’s brasher keyboards, compared to the more cerebral approach of the Bruford band.

Allan Holdsworth was supposedly fired from U.K. that night. The reason was the usual “artistic differences”; but it’s not difficult to hear the evidence from the tapes. While Wetton and Jobson were trying to play blockbuster prog-rock for the crowd, Holdsworth was playing fluid, jazzy, saxophone-like lines on guitar, eschewing power chords for abstruse scales and harmonies, improvising all over the place, and generally playing music more befitting a small club than a big outdoor gig. Wetton and Jobson had wanted him to reproduce the solos from the album live; it just wasn’t in his blood to do that. The tour, and that edition of the band, ended after the subsequent night’s performance in Cleveland.

The Philadelphia concert is one of a handful of broadcast recordings from U.K.’s 1978 tour; the Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, and possibly other gigs are also available. For fans of these musicians, they’re great documents of their styles in transition as well as suggestions of what might have been. (Speaking of which: that girl ended up as my senior prom date, but nothing else ever happened.)

And by the way: it’s not a bootleg after all. It’s available as one disc of a massive 14-CD, 4 Blu-ray box set called Ultimate Collector’s Edition, if you’re prepared to shell out around $400 for it.