Knebworth Was Knifty for Rockers Named Paul, Phil and Elton

updated 07/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The crowd was humongous, friendly and not too environmentally minded. As a parade of fortysomething rock legends—including Paul McCartney, Elton John and Eric Clapton—took their turns during a 12-hour concert at Knebworth House, an estate north of London, 120,000 fervid fans showed their enthusiasm by clapping, performing stadium waves and, in an unusual tribute, hurling thousands of plastic plates and bottles into the air.

Clearly, this wasn't Earth Day. But the much-hyped, $52-a-ticket festival did benefit worthy causes, notably Britain's Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Center, which helps autistic and mentally handicapped children. Emcees and guests included Timothy Dalton, Prince Albert of Monaco, MTV's Martha ("I begged all the executives to introduce me to Jimmy Page") Quinn and Rob Lowe. The actor, who has been in Paris shooting a movie with Jennifer Grey, explained that he caught the celebrity-cause bug several years ago when he pitched in at Farm Aid II. "It was great fun," said Lowe, "so I called up and said, 'If you need me, I'm in Europe.' " Keep that name in mind, Helmut Kohl. Rob Lowe.

Best of show? The consensus leaned toward McCartney. The former Beatle performed a medley—"dedicated to a dear friend"—that included "Strawberry Fields Forever," a slowed-down "Help!" and "Give Peace a Chance."

The chance that two other aging giants of the British Invasion, the Who and the Rolling Stones, might play was one reason fan Todd Green came all the way from Boston. Still, he pronounced the show "definitely worth it," even if he didn't know what to make of the trash throwing. "I'd never seen it," he said, "but it might be a tradition here."

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