Monday, December 10, 2018

Review: Van Morrison, The Prophet Speaks

Van Morrison brought out his last album of original songs Keep Me Singing in September 2016 and since then has released four albums in quick succession which are a mixture of cover versions of songs by his favourite artists and his own songs. The Prophet Speaks is the latest, and to my ears the greatest of the four. Once again, he teams up with Joey De Francesco and his virtuoso band of Troy Roberts, Dan Wilson and Michael Ode. You certainly get your money’s worth on this album which is seventy minutes of cool jazz, soul & blues.
The opening track Gonna Send You Back Where I Got You From is written by Eddy ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson who Van obviously admires a lot, having recorded his song Hold It Right There on his previous album You’re Drivin’ Me Crazy. I particularly like the guitar playing of Dan Wilson on this track. 

Dimples is one of the best-known songs by Van’s old friend John Lee Hooker. It was written in 1956 but was re-released in 1964 in the wake of the UK R & B boom and got to number 23 in the UK charts. It has been recorded by many artists over the years and Van’s version is as good as any. The band are cooking, I love the warm rich sound of Joey’s Hammond organ and Van on Sax & harmonica. There are plenty of yeahs & whoops which shows Van is enjoying himself. Got To Go Where The Love Is is a new song of Van’s and has a very radio friendly catchy sound. People like me who like searching for meanings in the lyrics will have a hard time with this album, but I think the reference to’ tearing down the wall of hate’ could be an anti-Trump message. Joey is the co-producer on this album and I like the laughter and party sounds at the end of the song which give it a very live feel. Laughin & Clowning is written by another of Van’s music heroes’ namely Sam Cooke. It was originally on Sam’s album Night Beat in 1963. It is a real shame that Sam Cooke was slain on December 11th, 1964 aged only 33. I bet Van would have loved to have worked with him at some point.

5 AM Greenwich Meantime is another Van original and although quite catchy is one of his lesser songs in my opinion. Gotta Get You Off My Mind is another song by an old friend of Van’s Solomon Burke, and daughter Shana helps out on backing vocals. Van excels himself on harp on this song. Teardrops is written by J.D. Harris, better known as Shakey Jake who contributes three songs to this album. This is a more bluesy sound with Joey on the keyboards rather than the organ. I Love The Life I Live is a Willie Dixon song. He actually recorded with Shakey Jake. They were both exponents of the Chicago Blues sound. I never knew this stuff till I listened to Van and looked these people up on Wikipedia. It is very educational listening to Van Morrison. The next track Worried Blues / Rollin’ And Tumblin’ was also written by Shakey Jake Harris and is six minutes of frenetic brilliance with Van scatting away to his heart’s content.

Ain’t Gonna Moan No More is another Van song and a highlight of the album for me. I like the eerie organ sound which reminds me of songs like I Put A Spell On You or something like that. It is Van the name-dropper in the lyrics of this song. He mentions Muddy Waters, John Lee, Jon Hendriks, Satchmo and  Willie The Sheik. Joey’s trumpet is like a tribute to Satchmo and Van’s harmonica and alto saxophone is sublime. It reminds me slightly of his playing on great albums of the 80’s like Poetic Champions Compose. Love Is A Five Letter Word was written by Gene Barge and all I know about him is that he is a sax player born in 1926. In the song Love is spelled M-O-N-E-Y. Love Is Hard Work is another Van composition which I don’t think is that great, but not to worry because Van has saved the best for last. Spirit Will Provide is my favourite song on the album. It is the most different of all the songs here and most typical of the spiritually uplifting songs we associated with Van in the past. Shana again joins in on vocals. This is a song I would like to see Van perform live. The final song and title track The Prophet Speaks is another great song. Van’s alto sax is again to the fore as well as Joey’s organ sound and the delicate acoustic guitar work of Dan Wilson.
That brings to a close a most satisfying album indeed. I hope the next album will be an album of all Van original songs but in the meantime, I am going to enjoy listening to this collection of songs for quite a while. A big hand for the band.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Richard Thompson In Salisbury 2018

I bought Richard Thompson’s new album called 13 Rivers a couple of days ago. After one play I was so impressed that I thought I ought to go and see him. I knew he was on tour because a friend of mine had seen him in Oxford a few nights ago and said how good he was. I looked on the internet and was delighted to find that he was playing at Salisbury City Hall the very next night. As Salisbury is only 30 minutes away from me on the train it seemed fated that I should go, so I scored myself a ticket. I was lucky to get one as it turned out because City Hall was packed for the gig.
It was a nice sunny day but cold, so before I set off I nipped into Kevin’s Menswear and bought myself a brand-new hat. Before long I was in the fine city of Salisbury, far too early as usual. I picked up my ticket from the box office to avoid queuing later. Then I walked through The Maltings. It was quite sad to see the Mill pub closed and the garden overgrown ever since the nerve agent attack a few months ago. I have spent many a happy sunny afternoon in that garden in the past. Then I had a look around all the charity shops but didn’t find anything I wanted to buy. After that I had a look at the magnificent cathedral which people from all over the world come to see, especially Russians. 

They have one of the original copies of the Magna Carta in Salisbury Cathedral which was very interesting. When I left the cathedral precincts it was beginning to get dark. I had a bite to eat in Harlee’s Fish Restaurant and then had a pint in The King’s Head pub. I was beginning to get bored. If it was a Van Morrison gig there would be other fans to meet up with, but I didn’t know any other RT fans who were going tonight. After I tired of the Kings Head I had another drink in the Ox Row Inn. Finally, it was time for the concert.

Outside the hall I got talking to a lad from Winchester and asked him to take my photo by the poster. Then I took my seat. The support act was an American duo from Kentucky called Joan Shelley and Nathan Salisbury. Joan had a very nice voice and Nathan reminded me a bit of a young James Taylor. They played a short but pleasant set of Americana type songs and both played guitar. Two songs I particularly liked were called Jenny Coming and Darlin’ You Know That’s Wrong. I liked them, not enough to buy their album but enough to take their photo.

After the break it was time for Richard to take the stage for a blistering two-hour set. It was advertised as the Richard Thompson Trio but for most of the show there were four of them with an extra guitar player on many songs. I have seen RT a couple of times in recent years but that was solo and acoustic. Most of this show was electric and very loud. I think I prefer acoustic but like Neil Young who I also prefer acoustic Richard loves playing electric and showing what he can do. I can’t give you a complete setlist because I didn’t recognise all of the songs and gave up on writing a setlist, so I’ll just tell you about the songs I remember.
Joan Shelley & Nathan Salisbury.

 The show opened with Bones Of Gilead from the new album. It shows what a magnificent guitar player Richard is after sixty years of practice. He gets better all the time. I think because he comes from the Folk-Rock world he gets overlooked and doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He is one of the greatest British guitar players of all time. The second song was Her Love Was Meant for me also a new song. Richard said they would concentrate on the new album and play the ‘Timeless Classics’ later. He has a great self-deprecating humour. Then he played Take Care The Road You Choose from the Sweet Warrior album which I think has quite an American sound. The very first album I ever heard Richard Thompson play on was What We Did On Our Holidays which I bought in 1969 when I was still at school, so it was a real treat to hear Tale In Hard Time and it was performed brilliantly. Then just to underline what a versatile guitarist he is the next song was Guitar Heroes in which he played in the style of the likes of Django Reinhardt, Hank Marvin, Chuck Berry and Les Paul among others. Then it was back to the new album with The Storm Won’t Come which featured wave after wave of frenetic manic guitaring. I should mention that the drummer Michael Jerome and the bass player both made their presence felt in this show. A complete change was next with They Tore The Hippodrome Down from the Acoustic Rarities album and Richard chided the audience for not buying it. He said they still had 82,000 copies in a warehouse in Lithuania.He was joking of course. Someone shouted out that they bought it and Richard said, “I love you man” which was very funny. Next up was Dry My Tears And Move On which the crowd clapped along with encouraged by the band. 

It was back to acoustic then for Vincent Black Lightning 1952 which is one of my favourite RT songs of all time. This song knocks other guitar pickers into a cocked hat. He makes one guitar sound like three. The Rattle Within features some fabulous drumming by Michael Jerome. I think the next song might have been The Dog In You but I had stopped writing the songs down by now. I do remember a guitar solo which went on for an eternity. I certainly remember Meet On The Ledge because it is one of my favourite Fairport songs ever. I also remember that he sang Put It There Pal because it had another solo which seemed to last forever. Richard said, “You can dance to this one, if you want”. It was Tear Stained Letter from the 1983 album Hand Of Kindness. It was great, but nobody got up and danced. I absolutely love Beeswing one of his greatest ever songs. I like it when his songs tell a story. Down Where The Drunkards Roll was also enjoyable with RT encouraging the audience to join in with the chorus. There was another song, but I can’t remember what it is called.
After the show I made a quick dash back to the Kings Head and downed a speedy pint then hurried to the station and caught the last train back to Westbury. What a great evening it had been. Thank you very much to Richard Thompson and his brilliant band.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Van Morrison In Bristol 2018

I have been to a lot of Van Morrison concerts over the last 40 years, but this is the first time I have ever seen him three times in a week. Only four days after returning from Torquay I was back on the train to Bristol. It was a beautiful October day.  From the train window between Bradford On Avon and Bath the countryside seemed to be turning golden around the edges and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. This put me in a good mood for the night ahead. Before long I arrived in the bustling sea-faring city of Bristol. As I was early I walked to the harbourside via Queen Square which seemed particularly Van-like with all the autumn leaves falling one by one.
I had some food  in a pub on the waterfront and as I was still early I had a look in the Arnolfini Gallery. In the bookshop I bought some postcards and a book by Patti Smith, then had a look around the other side of the harbour. I had arranged to meet a Bristolian friend of mine outside the Hippodrome at 4.00. While I was waiting for him to arrive I spotted Van’s singer Dana  hurrying by. “Hello Dana”, I said but she just kept walking. I expect she was in a rush to get to the sound check. Anyway, my mate turned up and we repaired to The Hatchet Inn which is Bristol’s oldest pub and has been there since 1606. 

We had a bit of a chat for a while. Walking back afterwards I spotted Fumiko by the stage door and while we were talking Van came out and was driven away. Sound check was obviously over. We passed the time taking photos by the large posters at the entrance of the theatre. Then my friend headed off and at 6.00 we met Nell from Australia who was with her friend Jan also from Canberra. We went in the Drawbridge pub where we were soon joined by the French man from Denmark Michel Yves ‘Burning Ground’ Balin and John from Bristol. It was great to catch up with them again after a year since the last Bristol concert. It was also nice to meet Gavin for the first time as well. There were two female fans from Cardiff there as well, but I can’t remember their names now, sorry. Finally, Brendan from Dublin arrived. It’s always good to see Brendan.
Me, Van, Fumiko.

It was time to go next door and take our seats for the show. It was the usual band of Teena, Dana, Mez, Paul Moore, Dave, Paul Moran. This is the setlist that I wrote down. I hope I have got it right. Let’s Get Lost, All Saints Day, How Far From God, Magic Time, Have I Told You Lately? Baby Please Don’t Go / Don’t Start Crying Now / Got My Mojo Working, I Can Tell (You Don’t Love Me No More) Moondance, Steal My Heart Away, Symphony Sid, Broken Record, I Believe To My Soul, Wild Night, Days Like This, Cleaning Windows / Be Bop A Lula, All In The Game / You Know What They’re Writing About / No Plan B/ No Safety Net/ This Is It ! , Think Twice Before You Go, The Party’s Over, Help Me, Jackie Wilson Says, Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria.
Michel Yves, 2 unknown fans, Fumiko, John, Jan, Me.

The outstanding highlight of the show for me was the extended All In The Game in which Van made it real one more time. It was fabulous. I also really enjoyed the Ray Charles song I Believe To My Soul. Van really loves performing Magic Time as well. I think he likes to show off his saxophone skills. Paul on trumpet and Teena also made great contributions last night. Van played some great sax on Days Like This. Cleaning Windows I also enjoyed, especially with it being the day after the anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s death. Apart from that I thought it was quite an average Van show. Looking at the faces of the vast majority of the audience as they left the theatre you could tell that most people thought it was brilliant so I probably don't know what I'm talking about. We all met up again afterwards, but I had to make a sharp exit to catch my train. Nell helped me hail a taxi and I was soon back at Temple Meads station. On the platform I met a friend from Trowbridge who thought the whole show was great. It makes me think that maybe I have been at too many shows. I might be getting jaded. Next time I see Van will be in December when he is a guest with the Pretty Things which will be a change. Anyway, it was a very enjoyable evening down by Bristol meeting up with Van fan buddies and a big hand for the band.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Van Morrison In Torquay 2018.

Three long months had gone by since I last saw Van back in the summer at Llangollen and Liverpool, so it was high time to get back on the train to Torquay for another two nights with the Celtic Soul Brother. The Grand Hotel is right next to the railway station in Torquay which is handy. I couldn’t check in until 3.00 so I left my bag at reception and went for a stroll along the sea-front. I sat in a bar next to the Princess Theatre for an hour because I figured it was sound check time and you never know who might walk by. Then I walked back to the hotel and decided to have a nap till the evening. The phone rang at about 5.00. It was Jane from Oxford to tell me she was downstairs with Corinne and Nell. It was great to see Jane again and Nell who had come all the way from Australia to see Van. Corinne is originally from South Africa but lives in Canada now. I hadn’t met Corinne before, so it was nice to meet her as well. What great company for the evening. We sat around chatting for a while and then decided to walk into town. As we were leaving we spotted Van going into the restaurant for dinner. We didn’t intrude on his privacy, but I sensed that this was going to be a memorable stay in Torquay.
We had dinner in a nice place called The Iguanas. The food was excellent, and the service was friendly and quick. I recommend this place if you are ever in Torquay.
Me, Corinne, Othmar, Jane, Nell.

 It was getting near to show time and we made our way to the theatre. It is a lovely little theatre right by the harbour. I have seen three Van shows here previously but not for 12 years. We all had really good seats right near the front. It was nice to see Peter & Kathryn sitting in the front row and Brendan from Ireland who writes such great reviews. Later we also saw Othmar from Switzerland, so it was a nice little gathering of Van fan friends. The show began promptly at 8.00. It was Van’s usual band of Teena Lyle, Dana Masters, Mez Clough, Paul Moore, Dave Keary and Paul Moran. This was the setlist for the first night, Hold It Right There, Back On Top, How Far From God?, Magic Time, Have I Told You Lately?, Raincheck, Baby Please Don’t Go / Here Comes The Night, Roll With The Punches, Talk Is Cheap, Think Twice Before You Go, Days Like This, Moondance, Broken Record, Enlightenment, Symphony Sid, Steal My Heart Away, Wild Night, Tore Down A La Rimbaud, Did Ye Get Healed, The Party’s Over, Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria. The band were excellent as always, you can’t criticize their musicianship, Teena always seems to really enjoy herself, especially on such songs as Moondance, Broken Record and Did Ye Get Healed. Since her return Teena has introduced the fun element to the band, she makes them smile. Dana is wonderful as a backing singer especially on a song like Symphony Sid which I don’t really like all that much but her contribution is great. Mez Clough on drums and Paul Moore on bass are always a first-class rhythm section. Dave Keary is a fine guitarist but I feel sorry for him sometimes because Van goes from song to song so quickly that poor old Dave barely has time to change his guitar between songs. One thing I found quite amusing is that during Enlightenment Van looked through his collection of harmonicas and tried a few, couldn’t find one he liked and didn’t bother playing one.
Corinne & Nell.

They announced before the show that taking photos and filming was prohibited but during Here Comes The Night I couldn’t resist doing a bit of filming. I captured a couple of minutes before a security lady told me friendly but firmly to put my camera away. That put an end to my film career for the two nights!. After the show I asked politely if I could have one of the posters off the wall in the foyer and they said they would save me one the following night which was nice of them. I’ll show you it when I get it framed. A gang of us walked back to the Grand Hotel together. Sitting in the bar the general feeling was that it was quite a disappointing show. As I have said it wasn’t the musicianship at fault, it was the uninspired choice of songs. Van has such a vast repertoire of great songs, the greatest back catalogue of work of any singer, but the night had been devoid of highlights. He is at his best when he stretches out songs and improvises but there was none of that tonight. However, we were all confident that the next night would be an improvement but none of us realised just how magical the next day would turn out to be.
Corinne, Jane & Nell.

I usually miss breakfast in hotels but the next morning I made the supreme effort to get out of bed and join Jane, Corinne and Nell in the restaurant. Then Van and his staff arrived, and they sat at the next table to us. Luckily, Van had his back to us or we wouldn’t have resisted glancing across at him. While we were having breakfast, we noticed this fan who I have since found out is called Ken went over to Van and shook hands and had a few words with him. This was encouraging!, We decided to write down a few songs that we would like to hear Van sing. As it was autumn I wrote down When The Leaves Come Falling Down. Nell wrote Little Village. I can’t remember what Jane and Corinne chose. We didn’t want to bother Van while he was eating but just as he was getting up to leave I said to Nell, “Go and give Van this list of requests now or you will regret it for the rest of your life”. Nell went over to Van and gave him the list and Van sat down again and signed a flyer for Nell and signed Corinne’s concert ticket as well and listened while Nell told him she had come all the way from Canberra, Australia to see him. He was most courteous. Some people especially the press have given him a reputation of being grumpy but as long as you aren’t too intrusive Van is a friendly person.
Fumiko, Nell, Jane & Corinne.

That got the day off to a good start. We decided to walk into town along the sea-shore. On the pathway below the sea wall I pointed out to the others something that Kim had spotted in 2006 when we last came here to see Van. Someone had carved I LOVE PAT in the cement of the pathway and it was still there 12 years later. That brought back some very poignant memories for me I can tell you. (See photo) Corinne had brought her binoculars with her and her book of British birds and was all set for a day of walking by the sea and birdwatching. I didn’t fancy that, I’m more of a sitting in pubs type person. After a while I told the others I’d see them later and went into town. I bought a shirt in Debenhams and had a look in a few charity shops and went in Yates’s for a couple of drinks. When I emerged from there it was drizzling rain, so I decided to go back to the hotel. I spotted Van again on my return, but I had intruded enough for one day, so I ignored him this time.
I met the others again that evening and we were joined by Fumiko who had just arrived. We pointed out Van to her and she got his autograph on her ticket as well, so everyone was well pleased. Time was getting on, so we ate at the hotel this evening and then headed off back to the theatre. This is the setlist for night 2. Let’s Get Lost, Benediction, How Far From God?, Magic Time, Have I Told You Lately?, Baby Please Don’t Go / Don’t Start Crying Now, Here Comes The Night, Cleaning Windows, When The Leaves Come Falling Down, Tore Down A La Rimbaud, Little Village, Symphony Sid, Bring It On Home To Me, Ride On Josephine, Steal My Heart Away, Days Like This, Enlightenment, Broken Record, Moondance, Carrying A Torch, Whenever God Shines His Light On Me, The Party’s Over, Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria.
Fumiko, Brendan, Corinne, Hugh, Jane, Nell, Othmar.

The show didn't reach the dazzling heights of Llangollen in the summer but it was a vast improvement on night 1. The absolute thrill for me was when Van introduced When The Leaves Come Falling Down by saying “This is a request”, and performed it sublimely. I would have filmed it, but I was too scared of getting busted again. Nell who was sitting next to me was equally delighted when he sang her choice of Little Village. I did notice Van improvised some different lyrics into this song by singing “I’m from the island of the saints, a long way from home”. Other highlights for me were the Sam Cooke classic Bring It On Home To Me, a splendid duet with Dana of Carrying A Torch and Cleaning Windows. I also really enjoy Ride On Josephine with Mez on drums and Dave on guitar and Van on harmonica. I collected my poster from the nice lady in the foyer and we all met up outside and were joined by Hugh and a gang of me, Brendan, Othmar, Jane, Nell, Fumiko, Corinne and Hugh repaired to the bar of the Grand Hotel. The atmosphere was a lot more upbeat than the night before. What a fabulous day and night it had been.
Jane, Paul Moran & Nell.

Next morning after breakfast Corinne set off for more bird-watching on Dartmoor and then me, Jane & Nell caught the 11.38 train. At the station we met Paul Moran from Van’s band who was really friendly and I took a photo of Jane & Nell with him. It was a golden Autumn day after all the rain. The journey was fun. Two young punky types girls were singing along to music on their phones, so I got them to play Brown Eyed Girl and we all joined in. Before long Westbury White Horse came into view. It was quite sad to say cheerio to Jane and Nell when I realised the party’s over. But hey, Van is on again in Bristol on Monday. See you in Bristol Van fans.

Golden Autumn Day, from the train.

Friday, September 14, 2018

My Glastonbury Festival Memories: Chapter 1, 1979

Chapter 1. 1979, Year of The Child. 

My first Glastonbury was 1979. I was 27 years old. I had been going to festivals since I was twenty. My first festival was The Great Western Festival near Lincoln in 1972 but when I went to Glastonbury for the first time I knew that it was the best and I have been going to Worthy Farm ever since. In total, I think I must have spent about four months of my life at Glastonbury festival. I think we were in the Canal Tavern in Bradford On Avon and somebody said that there was a festival to be held down at Pilton. We needed cheering up because a month before on May 5th there had been an election and Margaret Thatcher had come to power and a darkness had descended on the land. The Conservatives held on to power for another 18 years, but Glastonbury Festival was to be a beacon of hope in all the misery that was to come. On the sunny evening of Friday June 21st, 1979, I got on the back of my friend Fred’s motorbike and we set off for Pilton. We didn’t even take a tent. In those days, we called a sleeping bag a Doss-bag. You just rolled up your doss-bag and tied it up with string and slung it over your shoulder. That was all I took to my first Glastonbury. I think when it got time to sleep I just curled up around a campfire and if it rained there was a crash tent up near the market area. When we arrived, the entrance was right up at the top of the site near the farmhouse. Standing at a table collecting the £5.00 admission was this girl who was topless. All she had on was a pair of shorts and a big smile.
 “Crikey”, I thought to myself, “I’m going to enjoy this”, as I handed her my fiver and tried not to stare.
In those days the small market area of craft stalls and food outlets was at the top of the site as well and we wandered down there towards the main stage. The whole of the valley could then be seen leading away to Glastonbury Tor in the distance. It looked beautiful and the whole scene seemed peaceful compared to other outdoor music events that I had been to. I could immediately feel that there was something special about this place, something spiritual, ancient, healing and mysterious especially with the view of the Tor in the distance, enveloped in the myths and legends that surround Glastonbury.

That festival was one of the few occasions I can remember when they didn’t have the famous Pyramid Stage. The other time was in 94 when it burned down shortly before the festival and wasn’t replaced till 2000. In 79 the stage was a square sort of thing with what looked like an inflatable roof. I think there were about 12,000 people there in 1979 and it was so small and friendly that you got to know quite a few of them by Monday morning. These days at Glastonbury everybody has a phone and are twittering and Face-booking non-stop but in 1979 amazingly there wasn’t one single phone on the site. To make a phone call you had to walk into the village of Pilton and use the public phone box. That’s what I loved about this festival, being cut off from the outside world in this little cosmic bubble of Glastonbury. The information point got covered in little hand-written notes of people looking for their friends but there was no real need even for that. If you walked around for half an hour you would meet everyone you knew.
It was still called Glastonbury Fayre in 79 and was in aid of the International Year of The Child and the Children’s World Charity. That charity was founded by Arabella Churchill and is still going to this very day. Arabella was the grand-daughter of Sir Winston Churchill and was a real driving force at Glastonbury. As well as organising the theatre and cabaret in 79 she introduced the Children’s area to the site which evolved into the Kidz-field of today. A lot of festivals don’t cater for children but that is another thing that makes Glasto so great in that it isn’t ageist. You get all ages from little kids to pensioners and everyone gets on fine. Arabella is remembered today on the site because Bella’s Bridge is named after her. Arabella was quite a character. My partner Kim and I met her one magical night in 1999 but I’ll tell you about that when I get to it. Another thing I ought to mention is that there was a tiny medical centre there which was run by the local doctor whose name is Chris Howes. As Glastonbury has grown it has developed into Festival Medical Services and is the biggest field hospital in Britain and also provides medical services for other festivals and events as well.

A major difference to today’s festivals is that these days there are bars all over the site but in 79 I can’t remember there being any. The only booze available was from a wagon which sold rough farmhouse cider in gallon plastic containers. It was smelly and tasted horrible but people including me still forced it down. Another difference to today’s festival as well is that there were no teams of people picking up the rubbish. I think everyone just took responsibility for their own area. There was probably some tidying up to do afterwards but compared to the scenes of devastation these days it was nothing. Also, in the early days at Glastonbury there was a huge supply of firewood provided, so there were campfires all over the site. By Sunday night I think most people had put all their rubbish apart from plastic on the campfire which cut down on the amount of waste. The campfires were great for bringing people together, there is something magical about a campfire, primitive communities have gathered around fires since the dawn of civilisation. It is that sense of togetherness that is missing in modern society. How times have changed. In 2017 I saw a market stall selling little bags of firewood for £8.00, nobody would pay that, would they? People wouldn’t dream of abandoning their tents back then either. Tents were expensive, they were too valuable compared to today’s cheap throwaway society. One final difference is that these days there are cash machines everywhere for instant access to money. At Glasto 79 most people were completely broke by Sunday night and there was a lot of scrounging of cigarettes, tobacco & food going on. Nobody seemed to care, everyone shared what they had.

And so, to the music. I could look through the archives and tell you who was on but that would be cheating. Because this is a personal memoir I will just tell you about who I can personally recall which isn’t all that much I’m afraid because it is so long ago in the mists of time and I can’t really remember who played on which day. One band I do remember were called The Only Ones. They had a minor hit around that time called Another Girl/Another Planet which was good. I remember Steve Hillage as well because I had one of his albums. The only song of his I can recall was his version of the Donovan song Hurdy Gurdy Man. Steve must have played last on either Friday or Saturday because the organiser Michael Eavis came on stage to ask them to stop playing as he had made an agreement with the villagers to end the electric music at midnight and it was now 12.30. Steve dutifully brought the set to an end after explaining it to the audience. Steve Hillage was to have quite an influence on the development of Glastonbury in subsequent years.
Although the weather was nice that weekend I think there was some rain because I have a vague memory of John Martyn playing and the rain dripping onto the stage through the leaky roof. I wasn’t all that familiar with his music at the time, but I have read somewhere Michael Eavis saying it was the most moving performance he had ever seen at Glastonbury and brought tears to his eyes. I did have a chance encounter with John Martyn many years later at Glastonbury, but I’ll tell you about that later as well. Sunday night was my best memory of all. There was a big jam session featuring amongst others, Pete Gabriel, Alex Harvey, Tom Robinson, Nona Hendryx and Steve Hillage. People told me later that it was Phil Collins on drums, but I didn’t recognise him at the time. Songs from that set I remember were Pete singing Solsbury Hill, him and Tom Robinson singing Bully For You and Alex Harvey singing a song called The Mafia Stole My Guitar. The festival ended with someone called Tim Blake playing synthesisers accompanied by a laser beam display.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

My Glastonbury Festival Memories: Chapter 2, 1981

Chapter 2. 1981, Down by The Pylons.

The 1979 festival was a financial disaster unfortunately and after 79 there wasn’t another festival at Glastonbury till 1981 but that didn’t stop us going to Worthy Farm in those two years. There were some small gigs in a barn up by the farmhouse. They hardly got any publicity, we heard about them by word of mouth. There was a great atmosphere and they used to have a bonfire going outside as well. I remember particularly one night seeing Roy Harper there and, on another occasion, seeing Atomic Rooster. Other people have told me they saw Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance as well, but I don’t remember that. The most amazing of these gigs for me though was one Sunday afternoon myself and Fred went down to Worthy Farm to see The Master Musicians of Joujouka. These are a group of Sufi Trance musicians from the Rif mountains of Morocco. They were brought to Glastonbury by a man called Rikki Stein (not to be confused with the famous cook). He had a lot to do in later years with bringing a lot of African music to Glasto such as Fela Kuti and many others. The musicians from Joujouka were discovered in the 50’s by the likes of William Burroughs, Bryon Gysin and Paul Bowles and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones who recorded an album with them in 1968 which was released after his death.
It was an incredible and strange afternoon but what made it even more magical was the fact that as we were leaving, on a perfectly clear day an inverted rainbow appeared in the sky. You might not believe that you can get an upside-down rainbow, but I saw it with my own two eyes. I have looked it up since and it is a phenomenon known as a circumzenithal arc. Look it up for yourself if you don’t believe me. For me it just confirmed that the Vale of Avalon is indeed a magical place. The Master Musicians of Joujouka returned to Glastonbury in 2011 when they opened the festival on the Pyramid Stage and they also played up at the stone circle. 

In the two years leading up to 1981 there had been two major events. The Russians had invaded Afghanistan which brought Cold War tensions to a new height and Emily Eavis was born. Both these events concentrated the mind of Michael Eavis. Concerned about the threat of nuclear war he had joined The Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament. He wanted to help them raise funds. This had become extra important when the British and Americans under Ronald Reagan had agreed to base Cruise Missiles with nuclear warheads at Greenham Common in Berkshire. The festival of 1981 was the first Glastonbury Festival to make any money and £20.000 was donated to CND. Glastonbury became the single biggest donor to this cause over the next ten years and the festival became known as the Glastonbury CND Festival. Eventually thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev and his policies of Perestroika and Glasnost which led to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty the missiles were all gone by 1991 and with the ending of the Cold War Greenpeace, Oxfam and Water-Aid became the main beneficiaries of Glastonbury. All this does show the big influence that the festival has had in trying to make the world a better place.

1981 was also the year that the Pyramid Stage returned. It was built from local wood and telegraph poles and covered with box-section iron sheets that Michael Eavis bought from a bloke he met at Taunton market. It was finished just in time but the huge CND logo that was meant to be at the apex of the pyramid was too heavy to haul up there, so it spent 1981 in a corner of the stage. That stage remained in place till 1994 when it burned down. Michael got planning permission for it to be a permanent structure because in winter the base of it was used as a cowshed.
It cost us £8.00 to get in. In those days you didn’t have to park outside the fence. You could park anywhere you want. It was still quite empty when we arrived. We got a lift there with Mike from Bradford On Avon who just drove his car in there and parked up in front of the stage and we put our tents up next to the car. It was hot that year. A good friend of ours called Pete from Yorkshire came to that festival. He was a great cook and before we set off for Glasto he made a lot of curry which he put in Tupperware containers and said that would keep us going for the whole weekend. I stored it all away in the tent. On the Monday morning when we were packing up to go home I found all these containers of food and realised that we hadn’t eaten a single thing all weekend. I wonder why that was. There was a family there that year who we knew from Bradford On Avon. “I like your wigwam”. I said to them. “It’s not a wigwam, it’s a tipi!”, shouted one of their kids most indignantly.

Bob Marley had died only a month before the festival which might have partly accounted for all the reggae music pumping out all over the site but musically in 1981 my main memory and for a lot of other people as well was the punch-up on stage between Ginger Baker and Roy Harper on Friday night. Ginger Baker was on last and the music had to end by a certain time. Roy Harper’s set went on and on. Eventually Ginger Baker got fed up and came on the stage and started setting up his drum kit and told Roy to F*** Off. A scuffle broke out and Roy Harper ended the set being dragged off by the security. So much for the love and peace, man. New Order played on the Saturday and the singer/guitarist was so drunk he could hardly stand up and kept lying on the floor. I also have a vague recollection of the great Taj Mahal playing on the last night and I think he might have sung a song called CND Blues, but he did play again another year, so I might have that confused. It was 38 years ago after all.
On Monday some hippy guy offered to give me and my brother Paul a lift home in his van, but we had to hang about all day in the blazing sun while he dismantled his market stall. I was suffering with sunburn, dehydrated, deprived of sleep and hadn’t eaten anything for days. It was a relief to finally get home that evening. Glastonbury was over for another year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

My Glastonbury Festival Memories: Chapter 3. 1982

Chapter 3. 1982, Summertime In England.

We were back at Glasto in 1982 which was memorable for me. One reason was that it was the first time that I worked at Glastonbury and another reason was that my favourite musician of all time Van Morrison made the first of his seven Glastonbury appearances. The job I had in 82 was working backstage for a pub landlord from Trowbridge who was running the backstage bar. I have written about this episode in my previous book called Vanatic so I won’t repeat the whole sorry saga here. Sufficient to say that we arrived on the Wednesday and my services were dispensed with on the Saturday morning. We were camped up near one of the electricity pylons right in front of the Pyramid Stage, so we got a great view of the proceedings. There was quite a gang of us. Sadly, I can think of three people from that year who are no longer with us, Gordon, Richard and Tim but that’s not surprising I suppose.
Back in those far-flung days of yesteryear the cows used to be grazing on the land right up to the festival starting. You had to watch out for cow pats which were everywhere. It wouldn’t be advisable to wear a black beret to those early Glastonbury’s because if it blew off at night you could try on five of them before you found the right one. There were lots of animals in those days as well. Horses pulling gypsy type caravans and lots of dogs. The dogs had a great time at Glasto. A dog’s nose can sniff out a discarded half eaten burger from hundreds of yards away. I’m not sure if it was 82 but my friend Dave brought his dog called Hagan one year and as soon as he arrived and took Hagan’s lead off he ran away. He didn’t return until Monday morning when Hagan realised it was time to go home.
There were no police on the site in those days. They didn’t arrive till quite a few years later. They weren’t needed anyway as it was so peaceful. They were outside though and searched anybody going in at random and ran up cricket scores of arrests for possession of marijuana and LSD. Many a bright young person had their future blighted by getting a criminal conviction for having a bit of pot in their pockets. The police in those days regarded hippy types as the enemy. This was encouraged by the Thatcher government who hated Glastonbury and its association with CND.  Matters would come to a head a couple of years later with the notorious Battle of The Beanfield. I’m glad to say though that these days with the festival ten times bigger the police attitude has changed completely. The amount of arrests is tiny in comparison and their presence is mainly concerned with the welfare of the festival goers.

1982 was the first year as well when I got a taste of the mud that Glastonbury is famous for. The Friday was the wettest day in Somerset for 45 years and the site was turned into a mud bath. This is because the site is on clay, also it is in a valley so the water all goes downhill into the basin at the foot of the hill. When you have been to a few Glastonbury’s though you get used to it and its not muddy every year which some people who have never been seem to think.
Musically 1982 was the first Glastonbury for me when there were some truly great performances. On the Friday punk poet John Cooper Clarke was brilliant and I was on the side of the stage for his performance and shook hands with him at the end. I was also on stage to see Black Uhuru because I knew their roadie Mick from Bradford On Avon. Backstage I also met the late great Randy California. I can’t remember his performance. All I know is that he must have been quite drunk by the time he got on stage because I had been drinking with him. Roy Harper returned to Glastonbury on Saturday afternoon but this year there was no punch-up as in 81.

The highlight for me on Saturday was Van Morrison’s performance. It was only the second time I had seen him in concert. Van was still based in the States in those days and I think this was his first tour in Britain since 79. Van arrived in his car backstage, walked straight on and gave a magnificent performance then got straight back in the car and was driven away immediately. It was to be five long years until I saw Van return to Glastonbury. His band did hang out for a while though. I found a photo of his sax player Pee-Wee Ellis chatting to Jackson Browne and about twenty years later I presented a copy of the photo to Pee-Wee and he was really pleased because he had never seen it before and he signed a copy of it for me as well.
The head of CND Bruce Kent gave a talk on Sunday before the music began. I remember this person who didn’t like Glastonbury supporting CND flew around and around above the site in a light airplane trailing a banner with the slogan HELP THE RUSSIANS, SUPPORT CND on it. I think he ended up in court for that stunt and got fined. Good!

Sunday was another great day of music. There was a fabulous set by Jackson Browne who had been on the site all weekend enjoying the festival. There was also a great performance by Judy Tzuke who played just as it got dark. I think she must remember that as the gig of her life because she has faded into obscurity since those days but she was brilliant that night. I particularly remember her last song called Stay With Me Till Dawn.If I remember correctly the last person on was the late great Richie Havens. It was a thrill to see him for the first time because I had always liked his performance in the film Woodstock. It was raining quite heavily during his set so I watched from the entrance to my tent. He was great and I was to see him again at Glastonbury many years later. The festival of 82 was brought to an end with an amazing laser beam display accompanied by the music of Tubeway Army.
Next morning as we left there were hundreds of people hitching out of the site. I don’t think people hitch to festivals any more. Most of them were heading for Stonehenge and all along the lanes were people with signs saying STONEHENGE PLEASE. I expect they all got lifts because that’s what it was like in those days.

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