Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Glastonbury 1987, My Seventh Glastonbury. (My Little Bookstall)

1987 was the first year I did my little bookstall at Glasto. My hobby at the time was dealing in second-hand books so I decided to see if I could pay for the festival by selling my books. I spent all year scouring charity shops, jumble sales, car boot sales, auctions and house clearance shops looking for suitable books that festival goers might be interested in. The sort of subjects were music books & magazines, fanzines, counter-culture, Beat Generation, anything left-wing, science fiction, ecology, eastern religion, and anything else that straight people might consider dangerous and subversive. By June I had quite a collection.
That year I went with my friends Ian & Julia who I had worked with in the Night Shelter. They managed to squeeze about ten boxes of my books into their little Citroen. It took hours to get on site because of the traffic jams but finally we got in and found my family and friends in Glebeland. Our encampment was quite big by now. There must have been about twenty in our gang including kids. My sister Margaret had acquired some bunting from somewhere so every year with some sticks from the firewood and the bunting, an area would be cordoned off for all our tents. Margaret’s partner Wayne would get busy making furniture out of the biggest bits of wood so we could all sit around the fire in comfort. The rule was that every time someone went for a walk they had to bring some firewood back. By Sunday night though the furniture had usually ended up on the fire as supplies ran out. Wayne and Margaret always had a big tent which I found quite handy for storing my books in the entrance.

It was important to start selling my books early while people still had money in their pockets so on Thursday afternoon I set out my stall by the nearest walkway which had lots of people walking by. I just laid a blanket on the ground and displayed my books neatly on it, all individually priced. It was very unofficial but the security wasn’t going to bother with little old me when there were drug dealers all the way up Muddy Lane and people openly selling bootleg booze and baccy all over the place. I was pleased with how well I did selling my books. One year I made enough money to go straight to Ireland for a holiday afterwards, and it was a great way of meeting people and having a chat. One thing I learned was that women seemed to read more than men. They would browse for a long time looking for a good read regardless of who wrote it whereas men seemed more interested in finding books with a cult following or to complete a collection.  I could tell when someone was out of their brain on acid or something. They would stare for ages at the design on the cover of a science fiction book and go, “wow”. Sometimes a person would say, “I’ll buy this book but I don’t want to carry it around, can you look after it for me and I’ll pick it up on my way back?” Then they would wander off and completely forget that they had bought a book. If they hadn’t returned by Sunday I’d sell the book all over again. Another great thing about selling my books was that it kept me on the straight and narrow, for a few hours a day anyway. In previous years I would just wander around getting more and more off my face as the day wore on. With the coming of my bookstall I now had a purpose and I enjoyed it. My Bookstall became a regular thing at Glasto right up to 2003.

I had a few famous people look at my books over the years. Once in the 80’s this nice American lady was having a browse through my books and I noticed she was wearing a stage pass so I asked her what she was doing at Glastonbury and she said that she was a singer. Then she took off her shades. I recognised her immediately. It was Julie Felix. You might not have heard of her but she was very famous in Britain in the 60’s & 70’s. Julie had a big hit record with her version of Simon & Garfunkel’s El Condor Pasa. She also had her own television series. We had a nice chat and she was very friendly. Another time this bearded bloke came along and had a rummage. I thought I recognised him but when he looked at me he didn’t seem very friendly so I didn’t say anything. He didn’t buy anything and eventually  stomped off. After he had gone my brother Paul who was sat there said, “Do you know who that was?”. “No”, I replied. “It was John Martyn”, said Paul. A person who did buy a book in the 1990's was Margie Clarke. She was famous after appearing in the film Letter To Brezhnev and she was in Coronation Street for a long while. Margie bought a Daphne Du Maurier paperback. I heard later that Margie was the most famous person to climb over the fence to get into Glastonbury.

There is a theatre group called The Natural Theatre Group who come from Bath. I think they are the only performers who have appeared at every single Glastonbury festival. They specialise in street theatre where they get dressed up and wander through the crowds. One year they were Cone-heads and another year they were dressed like CIA agents with walkie talkie radios. I’m not sure if it was 87 but they were all dressed up as Conservatives and had placards saying BAN THE FESTIVAL, DOWN WITH GLASTONBURY etc. They came up to my bookstall and one of them said, “What’s all this then, a bloody jumble sale?”. We passed an amusing few minutes trading insults until they wandered off. It was all good fun. I’ll tell you more about my bookstall later if I think of anything.
One of the most memorable things about 1987 was the Mutoid Waste Company. They were a semi-anarchistic gang who might have evolved out of the Peace Convoy. They made things out of scrap metal. I have a vague memory of going to a party once at a warehouse in London which had lots of strange machines which might have been made by them. What they did at Glasto 87 was to build a Stonehenge but it wasn’t made from stone, it was made from cars. It was spectacular and was a focal point for a lot of late night raging. In the book Glastonbury Tales by Crispin Aubrey & John Shearlaw Arabella Churchill relates how she was walking past there one night only to notice her VW car was on the top of Carhenge.

Musically the highlight for me of 1987 was Van Morrison on the Sunday evening. It was only the third time I had seen him perform and the first time since 1982. To say his performance was a bit special is a huge understatement. I would put it in the top five performances in all the 38 years I have been going to Glasto. I have written about this show in my previous book so I won’t dwell on it now. Luckily for all the Van Morrison fans around the world it was recorded by the BBC and broadcast on the Johnnie Walker Show. This has become a must- have bootleg for the hardcore Van fans and most agree that it is one of his finest shows ever. Van was certainly on the top of his game back in 1987. The next time I was at Glasto I managed to get my first ever bootleg recording which was this show and I must have listened to it hundreds of times. If you scroll down, you can hear two songs from Van's epic performance. The sun was setting over Avalon as Taj Mahal brought the festival to a close that year. I wonder if Van stayed to watch his show because they have become good friends over the years and performed and recorded together.

The Communards were on before Van and although I can’t remember much about their show I do remember their bus passing me as they left with Jimmy Somerville and the one who later became a vicar looking at all the crowds through the window. Michael Eavis said later that Jimmy Somerville waived their fee for the show and told Michael to give the money to CND which was damned decent of them. I know I saw the Gaye Bykers On Acid on the second stage because I went to see them out of curiosity due to their unusual name but I don’t think I was very impressed because I can’t remember anything now about their performance. One thing I do recall vividly though was the late great Ben E King playing in glorious sunshine on the Friday afternoon. He had recently had a UK number 1 with Stand By Me and I had liked him ever since I bought The Drifters Greatest Hits back in the 60’s. I was watching him right down at the front with Dominic who had then reached the ripe old age of 9. Dominic wanted to see what was going on so I lifted him up onto my shoulders. During one song Ben E King looked right at us and Dominic gave him a thumbs up sign and Ben E King gave Dom a thumbs up sign in return. It was great. You can’t buy those magical Glastonbury moments.

It was to be two long years before the next festival because Michael decided they needed a year off to assess the situation and work out what to do about the drug dealers and other problems that needed to be addressed. After a good clear up, the cows reclaimed the land and were soon contentedly munching away at the lush grass of the Vale Of Avalon and peace returned to Worthy farm for another two years.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Glastonbury 1986, My 6th Glastonbury. (Dried Scorpions & The Hand Of God)

Glastonbury 86 was another eventful year. I went with my sister Margaret and her two children Katherine and Dominic. We had just one problem in that we had no transport. We decided to hitch there as it was only 30 miles from Bradford On Avon to Glasto.  I hitched with Dominic aged eight and Margaret set off with Katherine aged ten. I think these days if a 34-year-old man was seen hitch-hiking with an 8-year-old kid questions would be asked but we didn’t think anything of it at the time. As soon as I put my thumb out a lorry stopped and me and Dom climbed in. I think Dominic thought this was a great adventure. Not many eight year olds get the chance of a road trip in the cab of a big truck to a music festival. The driver was great and took us all the way to Pilton and dropped us off at the top of the lane to the festival. That year we moved our camping site to Glebeland which is the field down from the Acoustic Stage. This was a lot quieter than the area in front of the Pyramid Stage which was getting too hectic and not suitable for kids with all the noise at night time. The weather was a lot kinder in 86 compared to the deluge of 85. Apart from one brief thunderstorm one afternoon which helped keep the dust down.
We had a lot of fun that year. One of our friends called Paul (aka Nelly) was selling Dried Scorpions to passers by (See Picture). This was a trick in which a wound up elastic band was hidden in a folded-up piece of cardboard with a picture of a scorpion on it. As people opened it and the pressure was released the elastic band would vibrate and people would scream in horror thinking there was a live scorpion inside. When passers-by heard the screams a crowd would gather to see what was going on and then people would want to buy one to try out on their friends. We had hours of fun watching people’s reactions to the scorpions. It worked best on women! The scorpions became a fixture of our Glastonbury’s for a few years after that. If you look on eBay, you can still get them but they are a lot more expensive these days.

Glastonbury has often coincided with the World Cup and this happened in 86. They didn’t show England’s matches on the big screens in those days because there were no big screens. Nobody had mobile phones to follow the games either. On the Sunday everyone wanted to know how England were getting on against Argentina. Nelly had managed to watch the game in a tent somewhere and came back to tell us the result and the story about Maradona and ‘The hand of god’.
The New Age Travellers started appearing at Glastonbury this year. They managed to get their own field known as ‘The Travellers Field’. I think some of them might have walked there. A convoy had tried to get to Stonehenge again but they had no chance this year so they ended up in Stoney Cross in the New Forest. In a dawn raid 400 police turned up and impounded all the vehicles that had no tax or insurance. The travellers had no alternative but to try and walk the 60 miles to Glastonbury. I can’t ever remember going to the traveller’s field myself but lots of people did for the all-night raves. 

Some of them became known as ‘crusties’. You could always spot a crusty. They were often seen lying unconscious on the ground surrounded by empty beer cans and guarded by a faithful Lurcher dog. The travellers field became a fixture for a while at Glasto till matters came to a head and Michael Eavis had to put a stop to it.

On a happier note, the Greenfields areas had started in 84 and by 86 they were well established. This was the most peaceful area of the site and where all the old hippy types found their way to in order to get far from the madding crowd. The Tepee people moved up there as well and there were all sorts of interesting arts and crafts to look at. A friend of ours used to do stone cutting up there for a long time but I haven’t seen him there in recent years. A lot of people think Glastonbury is all about music and that is important obviously but we used to go on massive walks all over the site and still do. I reckon I must walk about 70 miles over a few days at Glastonbury. I don’t stay out all night long though these days. Back in the 80’s the most fun was sitting around the campfire talking nonsense to whoever was there and you might fancy going for a walk about 2.00 in the morning, roam across the fields and get back about dawn and once it was daylight you knew you had no chance of crashing out and so another day at Glasto would begin.

Another major change at Glastonbury in 86 was that for the first time the running of the bars had been handed to the Workers Beer Company. They had started in Wandsworth in London to raise money for good causes and fight against the evils of Thatcherism. All the profits from the bars went to left-wing causes. This was a great move by Michael Eavis and another example of how Glasto has had a positive effect on British society. The bars all had great names. These days ‘The Bread And Roses Saloon’ is in the market area but in 86 it was at one end of the Acoustic tent if I remember correctly. This was the feminist bar and took its name from a poem associated with the women in a strike in a textile factory in the USA in 1912, Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread but give us roses!’ . ‘The Spear Of The Nation’ was inspired by the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and evolved eventually into the ‘Mandela Bar’. The ‘Tolpuddle Martyr’ was the Trade Unions bar. ‘The Miners Arms’ was very popular with Welsh people and the ‘Starry Plough’ was the Irish bar. I think the impact of the Workers Beer Company on Glastonbury would eventually evolve into the Leftfield Stage which we have today. One thing I remember about 86 is that in Nicaragua the socialist government of the Sandinistas were involved in a struggle against the CIA backed Contras. In the bars at Glastonbury you could get nice Nicaraguan rum so you could get drunk and support the Sandinistas at the same time! One major problem for the bars in those days was that there were bootleg booze outlets all over the place. You could get a bottle of wine or a few cans of beer anywhere. Tequila slammers were being sold everywhere and one year I remember a man pushing along a wheelie bin full of cans of beer and cider which he was selling. Gradually though as the security got more organised most of the illicit booze got closed down.

The market area had also moved by 86 from a long line of stalls leading up towards the farmhouse to more or less where it is today and organised in a circular fashion like a wagon train. This was better from a security point of view because it stopped dodgy geezers from getting to the back of the stalls and robbing them. It was around this time that I discovered falafels which became my staple diet at Glasto for a while before I got bored with them. Even buying a cup of tea could be quite an interesting experience. One night I asked for a tea at a market stall and the man serving asked if I wanted a ‘straight’ one or a ‘special’ one. I opted for the special one and it turned out to have magic mushrooms in it. There was no sleep for me that night either.

Musically for me I don’t remember 86 as an outstanding year. Simply Red and The Cure were two of the headliners but I don’t recall watching either of them. Christy Moore was great. I had discovered his music two years before and this was the first of many occasions I was to see Christy. Petra Kelly of the German Green Party gave a speech on the Pyramid Stage. She was famous worldwide at the time because the German Greens were the first Green party anywhere in the world to have a major impact on politics. Christy must have listened to her speech because at a later Glastonbury he dedicated a song to her after she had died at the early age of 44. Another band I enjoyed in 86 was The Robert Cray Band. 

I hadn’t heard of Robert Cray before but he was a fabulous blues guitarist and singer. I also remember a group called Latin Quarter who are forgotten now but they sang a great song called Radio Africa. 86 was also the first of many occasions when I saw The Waterboys. I was pleased that they sang The Healing Has Begun by Van Morrison. Apart from that I can’t remember much else. I know Lloyd Cole was on and The Housemartins featuring Norman Cook who would later become a Glasto favourite as Fat Boy Slim and The Psychedelic Furs and Madness and lots of other bands but it is just a blur to me now. I think it was one of those years when you get home and people in the pub ask you what you saw and you can’t remember. One little thing I do remember though on the Sunday night just before Gil Scott Heron closed the festival Emily Eavis aged 6 sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

I can’t remember how we got home that year but one of our friends must have given us a lift because I would remember if we had hitched. It is always like a tent peg through the heart when Glastonbury is over but we were back in 87 and that contained one of my all-time favourite great performances.

 PS, I didn't have any photos from Glasto 86 so I pinched most of these pics from a book called The Glastonbury Festivals published in 1987.

PPS, If you scroll down you can watch audio videos of Christy Moore singing The Auld Triangle at Glasto 86 and also The Waterboys singing The Thrill is Gone & The Healing Has Begun.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Glastonbury 1985. My Fifth Glastonbury.

In 1984 I was working in a Night Shelter and I couldn’t get the time off work to go to Glastonbury. That was a shame because I didn’t miss another Glasto for over twenty years. Michael had to go to court and face five different charges of breaching the terms of the licence. He won the case and the festival went ahead. National events were unfolding that would have a direct impact on Glastonbury in the years to come. The miner’s strike had begun which was to last a year. Michael Eavis had a lot of sympathy for the miners because when he took over the farm following the death of his father he had to subsidise the farm income by working in the coal mines of North Somerset and was a member of the mineworker’s union. I remember that winter, reading in the paper that Michael had organised a truck load of Christmas presents to be sent up north for the miner’s children. It was a very bitter dispute in which Thatcher used the police as her storm troopers to smash the miners. This culminated in the Battle Of Orgreave which is still talked about to this day. “You will be next”, the police told the hippies at Stonehenge.

The police had been given the green light by Thatcher’s government to use as much force as possible to quell any opposition. It was decided that 1984 would be the last free festival at Stonehenge. In 1985 several hundred New Age Travellers in what they called the Peace Convey decided to defy this ruling and try and get to Stonehenge to celebrate the solstice as people had done throughout history. They were met by 1300 police in riot gear who had set up a roadblock seven miles from the stones. The travellers attempted to evade the roadblock by driving into a field where the notorious Battle Of The Beanfield ensued. The police went on the rampage destroying the vehicles which were these people’s homes, putting many in hospital and arresting 547 people in the biggest mass arrest since the second world war. It was a dark day in the history of the Wiltshire police. Thank god they don't behave like that these days. If you scroll down you can hear a song by Ian Dury about all this with some footage from the time. This put an end to the Stonehenge Festival but as the travellers could no longer get to Stonehenge they turned to Glastonbury as their major festival of the summer which was to be quite a headache for Michael Eavis in the years to come.

Shortly after the Battle Of The Beanfield it was Glastonbury 1985 and I was there. It had changed quite a bit since 1983. It was a lot bigger because Michael had bought the neighbouring Cockmill Farm which added an extra 100 acres to the site. There were a lot more people there as well. I think the official figure was 40.000 but it was a lot more than that. What I remember more than anything was the mud. We got in there early that year on the Wednesday and the weather was nice but on Thursday it began to rain and it rained for the rest of the weekend. In front of the Pyramid Stage it was liquid, like standing in a muddy lake. Another thing that had changed was the drug scene. In my previous four visits to Glasto there had always been pot smoking and people taking acid but it was very friendly with people sharing what they had but by 85 a very unsavoury element had arrived of gangs of drug dealers. The main walkway down towards the Pyramid became ‘Drug Alley’ with dealers carrying sticks, wearing balaclava helmets and shouting “ Hash for cash”, “Sensimelia” and other slogans. They got away with it because there were no police on the site so they could sell quite openly. There were undercover cops dressed in hippy gear on site though observing what was going on and I heard later that lots of these low-life characters got busted outside when they left the site which I was pleased about because they created a bad atmosphere for the other 99.9 % of peace loving people.

We were camped along the walkway that runs across the site in front of the Pyramid quite near that tree which is still there today that a lot of people use as a meeting point. Pete and Luciana came with us again that year. Pete was a potter and he set up a little stall selling his pots and also his painted tobacco tins. I still have one of Pete’s painted tins to this very day. Luciana made hippy type clothes which she sold when it wasn’t raining and they were quite a hit with the festival goers. You could set up a little stall in those days anywhere you liked without getting hassled by the security. That has all changed these days. Pete and Luciana’s little enterprise gave me an idea which I was to put into action in the following years but I’ll tell you about that later. The only downside to us being camped in that spot is that we set up camp not realising that when the festival got underway it would become drug alley. One day when I got back to my tent after seeing a band I found three people in my tent doing a drug deal. I wasn’t sure what to do because they looked quite heavy but Luciana came over and soon cleared them out with a few well-chosen words.

We were all poor in those dark days of Thatcher. I was on the dole in 85 so on the Saturday morning I had to hitch into Taunton to pick up my giro-cheque for my unemployment benefit. I took an empty rucksack with me. I got a lift straight away from two really nice Rasta guys who were still buzzing after seeing Third World the night before. They drove me straight to Taunton. My landlady Mrs Gregory was a bit shocked to see me all covered in mud but no matter. I got my giro and as soon as I cashed it at the post office I headed for the supermarket and bought as many cans of Carlsberg Special Brew that I could cram into my rucksack. This was a lot stronger and cheaper than the stuff they were selling on site. Then I hitched back to Glastonbury. The police were waiting outside of course and when they searched me and opened up my rucksack one of them said, “Bloody hell, you like a drink don’t you”.
Despite the appalling weather we had a good time at Glasto 85. There was some great music. I remember going right down to front to see a band called Green On Red. They had a great guitar sound and were led by Chuck Prophet. Echo And The Bunnymen also had a great guitarist called Will Seargent and the music was really good although the singer Ian McCullough was quite obnoxious in some of the things he said. The Boomtown Rats were a bit lack-lustre but Bob Geldof had other things on his mind as Glastonbury was just a couple of weeks before the huge Live Aid concert which he organised. There was a fabulous performance by the legendary Joe Cocker. It was the only time in my life I got to see him so it was worth going just to see Joe.

It was also the only time I got to see The Pogues with the one and only Shane McGowan. They didn’t have a barrier in front of the stage in those days so you could get right to the very front just a few feet away from the bands. Some cidered up idiots decided it would be funny to throw mud at the acts which Shane didn’t find very amusing. “Come on, this is supposed to be a peace festival”, said Shane. Another person to suffer from the mud-slinging was Ian Dury. Ian & The Blockheads were one of my all-time favourite bands and New Boots And Panties is still rated by me as one of the greatest albums ever. It was appalling behaviour to throw mud at Ian especially with him being a polio victim. Ian was so upset by it all that he walked off-stage in disgust. It took half an hour before he was persuaded to return and finish the show. Another band I enjoyed seeing were Jonathon Richman & The Modern Lovers on the second stage.

I can’t remember how we got off the site on the Monday morning but I do remember they had to use tractors to pull a lot of vehicles out of the mud and on to the road. Pete and Luciana gave me a lift to Bradford On Avon where their car broke down but luckily we knew somebody who got it going again. Glastonbury 86 was another eventful year but I’ll tell you about that next time.