Saturday, September 24, 2016

Glastonbury 1983. My Fourth Glastonbury.

The main thing I remember about 1983 is that it was really hot, a scorcher. We were all camped down by the pylons again. Our friend Pete from Yorkshire came down with his girlfriend Luciana and I told them not to worry about a tent because I knew where I could borrow a spare one. I didn’t look at it before the festival and when we set it up we found it was tiny. It was only about eighteen inches high. It looked like a caterpillar, the sort of thing that mountaineers used. Luckily the weather was so nice that year they seemed to manage ok.
The pub landlord Pee Wee from Trowbridge who I worked for the previous year was running the main beer tent in 83 which was a huge marquee to the right of the Pyramid Stage. I think that was the last year that they had a beer tent in the actual arena in front of the stage. Also due to new legislation brought in by Thatcher’s government this was the first year that Michael Eavis had to apply for a licence to run the event. Mendip District Council set the crowd limit at 30,000 but everyone who was there knew that there were far more people than that there due to gate crashers. This caused a few problems when he applied for a licence the following year. The festival also had its own radio station for the first time that year called Radio Avalon and it has been present every year since. In all the years I have been going to Glastonbury I don’t think I have ever listened to it.

Musically for me personally I don’t think that 1983 was a very memorable year. The act that I really wanted to see was Melanie. I had been a big fan of hers from the early 70’s and had lots of her albums such as Candles In The Rain, Leftover Wine, The Good Book and others but I had never seen her live in concert. I was really looking forward to seeing her but unfortunately I had been drinking cider all day and fell asleep before she came on. Apparently my sister Margaret tried to wake me up but I can’t remember anything about it. It wasn’t until about 2008 that I finally got to see Melanie at the Cheese & Grain in Frome which was a really nice evening. 
A band I do remember seeing was an Irish folk-rock band called Moving Hearts. They were really good. If you scroll down you can hear part of their performance. Christy Moore was a member of this group for a while but I don’t think he was with them in 83 at Glasto. I was to see some memorable performances by Christy in later years at Glastonbury but I’ll tell you about that when I get to it.

There was always a lot of reggae at those early festivals. It was the dance music of the time. There were tents pumping out dub reggae all night long. On the Pyramid Stage Dennis Brown played, backed by Aswad who always seemed to be on at Glasto. I also remember Marillion playing who were really big at the time. Curtis Mayfield was there but I only have a vague recollection of his performance. I also have a very dim memory of the veteran American folk singer Tom Paxton being there. He was one of the protest singers from the 60’s so had a lot of empathy with the CND ethos of Glastonbury. I wonder if he thought it was strange though if he thought he was coming to some sort of political rally type event and found out that it was a hedonistic sex, drugs and rock n roll fest with a couple of political speeches thrown into the mix.

The act that closed the festival in 83 was King Sunny Ade who was an exponent of JuJu music from Nigeria. Some people talked really highly of him afterwards but I’m afraid I can’t recall any of it. I am usually the great rememberer but I think 1983 was a bit of a wipe-out for me probably due to the cider intake.  I’ll try and do better next time.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Glastonbury 1982. My Third Glastonbury.

We were back at Glasto in 1982 which was really 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 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. It was 34 years ago.
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 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 Afghan hound called Alf one year and as soon as he arrived and took Alf’s lead off he ran away. He didn’t return until Monday morning when Alf 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; it was so peaceful. They were outside though and searched anybody going in at random which might have been illegal and they 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 but I’ll talk about that later. 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 but I can’t remember his performance. All I know is that he must have been quite drunk by the time he got on stage. Roy Harper returned to Glastonbury on Saturday afternoon but this year there was no punch-up as in the previous year of 81.

The highlight for me on Saturday was Van Morrison’s magnificent 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 memorable performance then got straight back in the car and was driven away immediately. It would be five long years till Van returned 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.

Sunday was another great day of music. The highlights for me were firstly seeing The Chieftains for the only time in my life. I’m not sure if seven creamy pints came out on a tray but they deserved one because they certainly got the audience dancing with the jigs and reels. After them there was a fabulous set by Jackson Browne who had been on the site all weekend enjoying the festival. There was also a fabulous 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. By the way, if you look at the poster there was a little known band from Ireland booked to play by the name of U2 but they never turned up. I wonder whatever became of them!

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. Anyway that’s all I can remember about Glasto 82 for now. If you scroll down you can see some nice footage of Glastonbury 82.  I’ll tell you about 83 next time.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Glastonbury 1981. My Second Glastonbury Festival

After 79 there wasn’t another festival at Glastonbury until 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 phenomena 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 also Emily Eavis was born. Both these events concentrated the mind of Michael Eavis. Concerned about the threat of nuclear war he had joined CND (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 though 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 liked. It was still quite empty when we arrived so we just drove the car in there and parked up in front of the stage and put our tents up next to the car. It was really hot that year. A really 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!

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. (You can see some footage of that if you scroll down, it is quite funny) I also have a vague recollection of the great Taj Mahal playing on the last night and I think he might have sang a song called CND Blues but he did play again another year so I might have that confused. It was 35 years ago after all. All the acts were introduced by a Radio 1 DJ called Pete Drummond. He was almost as famous in his day as John Peel. I remember him because he was camped there all weekend with his wife Celia who had been in a folk-rock band I liked called The Trees.

One last memory I have of 1981 is 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! ( I just realised that incident happened in 82 not 81, sorry about that )

Anyway, I can’t remember anything else about Glasto 1981 at the moment. I’ll add more later if I think of it. We were back in 1982 which was really memorable. Also in 82 I actually took a camera so next time I’ll be able to show you some of my own photos. Cheers.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

My First Glastonbury 1979.

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 realised 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. 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  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 sleeping bags ‘Dossbags’. You just rolled up your dossbag 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 crash out 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 really peaceful compared to other outdoor music events that I had been to. That festival was one of only two occasions I can remember when they didn’t have the Pyramid Stage. The other time was in 94 when it burned down shortly before the festival. 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 Facebooking 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. I really wish I had taken a camera with me though. All the photos in this story are from Google Images.

It was still called Glastonbury Fayre in 79 and was in aid of the United Nations 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. She 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.

Another 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. Nobody would dream of abandoning their tents back then, 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 though, 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 really good. I remember Steve Hillage as well because I had one of his albums. The only song of his I can really 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 really 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 synthesizers accompanied by a laser beam display.
That festival was a financial disaster unfortunately and there wasn’t to be another Glasto till 1981 but I’ll tell you about that next time.