Thursday, October 18, 2018

Seeing Van In Torquay.

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 x

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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

My Glastonbury Festival Memories: Chapter 4. 1983

Chapter 4. 1983. Hot, Hot Hot.

The main thing I remember about 1983 is that it was 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, but 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 highlight for me was 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. 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 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 nice evening. A band I do remember seeing was an Irish folk-rock band called Moving Hearts. They were good. 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.

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 big at the time. Curtis Mayfield was also 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 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.

Monday, September 10, 2018

My Glastonbury Festival Memories: Chapter 5, 1985

Chapter 5. 1985, Battle of The Beanfield.

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 twenty-two 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. They 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 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 people’s homes, putting many in hospital and arresting 547 people in the biggest mass arrest since the second world war. 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 has 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 % 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 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 two years later. I’ll tell you about that in a bit. 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 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 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 Sargent 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. 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 Jonathan 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.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

My Glastonbury Festival Memories: Chapter 6, 1986

Chapter 6. 1986, Dried Scorpions & The Hand Of God.

 Glastonbury 86 was another eventful year. I went with my sister Margaret and her two kids Katherine and Dominic. We had just one problem, 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. 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 camp 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. Also, it was handy for the Kidz Field which had moved to where it is today. I think that 85 might have been the year when Dominic won a prize for being the muddiest boy in the Kidz Field, but 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. This was a trick in which a device with a wound up elastic band was secreted inside a folded-up piece of cardboard that had 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 get far from the madding crowd. The Tipi 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 100 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 Miner’s 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 nearly forgotten now but they sang a great song called Radio Africa. 86 was also the first of many occasions when I saw The Waterboys. 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.

Seeing Van In Torquay.

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