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.