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.

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