Friday, November 04, 2016

Glastonbury 1989, My Eighth Glastonbury. 'The Day The Music Fried'.

I had moved to Westbury by the time Glastonbury 89 happened. I went on the train that year to Castle Cary and then shared a taxi to Pilton with some other people I met at the station. I don’t think the shuttle bus service was as well organised in those days as it is now. I soon found our gang down in Glebeland. There were friends from Bradford On Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury, London, Nottingham and Peterborough. That year it was scorching hot for the whole weekend.
There had been growing problems at Glastonbury for a few years now. I think this had been caused by Thatcherism which had turned Britain into a nation of the rich and the poor. There were 4,000,000 people unemployed and a major bi-product of poverty is crime. The problems of the deprived inner-cities were transported for a few days every summer to the beautiful Somerset countryside. This was made worse by the fact that word had spread about how easy it was to gate-crash the biggest party in the country. Michael had done his best to control matters by putting up signs saying THE SALE OF DRUGS IS PROHIBITED etc but those signs probably ended up on campfires. It was decided that in 1989 the police would be allowed to patrol the site. A lot of people were a bit apprehensive about this, thinking the police would turn up mob-handed with riot shields and there would be a confrontation but as it turned out they were good and after a while people realised that they were a great benefit to the festival. For one thing, the drug gangs gradually disappeared. They were still there but not in people’s faces any more. The trouble was though that there weren’t enough police to deal with another growing problem which was thieving from tents. This would get worse and worse for the next ten years or more until it was finally dealt with but more of that later.

Margaret and Wayne always went to Glasto early and they transported all my books down there. I had lots of hippy type books which I thought would appeal to the festival goers. A friend called Duncan said he would bring along a couple of boxes of books to add to my stall. When I saw what he had brought along I was very dubious at first but amazingly they all sold. I realised that Glasto people were basically like everyone else and I could sell books on virtually any subject. I remember selling a book on breeding pigs and even Ronnie Barker’s Book Of Sauce. A friend called Mary asked me if I would sell some of her home-made candles and herbal remedies on my stall. That turned out to be a bit of a disaster. I didn’t manage to sell any of her herbs and in the heat her candles wilted into a bit of a congealed  mess. I had to explain that to poor Mary when I got home.
Camping in Glebeland we were quite handy for the theatre/cabaret tent and walking past there one afternoon I saw there was a comedian on who I had never heard of before. He was Scottish and called Jerry Sadowitz. He was the most offensive but also the funniest comic I had ever seen. He said things like, “Terry Waite, he’s a bastard, I leant him a fiver and I haven’t seen him since. (Terry Waite was a hostage in Lebanon at the time) The hole in the ozone layer was a big environmental issue at the time and Jerry said, “F...k the ozone layer, I’m enjoying the nice weather”. At the end of his act he said, “I have been paid £2,000 to appear here, that’s your money. I’m going to put it on a dog in the first race on Monday and guess what, it’s going to lose”.

Musically the highlight for me again was Van Morrison. It was hot but Van kept his jacket on throughout his performance, he must have been sweating buckets. In a review in the music papers it was described as ‘The day the music fried’. During Van’s act an air-ambulance helicopter landed to the left of the stage to take someone to hospital. It kicked up a huge cloud of dust but Van didn’t appear to notice. He just played on regardless. I remember an Irish band called Hot House Flowers playing. They were quite popular at the time and Adam Clayton of U2 turned up and played bass with them. Suzanne Vega wore a bullet proof jacket during her performance because she had received a death threat. There were quite a few African acts on at Glastonbury in those days because world music was getting quite a following. This was due to Pete Gabriel to a large extent and Pete was there with Youssou N'Dour from Senegal. Another African musician who went down a storm was Fela Kuti. I think 89 was the year I saw the Bhundu Boys as well. They were a guitar band from Zimbabwe who played infectious danceable music that the crowd loved.

There was lots of room for camping back in 1989, so much so that we even had a game of cricket on the Sunday evening. I think that would be impossible these days. I remember it vividly because I was batting and I spun around to hit the ball and collapsed in agony on the grass. Something had gone in my back. It took ages to recover from that. Next afternoon Wayne and Margaret gave me a lift home. That brought Glastonbury in the 1980’s to a close. A new decade dawned which was to prove to be a very challenging ten years for Glastonbury and I was there to witness all of it.



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