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.