Sunday, October 16, 2016

Glastonbury 1985. My Fifth Glastonbury.

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 over twenty 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. It was 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 a 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 these people’s homes, putting many in hospital and arresting 547 people in the biggest mass arrest since the second world war. It was a dark day in the history of the Wiltshire police. Thank god they don't behave like that these days. If you scroll down you can hear a song by Ian Dury about all this with some footage from the time. 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 had 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 99.9 % 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 also 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 in the following years but I’ll tell you about that later. 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 really 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 up 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 Seargent 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 and 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 Jonathon 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. Glastonbury 86 was another eventful year but I’ll tell you about that next time.