Sunday, January 08, 2017

Glastonbury 1997, My Fourteenth Glastonbury

When the festival returned in 1997  eighteen long years had passed since my first Glasto in 1979 and in all that time the Conservatives had ruled Britain. The dark age was finally over. In May the Labour Party won the election by a landslide and it was time to party. Sadly the weather that year was bad. There was a lot of rain even before the gates opened and the festival site became a mud bath. It was raining when we arrived and it is quite a miserable experience putting up a tent in the rain. Not to worry, as soon as I managed to get the tent sorted out Kim dived in it and poured some wine. The NME stage by now had become known as the ‘Other’ stage and I think that was the muddiest area. It looked like a lake in front of the stage and some performances on that stage were cancelled because the stage was sinking into the mud.
1997 was the first year that Glasto was broadcast on the BBC which would have a big influence in years to come on the type of audience it attracted. Also, a good performance at Glasto could propel an act to being world famous overnight because of the huge TV audience. On the other hand sadly a lot of acts have used Glasto to boost their flagging careers. I think that the weather might have put off a few of the ticketless gate-crashers that year but not many and it certainly didn’t put off the tent thieves. Robbery from tents was even worse than ever. There were two girls camped near us who we befriended. We called them the ‘Posh birds’ because of their accents and they wore Barbour jackets and caps and looked like they were at the Badminton Horse Trials rather than Glasto. They were very friendly though. They even had a lock on their tent but that didn’t stop the thieves cutting into the tent with a knife and robbing them.

My friends Jacky & Bill’s daughter went that year with her boyfriend Craig. He had come specifically to see The Prodigy who were the most popular band in Britain at the time. It was blowing a gale on the Friday night when they were on. They were introduced by a comedian called Dennis Pennis who was a bit of an idiot. When they did their big hit Firestarter I said to Craig, “I like that song, but what’s it all about, what is the message?”. “Well, it’s all about starting fires”, replied Craig.

Despite the weather there were some great bands on in 97. I really enjoyed The Smashing Pumpkins on the Friday night although I didn’t know anything about them previously. Beck was on as well. I really liked him and had his album Odelay. In the beer tents on all the pint containers they had printed, I’m a boozer baby, so why don’t you fill me’ as a tribute to Beck’s song Loser. Echo And The Bunnymen were also on Friday. They are a great band but it always seemed to rain when they were on at Glastonbury. On the Saturday me and Kim met up with a work friend of hers and we watched Nanci Griffiths from a distance ( From A Distance was one of her big hits !) and then Ray Davies from The Kinks. He is an arrogant git but brilliant musically. I made a big mistake in the evening because we were part of a tiny audience in the Acoustic Stage watching Nick Lowe. I was right at the front and kept shouting out requests for The Beast In Me which must have pissed him off because he never sang it. We had a bit of a dance though to I Knew The Bride, When She Used To Rock And Roll. The mistake I made was that although Nick was great, on the main stage Radiohead were playing one of the legendary sets of all time and I missed it. This was the performance that took them from being great to being one of the top bands in the world.

The sun finally came out on Sunday afternoon which created a great relaxed atmosphere and there was some fabulous music. Kula Shakur had replaced Neil Young who couldn’t play because he had broken a finger which was a shame. They were great though and even played a Neil Young song but I can’t remember which one it was. Sheryl Crowe was on as well, she was really good and Van ‘The Man’ Morrison had returned. I have written about his performance in my previous book so I won’t go into it all again but just add that he was on great form and in a good mood. Van changed the words of one song to Whenever Sir Cliff Shines His Light On Me and in his song Summertime In England he referenced the surrounding towns such as Shepton Mallet. At the end of his set Van walked around the stage holding the microphone stand above his head before slamming it down on the stage and walking off in triumph. What a great performance. Steve Winwood was supposed to be on last but he didn’t turn up and was replaced by Ash. Me and Kim didn’t watch them though, we went and saw the Bootleg Beatles who were great and I bet if you took enough drugs you would swear they were the real thing.


The car-parks at Glastonbury are all on grass which is ok normally but if it rains all weekend then it can be a disaster. On Monday afternoon when me and Kim reached the car-park it resembled the Battle Of Verdun in World War 1. I thought we would never get out of there. Luckily for us though most cars had already gone and they had left a little green square where they had been parked. Kim drove and I carefully guided her from green patch to green patch until we reached the road way. Once on the road we were home two hours later and Glasto was over for another year. Little did we realise what 1998 had in store!