Friday, December 16, 2016

Review: Crazy Dancing Days by Keith Christmas.

It has been a long wait for a new album from Keith Christmas since Live At The Pump in 2012 so I was very pleased when Crazy Dancing Days popped through my letter box yesterday. The twelve songs on the album are all written by Keith and I think this is the first album of completely new material that he has produced in decades.
On opening the package which incidentally arrived only three days after I had ordered it, (I wish everyone I bought stuff from online was this prompt) I discovered a most attractively designed CD featuring a Mud Dance drip painting by Frank Marino Baker. There is also a photo by Tony Lock and Keith had also taken the time to sign my copy.

The opening track Crazy Dancing Days demonstrates what a virtuoso guitarist Keith is, as does every track on the album. In the lyrics, he mentions playing at Les Cousins. This was a folk club in Greek Street in Soho where everybody who was anybody in the folk music world of the 60’s played. It was famous for its all-night sessions. The song is a nostalgic look back to those heady days. There is quite a political message to this album as shown by the second song Cross The Water which is an impassioned plea for us to be more sympathetic to refugees. Sadly, a message that I fear is falling on deaf ears these days, especially in Brexit Britain. Flow Through Me is a great song which as I interpret the lyrics is about Keith getting the muse again during a trip to France and after years of writers block suddenly starts channeling songs. I often think that with artistic people that the inspiration doesn’t come from them, it flows through them and often even they don’t understand where it comes from. I suppose in the old days the next song Welcome To The End Of The World (One More Time) would be called a ‘Protest’ song. I think we could do with a few more protest songs these days.

 I am glad that the next two songs, Haul It Up and Sail With The Sun sit next to each other on the album because they seem to complement each other very nicely indeed. Both are awash with nautical references. I think you can tell that Keith lives by the coast. Talking To The Dead (Again) is a wonderful poignant song with Keith reflecting on the life of an old friend.
The political themes return in the next three songs. When The New Man Comes To Power seems very topical to me with the unspeakable one about to be installed as USA President. After watching the news about what is happening in Aleppo at the moment I think that King Of The Ruined Castle could easily refer to Assad but that’s just my interpretation. I have seen Keith perform If The Young Don’t March at the Village Pump fest and thinking what a great song it is. I’m not sure if I exactly agree though. It wasn’t the young who voted for Brexit, also I think there are a lot of marches and demos going on but it doesn’t get the coverage in the biased media. Jeremy Corbyn certainly got huge crowds of youngsters at his rallies during his leadership campaign.

Cover It Up features some frenetic guitar playing and sounds like quite an angry song. By complete contrast the last song Small Brass Box is a beautiful mellow ballad inspired by mementos of his parents. I loved this song on first listen. If a retrospective best of Keith Christmas album is ever issued in the future then I think this song would certainly deserve to be included on it.
I have really enjoyed listening to this album the last two days and Keith should be really proud of his achievement. If you would like to find out more about Keith Christmas then go to his website here-

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Glastonbury 1994. My Twelfth Glastonbury

I’m proud to say that 1994 was the only time I ever climbed over the fence to get into the festival. Every other year I bought a ticket or worked there. We had failed to get tickets so Kim agreed that I could go with Dave and Paul. It was already evening time when they arrived at ours. Before we set off we watched Ireland play Mexico in the World Cup. Mexico won 2-1 but John Aldridge scored a vital goal which got Ireland through to the next round. Anyway, that is by the by. It was already dark by the time we got to Pilton. Dave just drove straight past the car-park attendants so that was the first problem solved. Then we sneaked along the perimeter, undercover of the night until we found a nice quiet spot to begin the assault of the fence. We gave each other a leg up to the top of the fence and then sat on the top and grabbed the last person who took a run at the fence. Then a quick dash across no man’s land to the new inner fence. This was a bit lower but quite awkward as it was wire and harder to clamber up. In my panic to get over it before being spotted by the security I managed to stab myself in the palm of the hand on a loose bit of wire. We dashed for the safety of the crowds inside, tripping over tent pegs and guy ropes as we ran. Once we knew that we were safely inside we stopped and I looked at my hand. It was bleeding profusely with a triangle of loose skin flapping about on my hand. I knew I had to get it bandaged so I went to one of the Medical Centres.
“You climbed over the fence, didn’t you”, said the nurse.
“How do you know that?”, I replied.
“Because that is the eighth injured hand I have seen today”, she answered, with a knowing smile.

Before I get to the good stuff, apart from stabbing myself, there was one other bad incident that I remember that year and that was the shooting incident in the market area. Apparently, it was caused by an argument between two drug dealers. One of them pulled out a gun and started spraying bullets around and several innocent bystanders got hit in the crossfire. I think about five people ended up in hospital but luckily nobody got killed or seriously injured. I want to make it quite clear that this was an isolated incident that had never happened before or in the years since. Glastonbury Festival is one of the most peaceful places in Britain. There has always been a great feeling of tolerance and good behaviour at Glasto. There is quite a lot of drunkenness to be seen but it is all good natured and I have never personally witnessed any violence. Anyway, me and my niece Lee went to have a look at the scene of the shooting and the police had roped off the area where the gun play had occurred and inside the ropes there were two blokes pretending to have a boxing match which was quite funny.

There was no Pyramid Stage in 94 because it had mysteriously burnt down just a couple of weeks before the festival. Luckily, they managed to find another stage in time for the festival but it didn’t seem the same without the pyramid which didn’t reappear for another six years. In 94 as well they tried to go all eco-friendly and had a huge wind-turbine by the stage to generate the power. I don’t think it was a big success though because I don't think it was seen again in subsequent years.
Musically my outstanding memory of 94 was the performance by the man in black, namely Johnny Cash. He appeared on the Sunday afternoon and was accompanied to the site by the Bishop Of Bath & Wells, the reverend Jim Thompson who had shown Johnny all the sacred places such as Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey. I spotted Jim standing at the side of the stage with DJ Andy Kershaw. Johnny Cash was absolutely blown away by the warm reception he got from the huge crowd. It must have been the largest audience that he had ever played to in his long career. This was the first year that Glastonbury was televised and so I have enjoyed watching Johnny Cash’s performance many times since. I think my favourite song was Sunday Morning Coming Down. Also, The Beast In Me which was written by another Glastonbury legend called Nick Lowe. Actually, I enjoyed every song of his brilliant set. The audience loved it as well, especially when he shouted out, “My name is Sue”, and 100,000 people replied, “How do you do”. Also during a song called Let The Train Blow The Whistle the crowd joined in by spontaneously making train noises at the end of every verse. He was also joined by his wife June Carter for a couple of songs. It was sad when they both died less than ten years later. For me personally that performance is in my top five Glastonbury appearances of all time.

Other acts who I remember from that year included Peter Gabriel who brought the festival to a close on the Sunday and Irish singer Mary Black and her band. She couldn’t believe the reception she got either. I think it must have been the greatest gig of her career. I also really like Bjork who was on the NME stage on the Saturday. Oasis were on as well but I don't think I saw them. Another person I would really have liked to have seen was Iris Dement who was on the Acoustic Stage. I had never heard of her in those days though but have become a big fan since.

When we got back to Westbury we went straight in the pub and after one pint discovered we were broke after blowing all our money at Glasto. Dave just had 20 pence on him. “Give me that 20p Dave and I’ll get us £10”. I walked over the Quiz machine and put in the 20 pence and a minute later we had £10 for more pints. Dave couldn’t believe it. Anyway, that was the end of Glastonbury 1994. The following year was to be even more eventful !

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Glastonbury 1993. My Eleventh Glastonbury.

If anyone tells you that it is always rainy and muddy at Glastonbury don’t believe them because after 1990 it didn’t rain again until 1997. In 1993 we were all back again in the same area of the site and it was another scorching hot year. Near us in 93 there was a burger van, it was designed to look like a great big burger. A man served burgers from it for about six days. By Sunday night he looked completely frazzled. I think anybody would after spending nearly a week inside a burger!
Lou Reed was back again for the second year running but this time as part of a reformed Velvet Underground. We were really looking forward to seeing one of the most influential bands of all time. Sadly though, they didn’t live up to expectations. To me they sounded tinny and dated. Thousands of people had gone along to see them after reading about how important they were, but after a few songs people started leaving to go to other stages. It must have been very disappointing for the band seeing the audience start to leave. The other thing for me was that there was no Nico because she was a major part of what made them great but unfortunately Nico had died five years earlier. At Glasto John Cale did all of Nico’s vocals but it wasn’t the same. The Velvets broke up again shortly after that tour of 93 and Sterling Morrison died in 95.

I went to the Theatre Tent with Dominic to see Attilla The Stockbroker with John Otway. I had Otway’s autobiography on my bookstall and I thought if I got Otway to sign it I would get more money for it but I didn’t get the opportunity. They were hilarious though. The highlight for me was Otway singing ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ and Attilla translating it into German. At the end Attilla said that he had heard that Otway had voted Conservative in the election so he gave him several headbutts by bashing his head into the microphone.
Another act that I really enjoyed was Christy Moore who was on the Pyramid Stage before Lenny Kravitz and The Kinks. Christy’s first song was ‘Welcome To The Cabaret’ and Christy said in his self-deprecating manner. “Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen for coming along to hear The Kinks and Lenny Kravitz and Christy Moore, I’ve never heard of him before!”.

The stone circle had been put in place in Kings Meadow in 92 which became a very popular area for watching the sunrise from. We used to spend a lot of time up at that end of the site which was much more peaceful than down in the Babylon of the main arena. There was a nice wine place in the Field Of Avalon. I think it was called Avalon Organic Wine which was cheaper than from the other wine outlets which charged £8 for a plastic half size bottle. The other place we really liked was the Acoustic Stage which was nice and shady from the hot sun. I enjoyed lots of bands in there but often I didn’t have a clue who they were. Sharon Shannon was kicking up a storm in there though on her accordion. I was so impressed I bought one of her albums called Blackbird.

There was a band on in 93 who we knew from Wiltshire called Citizen Fish. The singer was Dick who was also in the Sub-Humans. I think they played on the Avalon Stage. I never saw them but we met Dick wandering around in the crowd one evening and had a bit of a chat. There were lots of great acts that year such as Robert Plant, The Verve, The Orb Midnight Oil, Stereo MC’S, Teenage Fanclub and many more but my memory of it all is very hazy. Van Morrison did his usual Sunday afternoon slot and one thing I particularly remember about that was Kate St John doing the G-L-O-R-I-A elocution lessons during Gloria. I think Van finished his usual brilliant set with All In The Game, In The Garden and Daring Night. I always used the feel that musically the festival was over for me after seeing Van. Nothing could top Van The Man.
People had continued to pour over the fence in 93. If the official figure was 100,000 people, you can be sure the actual attendance was at least 150.000. It was hard for people to find room to put a tent up. It was so crowded, tents were being put up right near the smelly toilets. In order to get a licence for 94 Michael promised to build a double fence to keep out the gatecrashers. This was to prove to have both dramatic and painful consequences for me personally. We were back again in 94 and that year had one of the most memorable performances ever. You can find out about all this next time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: Van Morrison At The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham November 28th 2016

Van Morrison returned to Nottingham after a nine year absence to play a sell out concert at the Royal Concert Hall on Monday. The Celtic soul brother and his excellent six piece band  didn’t disappoint the audience with a great ninety minute show. The band are Mez Clough on drums,Dave Keary on guitars and pedal steel guitar, Paul Moore on bass, Paul Moran on keyboards and trumpet  and Dana Masters and Sumudu on backing vocals. I think this was Sumudu’s first concert with Van and she must have been nervous but herself and Dana were great.
Van began with two songs of his fine new album Keep Me Singing which were Too Late & Every Time I See A River. Van then showed what an accomplished sax player he is with the wonderful Higher Than The World. 
I didn’t particularly enjoy the Las Vegas style version of Have I Told You Lately but Dana was great with her vocal contribution. One of Van’s greatest love songs is Someone Like You and himself and the girls were very impressive on this song. Open The Door ( To Your Heart) was next and Dave Keary & Paul Moran excelled themselves on that one. Carrying A Torch was followed by Moondance/ My Funny Valentine and then a splendid medley of  Baby Please Don't Go / Don't Start Cryin' Now / Gimme Some Lovin / Here Comes The Night. Dave Keary was again very good on the guitar. 
Whenever God Shines His Light  isn't one of my personal favourites but then Wild Night was splendid with the backing singers being really effective. Beautiful Vision was a highlight for me with the whole band making a contribution and Dave Keary in particular playing some really nice pedal steel guitar which I had never witnessed him do before. Two Van classics  Tore Down a la Rimbaud & Sometimes We Cry were next and I know some Van fans don’t like  Precious Time but this Nottingham audience loved it. The great songs continued with I Can't Stop Loving You followed by Crazy Love, Full Force Gale & Enlightenment which I never tire of hearing. I don’t really like the version of  Brown Eyed Girl that was served up and I wish that  In The Garden had been stretched out a bit longer as Van often does with this song. He left the stage to return for a rousing  Gloria before departing again still singing, to leave the band to bash away at their instruments for several minutes while Van made a sharp exit from the building.

We retired to a nearby pub for a well deserved drink and I reflected on the concert. It wasn't the greatest Van show I have ever been to by any means but even an average Van Morrison show is better than any other singer on the planet so I am really pleased that I made the effort to go all the way to the fine city of Nottingham on a cold November Monday. A big hand for the band and lets do it all again soon.

Thank you to Fiona for the photos.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Glastonbury 1992, My Tenth Glastonbury.

Plans for a festival in 91 were cancelled. Michael Eavis had a lot to put up with. The local Conservative MP Mr Heathcoat-Amory did his best to get the festival closed down. Also, there was this woman called Mrs Anne Goode who had moved to Pilton. She was a Christian and claimed there were satanic rituals going on and other nonsense. She even had a 30 foot high cross erected on her land over-looking the festival. I have heard, although I don’t know if it is true that these days her daughter rents out their land for luxury camping. How times have changed.  By the time Glastonbury returned in 92 it was getting extremely difficult to get tickets. They had sold like hot cakes. I have already written about our visit to Worthy Farm to collect our tickets from Jean Eavis in my book Vanatic, The Story Of A Van Morrison Fan so I won’t recount the whole story again, except to say that the meeting with Jean was to prove fateful for us six years later. By 1992 Kim and I were living together in our flat in Maristow Street so there was no way I could find an excuse to go on my own as I had selfishly done in previous years. Also, me going with Sara two years earlier had taken a lot of explaining away. The other advantage for me of going with Kim was that her little Fiat Panda had just enough room to squeeze my books in for my bookstall.

Car parking was now well established outside the perimeter. As soon as we arrived in the car-park we were hassled by Hare Krishna’s who wanted contributions for their free food tent. The gates were much better organised by now with proper turnstiles and much friendlier people to greet you on arrival. There was still a lot of wheeling and dealing going on outside though with dodgy geezers selling tickets or getting people in, under, over or through the fence by various means. Once inside we soon spotted Margaret’s bunting surrounding our camping area. The happy Glebeland years were over for us now because that area was no longer a campsite. In 92 we were just the other side of the hedge from where The Glade dance area is now, although The Glade didn’t exist till 2000. We were in a nice spot just off the main drag which was handy for my books and the weather was great in 92. The Hare Krishna tent was just down from us and the queue for their free grub got longer every day as peoples money ran out. We never ate their food though. Me and Kim used to like going to the Wise Crone CafĂ© in the Field Of Avalon which used to have music on in there as well as nice food. Kim really liked the Tiny Tea Tent as well which is still going to this very day.  Across the walkway from us were some Australian girls who were selling hats which they had made themselves. Some of the hats were really tall and others were like jesters hats. They did a roaring trade and those types of hat became very popular for the next few years. You needed a hat that year because it was so hot. I bought one to keep the sun off my head, not from the Aussies but from another stall. It was a nice hippy type hat. The sort of thing a Mongolian goatherd or someone like that might wear. I only had it about two days though. Passing a water tap I thought I’d stick my head under the water to cool off and I put my hat down for just a minute. When I turned around my hat had disappeared. The scallies (thieves) were starting to be everywhere.
I had my books all displayed nicely and priced up. Kim was amazed at how well they sold. Then my friend Dave decided to get in on the act. He had brought along two bin-bags of books of much inferior quality to mine. Things like Haynes car manuals which he proceeded to tip out all over my stall and started shouting, “Any book, 50 pence!”. I had to nip that in the bud pronto and made him flog his wares a few yards away. We had a lot of fun on the bookstall though and on the Sunday evening gave the last few away to passers-by to save the hassle of lugging them home again.

There was no travellers field in 92. After the battle of 1990 Michael Eavis stood his ground and refused to let them in. It was a shame in a way because a lot of them were just peaceful hippies but unfortunately an unruly element had attached themselves to the New Age Travellers. Another much more sinister lot had started arriving at Glastonbury and that was the scally who had come to rob from tents. Some of the bands who were on such as Carter USM and The Levellers said it was a shame that the travellers were no longer welcome. Anyway, to the music I saw in 92. One act that really stands out in my memory was the late, great Lou Reed. Me, Dave, Nelly, Fred & Kim went for a huge walk all over the site and when we reached the Pyramid Stage Lou was on. He performed a great set including Sweet Jane, Walk On The Wild Side, Rock & Roll and finally Vicious. We knew he would be back for an encore and me and Dave had a little wager on what song he would sing. I won with Satellite Of Love and Dave actually paid up!.

By Sunday afternoon there is always a chilled-out atmosphere at Glasto which is just perfect for Van Morrison. Kim and I got right to the front for Van. It was so hot that the security on the other side of the barrier were spraying the crowd with water to cool them down and handing out cups of water. A lot of these got thrown up in the air which was quite amusing. Tom Jones was on after Van but we didn’t bother watching Tom. Glastonbury didn’t used to be all that popular with youngsters who thought it was a boring old hippy fest. In 1992 though they introduced the NME Stage which had acts like Primal Scream, The Orb, Spiritualised, Blur and The Shamen. Gradually Glastonbury became cool to go to, especially later when the Dance Tent was introduced. The only act I can remember seeing on that stage in 92 was Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart featuring Sinead O’Connor who were great.

The day after we got home me and Kim went down to the coast to chill out for a couple of days and camped at Durdle Door. When we walked over the hill we discovered Lulworth Cove was packed with Glastonbury people who all had the same idea. We even met someone who we knew from Glasto. Anyway, I can’t remember anything else about Glastonbury 1992 at the moment. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Glastonbury 1990, My Ninth Glastonbury. Showdown At Yeoman's Bridge.

In 1990 I went with a friend called Sara from Westbury. It was pouring rain when we got to the station in Westbury. “Oh no, It’s going to be a muddy year”, I said to Sara. As it turned out it wasn’t too bad at all, certainly not one of the famous muddy years anyway. I had a ticket for the festival but Sara didn’t. I don’t think she even had a train ticket either but the train was so packed it was impossible for them to check the tickets. I don’t know where Michael hired the security on the gate from that year but they were quite an unsavoury aggressive bunch. They were searching everyone’s bags looking for stuff that they could confiscate for themselves. It worked to our advantage though because while they were going through my rucksack Sara sneaked past on their blind side and just strolled through the gate with no problems.
I don’t think 1990 was musically very memorable, not for me anyway. Because of the problems the festival had encountered Michael Eavis had decided to promote the theatre side of the attractions and had called it ‘The Glastonbury Festival Of  Contemporary Performing Arts’. If he hoped that this would attract a different type of audience then it failed. The New Age Travellers turned up in even greater numbers and had their own ‘Free’ festival in their field and people continued to climb over the fence to get in. The act that everyone was talking about that year was a circus act called Archaos. They were French and did all sorts of dangerous stunts such as juggling with live chainsaws, motorbike walls of death and high-wire acts. Apparently they were performing acrobatics all over the roof of the Pyramid Stage and above the crowd but I didn’t bother watching any of it.

Of the bands that appeared, The Happy Mondays caused a lot of bother backstage by smuggling people in their bus, forging backstage passes, laminating them and giving them to any Tom, Dick or Harry who wanted one. That band were said by some to be responsible for bringing an undesirable element to Glasto which got worse in subsequent years but I think it is a bit harsh to blame them. The Cure were the top headlining band but I didn’t like them much. Ry Cooder was someone who I admired and I had a couple of his albums but I think I might have been asleep when he was on. 1990 for me was the year of discovering the joys of the Acoustic Stage. It was the first of many times I saw John Otway at Glastonbury although I had witnessed his madness many times previously. Davy Spillane was there as well. He is a uilleann pipe player from Ireland. It was a good year for pipe players because I enjoyed Katherine Tickell from Northumberland as well. Roy Harper of punch-up with Ginger Baker fame played the Acoustic Stage that year and it was absolutely packed for him. We listened from outside. On the World Music stage I saw Ladysmith Black Mambazo who sang really well and did enormous leaps into the air.

1990 was the year I made enough money on my bookstall to go straight to Ireland afterwards. On Monday afternoon I got back to Westbury, had a shower and a change of clothes and headed straight back to the station and caught the train to Fishguard  and the ferry to Rosslare. I was pleased to find that the train and boat were wedged with Irish music fans on their way home from Glastonbury. The craic was mighty as they say. As the boat sailed towards Ireland all seemed well in the world but unknown to me  back on Worthy Farm a riot had broken out between the unpleasant security guards and the New Age Travellers. This became known as the Battle Of Yeoman’s Bridge. The police had to deal with it and there were dozens of arrests and lots of damage. Was this the end of the road for Glastonbury?. There was to be no festival in 1991.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Fifty Years Ago Today. November 5th 1966.

I know exactly what I was doing on November 5th 1966 because it was Bonfire night and I had some money left from my 15th birthday but I wasn't going to spend it on fireworks. I had a much better idea of what to spend my money on. That afternoon I made my way to Boots store in Bridge Street and made a beeline for the record department up the far end and looked at the Top 20 for that week.
2) STOP, STOP, STOP Hollies
6) HIGH TIME Paul Jones
7) NO MILK TODAY Herman's Hermits
8) GUANTANAMERA Sandpipers
9) BEND IT Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich
10) TIME DRAGS BY Cliff Richard
14) A FOOL AM I Cilla Black
16) I'M A BOY The Who
17) ALL I SEE IS YOU Dusty Springfield
18) ALL THAT I AM Elvis Presley
I knew exactly the one I wanted. I had been a Beach Boys fan for two years already since hearing I Get Around in an amusement arcade in Cromer in 1964. The Beach Boys had already had three top ten hits in 66 with Barbara Ann, Sloop John B and God Only Knows. The new song was straight in the charts at Number 15 and I hadn't heard it yet. "Can I have Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys please", I said to the girl and paid 6/8p (six shillings and eight pence). I pocketed my 3/4p change and hurried back up Bridge Street clutching my precious record. There was a man on the corner of Cathedral Square selling the Evening Telegraph and the Pink 'Un.
" How did Posh get on?",I asked him."They drew 1-1 with Bristol Rovers",he replied. I crossed the square and headed up Long Causeway and Broadway,past the Odean Cinema which was showing 'Finders Keepers' starring Cliff Richard. It was rubbish, we had seen it that week because I had won free tickets in the 99 Club in the Evening Telegraph. I ran up Park Road past my school The Kings School Peterborough kicking the fallen chestnut leaves along the pavement.It was a dark and windy evening now with just the odd rocket exploding in the gathering dusk. I got home and went straight to the front room and put on my new record and lay on the settee to listen. I was amazed.It was the best song I had ever heard in my life. I couldn't believe it. After one listen I knew that music had taken a quantum leap to another level. Nobody had made a record this sophisticated before. It was a mini-symphony of three and a half minutes. If Mozart had been alive in 1966 he would have listened with admiration to this song. When it ended I played it again, lying on the floor with my head near the speaker listening intently to sounds I had never heard before such as the theremin which was an instrument I had never even heard of. It was enthralling. Rolling Stone magazine put this song as number six on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. I would put it at number one. Then I played it again... and again...and again.Then played the flipside which was called Wendy and was a track off the All Summer Long album of two years earlier. It was alright but not a patch on Good Vibrations which I played again about five more times. With this song Brian Wilson had thrown down the gauntlet to the Beatles. He had assembled the record from 90 hours of recording tape and spliced the various parts together. Nobody had attempted this modular approach to recording before to produce the perfect song. There would have been no Strawberry Fields Forever or A Day In The Life if it hadn't been for Brian raising the bar in such spectacular fashion.
On that fateful evening of forty five years ago today my music appreciation had reached a new level. Brian Wilson had become my music god and my life would never be the same again. Shortly afterwards I had saved up the 32/6p to buy Pet Sounds which I thought was the best album ever until I heard Astral Weeks seven years later.

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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Glastonbury 1987, My Seventh Glastonbury. (My Little Bookstall)

1987 was the first year I did my little bookstall at Glasto. My hobby at the time was dealing in second-hand books so I decided to see if I could pay for the festival by selling my books. I spent all year scouring charity shops, jumble sales, car boot sales, auctions and house clearance shops looking for suitable books that festival goers might be interested in. The sort of subjects were music books & magazines, fanzines, counter-culture, Beat Generation, anything left-wing, science fiction, ecology, eastern religion, and anything else that straight people might consider dangerous and subversive. By June I had quite a collection.
That year I went with my friends Ian & Julia who I had worked with in the Night Shelter. They managed to squeeze about ten boxes of my books into their little Citroen. It took hours to get on site because of the traffic jams but finally we got in and found my family and friends in Glebeland. Our encampment was quite big by now. There must have been about twenty in our gang including kids. My sister Margaret had acquired some bunting from somewhere so every year with some sticks from the firewood and the bunting, an area would be cordoned off for all our tents. Margaret’s partner Wayne would get busy making furniture out of the biggest bits of wood so we could all sit around the fire in comfort. The rule was that every time someone went for a walk they had to bring some firewood back. By Sunday night though the furniture had usually ended up on the fire as supplies ran out. Wayne and Margaret always had a big tent which I found quite handy for storing my books in the entrance.

It was important to start selling my books early while people still had money in their pockets so on Thursday afternoon I set out my stall by the nearest walkway which had lots of people walking by. I just laid a blanket on the ground and displayed my books neatly on it, all individually priced. It was very unofficial but the security wasn’t going to bother with little old me when there were drug dealers all the way up Muddy Lane and people openly selling bootleg booze and baccy all over the place. I was pleased with how well I did selling my books. One year I made enough money to go straight to Ireland for a holiday afterwards, and it was a great way of meeting people and having a chat. One thing I learned was that women seemed to read more than men. They would browse for a long time looking for a good read regardless of who wrote it whereas men seemed more interested in finding books with a cult following or to complete a collection.  I could tell when someone was out of their brain on acid or something. They would stare for ages at the design on the cover of a science fiction book and go, “wow”. Sometimes a person would say, “I’ll buy this book but I don’t want to carry it around, can you look after it for me and I’ll pick it up on my way back?” Then they would wander off and completely forget that they had bought a book. If they hadn’t returned by Sunday I’d sell the book all over again. Another great thing about selling my books was that it kept me on the straight and narrow, for a few hours a day anyway. In previous years I would just wander around getting more and more off my face as the day wore on. With the coming of my bookstall I now had a purpose and I enjoyed it. My Bookstall became a regular thing at Glasto right up to 2003.

I had a few famous people look at my books over the years. Once in the 80’s this nice American lady was having a browse through my books and I noticed she was wearing a stage pass so I asked her what she was doing at Glastonbury and she said that she was a singer. Then she took off her shades. I recognised her immediately. It was Julie Felix. You might not have heard of her but she was very famous in Britain in the 60’s & 70’s. Julie had a big hit record with her version of Simon & Garfunkel’s El Condor Pasa. She also had her own television series. We had a nice chat and she was very friendly. Another time this bearded bloke came along and had a rummage. I thought I recognised him but when he looked at me he didn’t seem very friendly so I didn’t say anything. He didn’t buy anything and eventually  stomped off. After he had gone my brother Paul who was sat there said, “Do you know who that was?”. “No”, I replied. “It was John Martyn”, said Paul. A person who did buy a book in the 1990's was Margie Clarke. She was famous after appearing in the film Letter To Brezhnev and she was in Coronation Street for a long while. Margie bought a Daphne Du Maurier paperback. I heard later that Margie was the most famous person to climb over the fence to get into Glastonbury.

There is a theatre group called The Natural Theatre Group who come from Bath. I think they are the only performers who have appeared at every single Glastonbury festival. They specialise in street theatre where they get dressed up and wander through the crowds. One year they were Cone-heads and another year they were dressed like CIA agents with walkie talkie radios. I’m not sure if it was 87 but they were all dressed up as Conservatives and had placards saying BAN THE FESTIVAL, DOWN WITH GLASTONBURY etc. They came up to my bookstall and one of them said, “What’s all this then, a bloody jumble sale?”. We passed an amusing few minutes trading insults until they wandered off. It was all good fun. I’ll tell you more about my bookstall later if I think of anything.
One of the most memorable things about 1987 was the Mutoid Waste Company. They were a semi-anarchistic gang who might have evolved out of the Peace Convoy. They made things out of scrap metal. I have a vague memory of going to a party once at a warehouse in London which had lots of strange machines which might have been made by them. What they did at Glasto 87 was to build a Stonehenge but it wasn’t made from stone, it was made from cars. It was spectacular and was a focal point for a lot of late night raging. In the book Glastonbury Tales by Crispin Aubrey & John Shearlaw Arabella Churchill relates how she was walking past there one night only to notice her VW car was on the top of Carhenge.

Musically the highlight for me of 1987 was Van Morrison on the Sunday evening. It was only the third time I had seen him perform and the first time since 1982. To say his performance was a bit special is a huge understatement. I would put it in the top five performances in all the 38 years I have been going to Glasto. I have written about this show in my previous book so I won’t dwell on it now. Luckily for all the Van Morrison fans around the world it was recorded by the BBC and broadcast on the Johnnie Walker Show. This has become a must- have bootleg for the hardcore Van fans and most agree that it is one of his finest shows ever. Van was certainly on the top of his game back in 1987. The next time I was at Glasto I managed to get my first ever bootleg recording which was this show and I must have listened to it hundreds of times. If you scroll down, you can hear two songs from Van's epic performance. The sun was setting over Avalon as Taj Mahal brought the festival to a close that year. I wonder if Van stayed to watch his show because they have become good friends over the years and performed and recorded together.

The Communards were on before Van and although I can’t remember much about their show I do remember their bus passing me as they left with Jimmy Somerville and the one who later became a vicar looking at all the crowds through the window. Michael Eavis said later that Jimmy Somerville waived their fee for the show and told Michael to give the money to CND which was damned decent of them. I know I saw the Gaye Bykers On Acid on the second stage because I went to see them out of curiosity due to their unusual name but I don’t think I was very impressed because I can’t remember anything now about their performance. One thing I do recall vividly though was the late great Ben E King playing in glorious sunshine on the Friday afternoon. He had recently had a UK number 1 with Stand By Me and I had liked him ever since I bought The Drifters Greatest Hits back in the 60’s. I was watching him right down at the front with Dominic who had then reached the ripe old age of 9. Dominic wanted to see what was going on so I lifted him up onto my shoulders. During one song Ben E King looked right at us and Dominic gave him a thumbs up sign and Ben E King gave Dom a thumbs up sign in return. It was great. You can’t buy those magical Glastonbury moments.

It was to be two long years before the next festival because Michael decided they needed a year off to assess the situation and work out what to do about the drug dealers and other problems that needed to be addressed. After a good clear up, the cows reclaimed the land and were soon contentedly munching away at the lush grass of the Vale Of Avalon and peace returned to Worthy farm for another two years.

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.