Saturday, September 24, 2016

Glastonbury 1983. My Fourth Glastonbury.

The main thing I remember about 1983 is that it was really hot, a scorcher. We were all camped down by the pylons again. Our friend Pete from Yorkshire came down with his girlfriend Luciana and I told them not to worry about a tent because I knew where I could borrow a spare one. I didn’t look at it before the festival and when we set it up we found it was tiny. It was only about eighteen inches high. It looked like a caterpillar, the sort of thing that mountaineers used. Luckily the weather was so nice that year they seemed to manage ok.
The pub landlord Pee Wee from Trowbridge who I worked for the previous year was running the main beer tent in 83 which was a huge marquee to the right of the Pyramid Stage. I think that was the last year that they had a beer tent in the actual arena in front of the stage. Also due to new legislation brought in by Thatcher’s government this was the first year that Michael Eavis had to apply for a licence to run the event. Mendip District Council set the crowd limit at 30,000 but everyone who was there knew that there were far more people than that there due to gate crashers. This caused a few problems when he applied for a licence the following year. The festival also had its own radio station for the first time that year called Radio Avalon and it has been present every year since. In all the years I have been going to Glastonbury I don’t think I have ever listened to it.

Musically for me personally I don’t think that 1983 was a very memorable year. The act that I really wanted to see was Melanie. I had been a big fan of hers from the early 70’s and had lots of her albums such as Candles In The Rain, Leftover Wine, The Good Book and others but I had never seen her live in concert. I was really looking forward to seeing her but unfortunately I had been drinking cider all day and fell asleep before she came on. Apparently my sister Margaret tried to wake me up but I can’t remember anything about it. It wasn’t until about 2008 that I finally got to see Melanie at the Cheese & Grain in Frome which was a really nice evening. 
A band I do remember seeing was an Irish folk-rock band called Moving Hearts. They were really good. If you scroll down you can hear part of their performance. Christy Moore was a member of this group for a while but I don’t think he was with them in 83 at Glasto. I was to see some memorable performances by Christy in later years at Glastonbury but I’ll tell you about that when I get to it.

There was always a lot of reggae at those early festivals. It was the dance music of the time. There were tents pumping out dub reggae all night long. On the Pyramid Stage Dennis Brown played, backed by Aswad who always seemed to be on at Glasto. I also remember Marillion playing who were really big at the time. Curtis Mayfield was there but I only have a vague recollection of his performance. I also have a very dim memory of the veteran American folk singer Tom Paxton being there. He was one of the protest singers from the 60’s so had a lot of empathy with the CND ethos of Glastonbury. I wonder if he thought it was strange though if he thought he was coming to some sort of political rally type event and found out that it was a hedonistic sex, drugs and rock n roll fest with a couple of political speeches thrown into the mix.

The act that closed the festival in 83 was King Sunny Ade who was an exponent of JuJu music from Nigeria. Some people talked really highly of him afterwards but I’m afraid I can’t recall any of it. I am usually the great rememberer but I think 1983 was a bit of a wipe-out for me probably due to the cider intake.  I’ll try and do better next time.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Glastonbury 1982. My Third Glastonbury.

We were back at Glasto in 1982 which was really memorable for me. One reason was that it was the first time that I worked at Glastonbury and another reason was that my favourite musician of all time Van Morrison made the first of his seven Glastonbury appearances.
The job I had in 82 was working backstage for a pub landlord from Trowbridge who was running the backstage bar. I have written about this episode in my book called Vanatic so I won’t repeat the whole sorry saga here. Sufficient to say that we arrived on the Wednesday and my services were dispensed with on the Saturday morning. We were camped up near one of the electricity pylons right in front of the Pyramid Stage so we got a great view of the proceedings. There was quite a gang of us. Sadly, I can think of three people from that year who are no longer with us, Gordon, Richard and Tim but that’s not surprising I suppose. It was 34 years ago.
Back in those far flung days of yesteryear the cows used to be grazing on the land right up to the festival starting. You had to watch out for cow pats which were everywhere. It wouldn’t be advisable to wear a beret to those early Glastonbury’s because if it blew off at night you could try on five of them before you found the right one! There were lots of animals in those days as well. Horses pulling gypsy type caravans and lots of dogs. The dogs had a great time at Glasto. A dog’s nose can sniff out a discarded half eaten burger from hundreds of yards away. I’m not sure if it was 82 but my friend Dave brought his Afghan hound called Alf one year and as soon as he arrived and took Alf’s lead off he ran away. He didn’t return until Monday morning when Alf realised it was time to go home.

There were no police on the site in those days. They didn’t arrive till quite a few years later. They weren’t needed anyway; it was so peaceful. They were outside though and searched anybody going in at random which might have been illegal and they ran up cricket scores of arrests for possession of marijuana and LSD. Many a bright young person had their future blighted by getting a criminal conviction for having a bit of pot in their pockets. The police in those days regarded hippy types as the enemy. This was encouraged by the Thatcher government who hated Glastonbury and its association with CND.  Matters would come to a head a couple of years later with the notorious Battle Of The Beanfield but I’ll talk about that later. I’m glad to say though that these days with the festival ten times bigger the police attitude has changed completely. The amount of arrests is tiny in comparison and their presence is mainly concerned with the welfare of the festival goers.

1982 was the first year as well when I got a taste of the mud that Glastonbury is famous for. The Friday was the wettest day in Somerset for 45 years and the site was turned into a mud bath. This is because the site is on clay, also it is in a valley so the water all goes downhill into the basin at the foot of the hill. When you have been to a few Glastonbury’s though you get used to it and its not muddy every year which some people who have never been seem to think.
Musically 1982 was the first Glastonbury for me when there were some truly great performances. On the Friday punk poet John Cooper Clarke was brilliant and I was on the side of the stage for his performance and shook hands with him at the end. I was also on stage to see Black Uhuru because I knew their roadie Mick from Bradford On Avon. Backstage I also met the late great Randy California but I can’t remember his performance. All I know is that he must have been quite drunk by the time he got on stage. Roy Harper returned to Glastonbury on Saturday afternoon but this year there was no punch-up as in the previous year of 81.

The highlight for me on Saturday was Van Morrison’s magnificent performance. It was only the second time I had seen him in concert. Van was still based in the states in those days and I think this was his first tour in Britain since 79. Van arrived in his car backstage, walked straight on and gave a memorable performance then got straight back in the car and was driven away immediately. It would be five long years till Van returned to Glastonbury. His band did hang out for a while though. I found a photo of his sax player Pee-Wee Ellis chatting to Jackson Browne and about twenty years later I presented a copy of the photo to Pee-Wee and he was really pleased because he had never seen it before and he signed a copy of it for me as well.

Sunday was another great day of music. The highlights for me were firstly seeing The Chieftains for the only time in my life. I’m not sure if seven creamy pints came out on a tray but they deserved one because they certainly got the audience dancing with the jigs and reels. After them there was a fabulous set by Jackson Browne who had been on the site all weekend enjoying the festival. There was also a fabulous performance by Judy Tzuke who played just as it got dark. I think she must remember that as the gig of her life because she has faded into obscurity since those days but she was brilliant that night. I particularly remember her last song called Stay With Me Till Dawn.
If I remember correctly the last person on was the late great Richie Havens. It was a thrill to see him for the first time because I had always liked his performance in the film Woodstock. It was raining quite heavily during his set so I watched from the entrance to my tent. He was great and I was to see him again at Glastonbury many years later. The festival of 82 was brought to an end with an amazing laser beam display accompanied by the music of Tubeway Army. By the way, if you look at the poster there was a little known band from Ireland booked to play by the name of U2 but they never turned up. I wonder whatever became of them!

Next morning as we left there were hundreds of people hitching out of the site. I don’t think people hitch to festivals any more. Most of them were heading for Stonehenge and all along the lanes were people with signs saying STONEHENGE PLEASE. I expect they all got lifts because that’s what it was like in those days. Anyway that’s all I can remember about Glasto 82 for now. If you scroll down you can see some nice footage of Glastonbury 82.  I’ll tell you about 83 next time.

Sunday, September 18, 2016