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.