Sunday, January 15, 2017

Glastonbury 1998. My fifteenth Glastonbury. (A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall)

The weather was great for Glastonbury in the first half of the 90’s but sadly 1998 for the second-year running was a rainy mud bath. We were back in the field next to where the Glade is these days.  We had borrowed a tent from our neighbours Dave and Sarah who lived two doors away from us. It was a nice tent, even big enough to store my books in as well. I pitched the tent right next to one of the metaled walkways because I thought that would be a great spot to sell my books from with thousands of people walking by every day. That decision was to prove to be a terrible mistake. The weather was fine when we arrived but before long it started raining and over the next few days that walkway turned into a muddy stream. Every time a vehicle like a tractor drove by, one side of the tent got sprayed with muddy filth. The field was on a slight slope and about 100 yards back from us were some toilets. They were of the long drop variety where they had been constructed over a trench. Water flowed down the hill from even further up and the toilets eventually overflowed. It was all running down the hill towards our tent. They had sludge-gulpers going around which solved that problem and it was still nice and dry inside the tent but I knew that there was no way we could clean it up and return it. The tent had been destroyed.(See photo of tent)

Even when it stopped raining it was too muddy in our area to set up my book stall. Up in the Field Of Avalon I discovered a man with a proper, dry indoor bookstall and I had a chat with him and he agreed to buy my entire stock off me. In the end though I couldn’t be bothered to carry them up there and I didn’t sell one sodding book all weekend. I had brought my ghetto-blaster along that year so we could have some music around the campfire. The problem was that we didn’t even have a bloody campfire because the firewood was too damp to burn. We did have a dance in the mud though and one day the Bishop Of Bath And Wells walked by and grinned at us.
1998 was also a World Cup year. On the Friday night they showed the game between England and Colombia on the big screens at the main stage. England needed a draw to qualify for the next round. In the beer tent the water was coming up to the top of our wellies. I sat there at a table and surveyed the market area outside. The rain was chucking it down and the market more or less empty. I didn’t feel sorry for the food outlets because people still need food whatever the weather. It was people selling clothes and other merchandise who had my sympathy because their stock was getting splattered and muddy. They must have lost a fortune. Eventually the rain eased enough for us to leave the shelter of the beer tent and go and watch the footie. The Lightning Seeds were on first because they had recorded a football song called Three Lions which reached number one in the charts in 98.  It all ended well because England won the game 2-0 with goals by Beckham and Anderton which cheered everyone up.

There was one other thing I particularly remember about that Friday. When the music started on the main stage Kim and I thought we better go and watch some of the acts because it was a music festival after all. We were watching a band called Gomez who I had never heard of before but they sounded pretty good. Then who should I spot standing in the crowd listening to the music but festival organiser Michael Eavis and his wife Jean. Lots of people were talking to them and taking photos.
“Come on Kim, let’s go and say hello”.
“No, leave them alone”, said Kim.
I insisted though because this was a photo opportunity. I asked Michael and Jean if I could take a photo and they were happy to oblige. (See top photo) Michael didn’t have a clue who we were, he must meet thousands of people every year. Incredibly though, Jean remembered us from our brief meeting at the farmhouse six years before and asked how we were and had a little chat with Kim. This put my nose out a bit because I liked to think I was the big ‘I am’ and she talked more to Kim than me. Anyway, what a nice lady she was, very friendly indeed. Taking that photo was to prove fateful for us a year later but I’ll tell you about that when I get to it.

I can’t remember who else we saw on the Friday apart from Eric Bibb who played on the Acoustic Stage. He is a brilliant American guitarist and blues singer who I have seen quite a few times since at various festivals. They had a new stage that year at the top of our field called The New Bands Stage. I never bothered going in it but I did notice that Sean Lennon the son of John Lennon was on that stage and apparently, Yoko Ono accompanied him to the festival. On the Saturday Blur and Robbie Williams were on the main stage. I didn’t bother with Williams because I can’t stand him but we watched a bit of Blur. I think that whole Saturday must have been a bit of a blur to me because I can’t remember anything else about it.

The weather cheered up on Sunday and it was memorable for two acts. Tony Bennett and Bob Dylan. Kim loved the veteran crooner Tony Bennett and he seemed to relish playing at Glastonbury. I bet he had never had an audience like this in his life. If I remember correctly he had a white suit on and somehow managed to not get any mud on it at all. Bob Dylan on the other hand I found a bit disappointing. He refused to allow the big screens to be on which made it difficult to see him from the vast crowd. Compared to the previous time I had seen him outdoors at Blackbushe twenty years earlier when he was at the peak of his powers it was quite a sad performance. Bob said that playing at Glastonbury was a dream come true but it seemed to me that he was just going through the motions and it was just another gig on the never-ending tour. Bob is one of the greatest poets who ever lived who absolutely deserves his Nobel Prize for literature and I still listen to his albums a lot but I haven’t seen him live since that Glastonbury performance. (See photo of Bob saying hello to Nick Cave, and Bob Wearing wellies backstage) A friend of ours called Pru who did stone-carving up in the Greenfields Crafts area was also in a folk band called Murphy’s Mongrels who played in the Wise Crone CafĂ© stage on the Sunday. They played for three free tickets to the festival.
“I bet you never thought you would be on the same bill as Bob Dylan”, I said to Pru.

The only other band I can remember seeing on Sunday in 98 was Catatonia on the Other Stage who had Cerys Matthews as the singer and were very famous at the time. I didn’t have a lot of interest in them though. That brought Glastonbury 1998 to an end. It was quite disappointing weather-wise and musically but it was certainly unforgettable. When we got home on Monday evening. I put on the telly to see what it said about the festival on the local news and on the BBC report they had filmed our splattered tent to show how muddy it had been. Next day we went to Argos and bought a new tent and then went round to Dave and Sarah’s and explained what had happened. They were fine about it, probably because they are Glasto veterans as well. The whole experience certainly hadn’t put us off going and we were back in 1999 which was another epic year. More about that later.

Thank you very much to Chris Boland for the photo of Bob Dylan on stage. Chris's website is where you can see many more great photos.