I’ve spoken about festival culture in the UK from the late 80’s, and had a huge focus on detailing my history of Glastonbury in previous blogs, but I’ve not really touched on Reading Festival, so here’s my little potted history of my experiences at Reading, not a history of the festival itself though there’s a little bit of that in my story.
Reading was always a festival I had no interest in when I first stumbled across the idea of festivals back in the 80’s. This is mainly because it looked bloody awful with dinosaurs like Budgie, Gillan and Whitesnake making up the headline acts, but the nadir of the festival came in 1988 which featured Meatloaf being bottled off stage and the festival itself becoming a bit of a laughing stock.
The following year saw the festival give itself a royal kick up the arse when Mean Fiddler took over and suddenly made the festival attractive to a new generation who weren’t just into metal and wanted something more, so within a few years Reading gained a reputation for having bright young talent from the Indie scene across Europe, while still getting the big American bands.
Part of the attraction of Reading was the way you could buy a day ticket, so if you wanted to go for just a day to enjoy a band you wanted to see you could which was a huge advantage over Glastonbury, but as I’ve pointed out before Glastonbury wasn’t just about the bands. Reading however was, and if you didn’t want to sit though bands you hated then the day ticket was a nice way to dip your toe in.
I didn’t get myself down to Reading until 92 for the day to see Nirvana, which was the last time I’d go until 1995, but even on that one day I instantly loved the thing for the sleazy, drunken end of summer party that it was. See, the wonderful thing about Glastonbury is that it’s a celebration of everything good, positive and wonderful about summer, our culture and society generally. Reading used be a farewell to that as well as wallowing in the Bacchanalian joy of everything good and bad about summer, and also, as it was held in a pretty dreary city which suffers from not quite being London, but not quite being somewhere where it can develop it’s own character and culture. In other words it’s a perfect place for everyone to impose what they want upon the festival.
I don’t remember much of 1992. We turned up early on Sunday and had started drinking the day before, plus when we got in we carried on drinking hard so by the time Nirvana came on we were hammered. I can at least say I may have been there in body, and possibly, spirit.
I did a few other days over the next few years, but ultimately the day trip is fun but it’s not the full experience as it’s really foreplay for the main event, so after 1995 and an incredibly fun day which saw me with very short, dyed red hair for reasons which to this day I’m unsure about, but I did decide to dye my hair red which made me look like this.
This was taken at the legendary lost Leicester pub, The Pump and Tap on a Sunday shortly before Reading in 1995, and the other chap with the long red hair is Steve, who now has no hair at all, but there you go….
1995 was fun and everything as we were getting in free as we’d got free tickets from the brewery as I worked for the same local group which also owned the Pump, so we belted down early on the Sunday, got hammered and I do remember Neil Young being quite bloody awful.
After 95 I wanted to do a full Reading Festival and lap up all the sleazy joys it offered, and with Glastonbury taking a year off in 1996, there was a gap so in early 1996 myself and a mate, Zeb, (who’ve I’ve mentioned before) came up with the plan to go down.
That however deserves a blog of it’s own, so in the next part of this I’ll go into the details of what still is one of the best three festivals I’ve attended in over 20 years of going to festivals…..