Channel 4 at Glastonbury 1995

I’ve previously spoken about Channel 4’s first attempt to broadcast the Glastonbury Festival in 1994, but in the whole history of the festival its 1995’s coverage that’s really important. That year sold it to the sort of person who’d never have thought of going to a festival, and arguably that year’s coverage some the entire concept of  going to any festival.

1995 was a long, hot, sticky, fun summer. There was a lot of hope in the air as the Tories were a dead government walking, and John Major actually resigned to fight a leadership election against John Redwood who led the group wanting to pull the UK out the EU. There was a real chance of an election where the Tories would lose so when the news hit the festival people were buzzing. Added to this was the fact Britpop was firmly established so every British band who’d heard a Kinks track once was getting signed up by record companies in the hope of finding the next Blur or Oasis. Sadly we ended up with crap like Dodgy. Ah well.

That summer was a perfect storm. A government in its death throes, the promise of better things, a perfect summer and if you were aged between 16-30 the future looked fucking amazing.  So there was a siren call to that year’s festival as young people from all over descended on the Friday to jump the fence, and as for me, I’ve told my story about this year before.

But the one thing I never saw was Channel 4’s coverage. A mate who was going to video it for me fucked up programming his VCR so I got snippets at best. Well, the best things about living 23 years after this festival is that all the footage is online and it is a taster of a brilliant time when anything was actually possible and the future was so, so bright. And now in 2018 we’re dealing with Brexit, the rise of fascism and everything we’ve fought for since the end of WW2 being torn down. It is a tad depressing, but these videos will take you back to a better time, or show you a snippet of what thing were like at an important point in history.

A wee note, part 4 is missing because of what looks like a dubious copyright claim. Bastards.

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Channel 4 at Glastonbury 1994

Back in 1994 the Glastonbury Festival was still an underground event that sort of scratched the surface of the mainstream as something NME readers, students and the unemployed lefty would go to.  The festival itself in 1994 was undergoing a change as it moved out of their more anarchic early years into a major event but til 94 it’d never been something that television would pick up until Channel 4 decided upon giving it a go.

I used to have all the coverage on a load of VHS tapes but they were lost in a move years ago, which is a damn shame as some amazing performances were on them & the coverage was as chaotic as the festival itself. Plus they were a great wee reminder of what is still, one of my favourite festivals, and musically it bridged that time between the early 90’s and the more conservative Britpop years.1994 is also one of my favourites years to have been alive.

So imagine my joy to stumble across some footage of Channel 4’s coverage from 1994. It isn’t complete, but it has great stuff like the Beastie Boys Friday afternoon set, a chunk of The Pretenders set from the Friday night, Katie Putrick being glorious, John Peel and lots and lots of fucking wonderful stuff.

I love this sort of archive anything (unedited TV programmes with ads included) but this is just a joy even if it is incomplete. A reminder of the festival before it became part of the mainstream and the UK’s cultural fabric but also a reminder that the 90’s weren’t just about Oasis and Blur.

If anyone out there has a complete set of videos or footage from 94 then please upload it and give me a shout.

The Return of the Magic Roundabout is a glorious gem of a mockumentary

Back on Christmas Day 1991, Channel 4 broadcast The Return of the Magic Roundabout, and its a bizarre programme. Starring Nigel Planer; it was a half hour mockumentary broadcast early on Christmas morning in 1991 that must have fried the brains of those wee kids watching it. Telling an entirely fictional history of The Magic Roundabout with drug references, missing episodes and other mysteries, it’s a comedy treat which passed quickly into obscurity as being broadcast at 8.50am on Christmas morning (it did have a repeat at a later slot a few days later but that again was something most people missed)is not a time when people traditionally looked for comedy gems.

Thanks to the glory of 21st century technology we’re now able to see what is a lost classic. Enjoy.

Do you remember 4Later?

Back in the distant past of the late 1990’s, early 2000’s late night television in the UK was a game of Russian Roulette.You might stagger back from the pub pissed and get a classic post-pub film like Highlander, or In Bed With Medinner. repeats of 1960’s TV series like The Avengers or The Prisoner, or a naughty late night film on Channel 4. Sometimes your have Jobfinder (a teletext service which ran when ITV programming ended) or endless ads for chatlines where 50 year old women pretended to be teenagers in order to make middle aged salesmen have a wank in a cheap hotel in Daventry.

Then in 1997, Channel 4 came up with 4Later, a strand of late night TV which would encapsulate post-pub, as well as post-club, telly. Staggering in from having a few bevvies or dancing for hours on a good E you don’t want to come down watching chatlines, so Channel 4 made late night television something quite special. Broadcast from a Thursday through to Sunday with Friday and Saturday being the focus of the more weirder, trippier material, 4Later ended in 2002 thanks to the lumbering monster of Big Brother which by that point was providing Channel 4 with massive ad revenue, something looking back at 4Later was something that it probably never did.

Programming was esoteric. U.S prison drama Oz, was there, so was Babylon 5, so was a season of European erotic horror films which went under the title Eurotika! which yes, meant Jess Franco films were broadcast on mainstream British television. 4Later often had seasons of films, the Godzilla season was my personal favourite as it went under the title Vidzilla due to the fact that it tied into Vids, but I’ll get back to Vids in a bit.

Where 4Later shone was in the programming commissioned for the strand, which included Vids, a film review programme presented by Welshman Nige and Scot Steph who’d generally be ridiculous but would be wonderful in promoting films you’d never normally hear about on the BBC.

Following in the wake of Vids came Bits, another review programme but this time the subject is video games and the presenting team most people knew were Aleks Krotoski, Emily Booth and Emily Newton Dunn.

These were essential late night telly, Bits (and the episode above is a typical episode) is still something that hasn’t been matched in terms of video game programming. At the time of Bits, I was a massive PlayStation fanatic so this was the show for me when I was wasted after a night out.

4Later didn’t just stop there. There was the conspiracy/counter-culture Disinformation.

Troma’s Edge TV..

Jaaaaam, the remix of Chris Morris’s Jam.

The strand developed its own slogan Do Not Sleep

And indeed, it was often difficult to do so as so much good stuff would pop up in between the series of horror films and things like The Trip, which was ambient television for people coming down after a jolly good night..

Yet all this was a Golden Age for late night telly in the UK. In 2002 4Later vanished, replaced by endless Big Brother, Hollyoaks repeats and an increasingly commercial Channel 4 schedule which meant 4Later’s strand was no longer welcome, yet an early online community had sprung up on the strands website. Once it went, 4Later passed on into almost legendary status as I’ve often been in pub chats with people who asked if I remember some weird programme they saw when they came home at 3 in the morning one night in 1999.

You’d think in an age of digital TV, Netflix and YouTube that I’d not pine for 4Later, but it played an essential part in getting things on TV that you’d never seen now not even with hundreds of channels to choose from. You have to choose to sit in front of Netflix or YouTube so finding random oddities becomes harder as with all that choice our viewing becomes actually more structured. That’s a pity, thankfully there’s a lot of 4Later remaining on YouTube but so much is also lost and that for me is a crying shame to see so much wonderfully creative, not to mention fun, stuff has just slipped into the ether…

Censored-1999 Channel 4 documentary

Back in the late 90’s the UK to a large extent was still basking in the glow of the early years of Tony Blair’s Labour government, and of course, the liberalisation of censorship that had become rife under the 18 years of Tory rule.

One of the things liberalised were films thanks to the new regime at the BBFC, so the likes of The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre finally got an official UK release as opposed to being the sort of thing that’d you’d only see at a film club or on a dodgy VHS copy.

This discussion from Channel 4’s Censored season in 1999 is a bizarre bit of history and when snippets like 200 MP’s signing a petition to ban Natural Born Killers, but only six actually saw it is sneaked into the conversation, then you realise just how little we’ve moved on in the last 16 years. It’s a fascinating discussion, and when A.A. Gill is one of the most sensible voices or the Child’s Play 3 myth has to be debunked (possibly for the first time on a mainstream British programme) to people that should know better then it’s an example of the problems of discussing censorship. People for the sort of hard censorship they demand find any old reasons to ban something as this programme exemplifies perfectly.

It’s also a reminder of the time when Channel 4 wasn’t just a stream of shite programming and when they tried to do some real challenging programmes like this.

It was the night before Glastonbury Festival……

It’s the night before Glastonbury Festival and not a soul did make a peep. In fact they’re making a huge great fucking noise right now as towns and cities across the UK empty to head to the annual festival of wonderfullness. 20 years ago I was about to go to the 25th anniversary of the festival and in my mind still one of the best festivals I’ve ever attended.

So with people either on the way to the car park or getting ready for an early start in the morning, here’s a wee treat from 1995 when instead of the BBC, Channel 4 televised the festival in this case for the second year. Here’s Mark Radclliffe, Mark Lamarr, Mark Riley and err, Jo Whiley from 1995 doing a load of stuff and some rather fantastic bands in footage I’ve probably not seen in two decades. This is the year of Britpop, Pulp, Oasis, and PJ Harvey in that catsuit (I can even spot myself looking open mouthed at one point in the footage) and Portishead. This is the first year of the dance tent, and a festival on the cusp of transforming from something belonging to the counter-culture and crossing over into the mainstream. This is probably the last of the ‘real’ Glastonbury Festival’s before the mainstream descended.

It’s simply brilliant stuff…..

Have a good festival and enjoy…

Showdown at Glastonbury-Goode versus Eavis-Glastonbury documentary from 1992

It’s only a couple of weeks til this year’s Glastonbury Festival kicks into gear and in the year 2015 it’s now far removed from those pre-fence days where tens of thousands would descend upon Worthy Farm without tickets looking to jump the fence. 1992 was my first festival and I never paid to get in. In fact I didn’t  pay for entrance til 1997 but even then it was a piece of piss to walk into the festival without a ticket.

The festival wasn’t especially liked by most of the people of Pilton, the village where the festival is near. A few would welcome you but seeing as most of these people had to put up with around a week of having a bloody great music festival dropped on their doorstep with not just Travelers causing trouble (much of which was exacerbated by the security used by Michael Eavis) but by people just disrespecting the area generally. The other problem back then was the way it attracted a serious criminal element selling drugs or going from tent to tent robbing what they could, something that still goes on today albeit on a smaller scale.

Every year the festival was planned organiser Michael Eavis had an annual struggle to get it approved, and nobody disapproved of the festival more than Ann Goode, one of Eavis’s neighbours and a serious Christian fundamentalist. This is the person that used to stick a giant crucifix in her garden to ward off the ‘evil’ the festival would bring.Back in 1992 televised coverage of the festival would be a possible quick mention on the news, if at all, so when Channel 4 decided to televise a documentary about the 1992 festival in late 92, it was exposing people to something they’d not seen before as Glastonbury then was still seen as subversive and part of the counter-culture. It was somewhere hippies, kids, students and drop outs would go to and shunned by the mainstream.

Over 20 years later the mainstream has welcomed Glastonbury into it’s ample bosom, and it’s now so much part of the establishment that Tory MP’s can be found dead at it, let alone the fact that a Tory MP would even be allowed anywhere near it’s fences without causing a riot. So this documentary is a crucial part of the history of Glastonbury and a time before the sponsorship deals, Kanye West, posh gap year kids shitting themselves after taking too much ketamine, celebrities posing for pictures backstage and hours and hours of bland BBC coverage of shite Indie bands. This is the festival people are never going to experience and is a glorious little document of in many ways, far, far better days. I should say it’s not complete as the Youtube uploader points out, but it’s most of the documentary.