A word of appreciation for Absolute Beginners

Back in 1986 the director Julien Temple directed the film adaptation of Absolute Beginners; originally a book about life in London one summer in 1958.  It helped bankrupt one British studio, Goldcrest, and was instantly declared such a bomb that it’s rarely spoken about apart from ‘5 worst films ever’ type clickbait articles online., however the theme song by David Bowie is the only thing to really survive.

Part of the hate the film produced was the decision to turn the book into a musical, not to mention the charisma-free relationship between the two miscast leads (Patsy Kensit and Eddie O’Connell) and the fact the book was toned down. The film also has little sense of pace & the tone flits from weird British comedy to intense racial politics on a penny, plus those musical numbers stop the film dead even if some (like the Ray Davis one) are actually superb.

In short it deserves the reputation for being a mess and in places it is pretty awful, but, there’s one of the best opening shots you’ll see in a film as Temple guides the camera in one shot giving us a guided tour of the recreation of 50’s Soho.  There’s the production design which stands up as being part faithful, part idealised and of course some of the musical numbers are great. When the film clicks, I get what the filmmakers were trying to do and sure, the sometimes clunking acting, or the black hole of the central relationship comes back to punch you in the face in regards the bad side but something comes along shortly after to make you pine as to what it could have been, especially at the end during the Notting Hill race riots.

As a film it doesn’t deserve the hate its built up as there’s clearly far, far worse out there, but certain films become punching bags and Absolute Beginners is one of them. The film’s one big positive legacy though remains the theme song which is one of the greatest themes a film could have, which seeing as it came at a time in the 80’s when David Bowie wasn’t exactly at the top of his game (to say the least) for him to pull out a song which seriously gets better every time it’s heard is nothing short of genius.

When I saw Bowie perform the song at Glastonbury in 2000, it was nothing short of perfect. Standing there in a crowd of people transfixed hearing and seeing people moved by a song from a film that’s a third shit, a third weird genius and third all over the place and is now mainly forgotten is not an experience ever to be forgot.

So give the film another chance, or if you’ve never seen it watch it for what it is which is an ambitious, weird oddity with a brilliant opening, some great moments and one of the best songs of all time.

Have a look…

Today would have been David Bowie’s birthday

In 1947 David Bowie was born and last year he died far, far too early last year which seemed to kick off what was a pretty dreadful year for anyone who isn’t a racist or a fuckwit.

Last September I posted about how I’d never listen to his final album,Blackstar, due to the wish to forever hold one final unheard bit of Bowie there at arm’s length. It was a nice idea, but unrealistic as bits and bobs of it have sneaked out into my ears so I’ve decided that it’d be a nice treat to myself to listen to it when I’m (hopefully) told my cancer is in remission after my (hopefully) final set of treatments which start at the end of this month. I don’t think I can face an idol of myself making music about their impending death while I’ve still got the thought and possibility of my own possible early demise rattling around in my head.

So happy birthday David Bowie. Here’s Absolute Beginners for no other reason that its my favourite Bowie song of the 1980’s…

Why I’ll never listen to David Bowie’s ”Blackstar”

blackstar

I don’t think I want to listen to David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar. I don’t think I can. This isn’t because I despise Bowie, or what snippets I’ve heard sound awful, but the idea of hearing a final album from Bowie and then knowing that’s it; there’s nothing else new I’ll ever hear from David Bowie is a concept so hugely depressing that I can’t bring myself to sit down and listen to it.

When Bowie died from cancer back in January I was gutted beyond words. I could barely articulate what I felt and when a few months later I myself was diagnosed with cancer, I wanted to avoid listening to the album probably due to it being a reminder of my own mortality even though my diagnosis isn’t terminal it’s bad enough to have considered my own untimely demise often over the last six months.

Which brings me back to Blackstar. It’ll remain unlistened to my myself.I don’t need to be reminded of Bowie’s early demise, nor do I want to have no more Bowie to listen to. I want to keep that thrill of excitement over a new Bowie album going for as long as I can before I finally (and I will) give out and accept Bowie’s gone and what we’ve got is it.

So I hope Blackstar wins this year’s Mercury Prize but for me, for now, I’ll back off from listening to it until I’m ready to accept Bowie is gone.

I think Mr. Newton has had enough-the films of David Bowie

As everyone is aware by now David Bowie died on Monday and his music is rightfully being played over and over, not to mention discussed but his work in film has been mentioned but not fully explored.

Bowie, like many a pop/rock star wanted to act but unlike a lot of musicians that go into acting Bowie wasn’t a total failure. In fact, his C.V is peppered with some spectacular films so here’s a brief jaunt through the films of Bowie starting with the peerless The Man Who Fell To Earth.

A few years ago I made a list of my favourite science fiction films and this wasn’t on the list, not because it’s not one of my favourite SF films, but because it’s one of my favourite films ever made and the intention was to have it head up a similar list but I got distracted onto other things.

TheManWhoFellToEarth

The Man Who Fell to Earth is simply to me one of the top five films ever made. It’s virtually flawless, and Bowie is astonishing as the alien that’s come to Earth in order to help save his planet. In lesser hands than Nicolas Roeg this could have been B-movie fare but both Roeg and the casting of Bowie raises this film into something more than another pessimistic bit of early 1970’s science fiction.

Roeg plays with time (something he does in many of his films) as Bowie’s race perceive time in a non-linear way that we humans do, not to mention he ages at a vastly different rate, something that only becomes clear when all around him start graying and putting on weight.

By the end though, Thomas Newton. the character played by Bowie is crushed by the people of planet Earth, He’s been mutilated by Earth scientists and his family, not to mention his planet, are long dead. All Newton has left to him is alcohol and thanks to owning lucrative patents he never needs to concern himself about money for what will be a very, very long life by Earth standards. It’s a sad, miserable end for a unique being on Earth acting only to preserve his race but is crushed by humanity. The parallels with Bowie are clear, obvious and played on in the film’s marketing especially.

The Man Who Fell to Earth is the finest film to ever star a musician in the starring role. It’s simply genius.

Bowie’s next film role was a small cameo in the bleak German film Christiane F.I’ll admit to having not seen the film in decades so my memories of it are faint but I remember being so depressed by it that I didn’t want to rush to see it again. There is however a scene of Bowie performing Station to Station that’s a brilliant little scene.

Next up is something I’ve not seen mentioned in one obituary of Bowie is his role in the BBC adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s Baal. Bowie recorded the songs from the play for an EP which managed to chart in the UK’s Top 40.

As for the play, again, I’ve not seen it in decades but I do remember the reaction it had on me as a young lad that worshiped Bowie seeing him play this seedy little creature called Baal. The entire play is up on YouTube. I’ve watched it again last night and it really is a brilliant bit of work, not to mention Bowie is a revelation in it.

In the early 1980’s Bowie did a lot of work outwith music. The Snowman was something I wrote about only a couple of weeks ago, but The Hunger is a stylish horror film directed by Tony Scott that’s worth a look and is better than the trailer suggests.

A lot has been said of his role in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence….

Not to mention Labyrinth obviously…

However a few things have been missed. Jazzin’ For Blue Jean is a short film directed by Julien Temple for a song from Bowie’s pretty poor album, Tonight. It’s a great 20 minute short that shows off Bowie’s talent for comedy not to mention self-depreciation.

Then there’s Julien Temple’s Absolute Beginners….

It’s difficult to actually see Absolute Beginners because it has at this point in time in the UK, no commercial DVD/Blu Ray release though you can get it in the US, which is a crying shame as it’s a brilliant failed experiment in British film-making which seems to have been brushed under the carpet as a major embarrassment because of how much it died at the box office rather than the content of the film.

Plus Bowie’s theme song is magnificent

After this he did mainly character roles or cameos but his Pontious Pilate in Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, his Andy Warhol in Basquiat, his turn as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige and his self-referential cameo in Zoolander are all worth catching. It is however his part in David Lynch’s vastly underrated Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me that closes this appreciation off…

So yet again it’s a thanks to David Bowie…..

 

EDITED TO ADD:

It’s been a crap start to 2016 as I write this the news of Alan Rickman’s death joins that of Bowie, Angus Scrimm and Lemmy over the last few week making it a grim time for people that grew up appreciating these people’s work. It seems that the best, unique talents are leaving us to be replaced by nothing like them because you can’t replace the best and these people certainly were the best in what they did. Just please, let the good ones that still live on stay with us a wee bit longer….

Time may change me-David Bowie RIP

As I’m sure everyone is aware, David Bowie died yesterday after an 18 month long struggle against cancer and the planet lost something unique.

Bowie helped provide a soundtrack for most of my life, and outwith of Pinky and Perky was the first pop star whose single I bought with my own pocket money. That single was Life on Mars in the year 1971.I’d apparently become obsessed with Bowie after hearing the sounds of Space Oddity leaking from my brothers bedroom.

So in 1971 one of the very first memories that lives with me is buying this from Woolworth’s.

lifeonmars

I’m not sure exactly what pulled me to Bowie but I do remember thinking he looked like a superhero in his makeup and costumes. Not a Jack Kirby-esque square jawed heroic figure, but something stranger like Steve Ditko would create; a strange, odd, unique figure that seemed like a champion for the odd and usual and from then til now Bowie became as constant as the North Star in my life.

Even before I’d hit double figures in terms of years Bowie was guiding me. I even wanted a Bowie mullet, and thankfully was never allowed that to happen as I’d look ridiculous in a mullet. Bowie would wear one perfectly.

I never got his lyrics when I was young. Of course I didn’t. I couldn’t have.That’s daft. I just liked the sound and vision he produced. I remember utterly adoring Sorrow but until I started writing this I’d probably not heard it in a decade. I’m now back to being barely a schoolchild again.

The defining incident for many, many people in regards Bowie was that performance of Starman on Top of the Pops. I loved the song because I thought it was about the Golden Age DC comics character, and I certainly didn’t pick up on the fact he was subverting a nation’s sexuality on prime time telly.

I did think however at the point he sung ‘‘I had to phone someone and I picked on you” that he was talking to me and only me rather than around nine million people on a Thursday night. It’s amazing to read people’s comments that they too thought Bowie was only speaking to them directly. That takes talent and a sincerity that few performers could ever have.

I still didn’t get Bowie’s lyrics. To me in my pre-teen years Life On Mars was a nice tune and not a commentary on American cultural imperialism. That sort of intellectual and emotional understanding didn’t come til years later, and in the case of Drive-In Saturday, decades later as it helped me through an especially bad break up with a girlfriend.

But he changed styles and personas. That was fine to me, I got it as after all as a fan of Doctor Who I was used to to the concept of regeneration, and in the mid to late 70’s as I grew older and smarter I started to appreciate Bowie more and more. I also noticed more and more the spattering of science fiction concepts in his music as I matured and got just what he was trying to do.

By the time I was in my teens Bowie had produced his finest material from Ziggy Stardust to Low to Scary Monsters. The only artist in my lifetime that comes close to that run of amazing work is Prince and that’s really, really pushing it.

Imagine any artists today putting out something like Low? Imagine anyone completely and utterly changing track and doing that at the height of Punk? There’s a thing too, many of the old acts were mocked and spat upon by the young punks but Bowie never lost respect because he was punk before that term became defined.

Bowie kept dabbling with the mainstream, especially in the U.S, but he was still like a moon orbiting it looking down throwing down little gems that’d sprinkle up the top 40 tunes.

After Let’s Dance he hit a barren patch. I fell back on his earlier material for comfort as he tried to take the mainstream by being mainstream, but he did one song that’s among my favourite songs ever, and again never really meant the same to me as I got older and developed more successful and unsuccessful relationships.

By the late 80’s/early 90’s, Bowie was being lapped by those that took from him what they could and British music was in the early stages of Britpop when suddenly Bowie became relevant again as after all, one couldn’t look at the likes of Suede or Pulp without pointing out the massive Bowie influence. Bowie himself came back with some new material but for me the pinnacle in my relationship with Bowie is the year 2000 and the final night of that year’s Glastonbury Festival.

I’d seen Bowie before (I even saw him play with Tin Machine) but there was something about the build up to the Glastonbury slot. Rumours were flying that Bowie was ill and this would be his last ever show, or that he was going to retire. All manner of things were flying round the still newborn internet of the day but the only fact is that Bowie was returning to a place he’d played 30 years previously. This was also on top of the perennial rumours of that year’s festival being the last, and in the first year of the new millennium David Bowie took his place on the Pyramid Stage and sung his heart out to 80k people, myself included. By the time he hit Life on Mars the field was full of grown men and women bawling their eyes out in a mix of golden flowing nostalgia and joy. Myself included.

In the years since Bowie’s music took on new meanings. I’d go back and listen to old songs and pick up things I never did previously. Songs would take on new meanings and become as embedded in my brain for different reasons as they were for what I thought when I was a wee boy who liked Bowie because I thought he only spoke to me through the telly.

And now he’s gone, but he’ll continue speaking to me, you and millions of people both alive and yet to be born because he’s still a hero that’ll speak to people. People find quality and the one thing Bowie very much has was quality that ensures that in centuries to come his music will live on and on and on. His legacy is carved in late 20th century culture. Without Bowie life would have been shabbier, duller and grey.

I’ve been lucky enough that in all the millions of years I could have been born I was born at a time when David Bowie could shape me growing up. Same with you reading this. Imagine people in a century coming across this blog, or the tens of thousands from fans mourning his death that they’re reading the experiences of people Bowie touched? I like that and I think Bowie would have too.

So cheerio David. Thanks for all you’ve done. You were always my hero.You always shall be.

It’s been 30 years since Live Aid

I realised while working on something else that 30 years ago this month Live Aid happened which is extraordinary. Not because of all the fantastic performances because really, you can count those on the fingers of one hand but because it seems to have sailed through the media with barely a ripple, and the media like doing these sort of anniversaries.

All those years ago though it was exciting to see all these megastars come on stage for 20 minutes to smash through some well known songs through a terrible sound system, and the brilliantly shambolic BBC coverage throughout the day was fantastic. Really though in hindsight it’s one of the reasons I ended up falling in love with the festival because seeing those crowds of people on my telly all crammed into the old Wembley Stadium was (and still is) an awesome sight. Musically though for an 18 year old that’d just started reading the NME and was into punk this should have been something to avoid but I’ve always been upfront about my love for pop so for me Live Aid was about David Bowie from the UK end, and this new act called Madonna on the American end. The rest of the bands were either washouts like Status Quo or The Boomtown Rats or just shite like Spandau Ballet.

I remember the build up for this being simply enormous. Simply everyone took time off on Saturday the 13th of July 1985 to sit in on a warm summers day to glue themselves to the TV. The streets of Glasgow were bare, and the same was the case all over the UK, but the entire thing was there to make money for famine relief so it wasn’t just about Elton John’s wig.

As for the acts something weird happened. Status Quo played a great opening. U2 showed they were a great rock act. Bowie played a set and a half. Queen did that set and Madonna showed she was something else. It is though looking back at the BBC footage of the event that’s a fantastic bit of archive as this video shows. My particular highlight is a drunk Robbie Coltrane (there’s also a drunk David Bowie) having a rant that charity and debt relief has been privatised, something incredibly prescient to say as this is what Live Aid actually did.

For an 18 year old this was all just spectacle but Coltrane hits the nail on the head, albeit drunkenly. Live Aid privatised aid. It was seized upon by right wing governments as an example of what could be done by people which gave successive governments reasons to absolve themselves from actually doing anything productive.

I can’t stop looking at the BBC continuity footage and marveling at the analogue nature of how the entire event managed to raise money, and indeed, the entire pre-internet era was when the most advanced bit of communication you had was a landline phone and Ceefax on the telly.Mentions of sending cheques, or going into offices and paying by trans-cash will be lost to most people not over the age of 40, or seeing Adam Ant’s career implode in front of billions, or being told that a couple gave their first house deposit of a grand, or seeing the dreadful dress sense of various BBC presenters is fantastic bits of living history.

The legacy of Live Aid is privatised aid. It’s governments using organisations live Live Aid as a beard to hide their own agendas to asset strip third world countries, and now Geldof isn’t that angry figure raging at the establishment as he’s now very mush a supportive part of the UK establishment. Yes it saved lives, lots of them, but there needs to be a thoughtful reappraisal of the effects of that day 30 years ago as it seemed so simple, so easy to save the world by just having pop stars perform for 20 minutes chunks but life and international politics isn’t that easy.It just seemed that easy for a day in 1985. Pity everything we thought then was wrong.

This two part BBC documentary from a decade ago is also something that helps put the event into some sort of historical context.

I Absolutely Love You

Right now on BBC Four there’s a collection of David Bowie videos and performances which frankly is filling my poor wee heart with joy at a time when my poor wee heart needs filling with joy.

One thing I need to do is point out how the song Absolute Beginners isn’t just my favourite Bowie song of the 1980’s, but one of my favourite ever songs. It might be the lovely Julien Temple video which more than ever makes me long for a London, long, long gone that still existed up until the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. It’s the fact the song drips with the sort of emotion a person of any age can identify with. It’s the fact it’s the best thing to come out of a film that’s a total pile of shite.

No, Absolute Beginners is as far as I’m concerned the definitive love song of the 1980’s. It’s a song anyone else would kill to have written but Bowie put it out at a time when frankly, he was at a creative low so do do this song at that time is a remarkable feat.

So join with me and enjoy…….

Lou Reed Was The Man

Lou Reed died yesterday. I wasn’t the most hardcore Reed fan, nor did I think his solo material was often as good as many thought it was. That aside, I still loved Reed mainly because of his Mick Ronson and David Bowie produced album, Transformer.

If you’re going to leave any sort of legacy on this planet, this is the finest legacy someone can leave. It’s a perfect, flawless album that’s never going to age. Sure, the Velvet Underground material influenced everyone in the 70’s and 80’s including The Jesus & Mary Chain who as anyone glancing at the title of this blog will spot are huge favourites of myself. It’s Transformer though that I’ll remember Reed for. It’s got memories of my childhood wrapped up in it as I listened to his lyrics and frankly wondered what he was on about . Thankfully when I hit my teenage years the full joy of the album dawned..

So cheerio Lou. Thanks for what you gave us….

Funky Shit-The Prodigy at their peak.

Video

While T in the Park enjoys the sheer excitement of Mumford and Sons, The Script and other coma inducing bands, I stumbled across this Prodigy set from the Phoenix Festival in 1996 while doing some research into this blog.

It’s an amazing set. The theatrical display formed the core of their gigs for the next two or three years, but this is when the band moved from a very good rave group to something new so it’s like watching a butterfly being born, but in this case the butterfly is spitting and snarling at you.

It really is one of the most powerful gigs you’ll see at a festival as the energy between band and audience is amazing, though I’ve got to point out that they weren’t headlining that night as they were on just before David Bowie which gave him a hard act to follow.

Really though, watch the set on headphones with the volume turned up to 11. It’s a bloody amazing hour you’ll wish you’d discovered sooner.

All good things…. The tale of Glastonbury 2000

Last time round I went through the fun and frolics of Glastonbury in 1999. 

In a move which should surprise nobody used to the Gregorian Calender , this takes us kicking and screaming into the new millennium with my tale of Glastonbury 2000, which still sounds like the sort of 70’s SF film featuring Sean Connery in a shexy red thong.

Image

Anyhow, 2000 was the festival’s 30th anniversary, the first of the new millennium, the first with the new Pyramid Stage, the first without Jean Eavis’s influence hanging over it (although Jean died before the 1999 festival, it still felt like she was a part of that year’s festival), and the first year where it started to feel like the festival had moved out of alternative culture and started becoming very much part of the mainstream thanks to the involvement of the BBC, the Guardian and it’s other sponsorship deals.

As for me, I was no longer in Leicester, but now on my way back to Bristol after seven years to live again thanks to my then girlfriend Tash, having sneakily got herself a job in Bristol just after that year’s Comics Festival. I’d even managed by sheer luck to get myself a job at BT in their Customer Options department after undergoing the first real, proper interview for a full time job I’d had in my 33 years. Prior to that I got jobs through contacts or being at the right place at the right time, plus I’d never worked in an office before so this was something new and exciting for me! It also meant an end to the two years of being settled and secure.

That excitement and security didn’t last long but moving on…

Thing is the move from Leicester to Bristol could only happen for a variety of reasons (mainly due to Tash having a very fixed start date) the week before Glastonbury, and I didn’t start at BT til the week after, so we worked out between us that Tash would pack in Leicester, and I would unpack in Bristol as I was sitting around doing nowt for a week. This was fine and suited me perfectly, but firstly I had to get some cash together, so I managed to raise about a grand in a week through some very dodgy deals that didn’t involve drugs but let’s say they didn’t involve drugs or selling parts of my body…

Which brings us to the big move. The Saturday before Glastonbury. On what ended up being the hottest day of the year. We did it though, and it wasn’t too traumatic but what was glorious was piling down the M5 with Leicester turning into a distant memory in the background and driving into a convoy of trucks going to Glastonbury. I have to admit to being a bit teary as the emotion of this huge move kicked in tempered by this magnificent site of dozens of vans, cars and trucks driving to a field in Somerset…

I’d arranged to camp with Denise and her friends again after the success of 1999, and again they were in Big Ground but this year we all had mobiles! I had this piece of technology..

Image

I felt I was in the space age and wondered where my bloody jetpack was.

Anyhow, the fact we had mobiles didn’t negate the fact they actually didn’t really work in a big field with little coverage with 200,000 other people trying to get a signal, so we arranged to meet at the same place on the Thursday night. Tash couldn’t come down til Friday due to work, but I was happy going down with the tent, beer, etc to set things up.

On the Thursday I woke up. Went to Clifton Down shopping centre (did I mention we got a flat in Clifton which felt like the pair of us had gatecrashed a party but it was still Clifton when it was cool and not full of wankers and students), bought a load of beer, and headed to Temple Meads station to get the train down as I’d never taken the train, and let me tell you something else, I never will again.

Temple Meads is a hellish place at the best of times, but when tens of thousands of extra passengers are passing through it’s fucking shite. I did however eventually barge through the crowds to get the train to Castle Carey (the nearest station to the festival), and actually had a nice journey down with two Irish lads who allowed me to share their whiskey, while I let them partake of the Remy Martin I had. It was a hellish, but tolerable journey until we arrived at the station to find we then had to get on a bus to the site. As I waited for the bus, I contacted Doug (a friend from the world of comics fandom) who was also at the festival where he was as I’d invited his crowd to camp with us but they wanted to pitch near the Other Stage to get a prime spot for Nine Inch Nails who were headlining the Friday night. He was onsite already and warning me by text there was rain on the way.

Joy.

Eventually the bus chugged into the site and spewed it’s passengers out to find their way. At this point I noticed that there was an awful, awful, awful lot of people, but I wrote it off as being peak time for when people turn up and struggled my way through the site up to Big Ground in an attempt to find Denise. Problem was the site really was crammed full of people as as it was now getting dark due to the forthcoming rain Doug had warned me about, I could see the lights of cars waiting to get in and it went for miles and miles and miles and miles….

I struggled to the top of Big Ground to see that they’d changed things round from the previous year and the kids field had taken up all the space behind the hedge where we were the previous year, so I stood there in a field, in the rain, with hundreds of people around me looking hopelessly for Denise and her crowd with little or no hope of finding them as I couldn’t get a signal on my mobile.

Then I decided to shout her name loudly (I am very loud) and to my instant surprise, this voice from less than a few feet away shouted my name back! I’d somehow managed to literally trip over her tent, in the twilight while it was raining. I have no idea how, but I dived in her tent while it was raining, and cracked open the first of many beers.

As soon as the rain stopped Denise and her boyfriend kindly helped me put up my tent and then we all settled into the night with the view of the new Pyramid Stage in the near distance being actually quite bloody impressive..

Image

Thursday night was a drunken but fun affair and early in Friday morning I decided to crash out as there was a lot I wanted to do as I realised I’d be at Glastonbury by myself for the first time, well, ever, so I wanted to go off and do my own thing for a morning until Tash turned up in the afternoon.

Which i did, but I noticed a few things. One everyone was hyped as David Bowie was headlining on the Sunday. The other it was very warm and humid. The third was there was so many people everywhere. Everyone was crammed on top of everyone else.

Image

On one of the bridges on the farm there was a crush. A very dangerous crush that made me and several others around me mouth ‘this is like Hillsborough‘ at each other, but thankfully I managed to pull myself out of the crowd (I was still lithe and fit in those days!) and jump over several people while trying to pull people out of the crush. Thankfully a couple of policemen managed to sort things out and introduce some crowd control but it was scary. It’s also a story I heard when I returned to our camp from some of the others who were also stuck in crushes around the site. Basically the site was full and overflowing and there was still more and more and more people coming in whether they had a ticket or not.

As I sat there chatting away I forgot about Tash turning up and as I quickly pulled out my impressive piece of mobile technology, saw a text from her that she was at the bus station onsite and where the fuck was I? Well normally from where we were camping to the station it would have taken 20 minutes but as I tried to run across the site I realised it took me 20 minutes just to get to the other field, and the station was ages away yet so I went to pull out my phone when I realised it was gone. Some bugger had pocketed it in the crush. I checked my wallet and it was still there, but the phone was gone and now I was hitting a panic as I hoped Tash wouldn’t wander too far from the station. As i ran up the station eventually I realised she wasn’t there as the crowds still pouring in on Friday afternoon were ridiculous. Then I remembered I texted her that Doug was camped by the Other Stage, and that wasn’t too far from the station as long as I could get through the tens of thousands of people and remember vaguely where Doug said he might, possibly, could be at the Other Stage.

So I ran down the hill for about 200 yards before hitting a wall of people and shuffled slowly to the Other Stage and it was now getting into late evening, and any chance I had of finding Tash, or Doug in the dark was a million to one they said….

Then somehow in the darkening field I stumbled across not just Tash, but Doug. He’d bumped into her as she looked for me & him and the pair of them were looking for me as they’d tried calling me and couldn’t get through.

I was a lucky, lucky, lucky bastard. To this day I have no idea how I met them in the crowds.

Anyhow, after taking my deserved bollocking from Tash, we headed back to Doug’s camp as Tash had stuck her bag there, plus Nine Inch Nails were coming on, plus Doug’s camp had loads and loads of beer so we headed to it and it was indeed in a great location to view the stage. It was a great show and I say this as someone who isn’t a fan, but as we hung around I realised there really was too many people everywhere. Tash noticed this on the walk from Doug’s camp to Big Ground that the crowds were much, much larger compared to 1999 and she was right.

We got back to our camp well after 2am but people were still up, including Denise who when told of my massive fuck up also dished out a deserved bollocking but was astonishingly impressed at my finding Tash in the crowds as she and her boyfriend had also been stuck in crowds.

Without driving home the point, Glastonbury 2000 was overcrowded like nothing I’d ever seen, and I’ve been to Scotland-England games at the old Wembley and Hampden, illegal raves in Warwickshire and round the M25 and free festivals in Nottingham and London. I was used to crowds but this was dangerous in places, but hey, it must be ok as nobody official said anything.

The next morning I had to go up to the police station to report my phone’s theft which was up by the farm house which wasn’t too far from where we were camping. The other thing about where we were camping was as it was quite high up Big Ground it was pretty well spaced out, but then again that could have something to do with the toilet tent the girls had to sort out as getting to the loo for girls was a nightmare and evolution hadn’t given the the joys of a penis.

I went up to the police, waited about an hour with a hangover kicking in just as the sun started beating down on me and spoke to a nice officer who took my details, gave me my crime number for the insurance and I mentioned the crowds to which she said ‘yes, we know. The Site’s got too many people on it but we can’t stop people jumping fences as we’re overstretched’. With that snippet of information I went back to camp where the girls were tidying up from the night before, but it hardly came as a surprise for anyone.

Tash and myself left the others shortly afterwards as we’d arranged to meet Doug and hang out with him for the day, and we had a totally fun day as well wandering round the site, chatting, drinking and eventually, bizarrely as we all hated them, enjoying Travis who headlined the Pyramid on the Saturday night. After that we chilled and people watched which used to be a great source of fun at the festival, but eventually we said cheerio to Doug and headed back to camp to sit up til late talking bollocks with everyone else. Tash sadly had to go back on Sunday afternoon as work was calling, so it was an early rise, followed by a few hours chilling and then a slow wander through the crowds to see Tash safely on the bus (having now learned my lesson)  and then I realised it was now all about Bowie!

Problem was there was nothing worth watching on the Pyramid stage beforehand, the crowds were too bloody heavy to get through and there was a load of beer back at my tent so back to the camp I went to chill in preparation for Bowie. Thing was the others had enough of fighting through crowds, so I went down early with the last of my beer and my last tenner (these were the days when cash machines onsite were impossible things so you brought what cash you needed in your pocket) in readiness for Bowie.

Now I’d loved Bowie since a child. The first single I bought with my own pocket money was Life on Mars, and Bowie was the first musical act I loved. I had seen Bowie in Manchester during the Glass Spider tour and it was crushingly disappointing. I also saw him in Tin Machine and it was crushingly disappointing. This had to be good or else!

So with beers in hand and with anticipation at the maximum, I waited in the rapidly darkening evening for Bowie to come on…and when he did it was immense

In retrospect it probably was a weird set list. Some of the arrangements were a bit off, and Bowie’s voice was strained due to him recovering from being ill shortly before the festival but it did not bloody matter there and then. The entire thing was magnificent and my memory of the gig is looking round at this enormous biker next to me who was blubbing like a child during Life on Mars, and that started me off and then a few more blokes near us did the same and the field seemed to be full of 30-60 something men weeping at the simply brilliant gig Bowie was putting on.

Glastonbury moments only exist if you live in that moment and we all lived in that perfect few hours as Bowie played his heart out. Utter bliss.

Walking back from that set was a blur. I remember spending the last of my money on some cider as it was cheap and sat down to take it all in. The last few weeks had been a blur and it all dawned on me suddenly my life was turned upside down and things were uncertain and foggy and I’d just seen one of the greatest, most meaningful things in my life. I was also quite drunk and high on half an E which may have also contributed to this. Whatever reason it hit me, it hit me so I went for a very long walk round the festival just chatting to people to clear my system out . Eventually I went back to camp to only find Denise still up and we chatted for a bit before crashing as the next day was Monday and reality was returning.

In the morning I got up, packed up my tent, said my farewells and headed back for the bus to Castle Carey so I could get the train back to Bristol. I was still an emotional mess, mainly because of Bowie’s set,  but because everything dawned on me. I also had some part of me that realised that the Glastonbury I knew had to change because demand had outstripped supply, plus all the wonderful and weird people were being swamped by a new type of festival goer who were effectively tourists and didn’t care much for music, politics, or anything the festival really stood for. For them it was another notch on things to do as Glastonbury was now a part of the establishment.

See, the thing is while the festival supported CND and stood against the Tory government it was outside the establishment. When it was televised on Channel 4 it was still edgy and alternative because that was the image and demographic of the channel. On the BBC it was acceptable, and when it vaguely supported the new Labour government as well as supporting worthy charities like Greenpeace, it didn’t mean it took an anti-establishment stance. In fact 2000 probably saw the start of the festival as an establishment fixture, but nobody quite knew it yet as the ramifications of the 2000 festival were still to be felt.

The festival was overcrowded. Figures range from 200,000 onsite to half a million. I’m inclined to go to the higher end of the scale, if not more. The site’s infrastructure nearly collapsed and the constant sea of people were astonishing, so some drastic measures had to be done but those measures wouldn’t be known for a while but for the festival to continue something had to be done.

Luckily 2001 was a fallow year, so the festival was to take a year off to regroup and plan for the 2002 festival, but in the meantime the festival found communities dedicated to Glastonbury spring up online which again helped spread the myth of the festival to people. Both good and bad came from Glastonbury’s online communities, some sites were better than others and some tried their best to milk the festival for all it was worth while alienating parts of the growing community.

Glastonbury was now a business. It was now part of the establishment. But it wasn’t quite formed into what it is now. That would take a few more years yet, and the announcement of the Superfence which was to circle the 2002 festival made people think this was just another scare tactic as the festival constantly used to boast about impenetrable fences and this was just something to frighten people off.

Oh how wrong people would be…..

That’s a story for another time though. I left Glastonbury in 2000 in a tired and emotional state, and as it turned out the next two years would be hardly what i hoped leaving Worthy Farm that June morning. Things really were coming to a close in more ways than one.

Next time, the 2002 festival and the messy run up to it….