Strict Machine-A short tale of Glastonbury 2004

Glastonbury Festival 2004 was a transitional festival as it moved from the old style pre-festival years to the couple of years as it found it’s feet after the fence to the festival of today. It was also one of the last years where the festival was still chaotic as opposed to the well oiled machine it’s become in the last decade.

The festival itself wasn’t a classic year musically as it lurched from the bloated cokehead bullshit Dadrock of Oasis to the burnt out cokehead funk of James Brown to the warbling totally non-cokehead Joss Stone, and err, Lost Prophets, it really didn’t shine on the main stages that year. Add the intensely changeable weather from the wet and windy storms of the Wednesday to the boiling hot sun of the Thursday and Friday, and the torrential rain of the Saturday and the showers of the Sunday it was a real mess of a festival.

But in the muddy or dusty piles of shite there were little gems that year. One such gem was Goldfrapp who were enjoying the height of their fame and success thanks to the Black Cherry album and the glam inspired song Strict Machine. Playing the Other Stage on a balmy Friday night I don’t think anyone watching Goldfrapp’s performance failed to have their groin stirred by the frankly carnal show on stage that evening.

Best of all was the performance of Strict Machine which made horses tails look sexy…

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So Kanye West is playing Glastonbury……

Top pop arsehole Kanye West is headlining the Saturday night at the Pyramid Stage at this year’s Glastonbury Festival and this is caused people to kick off and write petitions about how West shouldn’t play, is crap and brings the festival into some sort of disrepute, or that it’s commercialising the festival.

Now I’ve been going to Glastonbury since 1992. In that time I’ve seen some utter shite on the main stages, fuck, I even endured Coldplay one year while on drugs, but I’d never see a massive tool like West because Glastonbury only has something like 20 different stages and I’d not know what to do! The fact is that like the protests against Metallica and Jay Z, there’s a snobbery on display that populist mainstream music hasn’t a place on the main stage, yet here’s a wee secret, populist mainstream music has been on the main stages at Glastonbury since the very beginning. The only thing that’s changed is the quality (for me) has seriously declined but I’m sure people will find something to do if they don’t want to endure Kanye twiddle around on stage.

There’s also a touch of almost racist snobbishness on display. It’s essentially arseholes complaining about an arsehole and there’s a paradox of arseholes as to which ones are the most offensively annoying.

I’ve blogged quite extensively about Glastonbury over the years and I’ve commented a lot on the festival’s commercialisation so I think I know what I’m saying when I say that the festival commercialised a long time ago, at least on the main stages. Coldplay are a commercial band. The Verve are, so are Blur, so is Bruce Springsteen, and on and on. Michael Eavis isn’t going to stick on Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts on a Saturday night at the Pyramid as TV audiences aren’t going to watch and he needs the money from the BBC to help fund the festival. If that means shite like West gets booked then fine, but for fuck’s sake, there’s going to be something else to do.

I’m not going this year as I take a year out in order to sort out my relocation back to Glasgow, but had I been going I’d simply call him an arsehole and probably end up in the Avalon field, up the Stone Circle, by the Jazz Stage or chilling round a fire with mates. Really, it’s not that bloody hard to avoid someone like West, so don’t complain about it. Don’t like it, don’t go.

But he is an arsehole’s arsehole….

Pale Blue Horizons- The San Diego Comic Con

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It’s the San Diego Comic Con this week, which if you’re a comic person like myself is the Glastonbury Festival of comics as long as you ignore Angoulême of course.It’s the nirvana for comics fans and over the last 15 years or so has moved from being mainly comics focused to ‘popular arts’, which essentially seems to mean they’ve dumped comics out the back in favour of films, telly, games, and any old tat.

Sadly this is the nature of such things as I was predicting that at the last UKCAC in 1998 that the only way for comic conventions to expand was to look into other related genres, or even open the field of comics up in a way that’s certainly not been done in this country, but that’s aside the point & a blog for the very near future.

I’ve never been to Comic Con, and at this rate I probably won’t in the foreseeable future. Til I somehow do, I live vicariously through the Twitter feed of friends there, or though films such as the one I’ve posted the trailer of above, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, which was released the other year. It’s a film worth watching as it captures some of the stress & fun of being a retailer, not to mention other aspects including being a budding artist. Now back in the late 80’s I used to see people’s portfolios at conventions due to me working for Trident Comics and on the whole, 95% of them were utter rubbish. It was that 5% we’d constantly look for, but it was letting people down in such a way that they’d not kill themselves as people were like the Skip chap in the film and they really did think they were the Next Big Thing. It was hard, but I’ve seen editors from DC or 2000AD be completely brutal, and I think that’s the best way to do it but in a constructive way.

It’s a film worth watching because the tone is overwhelmingly positive, which does means there’s not too much in the way of discussion of the negatives, but that’s not the point as it’s supposed to be a celebration. The one thing that comes out of it is how different British and American cons are, or at least, were as our cons are moving more towards the American model with is a plus and minus all at the same time as our cons have always had this wonderfully anarchic feel about them, and that isn’t referring to the organisation of them but the feel and ethics of them. Anyhow, I wish everyone well & hope they have fun because that’s what these things should be: fun!

I’ll be following this year’s Con online and wishing I was there. I probably won’t be there next year but never say never……

 

Find me on a pale horizon-The Rise and Fall of Festival Culture in the UK-part one

As those who do follow this blog might know I’ve been doing a series of blogs about my experiences at the Glastonbury Festival from 1992 onwards, but there’s a bit of a larger story to tell in regards festival culture in the UK.

There’s been festivals of some shape or form in the UK since the 1950’s. You can study the history of the growth of festival culture by looking at the excellent site, The Archive, which details festivals from 1960-1990, or searching out the splendid Festivals Britannia documentary that BBC Four broadcast a few years ago. It’s really the story of my perception of what happened to festival culture from the late 80’s onwards that I’m on about.

As I’ve outlined in the past, I grew up in a very working class part of Glasgow which didn’t mean I was ignorant of festivals as I knew they existed thanks to reading the NME from an early age, but that was mainly things like Reading Festival when it was going through it’s Jurassic phase. I only really learned about the wider world of festivals after reading an article about Glastonbury in an edition of the NME from 1985.

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I was intrigued by the sounds of Glastonbury and the idea of a load of people sitting in a field somewhere listening to music and generally getting together. Not that was an alien concept to me back in Glasgow in the mid-80’s as sitting around Kelvingrove Park was a pastime, plus the odd open air gig used to happen in Glasgow so I’d had a tease but nothing anywhere near the full experience.

It wasn’t until I moved to Leicester in 1988 and drifted gently into various scenes in both Leicester and London that I started to dive into the whole festival culture. Leicester was, oddly enough, where I experienced my first full one day festival with the Abbey Park Festival which was a one day event normally held in August in Leicester featuring frankly a selection of some pretty naff bands, but I enjoyed the whole ambiance of the day and it was fun most of all.

Most of 1988 and 1989 was spent splitting my time between London and Leicester which was easily done thanks to my job, and being a young man with more money than sense I took great advantage of the delights and pleasures of London at a time when rave music was not only at it’s peak but it was colliding with other cultures such as the traveller and punk culture which is where it caught me. I used to finish work on a Friday and rather head back to Leicester, head into London to see gigs, or hang around various pubs in Camden or Kentish Town. I’d stay overnight wherever I could, so a floor, a bed or when there was a comic mart the next day, I’d find a cheapish hotel round Holburn and spend the previous night in Soho after being at the Astoria til the wee hours.

Then in 1990 I decided to take the plunge and go to that year’s Reading Festival, which had seen itself make the dinosaurs which used to play there extinct and started showcasing bright new talent from both sides of the Atlantic. I didn’t end up going, but I did start going to various free festivals on my increasing trips to the South West of England, and I’d stumble across groups of ravers in London pubs who’d drag me to a field somewhere in Hertfordshire.

When I left my job and became rooted in Leicester I fell out of that lifestyle, but festival culture was still attractive to me because it was very much still an underground and alternative thing to do, plus the free festivals were fun, but had a huge element of danger to them thanks to the somewhat dubious people often involved with them, not to mention the gangsters who’d follow them around selling drugs. Most of the time though the free festivals of the early 90’s were fun affairs which sometimes seemed never to have an end as they’d go on and on and on….

There was also a beginning and end to the summer with Glastonbury kicking it off with this huge life affirming party to welcome the summer months and Reading ending it with this dirty, filthy party in a field next to a railway line.

By 1992 or so the amounts of festivals had started to grow partly due to the response to the Castlemorton festival which saw the government start to crack down on free festivals, which meant all these people who were going to festivals wanted to go somewhere and there were decreasing amounts of places willing to host them. By the time the Criminal Justice Bill became law the amount of free festivals were dropping to single figures, and the days of the illegal rave were numbered. This meant big business saw a market and a chance to repackage what was an alternative and underground culture for a mainstream, so by 1993 you had the Phoenix Festival rear it’s head in what was the first attempt to introduce a new major festival to the calender to challenge (the 1996 lineup is to this day the best of any festival of any kind I’ve ever been to) Glastonbury and Reading.

The first year was frankly a disaster with security extinguishing campfires and getting people to turn off soundsystems which for those of us used to free festivals was a bit of a shock, also there was not enough water standpipes and toilets. It never really recovered from that first year as it gained a reputation after this, but it was where the campsite cry of ‘BOLLOCKS’ originated which hung around festivals up til the early 21st century. It did peak with the 1996 festival though more of how that failed in many ways in the next part of this series of blogs.

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Phoenix never really brought in the mainstream punter, but rather the Glastonbury/Reading veteran & the person who couldn’t get their free festival hit any more.  Attracting the mainstream would mean a change in the mainstream itself, which is exactly what happened when Britpop broke which meant the mainstream wanted to see bands like Blur or Oasis or Pulp and they played lots of festivals, so the mainstream slowly started feeding into festival culture. It wasn’t until 94 or 95 that people started seeing festivals as something to do rather than a Spanish holiday or a trip anywhere else. The fact you now had festivals organised by beer companies (Reading was only sponsored by Carlsberg Tetley) like T in the Park and also by large mega-companies like Virgin with the execrable V Festival.

And that sets up quite nicely my experiences at all the festivals I went to that wasn’t Reading or Glastonbury in the 90’s. This gives you a little bit of background as to what was happening and in the next part I’ll outline the exploitation of festival culture by the corporations and how it all went horribly wrong.

 

The Great Glasgow Comic Shop Wars- 25 years and one day later…..

Yesterday I wrote a blog. It seems to have been quite the kerfuffle, but as you can see from reading it there’s good reasons to as even I find it quite amazingly angry, bitter & and twisted some 24 hours later. However I stand by every single bit of it but this is a last word (for now) about that particular chapter now that Andy Hope has revealed he’s writing Fantomex for Marvel Comics.

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I know Andy is doing interviews and kindly Tweeted yesterday’s blog on his Twitter account which is why I imagine yesterday’s blog had more hits than anything else I’ve ever blogged about, including my Glastonbury blogs. So this is to say thanks to Andy, and I hope that when people stumble across this blog they go back and read my little biography/history lesson.

Just to make it easy here’s the links to each part.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Epilogue

For those people coming to this fresh, yes, there are huge chunks probably missing but I didn’t feel that served the story I was trying to tell. I am going to do a history of Neptune Distribution (I’ve made a start but trying to read my handwriting from 25 years ago was a task then) but my main priority for the summer is writing about Glastonbury and festivals in general as anyone with even a passing knowledge of this blog will have sussed out how much of my heart lies there these days. Not to say comics are dumped, but sitting in a field in the sun with like minded good people beats sitting in sweaty comic shops, warehouses or offices full of marketing people talking about comics.

Though in saying that there has to be a way to combine both & oddly enough I’m working on that….

In closing, I’ll be rounding off my history of my experiences of Glastonbury, tackling a few more blogs about my experiences of other festivals and then I’m going to do a big juicy history of Neptune Distribution with all the sex and violence intact…

The Great Glasgow Comic Shop Wars-25 years later……

In parts three and four of my rough history of Glasgow’s comic shops, comic distribution, and chunks of my life between the ages of 21 to 26 or so, I went into detail about those times but a few recent events, not to mention some of the reactions to those blogs, have prompted me to do a little follow up to clear a few things up.

It should be needless to say that you really need to go read the other blogs before coming back to read this.

Firstly my ire and spite was not aimed at anyone working there (outside of the majority of directors/management involved with the situation at the time) past or present. Yes, I do think some people tried to not get involved but there were also people who should have known better and I’m sure those people know who they were so I’ll say nothing else apart from point out that taking a moral stand involves having a spinal column and a sense of right and wrong.

Secondly, I was trying to put a few things straight as the history of British comics tends to ignore, or at best vaguely allude, to the corporatism of what Forbidden Planet did, and how it changed comics retailing in this country by making their shops the Starbucks of comic shops, not to mention having shops trying to follow in their wake rather than follow their own independent path.

Thirdly, it was to point out the sheer bastardry of how people acted at the time. As I said, when I was working for Neptune we did get behind AKA Books and Comics and we did stir things up on a massive scale, but I make no apologies for my actions, nor anyone at AKA because frankly we weren’t the ones who abused friendships and acted underhandedly.

A lot of comics journalism tends to veer on the side of being nice enough to stay on the right side of all concerned, but seeing as I’m not a journalist, nor working in comics I don’t need to bother with that so you read my side of what happened. If you don’t like it and think I’m a cunt then you’re not the only person who thinks that of me. At least I didn’t betray my morals, or my friendships.

The latest round in this was also fired by me old mucker Andrew Hope on his Twitter account who posted this Tweet as he’s now working for Marvel Comics on something quite huge, though someone has to revamp the Human Fly…

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But joking aside, you can see how that even though Andy’s not lived in the UK for over 20 years and hasn’t been involved in comics, or the Glasgow comic scene in that time, the whole thing still leaves a scar though I’m chuffed about Andy’s AKA hashtag which is a nice reminder of where his heart still lies.

It’s because of Andy and a few things I learned at this years Glastonbury in among the fun and joy that prompted this addendum to my earlier series of blogs. I’m glad the response to those blogs was so positive from the right people back in Glasgow, and I hope some people who think I’m stirring things just choke.

I know this all seems bitter, bad tempered and spiteful when for most of my writing I’ve tried to throw in a bit of humour, but I thought I’d make things clear that some wounds don’t heal, and you should never forget or forgive if the other side don’t care about such things and anyhow, my time for doing that was years ago so this is a deep scar that’s not going away.

So I wish Andy well. He didn’t need to reach out to FP Glasgow, but he did and for that he’s probably better than me, but now this piece of catharsis is finally out my system I hope to improve and become a better rounded unit.

Nah, not really. I’ll let this thing fester in me for years because I know I could have, and should have done more not to mention I should have went home more often. Not that it might have made things better but I feel that some people didn’t get the support they should have, even at funerals.

I hope to draw a line under this chapter with this as I’ve got other things to deal with, plus I’d rather write in a lighter tone, but right now I’m seriously considering selling everything to live in a field somewhere (seriously) and with Andy’s Tweet this gave me an excuse to blurt this out & relieve a wee  bit of stress.

Here’s a picture though of a cat to make everyone laugh…

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Death, gore and violence-An update….

I haven’t done what I said I’d do in my last update as real life has dragged me down, plus a trip to Cardiff last weekend to discuss the next stage of the Cunning Plan left me broken and hungover but it’s coming along well. I will do the Glasgow Comic Art Convention blog next if only to finish it and release it in the wild.

I intend to do another few Glastonbury blogs before this year’s festival, or at least get the timeline up to the year 2000 so I can make a huge moan about the gentrification of the festival and make myself seem edgy and stuff. I also want to do a couple of very personal ones which may, or may not be as open as they could be depending upon how I feel and how explicit I want to make them. No, it’s not going to be Confessions of a Former Comic Book Dealer, though that’s an idea in itself, but it’s a bit Glasgow related so we’ll see how the mood takes me….

This week has been mainly made up of working, sleeping and watching V/H/S 2 which is obviously a sequel to V/H/S, an anthology horror film I really liked apart from one segment which was rubbish, but with the first one it was the first segment, Amateur Night which stood out a mile just for the sheer insanity of it all.

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The sequel isn’t frankly anywhere near as good. The first segment owes an awful lot to films like The Hand, but relies far too much on basic jump scares including at least two or three which seem lifted directly from the excellent Ghostwatch including using this scare several times..

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The second segment is a fun little thing about a man’s first and last day as a zombie, and the final segment is a load of fun featuring aliens and lots of scary jumps. It’s all pretty ok and ordinary.

That is of course missing out the third segment, Safe Haven, from the the film. This part is made by the same people who did the frankly mental The Raid and if you’ve seen that then you get an idea that Safe Haven might not be a quiet bit of horror.

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It’s not. It’s also the only one that uses the found footage/mockumentary format to another level and shows there’s some serious legs in the format if a filmmaker puts their mind to it. At this point it’s unfair to say anything else because you need to see this as unaware as possible because when it kicks into gear after about ten minutes of set-up it doesn’t relent with one extreme image following another and then another and then another….

It batters you into submission while it invites you in on the joke without insulting the audience as parts of the first segment does. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen an anthology horror film and wanted a segment to be much, much longer if only to see how much further they could push the horror, not to mention the very, very dark comedy running throughout the segment.

Basically, it’s the redeeming feature in an average film and makes an average film a bloody good one and I use the word ‘bloody’ quite literally. It’s a quite remarkable section in the film but not one to watch if you’re a pregnant woman, or at all squeamish…

 

And with that quickie review, it’s off to an early night as work beckons and I need sleep to dream of the future…….