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.

Return to Glastonbury’s past

Glastonbury Festival in 1993 was one of the very first I went to and lives in the memory as it was in the last years before the TV cameras and celebrities poured onsite often like cold sick, and the festival lost the chaotic element where one could literally turn a corner to walk into any sort of show you could imagine. Or possibly get mugged if you took a wrong turn after dark. It was that type of place back then. This does mean that it is incredibly hard to get footage of bands let alone anything else from these years but stuff does come up and here’s a load of footage of bands including Porno for Pyros who seems to be filmed near from where I was standing.

In fact the same channel is a bit of a goldmine with footage of the Beastie Boys from Glastonbury in 1994.

And that quite glorious Pretenders set from the NME Stage in 1994 also.

I love old footage like this as although it is rough, it manages to capture something and this is needed as we all get older. However the absolute discovery is Tao Jones, at the 1997 Phoenix Festival. Never heard of them? That’s because it was David Bowie performing under another name and yeah, it’d catch people out. People like myself who didn’t realise he was playing the dance tent so like hundreds of other legged it across site in order to try to get in what was by now, a pretty crammed tent.

So enjoy, and do so before these videos get possibly taken down.

 

 

That big hole where Glastonbury should be

Like a aching phantom limb I woke up this morning wondering why I wasn’t standing in a long queue waiting to get into a festival in a certain field in Somerset.

Yes, this would have been the weekend of Glastonbury Festival were it not taking a year off to let the land recover after a half dozen mainly dry years, so while Michael Eavis and the cows are chilling out for a year, the amount of events trying to capture something of the festival bubble like botulism as festivals as varied as TRNSMT and Jezfest try to part fools with their money with varying degrees of success.

But no fields full of people. No weirdness. No nothing in Somerset.

This gap has created a curious space. I’m now only really going to go to Glastonbury for my festival fun, and although last year was immense it was also my first year disabled so I felt restricted.

So as much as I’m resigned to being somewhat restricted to prior years (which is good as it means not waking up in the Green Fields coming down with someone else’s knickers on my head)  I’m going to feel a bit lost over the next week.

But it is only a year off and it is a chance to allow me to regroup. I have every intention of being in a field in the West Country this time next year but for now it does feel as if something has been lost, even temporarily but at the same time, the land (if it were a feeling, coherent organism)  wonders where all those people are who normally turn up this week each year?

See you all in a field next year…

An open letter to Glastonbury, from a victim.

Over the last four or five years I’ve written a lot about Glastonbury Festival from the fun, freeloading days of 1992 when I first rocked up in the back of a van from Nottingham, to this year when I made it there from my native Glasgow in my still newish disabled state.

This year for me was an extraordinarily tough year having to prove to myself I could still do it while hiding pain and infuriation with my failing body as much as one can. In fact I only decided 100% that I’d be going less than a month before the festival and I have to the say, the guys at the office were fantastic.

This blog though reveals the lengths Glastonbury will go to in order to ensure people go and feel as ‘normal’ as possible but be warned, you will be a wee bit weepy reading it and if you aren’t then you have no heart.

This is what the festival is good at. Enjoy…

There and Back Again: The story of Glastonbury 2017

Having taken time away from Glastonbury for technical problems, I made a return back to that field in Somerset for the festival but this wasn’t just the first festival since my stroke and cancer diagnosis, but the first one since I started going in 1992 where I come from Glasgow as opposed to the East Midlands or Bristol. So this was a wee bit of a challenge, and the best place to start is Monday the 19th June.

I’ve decided to fly to Bristol, spend a couple of days catching up with people before a friend, Alan, picks me up on the way to the festival. That Monday was a humid day in Glasgow, though friends in Bristol and already on the festival site had warned me it was hotter than Egypt there. Leaving my house I head to Buchanan Street bus station for the shuttle bus to Glasgow Airport.

Being the afternoon the shuttle bus was empty barring a German couple and a confused looking businessman.

Feeling just a twinge of excitement in the glutes, the bus sped across the Clyde to the airport…

And quicker than I thought I arrived at the airport to a sea of pasty Glaswegians and placing my faith in Easyjet, I arrived later that evening in Bristol which was indeed, like walking around in Egypt barring the sand.It was like walking into an oven, and indeed, sleeping in one so I didn’t manage much sleep in the runup to Glastonbury which meant I was bright and sharpish as I met Alan at 6am on the  Wednesday of the festival.

As this was the first year I was a fully registered disabled person this meant we went for the disabled queue to get our passes, and for the shuttle bus to take us to Spring Ground, the disabled campsite within the festival. Only catch was it was around 28 C in the morning and there was a bit of a queue.

Shade was a premium and for a few hours everyone felt like slow-roasting pork as we crawled towards that white tent in the distance where we’d get passes, etc, and hopefully on the bus. Luckily while in the queue we met up with part of the group who’d come from Glasgow by car. Eventually we got sorted, got on the bus, got to Spring Ground and very, very, very slowly started pitching up. Have you tried pitching tents in 34 C heat after having stood in it for five hours and those of us on medication were starting to seriously struggle? It isn’t nice but it is preferable to the rain…

Eventually the last part of the group turned up from the dark recesses of the North West of England, but by this time it was getting into the evening and I’d arranged to meet a mate from Bristol at the bandstand at 8 so I grabbed some beers (my drinking ban was lifted for the duration of the festival) and headed into the wilds of Wednesday night at Glastonbury.

By now there was some merciful cloud cover which helped the skin which by now resembled cracking off a Sunday joint, but Wednesday night I’ve always enjoyed at Glastonbury because nothing much is happening and stages like the Pyramid Stage, are still coming together. What this means is that it’s the only night that feels like ”old” Glastonbury in that you have no idea what you’ll encounter and because one has to make their own fun everything is joyfully random which means sitting around at midnight talking to a family from Hull about how the festival has helped reshape their lives.

And Glastonbury turns into a glorious place at night, especially when it’s warm and dry because you’re not struggling with the mud or hurrying back to your tent to avoid the rain. Not so this night where you could sit in what we used to call the Jazz Stage field, and young ‘uns call West Holts watching fireworks while drinking beer.

A wonderful Wednesday night bled into Thursday morning, and a quiet one. The site this night was quiet which was surprising until you remembered your sunburn and the fact most people would be knackered but my crippled arse stayed up past 3am and crawled into bed having had a splendid night.

Thursday starts with my daily drugs, which look nothing like the drugs I used to consume at the festival in years past.

Thursday is the day where the festival kicks into gear. All the stages bar the three biggest ones start and the festival kicks into gear. Our intention was to see The Orb at the Glade, but getting near the stage was doable but hearing it when the organisers have stuck several smaller stages near was impossible which leads me to a whinge. Over the last decade they’ve added so many stages that there’s so much to see and do that you’re spoiled for choice, but the big chunks of space the festival used to have which allowed the festival to breath are gone. So one stage bleeds into another less than ten metres away and that frankly, is shite. I’d like some of the stages to go or for a bit more thought in how it all works for disabled folk who find it a struggle when there’s bottlenecks.

I will take this chance to thank the young lad and his girlfriend who helped me up a hill near the Glade when there were so many people in one place it was ridiculous, and in fact, I’d say 99% of people at the festival when they noticed I was disabled did all they could. The ones that didn’t can fuck off.

I also experienced the dubious joys of the backstage bar as it’s on the disabled route backstage between stages, and I have to say what a soulless, empty echo of the festival it is. Braying London media whores and their hangers on pretending to have their exclusive Glastonbury isn’t Glastonbury as the joy of the festival is we’re all in it together. Sneaking off to your nice Winnebago isn’t playing fair. I get why Eavis has allowed the backstage area and this demographic to grow as after all, he started this festival to make extra cash but it’s bollocks and for me, risks the heart of the festival.

Anyhow, Thursday ended up being back at the tents in Spring Ground and an early night (sort of) in anticipation of everything kicking off proper on the Friday.

Friday was cloudy and cooler. The media were saying it was what we’d all hate, but give me cool and cloudy around 20 C as that’s perfect festival weather after days of being roasted alive from dawn til dusk.

The site takes on a new energy from the Friday. We know the A Team (not Mr T sadly) are kicking it on the main stages.

Friday however wasn’t a great day. A few decent acts on West Holts and the comedy tent aside, nothing caught my eye til Radiohead who I’d seen when they played the NME Stage (now Other Stage) in 1994, THAT show at the Pyramid in 97 and in 2003 when they last headlined.

Radiohead are a great live band, and they don’t disappoint here, yeah, some of the stuff from Kid A goes down like a lead enema but on the whole the band pick the crowd up and play with them like putty.

At this point I need to say a word about the stewards organising the disabled platform and thank them for doing all they can to make the night, and the experience, as good as it would have been for everyone. They did a great job and considering they’re all volunteers and don’t get a penny for it makes it all the more extraordinary.

As Radiohead draws a close to Friday we head back to the tents, sit around and talk wonderful bollocks until the first spatters of rain hit us causing us all to call an earlyish night and hopefully let the rain be no more than a passing shower. Unbelievably it was, and better than that, the rain dampened down the dust so the site was no longer a dustbowl as it was say, in 2010, 1995 and 1993. This set up Saturday nicely as this is the day where the festival finds an extra gear and goes mental yet the biggest crowd of the day wasn’t for a modern beat combo, it was for a politician.

That’s Jeremy Corbyn in the distance. Now I’ve branched out my opinion on Corbyn’s appearance here, but I will say I have concern for anyone chanting any politicians name as it means you’ve left your critical abilities floating in the long drops. A ”jobs first Brexit” is as much a load of utter pish as when Nigel Farage talks about it and my concern is that Corbyn’s selling a lie to people because there’s no version of Brexit that doesn’t put jobs at risk but he won’t tell you his version (which is exactly the same as other Brexiters like Farage and Gove were punting last year) will, and neither does he want to engage the fact Labour have now put immigration ahead of jobs.

So lots of chants, lots of positivity and a lot of hubris. I’ve seen this shite before and I wish what is going to happen doesn’t but I fear I’m going to be right and an almighty disappointment is heading people’s way.

Moving on from politics the band after Corbyn, Run the Jewels, were a splendid piece of bombastic hip hop and I really should search their stuff out, but no time to hang around as I go for a wander round the site after that.

Ah cider…

This is a giant tortoise shaped mobile soundsystem in the circus fields that I watched for ages as the thing, and the people around it, were great fun.

That’s a marching band. They were utterly brilliant but my path was now making me head towards West Holts as no Foo Fighters for me (and anyhow, I saw their first gig at Reading in 1995 and have seen them around a dozen times) as The Jacksons were heading up that stage.

Now, I’ve always been a fan of disco as I always found it to be the cousin of Punk in terms of ripping the old music down and giving us something new and exciting. As for The Jacksons? Well, where else are you going to see them without paying 80 quid a ticket just for them? And they did the most ridiculously, pompously brilliant video ever which also happened to be the only song they could open their set with.

Again I’m on the disabled platform on a stage chatting to a lovely Welsh family on a bucket list as one of their number is suffering from a terminal condition and again thanks to the stewards who did all they could to make things comfortable. As for The Jacksons they were wonderful but poor sound mixing made parts of the gig a struggle, however these guys are wonderful showpeople and fuck me, they put on a show even if they did play some of the problematic solo material.

After The Jacksons I thought I’d head for a cold cider but it turned out the Foo Fighters were still going letting off the world’s supply of fireworks.

It was an impressive sight some distance away.

After some time waiting for the crowds to leave by forcing myself to sit by the cider bus drinking and chatting, it was eventually clear enough to wander back to the tents across a pretty trashed Pyramid Stage arena.

And off to bed for the last day..

The Sunday was warm and sunny. As is often the case one takes stock of how good a festival has been on the Sunday by how quickly you want to leave, and I didn’t want to go. Yeah, the lineup overall had been poor but you don’t think I’ve been going to Glastonbury for 25 years for the lineup do you? I go to meet friends old and new, and see and experience things I’d never do anywhere else. I go because I might meet extraordinary people who don’t realise their uniqueness, or to chat to drunk people, or meet young people who remind me of me 25 years ago.

Remember what I said about disco? Imagine seeing Nile Rogers and Chic on the Pyramid on a lovely summer afternoon with around 70k other people up for it?

Yeah, it was that good. Which would have made a perfect end to the festival if Biffy Clyro hadn’t come and laid their ponderous landfill rock all over the place like some dirty protest at people having fun. Here’s a picture of my weak leg to show you how interested I was during their set.

And yes, that sunburn still hurts.

At this point we started chatting to a family from Manchester who’d been involved with the Ariana Grande concert bombing and apart from being decent folk, started plying us all with very nice gin as we stared at an amazing sky.

Ed Sheeran is a strange thing. Bland, thin on talent and ability but yet massive. It also should be easy to hate what he does (and his show was at best wallpaper as he sung to a backing track) but he sums up part of where Mainstream music is in 2017. Nothing too adventurous. Nothing radical. Give them a few anthems and send them home. It’s pop music for people who live on microwave food.

But the crowd loved it and as it closed the festival I thought that for many of these people this is what Glastonbury meant for them and who am I to deny them that?

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The next day was the sad, melancholy packing up as everything returns to normal.

The festival wasn’t quite over as Glastonbury doesn’t stop, it just fades out slowly into the Monday as people leave to return home and I retraced our entry. Only this time there were less queues.

Although Alan’s satnav set us on a long and winding road from Pilton to Bristol, I finally saw Brunel’s bridge appear as we sped into Hotwells.

After being dropped off at a friends in Bristol, I said cheerio to Alan but Glastonbury wasn’t quite over as I wasn’t actually home yet so I was still in Glastonbury mode the next day when I made my way to Bristol airport to return to Glasgow where the shuttle bus awaited me.

This dropped me by Central Station where a taxi whisked me back to my humble home and some much needed sleep.

So was this a classic year? Yes, I’d say it was. It was a piss poor lineup but having experienced the festival as someone probably more disabled than I’d like to admit I have to say that virtually everything about this year was amazing from the people I was with, the the weather, to the fellow random festival goers to the stewards and indeed, everything. Yes, I’m physically paying for it afterwards but fuck it; if people go there who are literally counting down the number of weeks they have left to live then being a bit sore and sniffy isn’t a problem.

That said, I’m glad 2018 is a fallow year. It means I have time now to rebuild things and get fitter because frankly, up until the end of May I was in still two minds whether I’d go.It took me three weeks at the gym to get fit enough again to carry the weight I did not just in coming in and out, but over the weekend, so another two years will see hopefully a vast improvement. 2020 is the festival’s 50th anniversary and having attended the 25th and 40th anniversary celebrations I’m not missing that.

Glastonbury 2017 was wonderful. I could go back there in a second. Of course I’d wear more sunscreen but I think people on the whole decided to have fun and decided in light of recent events to be decent human beings, on the whole. Bring on 2019!

 

Oh, Jeremy Corbyn?

Having now returned from Glastonbury I’m working through writing a blog about my fun in the sun, but in hitting the part where I talk about Jeremy Corbyn addressing the huge crowd at the Pyramid Stage on the Saturday, I discovered it was taking a life of it’s own.

That wee speck on the stage in the distance is Corbyn. This is from the disabled platform from the top of the field and gives you a size of the scale of the crowd which was simply huge for an afternoon audience. For a wee while there seemed a sense of hope from many in that crowd as Corbyn represents a ‘newer, gentler’ politics and tens of thousands chanted Corbyn’s name.

At this point I felt a wee shudder of depression as I’d seen this sort of adulation before with the SNP and voiced concern with that back in November 2014. Although like Sturgeon and Salmond, I admire much of Corbyn’s personal politics (except on Scotland and Brexit but more on those in a sec) the idea of the leader as that of a personality cult isn’t good for politics and one of the reasons I’ve shied away from supporting the SNP, though I did vote for them in June because of an excellent local candidate. In fact Ian Dunt makes many good points about the problems with the cult of Corbyn here.

I look at people chanting ‘Oh JEREMY CORBYN’ and see people not in control of their critical faculties. That’s a dangerous thing for a politician to see because it means it doesn’t just feed their ego it means they think they can do things purely for the benefit of their vocal support and this brings me to Brexit. Corbyn is a Brexiter. We know this and last night there was a vote in the Commons that ensured that Jeremy Corbyn is willing to sacrifice jobs for votes because his position of leaving the EU’s single market means jobs will be lost and a form of austerity imposed because Corbyn needs Labour voters in the North of England to remain loyal so it means he’s putting restricting immigration ahead of jobs. A shufty at social media sees Corbynites tying themselves in knots trying to defend Corbyn’s ”jobs first Brexit’ which would see him ‘having the same access to the single market and customs union we have now’. Sounds fine but it’s just a big a load of shite as when Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove said we’d have this last year.

However because Corbyn is a pretty decent bloke and seems to have a soul he can’t be pushing an ideology that’s going to damage so many people’s lives who were chanting his name last weekend in a field in Somerset? Well, yes, because as an old acolyte of Tony Benn he’s always despised the EU and the only way he’ll be able to renationalise on the scale he wants is out the EU. If that means a decade at least of people struggling then because Marxist theory sees the struggle as a noble goal in itself the ends will justify the means.So Corbyn was vague about Brexit during the election campaign and gave politician answers on the times he was pushed because he knows his plans are as damaging as the Tory plans. Sure the end result may well be a better place but the getting there will have hurt and hurt badly.

Then there’s Corbyn’s words and actions about Scotland. I find it extraordinary that south of the border Corbyn comes over a pretty decent bloke, but the minute he passes Gretna he turns into a giant cock. He talks of an ‘unnecessary’ second independence referendum but his position on Brexit leaves us with no choice because Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit policy would wreck Scotland. I’m not saying independence would be easy, it wouldn’t, but the position with the two major Westminster parties is losing free movement, the single market and customs union. The argument now is in the shape of the world after the 1st April 2019 as to whether we’re fucked and the government won’t care (Tories) or we’re fucked and the government will be a wee bit sad about it (Labour).

In a representative democracy 48% of the UK electorate are not being represented, the people of Scotland are being told they don’t have a choice and everyone is trying hard to pretend this might not unleash hell in Northern Ireland. The only voices being heard are those of the Brexiters and their opportunist lapdogs like Ruth Davidson, the rest of us are open eyed in horror as now uncritical Corbyn supporters jump into bed with the Brexiters to defend Corbyn because all critical thinking is gone and this is what their echo chamber tells them to do.

So was I inspired listening to Corbyn last week? No. Am I concerned by him? In relation to how his policies would hurt Scotland; you can be damn right I am. Do I think he offers a chance to people in England? Possibly, but unless you all stop the football chants, stop celebrating the fact he lost another election but boosted his position in the party (people are not having better lives because Labour won Kensington) and tell me how things can get better when his Brexit policy puts everything at risk I will carry on treating Corbyn with a critical eye because frankly, many on the left need to do just that otherwise we’re rubber stamping a different sort of austerity