As I’ve mentioned previously, in 1993 I was living in Bristol working at Comics and CD’s and having a jolly good time, but as the summer of 1993 approached I realised I was living not far from the Pilton Pop Festival, or Glastonbury as it’s better known to non-Bristolians. So I could go down and experience my first real Glastonbury Festival!
This is where I make a confession. I’d been to Glastonbury in 1992 when I was still living in Nottingham. It was a total and complete disaster. We ended up not leaving Nottingham til very early Saturday morning, and then I foolishly dropped some pills just as we were passing Bristol and came up just before we got near the site which meant I spent hours not knowing what exactly was real or not, plus I was being smuggled in the back of a van with four other people so we could get in and frankly once we were in I was in no fit state. I vaguely remember hanging round the Green Fields and it wasn’t til the Sunday afternoon that I started to get over the trip and becoming lucid again. By this point it was time to leave as the person who drove the van had to sign on first thing on the Monday morning so we had to get back to Nottingham pretty early on Sunday afternoon. Basically, it was a fucking dreadful time.
Never trust a hippy and just say no!
So in summer 1993 I wanted to experience my first full Glastonbury. Only problem was the shop and working there, but a solid week of making big sad eyes at Chris who owned the shop, and Sam who actually did most of the day-to-day work in the shop meant that Sam especially just turned round and said ‘oh just bloody go, I can’t have you moping around being miserable’, so with her permission I was ready to go on the Friday, but I had to open up on that day and not only that, I had no tent, booze, food, and no ticket. All I had was on my back so I utterly and totally winged it.
To be honest, I had tried to blag a ticket from the ticketshop in the centre of Bristol, or some of the shops on Park Street which sold tickets, but they’d sold out in the week running up to the festival and I’d already checked that the bus which ran from the bus station to the festival site was regular enough and quick enough to get me down without worrying about hippies and when they need to sign on..
The Friday came and I opened up and waited for Sam to show up with the plan being that once she came I’d be off, and somehow try to get down and get in. Sam turned up, took over the till and as she did a bloke came in with a huge box of comics, and seeing as anything related to pricing up comics, or buying collections was my side of things I knelt down to look through the box expecting to see the usual load of rubbish with the odd one or two gems. I was pissy as this was wasting my time.
Then I looked at the first few comics. They were Valiant Comics. Back then they were hot items and quite a few issues were especially rare, so when I saw this…
I realised I might be onto something as this issue was exceptionally scarce and being sold in excess of £50 at Comic Marts. Going deeper into the box I found more scarce titles, not just from Valiant, but Marvel, DC and various other companies. It was, basically, a goldmine but I was torn between giving this bloke a fair price, and getting my arse down to Glastonbury. So I came up with a figure after giving this collection my best going through and fired out the ‘line ‘well, it’s good stuff, how about £60?’ hoping that he didn’t see my face when I noticed Rai #3 like Sam did who by this point was behind the till looking concerned about me being stuck in the shop and trying not to laugh as I was acting my arse off to try to make £60 sound like a fair price.
And fuck me, he thought it was too and this must have been a box of 200 comics. His only haggle was he had to pay for a taxi to get the box to the shop, so I said we’d chuck him a fiver to cover it. He was happy, left with his 65 quid and I could barely control my grinning face as I took the dozen or so prime issues he had in the box, bagged them, priced them up and realised just with those alone we’d make nearly 200 quid profit if we sold them at that price.
With that, Sam told me to piss off to Glastonbury after a job well done and who was I to refuse the demands of a pretty woman?
I grabbed one of the spare backpacks we had upstairs which we had as Chris (one of the owners) would dump stock from his real job upstairs, and promptly legged it down Gloucester Road to the bus station, only making a stop at Tesco’s in the centre to fill my backpack up with booze, not to mention get a toothbrush and some toothpaste as some level of civillisation was required.
While at Tesco’s I bumped into a lad who’d hitched all the way from Cork, and was also stocking up for booze for the festival. He was camping with mates who were hopefully already onsite and he also had no ticket. Don’t ask me to remember his name, it was a long time ago and brain cells have gone to their Valhalla in that time, but for the sake of this we’ll call him Cork Lad which does make him sound like a superhero who has the power of cork at his disposal.
After myself and Cork Lad stocked up on booze, we headed over to Bristol Bus Station which back then was smelly, loud and dangerous, so pretty much as it is now. We found the big, obvious queue for the bus to the festival and here I bumped into a friend of a friend in Leicester and she was there with her Goth boyfriend. Again these braincells are fighting forever in Valhalla never to return, so we’ll call the friend of a friend FOF and her bloke, Bloke. Now we’ve got that settled, we’ll move on….
The four of us were chatting in the queue for the bus, and we all realised we didn’t have tickets but this was back in the day when you didn’t need tickets to get on the shuttle bus from Bristol to Pilton but you either legged it over the fence with the help of some helpful Scallys, or a Yardie gang from Bristol or London would throw you over the fence or find another way. We all agreed that finding another way made more sense, even though FOF and Bloke had nothing apart from a rucksack between them. Only Cork Lad had access to a tent and that was his mates tent who he hoped was set up and ready at the festival but we were hardly worried about that as we’d started drinking and I’d made a very deliberate point not to touch the stash of Class A Substances stashed in my boot until I was in the festival, or as a possible bribe to get past security to get in as as I’d been told this was a way people had got in.
Eventually the bus turned up (an old double decker which is probably still used today as a shuttle bus for the festival), we boarded it after paying our fiver return to get there and back and we were on our way!!!!
This is where I need to point a few things out-I didn’t bring a tent because I didn’t own one, and I had the insane (to me now) idea that seeing as the summer of 1993 up to that point had been lovely, things weren’t going to change and anyhow, I’d blag it if it did rain.
Oh the rashness of youth.
I’d also only brought one change of underwear, 12 paracetamol, and toothbrush and some toothpaste. In fact I looked somewhat like this….
I’m second on the right in this picture as you can probably see. This was taken about a year or so later in Leicester and I’d not changed much in dress sense or look but that’s pretty much exactly how I looked except I had a black Nexus T-Shirt which meant I had a big yellow flash going down one side like in this picture..
The point being that if you watch Glastonbury-The Movie and look really hard you can spot me in it twice wearing that T-Shirt, but I’m jumping ahead of myself…
Back on the bus, myself, Cork Lad, FOF and Bloke are trying to work out how to get in when we realise that only myself and Cork Lad have been before and I was caned the previous year, and Cork Lad was driven in two years ago so basically we didn’t have a bloody clue. Now the journey from Bristol to Pilton takes about 90 minutes at festival time and the route used to be peppered with touts, especially from Shepton Mallet onwards, but we were confident we’d find something, and if we didn’t then well fuck it, we’d just sit around somewhere, drink our beer and get the first bus back to Bristol.
This is where I need to point out the bus back then dropped you at an offsite carpark, and not as it is today in a carpark which is part of the site, but at a drop off point about a half mile from the festival itself. They still use this today as a more general drop off point rather than just a bus station. Here it is from a few years ago…
Anyhow, the bus started buzzing as it became clear we were getting near the site as we’d passed Shepton Mallet so we were not far.
And then we all saw it.
We were on the top deck of the bus so we had a perfect view and it was a perfect day as the festival site was unwrapped by the trees as we got nearer and we got an awesome sight unfurl in front of us.
This is what it looks like a few years ago:
It was smaller back in that summer of 1993, but the sight was still awesome as the trees unwrapped themselves to give us a perfect view of the scale of the festival with it’s gaudy tents, and then there was the noise. You could hear this constant buzz of excitement coming from the site over the roar of the bus engine and by now, the excited chatter of the passengers on the bus!
This was it, we were at the drop off point and the four of us worked out our bearings and followed everyone down a very long, and very dusty path (which if I’m right, is now part of the festival site itself) which is where we finally lost Cork Lad as he took a sharp turn away from the rest of us and trotted off with a jaunty spring in his step and we’d never know is he really did have the power of bark tissue ever again.
This left me, FOF and Bloke working out which way to go, as most people were heading to one of the main pedestrian gates which meant getting near the masses of police which were outside which wasn’t a good idea due to the lack of tickets and all of us having illegal substances on our persons. Then in a fantastic stroke of luck a passer by saw us and advised us to walk down to the performers gate which is where he got in yesterday, so taking his advice we did just that and were almost instantly offered a ticket from a passing car leaving the site. We refused thinking it was dodgy, and walked on only to look back and see someone buy it, walk past us and walk straight through the gates past the large security guys who had by now seen us obviously look like three people without tickets.
By this time it was getting to be late in the afternoon and I just thought ‘fuck it’ so strapping on my best brass bollocks I strode up to the largest member of security and asked bluntly ‘how much to get us three in?’. The chap grinned, took a look at us and just when I thought we were going to be turned into glue he replied ‘a tenner each’. I shouted the other two over from their position cowering 100 yards away and the security chap showed me the racket he was working which was taking some used ticket stubs giving them to us, who then walked to the performers gate and his mates would then let us in after taking our stubs and then pass them back to the first security man. It meant we we couldn’t leave the festival as we didn’t have performers wristbands or a stub but we had no intention of doing so. It was around 5pm on the Friday afternoon and we were on site and part of Glastonbury festival!
We walked deeper into the site from the performers entrance and the entire site opened up to us and we walked in a daze for about an hour taking the sights, sounds and smells in. Eventually we found the cider bus….
We stayed there for a bit and got ourselves sorted. We had beer. We had cider. We had drugs. We didn’t have tents, changes of clothes for any wet weather but The Velvet Underground were on and things were good.
For that first night we dashed around the site trying to take it all in and we were getting drunk on it, and of course the beer, cider and Class A Substances taken in moderation.
We headed up to the Green Fields which is where we were told to go by a customer of Comics and CD’s who’d I’d bumped into, so we followed the signs but got stuck on the way up by the various bits of anarchy happening all around the site. I don’t mean the slightly organised, slightly pretentious and slightly corporate anarchy on these days, but genuine ‘have I just bloody seen that?’ anarchy. Eventually we went from being in a tent playing cheesy 70’s disco and shifting my boogie to this classic from the era, which I loved when I was ten and didn’t know better, but hey, I was having fun. We really did need to get to the Green Fields and the Stone Circle though.
So tearing ourselves from cheesy Eurodisco we walked up to the Stone Circle just as it was getting dark, sat down, and then realised it was dark and we were looking at a sight very much like this and we wept…
Not because there were no more worlds to conquer in this domain laid out in front of us, but because there was so much out there and we’d barely scraped the surface of what was out there. That and the gin and speed of course.
We stayed up most of the night, found a sound system (in fact this one) jumped around a bit, had a cup of tea, found the Hare Krishna tent, chilled and asked if we could crash for a few hours which of course they were quite happy to let us kip with the large amount of people who were doing the same as us and as the sun slowly rose I nodded off for a few hours sleep to get my energy levels up for the Saturday ahead of us.
A few hours later I woke up lying on the carpeted floor of the Hare Krishna tent as FOF and Bloke were munching away on breakfast of veggie curry the Hare Krishna’s had kindly dished out. So after a cup of tea, some breakfast and a wash under the cold tap (which was needed as it was hot, and we were all sweaty from the day before) it was back off into the site for more fun and adventure and to stare and the weird, wonderful and potentially lethal sights out in the site.
I have no idea how that thing stayed up all weekend without killing dozens of people but still…
Saturday morning. What did we want to do? Well, it’s at this point we realised we didn’t actually have a programme or a timetable, so we trundled to the Pyramid Stage area to mingle at the information tent on the right of this picture:
They didn’t have any programmes a lovely young girl managed to rustle up and couple of timetables for us, and there was every intention of seeing bands but first a relaxing stroll round the festival site.
Now at this point I have to stop again and point out that the idea of a ‘relaxing stroll’ round Glastonbury Festival then (and now) is easier said than done, but back then there were so, so many distractions, so we wandered round the site. Met some weird and wonderful people, saw Ozric Tentacles, and at some point Spearhead but the afternoon was mainly wandering, getting sunburnt, eating falafels and getting ready for The Orb later that night. Before then we spent some time hanging around the Pyramid Stage as the sun was going down and it looked somewhat like this…..
This isn’t my picture, it’s one I’ve found by scoring the internet but it does look as if someone took a memory, painted into onto film and then it’s back here as this is exactly how I remember things. It’s even at roughly the same angle and distance from the stage as we were. I’m buggered if I remember who was on stage, but it didn’t matter. Things were golden and wonderful.
As the sun was going down we made our way to the NME Stage, which is roughly where the Other Stage is now.
The stage was at the bottom of a field at the bottom of a slight hill, plus tents were everywhere the further back you were so by the time we got there the field was rammed to the gills. Doctor Phibes and the House of Wax Equations were playing, and they were putting on a show which set up The Orb perfectly which meant using up some of the last of the Class A Substances which we still had, but it was bloody worth it as there was a low hanging cloud over the site which the band beamed the message ”watch the skies” onto . That show still ranks as one of the best live gigs I’ve ever seen, so it was a pity about the Stereo MC’s who were and are, one-trick ponies who came on afterwards which saw us all wandering off for a long night of fun.
I watched a high-wire show. I watched trapeze artists flying in the dark. I talked to weird and interesting people as we worked our way through the night (I honestly can’t remember half of what happened) to the Stone Circle for the sunrise.I remember looking round and seeing someone filming the entire thing (anyone filming anything was a rare sight back then, so they stood out) so somewhere in that video, I’m there with FOF and Bloke, but the main show was in front of us….
Once the sun came up, we hung around the Stone Circle for a bit, chilled before going back into the main site to get some food and somewhere to sleep for a bit. I remember we found a cornflakes stall, sat there joking with the staff before making our way to the NME Stage and crashing in front of it which is where we spent most of our Sunday sitting there on the blankets we’d bought, drinking the last of the gin and supping cold cider while chatting away to whomever near us in what was an increasingly wonderful atmosphere as the Sunday of Glastonbury then was open doors to locals so lots and lots of picnic blankets were springing up, and several people took pity on us three as two days of sleeping rough, partying and running around had left us looking exceptionally disheveled and looking in need of some charity.
I remember seeing Back to the Planet and wishing I hadn’t as they were dreadful, but Senser who were on next were bloody astonishing and to this day, I wonder why they didn’t become bigger than they did.
It was now getting late into the afternoon in what had become a brilliantly hot sunny day and we had to make a decision whether to stay the night, or go back to Bristol. Bloke was pretty sunburnt and FOF was a bit worried, so they decided to go back and even though I had to be back at the shop on Monday morning I decided to hang around for one last night, plus I’d spent two or so days in other people’s company at Glastonbury and I wanted to go off on my own.
So I did after seeing FOF and Bloke go off with a plan to meet up with them the following week at the Cadbury House back in Bristol. Once they were gone, I headed back into the site, wandered round the stages and settled in front of the Pyramid Stage for a while chatting to a pair of girls from Cardiff who I spent the rest of the festival with. By now you know my brain cells are fighting in Valhalla never to return and they’ve taken with me their names, so we’ll call them Girl 1 and Girl 2 which makes them sound like extras from a film, but they kind of were. You see, it felt like being in a film that weekend. Everything was vaguely unreal and by now I’d turned into something from Mad Max 2 which meant I was having the time of my life but sadly without the car chases and the crossbows strapped to my wrist.
Remember the Nexus design I mentioned earlier? Spot me here in this screengrab from Glastonbury The Movie…
Again, I spent the late afternoon and the evening talking, bantering with anyone, before making our way from the Pyramid up into the Green Fields before again settling down for a sunrise up at the Stone Circle which was exceptionally emotional as it was the last night. Sure, some people would stay for a few days, some for a few weeks to help clear up, some lucky people might even have got up off their arses and changed their lives because of it, but I was a visitor and once the sun came up it was over for me. I said some very sad farewells to the girls making an arrangement to pop up to Cardiff to see them which I did, but I might tell that story another time..
I walked down from the Stone Circle with the girls making sure they went back to their tents ok, and headed back to get my bus back to Bristol while walking through the memories of 70,000 people on my way out..
There’s a sadness at the end of festivals (and comic conventions but I’ll outline that another time) that cannot simply be told. It’s like having your Christmas and birthday at the same time for three or four days solid and then at the end of it having it all taken away in the most painful way you can imagine. The only reason the pain isn’t agonising is because there’s a chance you’ll come back, which to this day I have.
But to finish off this story; I made my way up the hill to the bus. Jumped on it, sat down and promptly slept for the rest of the journey back to Bristol. Around 10ish or so on the Monday morning I got into the bus station and decided to make the walk up from the bus station to Comics and CD’s.
Once I got in the shop, I managed to shock Sam but looking quite different. I’d become a bronzed Adonis as I’d spent the weekend wandering around with my jacket stuffed in my rucksack, or most of the time topless, plus I’d barely eaten, plus I’d been walking to even though I should have been dead I felt quite fit and healthy apart from the lack of sleep which saw me nodding off as I sat down to have a chat with Sam to tell her about the weekend. This made her send me home, and I plodded home to fall into bed and sleep which brought to climax the end of my big adventure at my first real Glastonbury.
Now there’s stuff I’ve forgotten, but every time I watch Glastonbury-The Movie, the film they made which was mainly filmed the the 93 festival, bits and bobs come back to me. For example, there’s a scene in the film with a couple of girls (one is in a white dress) dancing around the crowd in front of the NME Stage, and that was not too far away from where we were sitting. Look closely and I’m there….
There’s also this Youtube video which is astonishingly evocative in places and brings back memories and gives you an idea of the little bits of chaos that was everywhere instead of as it is now where it’s seperated into areas.
Glastonbury 1993 wasn’t my first festival as I’ve pointed out, I’d been to the Heineken Free Festivals in Nottingham, not to mention a few raves in 89 and 90, and Reading Festival the previous year to see Public Enemy and Nirvana. I’d never experienced something like Glastonbury properly in a way which made my senses overload, and I frankly could not bloody wait for 12 months to pass so I could go to the next one but that’s another story…
As I write this there’s eight weeks to this year’s Glastonbury and I can’t wait. It’s the 20th anniversary of me going as long as I dump 1992 into the wheelie bin of history. I intend to make this one the truly life-changing event 1993 was, but this time I won’t blink when I stare into the brightness of the future. You see, as much as 1993 did change me, I backed away from where I should have went in life, but as I’ve said in previous blogs, the power of hindsight is the one superpower I want.
So, sorry about the cryptic end. I didn’t want to end on a sad, or a melancholy note. Just a mildly ambiguous one….
Next time: back to comics for the tale of UKCAC…..