Live Bed Show: A short tale of the Reading Festival 2002

In 2002 Pulp were in an odd place. The stratospheric success of 1994/5 had passed to the extent where their latest album at the time, We Love Life, barely made a ripple in sales or make that much on an impact at the time critically. Personally, I love the album because of it’s melancholic tone though it’s tempered with a curious optimism but creatively it seemed like an end, and it was. This was certainly the case as Britpop was truly dead even though Pulp were never like bands like Gene or Kula Shaker who leaped into the scene to cash in on a genre, but Pulp were dragged into the sucking whirlpool of the mid 1990’s British music scene and for a few exhilarating years so were people like me who went along for the ride.

By 2002 though music was moving on. American music from the likes of the White Stripes was starting to dominate, and Pulp were fading to the extent that at the Reading Festival that year they were bumped from a headlining slot from that year’s Hip Young Things, The Strokes. In retrospect it was just the usual cycle of music as one phase moves out, another comes in.

Pulp played their set and few guessed that this would be their last ever festival set (until the band reformed a decade later) as most of us were having a fantastic time but that Pulp set is something of beauty. Sadly little of it exists online but what does tells a story. Common People especially has something lugubrious about it, and although those of us in the audience were loving it, there’s a feeling that Jarvis and the band are going through the motions here. A few months later they released a Greatest Hits, and proceeded to vanish into the ether with all the band members doing their own things.

Enough wittering though, have a shufty of it for yourselves…

It was the night before Glastonbury Festival……

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

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

It’s simply brilliant stuff…..

Have a good festival and enjoy…

It will rain at 10am…The Tale of Glastonbury 2011

2011 should have been a fallow year for Glastonbury Festival, but 2012 was the year of the London Olympics and they wanted to use some of the festival’s infrastructure so the fallow year’s were swapped round. Considering how wet 2012 was this was a lucky escape.

The festival in 2011 had a lot to live up to after the 40th anniversary blowout in 2010. It was a hard year to top, but it didn’t really try to and it’s a fact some year’s simply are better than other years. The lineup was ok, with bloated tax avoiders U2, dreary indie bores Coldplay, and tedious pop princess Beyonce headlining the Pyramid Stage in an otherwise solid lineup.

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By now the festival wasn’t even really pretending to be an alternative from the establishment any more and although aspects of the festival were truly alternative, the idea of an alternative culture wasn’t what was attracting most of the people coming to the festival. They wanted to raise their hands in the air when the stage lights turned yellow and sing along with Coldplay. By now the UK was in a weird place. Labour were gone, and the first peacetime coalition between the Tories and Lib Dems were in place with terrible things lying in wait for the weaker in society. You’d think this would mobilise people in vast numbers, especially after three years of recession but no, the majority were out to have fun.

The idea of alternative youth culture was effectively dead for most people. When mainstream culture and what was left of alternative culture met, it was only at the likes of Glastonbury which would cause a shock to some to see something which wasn’t this homogenised TOWIE version of what ‘The Young’ should be like.  Glastonbury for all the U2’s and Beyonce’s of the world still offered something different for those willing to look.

By the time 2011’s festival rolled round, I’d moved to a new flat and things were stable, if somewhat dreary and annoying with work. Change was needed and it couldn’t come a moment too soon. Before then was this year’s festival. This was going to be a huge one as not only had our motley crew expanded somewhat but with the addition of my friend Bridget (who I’ve mentioned in passing before when discussing comic conventions in Glasgow in the 1990’s) and her 9 year old daughter Rhia who were coming down from Glasgow.  It should have been a fairly sensible Glastonbury but it ended up with everyone in a mess looking at a fire and wanting baths, beds and a lack of mud…

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I get ahead of myself though.

The plan was for Barry to pick Bridget, Rhia and myself up from Bristol and take us to Glastonbury and we’d wait in the car parks overnight so we’d get out usual place in Park Home Ground, but for a variety of reasons this fell through so thankfully another friend of mine, Tess, offered to give us a lift as close as possible to the site because she didn’t have a ticket but we thought if we’d got to an entrance we could carry our stuff.

Before that though we popped into Glastonbury itself so we could give Bridget and Rhia the guided tour of the town not to mention some chips! Once recharged, we headed to the festival to try to see how far we’d get with both Tess and myself reckoning we’d get to the first gate and we’d cart our stuff from there. We joined the queue, and got to the first gate which we passed with no problem, then the next gate and found ourselves just before the entrance to the field we’d arranged to meet people at the final gate. We’d got amazingly far, in fact much, much further than we’d bargained for and scored our first lucky break of the festival. A wee bit of haggling didn’t get us any further so Tess left us while the three of us struggled in the dark with a load of stuff we couldn’t really seriously manage between the three of us.

Two adults and a 9 year old child cannot carry several tents, several rucksacks, sleeping bags, several slabs of beer and other stuff in the dark, at a festival. The fact we got several hundred yards was amazing but we couldn’t get any further. with nothing to lose I thought I’d call our friends Wig and Katie as they’d texted to say they were onsite, so it was worth a shout to see if they could help and we could wait for a few hours while they found us. We found a flag in the carpark with a number obviously on it and I made a call with a vague hope of help arriving in a few hours.

In fact Wig was about 100 metres away and both he and Katie were with us lending a hand within 20 minutes. Lucky break #2!

We all wandered up to join the smallish queue for the festival and to bed in for the rest of the night for the six or seven hours we had to wait to get into the festival. Thankfully the weather was warm and dry as we joined the queue right next to where some other friends of mine were! Lucky break #3!

Over the next few hours we all chatted away, tried to have a doze, necked a few beers, and hoped it wouldn’t rain, but one of our crowd, Paddy, gave the prediction that it would ‘rain at 10am’. With that deadly prediction we realised the priority was once the gates opened to leg it across the site to where everyone would be camping but word came down the line that security would open up the gates early as a massive storm was indeed coming but before Paddy’s prediction of 10am. As the queue started to move, the rains came down and we struggle through the churning mud like ravers dropped in the middle of the Somme as we pulled, and pushed and dragged ourselves and our stuff though the mud and fields.  Sadly we lost Paddy and the others, but Katie, Wig, Bridget Rhia and myself eventually found Janet, Jan and the others in our usual space and all the time we were racing against the oncoming storm clouds.

The rain came again as I was putting my tent up. Big whopping globs of warm summer rain slapping against me and in my tent as I raced to put it up, though by the time it was up with Bridget’s help, I was drenched and my tent was a swimming pool. Still, the rain had stopped, I’d mopped out my tent as much as possible, and decided to give Bridget and Rhia a guided tour of the festival when it was still not raining. However showing a bouncy 9-year old round the site when your days of being lithe and fit is not a good idea so we eventually ended up on the hill overlooking the festival to give the idea of the scale of the thing, which is exceptionally impressive when it’s clear and sunny like it was that afternoon.

Wednesday ended up with people sitting around the campsite being drunk and is often the case, Wednesday gave way to Thursday and a bright, dry day. Thursday’s at Glastonbury are amazingly busy days now as it’s when everything starts up apart from the main stages but to me this year started to feel like the hangover of 2010’s massive blowout. This isn’t to say the acts that were down to play were tedious dross, (though some were) but it felt somewhat anti-climatic. Fortunately what shook me out of my ennui was the Kidz Field. Now, I’ve been going to Glastonbury since 1992 as laid out in these blogs, but not once have I set foot in the Kidz Field. I’ve been backstage across the site at various times over the years, been in the farmhouse, Michael Eavis’s bedroom and seen the cows close up but never in the Kidz Field. This is mainly because I’ve never had the chance to and also an adult male hanging around the field by himself is just a bit too Savile really so thanks to Bridget and Rhia I managed to experience the last bit of the festival I’d never been to.

The Kidz Field is an utter joy. It can get astonishing tiring watching kids run around being kids but it’s a lovely place to escape the lunacy, not to mention the sometimes annoying antics of the main festival.  It’s a great wee island where the ethics of the festival as it was when I first went still exist, not to mention they’re being instilled into kids who will be driving on the festival when I’m old or long gone.

But a festival isn’t made by the Kidz Field alone so Thursday was another day of wandering, not to mention seeing some acts, including at the new Spirit of 71 stage which was to celebrate the 1971 festival which was filmed as Glastonbury Fayre (something I’m going to talk about in another blog sometime) but the problem with the stage was it was crammed in between two stages, plus sound from the Jazz/World Stage (now renamed West Holts and now a nominal third stage) would bleed in when over the weekend when the wind would change. There were, and are, simply too many stages crammed too close to each other. Less is sometimes better, and also, it’d do some of these acts good to have them on larger stages. The trying to cater for everyone by organising things onto stages is one thing I dislike about the modern festival as it tries to make up for the glorious chaos of the pre-fence years.Of course the problem is that most people now coming never had any experience of the pre-fence days so to most, it probably didn’t matter than in places it was well, a bit touristy. I’ve spoken about gentrification before and Glastonbury has been pretty solidly gentrified with little islands like the Green Fields and the Kidz Fields proving the festival still is what it was meant to be. This isn’t to say I’ve fallen out of love with the festival but that there perhaps needs to be a re-evaluation of what it’s doing before it really is just a shadow.

But I digress. As Thursday continued we headed back to the campsite for a recharge, and spotted some poor girl struggling to put her tent up by herself. We quickly found out she was Japanese and had come all the way over from Japan for the festival all by herself with only a very basic understanding of English. That’s bloody impressive. So we found her name out eventually, helped put her tent up and welcomed her to our group though how she managed with the mix of accents from all over the UK in varying degrees of drunkenness is a mystery.

Thursday ended in a sunny haze, and as Friday emerged from the cocoon of the previous day it promised a lot, including some threatened rain in what had been a mainly dry festival since the deluge on Wednesday morning. This maybe because serial tax avoiders U2 were headlining the Pyramid Stage and the fates wanted to electrocute minuscule wanker Bono, but for whatever the reason the gnats of fate did sting and lo, did it solidly piss down for most of Friday to the point where the festival became a muddy mess. Watching WU Tang Clan in the pissing rain is fun, but by the time Big Audio Dynamite played The Park things were cold, wet and muddy. I’d lost everyone who I was with so headed back to our campsite mainly to find them but as they weren’t there I decided to shelter in my tent to listen to Primal Scream play the whole of Screamadelica as the rain pissed down as I thought about the first time I saw Primal Scream at Glastonbury nearly 20 years earlier in the warm sunshine.

Saturday was a chance to assess the damage of the rain. We’d built a shelter for us to sit outside and socialise all with some tarpaulin and ingenuity  and this had managed to mainly survive the night.  Saturday was also the chance for me to see Swedish Indie group Those Dancing Days, who are one of those bands who should have been on a main stage rather than stuck away at The Park on a Saturday afternoon. Sadly their act was hampered with serious technical issues as referenced in this audio clip.

The Park by now was a gooey mush of mud, and seeing as the rumour that Pulp were playing a secret set there had been confirmed, it was becoming a packed gooey mush of mud. Although the day was generally warm and sunny, The Park hadn’t dried out, neither had many of the paths to the stage. So when I went away and came back The Park was crammed full, so I yet again went to the hill overlooking the field and listened to Pulp play with a load of other people as you can see in this video around the 0.13 mark.

They played a good set but if you look through some of the videos of the gig on YouTube you’ll hear people talking constantly through some of the less well known songs. This is something that annoys me about not only gigs at festivals but generally. Why come to a fucking surprise gig if all you’re going to do is talk bollocks for the entirety of the set? What are these people going to tell their mates, ”oh, went to see Pulp and me and Lucinda had a chat about Eastenders”?

Anyhow, the plan for me was to head back to the campsite, get some more beers and make it to Glasvegas who were playing the John Peel stage, but the problem was the Chemical Brothers were playing The Other Stage which was packed like I’d never seen it before. This could be because the boredom made flesh that is Coldplay were playing the Pyramid Stage for something like the 2,000th time. The frequency of Coldplay headlining is frankly a joke and shows a paucity of imagination for the organisers. Yes, I understand it’s hard to arrange a headliner but the festival shouldn’t be that concerned about pandering to a TV audience or indeed, Coldplay fans because they’re boring.  The Chemical Brothers however put on an amazing show that was anything but boring. Organisers take note….

Sunday gave us a beautiful warm summer’s day which dried out much of the farm which meant the boots came off and were replaced by sandals! There wasn’t much I really wanted to see apart from the splendid Queens of the Stone Age, and possibly Paul Simon. Oh, and The Wombles.

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a load of grown men and women struggling to play their instruments while wearing Womble suits in 25 degree heat, which means they were much, much hotter. It really gets bizarre when they’re doing that and performing a Christmas song in the middle of summer.

Back at the campsite we all worked out what we were going to do. Most of us were knackered from wading through runny, then gloopy mud and then being roasted in the sun so while a few of us went to see Beyonce for her one good song, most of us stayed at the Other Stage for Queens of the Stone Age for what was sadly a pretty thin audience as most people seemed to be at the Pyramid to see Beyonce perform her one good song and then prance around for 90 minutes. In fact it was so quiet for QOTSA, I managed to get right down to the front.

After the bands finished we all ended up back the the campsite for one last night but we were knackered. It’d been a weekend and a half with none of us getting any younger as well. Next morning we all said out farewells knowing that there was no festival in 2012 because it it being a  fallow year, and the Olympics were happening. 2012 was a chance to recharge.

Monday morning we all packed up, went our separate ways as Bridget, Rhia and myself trudged to the bus station to get the loooonnnngggg bus journey back to Bristol and to a jumpy cat, a warm shower. and eating off proper plates. The guys stayed a few days longer before heading back to Glasgow, while I rested for a few days before taking on the St. Paul’s Carnival.

2011 was a good year. Our wee group gained more people like an unstoppable zombie army, and the festival had settled into the modern age with good and bad to show for it. 2012 was a rest year but the festival would be back in 2013 but by then I’d have left my job, left another one and ended up bouncing around working for utter wankers. 2013 could have been a horrible year, but instead it’s one of the best festivals I’ve ever done.

I’ll tell the story of that year next time…

Pulp Vs. Jamie Hewlett

Back in the day when the flavour of Pop was Brit, and shite like Dodgy and Kula Shaker had chart success, some good came from Britpop in the form of Pulp, who were imperious during the summer of 1995 thanks to their single Common People and their headlining spot at that year’s Glastonbury Festival on the Saturday night.

I stumbled across scans of the comic adaptation Tank Girl co-creator and original artist Jamie Hewlett of the song, Common People, that he did for the French single release. They’re not widely known about, especially among a section of comics fans far more interested in spandex and muscles, but they’re worth seeing again nearly 20 years later.

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The Rise and Fall of the Reading Festival part five

Part one. Part two. Part three. Part four. 

After last time at Reading in 2001 I was unsure whether  to go back as I was single, fed up and couldn’t be arsed, however the lineup was a cracking one.

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I was prepared to go by myself but I’d gotten to know a few people from an online forum I was part of at the time, and in particular I’d gotten to know a girl by the name of Nat pretty well so to cut a long story short (and a long story probably for another time) we’d arranged to camp together at the festival as we were getting on well considering there was a largish age difference (she was 19 and I was 35) and she was in Welwyn Garden City and I was in Bristol.

Regardless we’d made a plan to meet at Reading train station on the Thursday afternoon with myself turning up early to grab a good camping spot while she struggled to get through London. This meant I turned up amazingly early but found the site was already heaving, so as I got into the site I headed as quickly as I could to find a good place but the campsites were full from the arena outwards, and I didn’t want to go too far out as Nat wanted to be close to the arena so I found a good place near a corner of one campsite that would fit her tent as well. After pitching up my tent and asking my neighbour to try to keep a space, I headed to the train station to meet Nat in a sate of being still amazingly sober.

At the station I walked back into the crowd of people pouring into Reading for the festival and spent the next half hour waiting for Nat to pop up in the crowd, when I got a text from her saying she was on the next train and would be in. Thankfully there is a bar next to the station, so I slipped a beer down my neck quickly and before I knew it I waited no longer as she finally managed to get to Reading. After we met up we considered nipping into town to stock up on beers but the priority was getting her tent set up in a very, very full festival. We threw her tent up quickly once we got to our campsite and we didn’t fancy going into town, so we went to get her wristband when Nat noticed there was a Carling stall selling cases of Carling, a crap beer but it’d save a walk into the Sainsbury’s in the centre of Reading, so we got a couple of cases, headed back to our tents and proceeded to neck as much as possible while wandering around the site.

Here’s the thing about this year. The site was rammed even though it’d split into two with another leg in Leeds with Guns And Roses playing exclusively in Leeds, so it actually had a stronger lineup than the parent leg of the festival but Reading was utterly rammed with a crowd much, much younger than even the previous year and much rowdier, and even though there’d been a rape in 2001 not far from where I camped, the feeling of insecurity in some parts of the site on that wander in 2002 was scary, especially since I was supposed to be sort of looking after Nat, even though she was perfectly able to look after herself. The festival however was in a state of flux as it was moving from a festival full of kids to adults wanting to indulge in music one last time in that summer, to one where lots and lots of very middle class kids wanted to turn up and make themselves very ill while smashing a load of things up. The atmosphere in parts of the site was dark, and even being a veteran of raves 12 years earlier, or those early Glastonbury’s I did which were still edgy, this was different and somewhat scarier at times. Still, where we’d camped seemed ok and Nat and myself were getting on well, so that first night we got horribly, horribly drunk and talking bollocks before ending up in the same tent together.

Next morning we got up in a very, very hungover state to sort ourselves out and wander off to get some breakfast in Reading, so we ended up getting some food, drinking more and staggering (and I mean staggering) back to the festival and into the arena to plant ourselves by the beer tent to drinking heavily and generally muck around while watching the White Stripes. After this we wandered round the arena for a few hours drinking heavily while waiting for Pulp to come on and seeing as we both adored them, this was our main thing to watch on the first night. Sadly it was also the last gig they played for nearly a decade, but it was a spectacular gig we both loved in our by now amazing pissed states. After Pulp, we legged it across the site to watch the Aphex Twin play a set which to be honest I don’t remember much of apart from the fact by now we were hammered and falling over each other. After that we staggered back to our tents to crash out in a heap.

Saturday came as a shock, and we took it easier on this day mainly because we’d broken ourselves the day previously and we wanted to make it to Ash and Muse.We both loved Ash, but whereas Nat wanted to see Muse, I wasn’t convinced but fuck it, I was having a great time so I went with the flow as we were getting on like the proverbial house on fire and then some, so we had an amazing time watching Ash who played probably the best set I’ve seen them play, and as the rain came down I was more convinced about Muse, but to this day I’m still dubious of them as they still remind me of those prog bands from the 70’s who went on and on and on and on…

The Saturday night was closed by Foo Fighters who played a good show but seemed like they were clocking on for a days graft rather than anything else, so we decided to go back to the tents to drink vodka and fall over, which we did and by now we were sharing the same tent and using Nat’s tent to store beer. As it was we were running low, so we made a good night of it and that Saturday night was one of the best days/night at a festival I’ve ever experienced. Next morning was about getting up early, having a wander into town and getting breakfast before heading back into the arena for a quietish day of music.

There’s not a lot I remember about the Sunday apart from noticing that suddenly we seemed to be the tallest people in the field as kiddie Slipknot fans poured into the arena to see them play. Later on we decided to leave after watching the Prodigy try to capture old glories but fail horribly, so we wandered by to our tents to finish off our beer and discuss what we were going to do next in our lives. Monday morning came, we woke up, packed up our tents after a cracking weekend, walked to the train station where she stood on the London-bound platform and I was on the westbound platform looking at each other being quite miserable we were splitting up. A few weeks later Nat moved to Bristol and this started an odd few years.

In 2003 Reading rolled round, and Nat had moved back home, but we were going to go to Reading together as again, it was a good line-up.

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We were both by this time utterly obsessed with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and if you squint we’re in this video somewhere, but again this year was a blur, though I did watch a great set from the Polyphonic Spree, Scissor Sisters and FC Kahuna. We both watched the Libertines collapse and Blur go through the motions, but we did join in with building a mountain of rubbish on one of the many casualties Reading throws up each year.

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That sadly, is the only picture I can find that we took from that year and we took loads, but all seem to be lost, though I do have a load of floppy discs with pictures on them but sadly no way of reading the discs!

Oh progress…

Anyhow, 2003 ended with me being very, very, very drunk on the Monday morning fighting my way back to Bristol smelling like a tramp, before staggering into my bed for 12 hours sleep and a vow never to go back to Reading. The reason being things had changed. It was no longer a music festival per say, but rather another box for teenagers to tick before starting university, which festivals kind of had been but with working class kids mainly priced out the festival was pitched towards the sort of person the festival previously wouldn’t have allowed near the site.

2004 though saw myself buy a ticket more out of habit than anything, so did Nat, but I wasn’t working full time at this point as I’d decided to make my money from low-level dealing of comics and mushrooms, which was actually more profitable than it sounds. We’d done Glastonbury together that year, but Reading was something we really wanted to do out of habit as this year the line up was iffy to say the least.

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It was an ok lineup, with Friday standing out, but Sunday was awful, but hey! It was Reading!

August came that year and for those who can’t remember it started raining at the start of August and didn’t finish til September, which seeing as the Reading site is right next to a river then this means that you should expect serious flooding and we got serious flooding. In fact up til the Thursday morning when the gates opened they were still pumping water out of the campsites around the arena, so when I arrived on site I struggled to find a dryish bit to camp our tents on. Eventually I found a reasonably dry bit though it was not too far from what was a swamp. I just had to wait for Nat to show up and she  was stuck trying to get through the swamps which were now the carparks. Eventually she turned up and we struggled to be cheery in a what were conditions which were dry, but were threatening rain and next morning on our way into the centre to get stocked up it rained, and rained, and rained.

We stopped at a pub to get a breakfast, not to mention tidy up a bit before heading back into the swamp. The barmaid took sympathy at us as we must have made a pitiful pair sitting there dripping wet covered in mud. She kept bringing us tea and tried to cheer us up but that couldn’t last all day so once the rain died down a bit we headed back to the festival site hoping it’d not been washed away.

We tried to have fun. Really we did. We found the mushroom stall that had served us so well a few months earlier at Glastonbury to supplement my mushroom supply. Once ingested, we proceeded to enjoy another cracking performance from Ash, letch over The Distillers before Nat went off to see Graham Coxon and I laughed at The Darkness who were, briefly, the biggest band in the world for around a fortnight.

Saturday was dry, but we were knackered from being soaked the day before, plus the comedown from the shrooms hit us hard, so we tucked into more shrooms to try to make the day better. It was all good fun, but Nat went back to the tent to have a kip as I stayed to watch a Morrissey set vastly better than the one he’d played a few months earlier at Glastonbury. I couldn’t help feel that Reading had changed for me and that all these people burning plastic, or talking over songs they didn’t know weren’t people I wanted to be at a festival with. Maybe it was the comedown mixed with the rubbish weather but I wanted to go home so when I got back to the tents after The White Stripes, I mentioned to Nat that I might go home on the Sunday afternoon to which she said she was thinking the same so we decided to leave it til the morning to decide.

Sunday morning saw Nat decide to go home early afternoon, while I fancied stayed a bit longer after waking up a bit cheerier, so I helped her pack up and walked the long walk to the train station to see her home. After we said our farewells I popped into the pub next to the station to have a couple of beers and watch the Olympics which were on at the time. At this point I really just fancied going back to Bristol to sit down the legendary Cat & Wheel watching the Olympics and drinking from a glass while sitting in a comfy seat.

I headed back, watched the Loose Cannons, wandered round the arena for a bit, before going to my tent, packing up and fucking off before 50 Cent came on. In fact as my train was passing the site on the way home I could see the hail of bottles aimed at him as he was on stage and I partly wished I’d stayed to see it, but that would mean staying to see Green Day who are pish, and staying another night in a swamp. The prospect of a nice pint in a pub after a shower was too attractive.

That was the last Reading I really did for a full weekend.  I’ve been back to do the odd day to see Rage Against the Machine, but there’s nothing to attract me. The crowds are full of joyless, empty kids burning tents and acting like thugs and I can’t be dealing with that acrid smell of burning plastic and faeces as another portaloo goes up in flames.

So here we are and as I write this coverage of Reading 2013 is on BBC Three with a faceless pair of middle class presenters who look like they’ve been genetically bred to be as bland and empty as possible. Bands like The Blackout wander round the main stage throwing empty poses while saying nothing to an audience lapping up the empty words because they fit the current style of the day. Having an opinion or actually saying something is frowned upon now as it’s all about empty statements from empty vessels. A$AP Rocky prances around singing about ‘niggers’ and ‘bitches’ without being pelted off stage for being the prick that he clearly is.

Reading still has the odd shining diamond, but the Indiefication of the festival to become the festival current NME readers deserve is sad to see. I may well return should the right band turn up and of course, should the inclination and finances be there, but the festival is no longer for me, although I do appreciate people and festivals change, seeing Reading become what it has and the carnage left by those attending it is a pity. It deserves better.

I Wanna Live Like Common People-Glastonbury 1995

I’ve already outlined the tale of Glastonbury 1993 and how that affected me, so let’s go diving right into 1995’s festival after a quick outline of the horrible failure that was Glastonbury 1994.

The plan for 1994 was to share a stall with the Deadline crowd, which meant Comics and CD’s (who I was still associated with even though I’d moved back to Leicester from Bristol) would share the space, so we’d put up the basic capital and they’d give us a load of creators doing stuff at at the festival. This would ideally have seen people like Jamie Hewlett  drawing Tank Girl  at the festival and all manner of frankly mental ideas while we sold comics and we all made loads of money as Deadline had a great mix of comics and music.

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Unfortunately what happened was that the Tank Girl film happened which meant everyone related to Deadline and Jamie Hewlett especially got a mountain of cash which he spent on an ice-cream van. The idea went quickly down the bog, and I was stuck with a week to go before the festival and no ticket, so like 1992, I managed to blag in using the cunning technique of walking right through the main gates behind a Channel 4 truck as it was the first year the festival was televised to a national audience.

Like 1992, I don’t remember much. I dropped a pill in Leicester and came up on Saturday. Everything else was blurry, and I had to leave very early on the Sunday to get back to Leicester to work. A pattern however had been set with me having one shite year, then a great year so I left 94’s festival hoping for 95 to be great.

I should point out that at this point the festival was changing from the messy rabble of disorganisation it’d been since 1970 to a more modern version, but these years are the last of the real festival as it was and the start of the more commercial tourist years we see today. That isn’t to say Glastonbury now is crap, it’s not, but it’s lost a part of it’s soul but more about this some other time…..

Anyhow, 1995’s festival is coming up and The Stone Roses are headlining on the Saturday night. Britpop is everywhere, and yet again I don’t have a ticket. At this point I’m sharing a house in Leicester with a lad Joe who I’d met down the pub as you do which brings me to the evening we were sitting in another pub talking about Glastonbury a few weeks before with his girlfriend Denise (who I’d tried chatting up before Joe pulled her, but he used cunning tactics to deflect me elsewhere. Bastard!!).

I decided I wasn’t missing out and spent the night trying to convince them that not only would I be able to get us in for nothing, or next to nothing, but it’d be a piece of piss and we should do it! This was easier said than done as I didn’t have a clue how to do it as I was blagging it, but I needed a lift down so spent the next fortnight trying to talk them into it.

Then a week before the festival, The Stone Roses pulled out and were replaced by Pulp, who was all of our favourite band at the time and a plan was hatched. We’d go down after I finished work on the Thursday night, but as I was working in a nightclub called Mosquito Coast at the time, this meant leaving at around 2 or 3am. We didn’t have a tent either, but thankfully a friend Roz came through with a loan of hers,

We were sorted apart from the fact I knew Denise didn’t fancy it, and Joe was a flaky bastard at the best of times so the plan was doomed to failure.

Thursday came. I worked my shift, and bought a case or two of beers waiting for Joe and Denise to pull up outside. As 2.30am passed I thought ‘they’re not doing this are they?’, so I sat there looking glum with my bag all packed up ready to go then one of the doorstaff Rich, came in telling me there were two people in a car outside waiting for me who were Joe and Denise in her battered old motor. As I grabbed Rich to help me quickly load up the car with booze, I remembered (adrenaline kept me going)  that I’d smashed my right hand loading up the cellar that day with barrels of beers. In fact I’d smashed it amazingly badly, and my little finger and ring finger were utterly useless so I got some industrial tape and made a very dodgy splint with the help of Roz who had trained as a nurse.

So making sure we had beer, and Roz who was going to chuck us her tent on the way out of Leicester we were off. We dropped Roz home, grabbed her tent and Joe, Denise and myself sped off on a boiling hot summer’s night/morning to Glastonbury with only a few cases of beer, some changes of clothing, a tent and some Class A drugs taped to my leg as you do of course…

There was also a Best of Scott Walker and The Walker Brothers tape, which we played all the way down. In fact I remember the sun coming up just as we passed Coventry singing My Ship Is Coming In very loudly with Joe and Denise as we were all massive Scott Walker fans and it helped hide the fact I had no bloody idea how to get in and I’d just sneaked some speed up my nose in order to stay awake as by now I’d been awake for nearly 24 hours while Joe and Denise had slept a bit before coming down.

I decided the best thing to do would be to cut through Bristol. I have no idea why as it’d have been easier to go straight down the M5, but I had this mad idea it’d be quicker so we promptly got into Bristol very early in the morning before getting lost on Park Street, and finally getting on the right road down.

As we got nearer the festival it dawned on me I’d better start working a way out to get in, but I still didn’t have a clue. I was utterly blagging it but I was sure my ship would eventually come in but as we got to the main entrance to the site itself we all shat ourselves and instead of turning left to go in, we drove straight on. And on, And on. Until we ended up in Glastonbury itself at what must have been around 5 or 6am.

And here we sat for a few minutes trying to work out a plan. This plan involved going to a supermarket to buy more beer and vodka, neck it and build up some Dutch Courage before getting back in the car and heading back to the festival site. It was at this point I realised I was still in my work clothes, so promptly changed in the middle of the street giving early morning commuters an eyeful before jumping in the car and heading back….

Which is when we got lost. Not slightly lost, but ending up in Cheddar type of lost. It’d also changed from a boiling hot day into heavy torrential rain which meant we couldn’t see the roads, and my navigation skills were rubbish by this point as I was wearing down. Somehow I managed to get us to Wells after working out I’d directed us in one huge loop when we came out of Glastonbury, so we decided to find the nearest petrol station, fill up, get directions and if it was still pissing it down by the time we got to the festival site, fuck the weekend off and just go back to Leicester as by now the three of us were pretty fed up with each other and my cunning plan wasn’t working.

It was at this point we pulled into Wells in the sheeting rain and saw some poor hitch hiker in his yellow raincoat by the side of the road as we drove in, and I joked ‘bet you he’s working at the festival’ so Denise pulled over and asked him if he wanted a lift, which he did. We asked where he was going, and he said it was the festival so we gave him a lift as he could direct us from Wells to the site.

It was then he sussed we didn’t have tickets and were very, very lost. He then informed us he was one of the heads of security.

Bollocks.

Then he told us he could get us in, and not just get us in the festival but give us free passes, and get the car parked in Michael Eavis’s secure car park by the farmhouse. All he wanted was 30 quid a few lines of speed. A very reasonable price we thought if he was who he said he was and not an axe murderer, and we’d find out soon enough as we were at the festival site.

Lo and behold he pulled out his huge security pass and we sailed past police, security, and in fact everyone as we drove right into the secure car park by the farmhouse, and he did indeed give us three passes but advised us to use them only if needed. We were chuffed. I was chuffed. My blag had worked in spite of itself, so we chucked him some beers as well as the money and speed we’d given him.

It was the least we could do but he wasn’t finished with us yet. He actually helped us take our stuff to one of the campsites in front of the main stage and it was here he left us. The reason being that there’d been some robberies and a few muggings around the site the night before and he wanted to take us somewhere in the middle of it, but safe.

At this point the rain had stopped, the sun was back out and it was beginning to get very, very hot.

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We managed to struggle to put up Roz’s tent. Realised that three people in the tent would be cramped but fuck it. We were in & my blag worked. Even If I didn’t have a clue how it did.

As we set up, we had some young hippie girls give us hash cake, so we offered them vodka which they took and we settled down as we all chatted away about stuff as you do at festivals. You spend lots of time talking about stuff at festivals.

Eventually we realised it was early afternoon and this is where things get hazy and blur into one, which again, is something that happens at festivals, especially good ones. I know we saw The Prodigy. I know I spent a long time in the comedy tent hiding from the sun which had become so strong there was no escape. I was toasted that weekend, utterly broiled in the harsh sun as the site is actually a huge bowl and there’s little shade if you can’t get in a tent, not that you would stay in a tent long as it’d be far too hot to stay in one.

Also, the first day at a festival is always a blur plus I’d been awake for 36 hours and my body was on the verge of collapse, so were Joe and Denise and we crashed fairly early on the first night.

Only problem was three people sleeping in a tent really best for two at a push wasn’t fun, plus we’d spent nearly two days living in each others armpits, so the next morning after a bit of breakfast we decided to go our separate ways for a bit but meet up for PJ Harvey and of course, Pulp.

I wandered round for a bit, bumped into some friends from Bristol and Leicester. Had some cornflakes. Had some cider. Drank lots and lots of water, and slowly cooked in the sun which by now just didn’t care how hot it was. It was out to burn anything and anyone however we managed to get to the Saturday afternoons main even which was PJ Harvey.

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To be exact, PJ Harvey in a pink catsuit. Leaving aside the fact most males in the crowd were having their gob smacked for obvious reasons it was a simply great gig.I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone hold over 60,000 people in their hands as well as she did that afternoon.

After this I went back to the tent with Joe to meet Denise, and get some beers and food in preparation for Pulp. Joe and myself had also made a purchase of some acid from a Yardie after the PJ Harvey set.

This is where I have to make another point that although I say Glastonbury has lost a lot of it’s soul, it’s also lost the gangsters from Bristol, London and Manchester who would not only charge people to jump the fence, or sell drugs but fight over territory on the site. In 92 in my brief first Glastonbury I noticed there were areas off-limits after dark, and even in 95 when things were becoming more organised there were still areas far too dodgy to go in the dark. Of course tent thefts were common which they are still, but they don’t tend to get the mainstream coverage they used to because it doesn’t fit the nice media narrative that it’s a nice Guardian reading middle class jolly in a field, because middle class kids can’t possibly be thieving wee bastards.

Anyhow, back to the dodgy acid. It was brown and Denise wisely chose to avoid taking it, though Joe and myself did as we went as near the front for Pulp as we could. Thing was it was a massive crowd as Pulp were near the top of the charts with Common People and their set was simply one of those festival moments that will live with everyone there because it was magnificent.

Only thing was the acid wasn’t working and we’d paid a fiver each. Or I thought the acid hadn’t kicked in until my legs started feeling weird as the lights kicked in during Common People, Pulp’s final song that night..

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As Pulp finished, so did my legs and I decided to take a little sit down as tens of thousands of people left the arena. I remember sitting them calmly grinning like a sweaty Jack Nicolson at the end of The Shining staring at the main stage for what seemed like hours, but must have only been 20 or 30 minutes before my brain told my legs to ‘get up’ and commanded me to find some water and drink as much as possible, which I did. This sorted my head together but I was still tripping harder than I could have expected and harder than I was prepared for in a field with 20,000 people. So I walked. As I walked someone said Portishead hadn’t been on due to Evan Dando running vastly late, and so I followed the crowds to the tent where Portishead were due to play.

I remember standing on a slope listening to Portishead’s music and slowly getting back in control of myself, and as they finished I was lucid enough to go for a late night wander which is a Glastonbury tradition I still do today. As the sun was coming up I made my way from the Stone Circle back to the tent to find no sign of Joe or Denise which was great as I had the tent to myself.

A few hours later Denise woke me up. They decided to sleep in the car as they’d also spent the night wandering around the site after Pulp, and Joe also suffered the pains of the Yardie acid.

After a chat swapping late night stories, we decided to wander around the site and get some breakfast, but the sun on the last day was again unforgiving and by now the site was baked into a giant dustbowl so dust was everywhere. But at least it wasn’t raining…

Again I don’t remember much of that last day. I tried to meet my mate John who was one of the lads who worked at Comic Showcase in London who was working at the circus field in a double decker bus. The three of us wandered around but I decided to head back to the tent  which meant I saw Page & Plant & The Bootleg Beatles.

It was around this time I realised I hadn’t had any alcohol since the incident with the acid the night before and in fact, it was probably a bloody bad idea considering the heat and the fact that I was losing a lot of fluid walking around. Only one way to cure this; more water and then beer!

That evening though was about the build up to The Cure and I spent the last evening of that year’s festival sitting on the slope looking down at the main stage watching the Cure play a blinding set. This night though I was only a bit drunk, no more drugs for me and anyhow, I’d used them all up the day before….

After this, I wandered off again in an attempt to see the end of Goldie, but failed so I just drifted wherever the crowds took me which meant I saw all the weird, wonderful and unplanned sights you don’t really see at Glastonbury anymore but we’d planned to leave early to get back to Leicester. I headed back to the tent to find it again empty, so assuming Joe and Denise decided again to kip in the car, I just laid down outside the tent and watched the stars. The sky in the country is a different thing from the city, but the sky over a Glastonbury Festival is an amazing site with all the spotlights, lasers and whatever else you can imagine. Eventually I crawled into the tent to get some sleep.

A few hours later Joe woke me up urgently as we’d all slept late, and they had kipped in the car so we needed to get going fast. We packed up the tent, legged it the relatively short distance to the secure carpark by the farmhouse, and sped out of the site only looking behind us with more than a few tears in our eyes once…

On the way back Joe got us lost, so we nearly ended up in Stoke, but we managed to get back to Leicester by early afternoon, so they dumped me off at the house while Joe and Denise went back to hers to tidy up and sleep.

I however couldn’t sleep, so I called Roz and arranged to go out that afternoon, and bumped into another friend Sarah in the pub, so after I updated the pair of them on the weekend we decided on that gloriously sunny Monday afternoon to for to the local Odeon to see the Tank Girl film.

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It’s still a film I love purely because I was still high from the wonderful weekend that was Glastonbury 1995, but as we left the cinema and headed back to the pub I knew I had to let the weekend end so I left Sarah and Roz, wandered home and slept 12 hours in a comfy bed after some of the best few days of my life.

The thing is though the genie was out the bottle. Channel 4’s coverage of Glastonbury had opened people’s eyes, especially as both years were dry years, and 95 was amazing in terms of weather and lineup. There hadn’t been a really wet festival in some years and people were used to the dry warm weather, and this was selling not just the festival but a lifestyle to people watching on television.

1996 was to be a fallow year as the festival took a year off to let the land recover. It was to return in 1997, and I said to myself that I’d get a ticket for this one.

More about the run up to the 1997 festival and the events of the  1997 festival itself another time…..