Thursday, June 27, 2002

Meeting with East Lancs went well and now I have some new toys to look forward to. And I've written another fab and groovy press release to announce it to the world.

Listened to the end of the disc I started on the way to work on the way there (the Best of Ian Dury & The Blockheads - totally top recomendation) and started on disc one of Sandinista! by The Clash on the way back. That was a bit surreal as there were a couple of buskers in town and their trumpet and violin just merged in with the stuff I was meaning to listen to and worked. Groovy. I also popped in to Smiths and bought Brassed Off on DVD (excellent film combining brass bands with the decline of the mining industry starring Pete Postlethwaite, Ewan McGregor, Tara Fitzgerald and loads of other top British thesps). We had it in video but sent it up to Joan's Dad and I thought we ought to have it again when I sawe it for a fiver. I also bought the Queen Platinum Collection (all three of their greatest hits albums for less then the price of one!). Don't normally buy greatest hits type things as I'd rather have the whole output of the band, but Joan wanted these and I was prepared to make an exception. Also, they are good tracks that work well collected like this as well as in their original contexts.

Then had great joy seeing Daevid Allen from Gong being quoted on the BBC news site about Glastonbury:

'Legendary' Glastonbury remembered

The farmland setting may be the same, but modern Glastonbury Festivals are a world away from the original event that started it all in 1970. The first Glastonbury was "more like a bunch of people sat on the grass in a park" than a festival, according to folk singer Ian Anderson - one of those who performed at that fabled first event.

Nobody had the slightest inkling that it could grow into anything the size it subsequently became

Festival-goers are now used to huge crowds, tents pitched in every available space and 800 acres of stages and stalls. But just 1,500 laid-back music fans were there in 1970 - and they describe a very different atmosphere.

"We decided we'd all pile into one or two vehicles and see what this festival was like," says Anderson, who was joined on stage by fellow folk star Al Stewart. "And it was very thin on the ground."

The first festival was held on a sunny September weekend. Far from experiencing the traffic jams and tight security that are features of the modern festival, Anderson says he drove down a lane, parked at the back of the farmhouse and "just sort of wandered out onto the field".

"It was very pleasant," he says. "Nobody, I'm sure, had the slightest inkling that it could grow into anything the size it subsequently became." It was a sunny weekend, with no mud, he remembers, and there were a lot of "people with large smelly dogs and afghan coats". But Anderson, who now edits music magazine fRoots, has not been back in recent years because "I don't need the hassle".

The festival's reputation was cemented the following year, when organisers expanded and 12,000 people went to see acts including David Bowie, Joan Baez and Fairport Convention.

Arthur Brown - best-known for being the God of Hellfire - was another of the big names on the bill, having had a number one single three years earlier. "It was a pretty good atmosphere," he says. "It had a lot of spirit and a very open feel to it. There were various people prancing around in the nude, and other people gathering around fires."

The spiritual side of it was more important than it is now, he says. And the toilet facilities had yet to gain notoriety. "I seem to remember wandering off into the woods, really," he says.

Brown returned to play the Acoustic Stage in 2000, and describes the modern mega-event as "very bewildering". "It's vast. It struck me somewhat like as if somebody had uprooted a huge city, moved it and plonked it all down," he says. "There were people who were walking around for two and a half hours trying to find my set and arrived after I'd finished. I obviously prefer the older festival because it had more to do with fitting in with nature, it was almost a continuation of the Stonehenge things."

Glastonbury 1971 also hosted the first UK gig for psychedelic group Gong after Australian singer and guitarist Daevid Allen sneaked into the country with a picture of Buddha stuck over his passport photo. "It was a gorgeous time of year, and everyone was very positive," he remembers.

But 10 minutes into their Pyramid Stage set, the power failed, delaying their performance for half an hour. When they came back on, it was in "that magic moment of sunset", Allen says. "The effect of the music brought everybody down from the house, which was in the distance. Suddenly, we saw this pied piper procession dancing down towards us."

"Everybody who had been over there just came down to be with the music. It was a marvellous sight. It really was a special event." But the amount of mind-altering drugs being taken meant that people could not always tell what was real and what was imaginary. "That was also the charm of it, because it meant anything was possible," he says. "Even the most outlandish thing could be possibly real. In retrospect, quite a lot of it probably wasn't."

He too went back in 2000, and describes it as a "much more complicated thing now. I have to say I prefer the first one because it was very personal. Now, it's become very impersonal. It used to be a compact group of people who all had the same view. These days it's as complex as New York City."

He adds: "It's become huge now, and hugely devoured by people who want to make a fast buck. It's also become this huge holiday camp, like a new-age Butlin's. And also, towards the end, it starts to feel like a refugee camp."

He says part of its success is down to its original "high intentions" of altruism and not being materialistic. Back in 1971, the performers and fans did not even know whether there would be another Glastonbury Festival. "But after such a beautiful experience, there was a strong feeling that it should go on," he says.


Splendid to see the old teapot lover making the news still.

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