The Mad Princess and I watched Coldplay at Glastonbury courtesy of the BBC on Saturday night a couple of weeks ago. I can’t say I’m a huge fan, tho’ some of their tracks, “Speed of sound” for one, I certainly like. Their light show projected on the Pyramid, specifically for the encore, was Psychedelically awesome, but sorry Honey, Chris Martin smells of pretension to me, and I ain’t talking about the latest Kate Moss fragrance. But no matter, generally a jolly good show. And judging by the audience(mostly twenty something gals according to the Beeb’s cameramen)the mood was high.
It got me thinking about the festivals I’d been to, tho’ I’m afraid I’ve only camped at one, and that was Reading 1973. Bob Mardon(yup, he of Chelmsford Punk festival infamy, bless him!)Sally Butcher, my then current girlfriend and I took the train to Reading from Chelmsford, and a very pleasant journey it was too. We were excited at seeing Genesis on a big stage, where we knew their elaborate theatrics would look amazing.
There were other delights that day that stick in my memory. The first being John Martin, ably assisted by Danny Thompson. It was a wash of his beautiful guitar through a ton of echo, and his stoned scat singing, along with Danny’s staggering upright bass attempting to underpin the proceedings. On a warm Summer’s day it was heaven. Then something of an aural assault, Jon Hiseman’s Tempest, who at the time had the very brilliant Ollie Halshall on guitar. Ollie riffed very aggressively, but very Psychedelically too, and I was mightily impressed. On top of that Jon’s drumming was all double kick drum and heavy, it rocked and Bob being a drummer at the time loved it.
When Genesis came on later that night, Gabriel was wearing the Magog mask we first witnessed at the Rainbow in February of that year. I seem to remember him atop some sort of oblisk or platform which looked like an extension of the mask. Tall and scary! After several “McCartney Woodbines”(de rigueur at 70’s festivals)our young minds were well and truly blown. The next time I recall seeing Genesis(altho’ I saw them numerous times with Gabriel) was at the premier of “The Lamb lies down on Broadway” at Empire pool Wembley, in April 1975, an all together different affair……
The other festival that really sticks in my head was V August 2007. Mostly because of the Stooges, with the guitar God Ron Ashton. Ron came on, looking every inch the Christian militia man/weekend soldier/geek who shopped at the A&N, and wah wah’d, wailed and hammered his guitar like a man truly possessed with the spirit of Rock’n’Roll, which of course he was. If there was one guitarist in this age that you just had to see live, it was Ron Ashton, no contest. Bone crunching was a cliche made for Ron’s guitar chords, mega raunch and feed back-full, geetar Nirvana/Apocalypse!
I’ve seen the Ig so many times the site of him on stage is a familiar joy, a bit like how I used to feel about the Ramones. You never know how fragile beauty can be til suddenly it’s gone. God bless the Stooges, God bless Ron Ashton RIP……
Grahame Coxon was also at V that year. We caught most of his set, which was superb, very Punk rock and Johnny Ramone rama lama. It’s said that he stole “Revolver” from thee Light Brigade(a song we stole from Pegboy, who stole it from Mission of Burma)from seeing us in Colchester, but perhaps that’s Rock’n’Roll myth?
I also had the misfortune to attend Donington in 1994. As is the modern archetype the weather was pretty rancid, but it was the audience that really did my head in. Sure there were a few Glammy Hair Metal types, with their Rock chick girlfriends, very FLA 1990. But the majority appeared to be beer buffoons, and from the moment the gates opened around midday, the mob proceeded to try and drink their weight in ale from huge plastic containers, usually designated for Dc10 or Helicopter fuel. Of course the arena is huge, with some 70,000 in attendence, so a visit to the loo is a major excursion. No probs say the beer buffoons, we’ll pee in the plastic container……and when they’re full we’ll just hurl them into the audience. How utterly charming. Still, Aerosmith were pretty amazing, plus they did an obscure Page era Yardbirds track in the soundcheck, “Think about it”, the b side of the Yardbirds last single “Goodnight sweet Josephine”.
Lest we forget, music festivals weren’t always the corporate, hard sell affairs they are today. As MP’s son said a while back, so when did attending a festival become a fashion statement? Another excuse for Topshop to sell another frock from their Glastonbury collection? I got thrown out of the tent Iggy played in at V for smoking a cigarette(Rock’n’Roll huh?). I’d love to have seen these company bruisers handle an army of Freaks tripping on Oswold’s finest! Everyone knows about the spirit of Woodstock, and that was to kick off counter culture events globally. The point was Peace and Love, not Carling Black label(surely the modern equivalent of Watney’s?) and L’Oreal. Alcohol was very low key back then, nowadays it’s probably the main drug at festivals, no doubt followed by Cocaine.
But by the middle of the 70’s, the booze flowed more freely at festivals, specifically beer, and of course one could take one’s own alcohol into the gig in those times. I can remember a few showers of beer cans at Reading, which providing they were empty posed only a minor inconvenience, but an unpleasant one none the less!
This brings to mind a tale of two of my friends who went to Knebworth in 1979 to see Led Zeppelin. The usual beer can assault broke the otherwise peaceful and friendly scenario. Suddenly through the hail a can hit one of the friends on the side of the head, resulting in a nasty gash to the cranium. But the fellow’s despair turned to joy, as he realised he’d been struck on the head by an unopened can, a Party Seven! Manna from Heaven!!!
For the uninitiated, a Party Seven was seven pints of Watney’s bitter in a can, tho’ I believe Charringtons did a superior ale in the same sized tin. Trust me. That’s all you needed to party in the 70’s, seven pints of Watney’s and a Macca Woodbine. And of course these were the days before ring pulls, so your can of choice had to be opened with a special device, a can opener! How confusing! Altho’ any pointy implement would suffice, at which point the disgusting brew inside would erupt like a miniature alcoholic geyser! See all the fun missed not having lived through the 70’s?
My regular readers will know I’ve been reading James Wentworth Day of late. For a romantic writer, the fellow did have some rather fascist notions. Will’s Pa John couldn’t stand the chap, but thought his ideas on fortifying the home were excellent, tho’ didn’t go far enough. Day suggested razor wire, Will’s Pa said it should be rusty!!!
Anyways, James writes about a festival planned for Tolleshunt D’arcy in the early 70’s, in “A Garland of Hops”. He barely contains his outrage, describing Pop festivals as “the modern plague”, and that not long before Weely had been “crucified, horrified and polluted” by similar. Steady on old chap! Him and the villagers devised all sorts of methods to keep the “hooligans” at bay, including 12 bore shotguns, a gallows(!!!)bombs and bulls. Needless to say, the festival never took place, and the “Pop loonies” were put well and truly in their place, within 24 hours of the event being announced!
With the possible exception of the Stooges, there’s little to attract me to festivals nowadays. I suppose I can say I attended a handful of festivals/gigs in the early 70’s that still had the 60’s/Hippy vibe, and had I have gone to the free festivals i.e. Stonehenge and Windsor, as many of my friends did, that would have continued. But Punk was coming, and I had my own gig to do.
At some point in the early 70’s through mutual friends, we met a chap a few years older than us who we called “Donny Luftwaffe”, who was the Hippy archetype. He was dressed in dirty white cheese cloth(a material common in Freak garb in the early 70’s)and had a Daevid Allen beard and barnet. He was at Glastonbury in 1970, and actually saw Bowie there. The way he described the festival was like a beautiful, shimmering Acid dream, full of sex, love, pot and Rock’n’Roll, with Aliens in silver spaceships hovering above, keeping an eye on the Flower children below.
Try telling that to the kids of today……