For those happening on this post because they’ve come to check out the new song of the week, you’ll find two new mp3s below and several more over the last three posts. This is an anniversary repost of my Glastobury 2000 diary, which appeared on my original, long deleted website. At the end of this final post, there’s a post script saying that the novel I was researching there has been commissioned. It was, indeed, published the following summer, although there was no Glastonbury that year. I also promise that I’ll write a diary about writing the novel. I never did. Perhaps, when I’ve got time, I’ll add a few reflections on the novel and Glastonbury. Meanwhile, here’s the final diary entry from ten years ago.
There’s a new security system as I head back to the car. You have to show your ticket, then get given another pass, too (a smaller version of the ticket). So the first person I see outside the gates is a rasta selling both tickets together for twenty quid. In an interview I saw with Michael Eavis, he said that it was an open secret that they let people in free on Sundays, so most of South West England came to see Bob Dylan, for instance. But there’s no sign of such relaxation yet (later, Eavis will blame the laxity of the security guards for letting between 15-30,000 people get in over or under the wall, but the complaints sound a little hollow. Turns out the festival sold out on Thursday night. So if nobody were to get in free next year, the place might seem underpopulated, even presuming it sells out as usual.) From the car, I get a loaf, some more water, and my other three fruit juices. I deposit some dirty laundry and turn the vehicle round (good idea – would have been a better one if I’d moved it to another field…)
Tank and his mates aren’t at the mixing desk meeting point, where I endure a set by Sharon Shannon while reading what I have left of yesterday’s paper (don’t want to buy an Observer – too much weight to carry round). Today’s weather is pretty promising. I’m actually wearing shorts, but draw the line at sandals (there are still patches of mud around and my Timberlands provide good support for aching feet – I’d like a hefty payment if they wanted to include that statement in their advertising, mind).
On a hunch, I go over to our meeting point of yesterday, and, yes, they’re all there. “Sorry, didn’t get it together in time for the Pyramid,” Tank says. Mick buys me a pint of Guinness and we agree that this is a good spot to spend the afternoon, with music floating out onto the lawn. Eileen Rose is about to play and I wander over to have a look. She’s got a good voice (very Maria McKee, who I love) and a good country rock band, but her songs don’t grab me. She plays exactly the same set I saw when she supported the Doves at the Nottingham Social, but her opening comment, about only getting here by the skin of her teeth, gives me something I can use in the book, so it’s not a wasted visit. Next, Eric Bibb plays pleasantly in the background. Tank’s going off for a wander round. We agree to meet in the bar opposite the Dance tent in between the Dandy Warhols and Kelis.
Later, it turns out that my mate Rob has left a message suggesting we meet in the exact spot I’m now leaving and suggests we go see Kate Rusby together. Do great minds think alike or what…(except I don’t realise I’ve left my answerphone on)? But I’ve already seen the great Kate twice this year and I’ve never seen St Etienne, all of whose music I have, so I head off to the Other Stage, taking a route which brings me in at stage right, where I immediately get a great spot eight rows from the front. The sun shines (did I mention that it’s been blazing hot and I’ve had to put on sunblock?) and all is right with the world.
St Etienne are ace. Oh, alright, Sarah Cracknell has the charisma of a sacked Blue Peter presenter or an air hostess on a second rate airline and they don’t play anything off their best album, “So Tough”, but they do a lovely “Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ and a terrific “Nothing Can Stop Us” and the songs from the new album are perfectly all right. Now I’m feeling so confident, so festival sussed, that I head for centre stage ready for the Dandy Warhols, who make terrific records but have a less consistent live reputation.
I’m there. I’m the man, standing third row behind the fence where little yellow cups of water (labelled “Adventure Warehouse”) are being passed out (later thrown about) so that people don’t pass out. It’s not crowded. The view’s great. The Dandys come on – there’s the slightly geeky bespectacled female keyboard player, who looks like a grown up version of the kid in “Welcome To The Dollhouse” and the hip lead singer/guitarist, wearing a bandana. They play a slow one and it’s great. I’ve got lots of room. I’m enjoying myself. Then they play their first hit “Every Day Should Be A Holiday” which is ideal standing in the sun stuff. A few people pogo and I move around a bit myself, holding onto the bag with all my valuables (dictaphone, camera, phone) in it. This is sooooo easy, I think…
Next, they play their biggest (and best) hit “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth” and the crowd go crazy. Within a minute, the hundred feet in front of the stage has become a mosh pit. I do exactly what I always do in these situations – join in, letting myself be thrown back every time my feet leave the floor. By the end of the song, I’m a full forty yards from the stage, as are the couple who were standing next to me – and still are! I still have a great view. The Dandys play a good set, though there’s some silly stuff with spanking. Afterwards I go to the bar, buy a drink and wait for Tank. And wait. And wait.
At five to nine, I go over to see Kelis, but someone else is still playing, so I return to the bar. Still no sign of Tank. I hope I’ll find him afterwards, as I don’t want to see David Bowie on my own. Kelis comes on thirty minutes late, and she’s terrific – everything that Macy Gray (whose set I saw in Nottingham, not the other night) wasn’t. No hectoring the crowd or showbiz stuff, just hot, steaming soul with great tunes. I’m not entirely convinced by her cover version of “Born To Be Wild” (though it’s lot better than Macy doing “Brand New Key”) but, just when the set appears to be over, she blows everyone away with a terrific version of my single of the year for 1991, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
Tank’s still not at the bar and, because of Kelis’s late start, there’s only twenty-five minutes or so before Bowie’s on stage. I wander over to the general area of his tent (a lot of tents are gone, but I can still the bull’s eye flag which is the nearest landmark) behind the Other stage. No sign of him, but, then, as I’m walking back, I run into him, Mick, Diane, Guy and Jackie. Good old serendipity. We walk over to the Pyramid stage together, thinking that we’ll go a way back so we can sit down. However, on the way, two things happen – we lose Guy and Jackie and, just as we enter the Pyramid Arena (from the front of stage right), Bowie comes on stage. At first I think it’s a video – that long haired Bowie in a dress is from 1968, but, no, it’s a dress coat and Bowie is on stage twelve minutes early, playing “Wild Is The Wind” and everyone’s standing up, everywhere and we have a pretty good view from here, even if the sound could be louder. So we stayed put stage right.
I was a huge Bowie fan from 1972 up to “Scary Monsters” and I’ve heard (sometimes bought) everything he’s done since, but I’ve never seen him (had a ticket once, but that’s another story..). It’s never been the right time. The Greatest Hits tour seemed so cynical and every other time he’s had a crap (or, at best, pretty crap) new album to promote. So I don’t know what to expect tonight, his first Glasto performance since 1971. A few oldies, a lot of numbers off his latest (pretty good, considering) album. We’ll see.
After five songs, including “Wild Is The Wind”, “Stay”, “Changes” and a spellbinding “Life On Mars”, it’s clear that we’re in for a complete treat. He even plays “Station To Station”! And “Starman”! “All The Young Dudes”!!!. OK, there are a couple of duds (“Little Wonder” being the most obvious example) and the final encore of the obscure “I’m Afraid Of Americans” (from “Earthling”) is nothing short of perverse, but it’s a terrific set. Tank (who hasn’t seen him before either) and I are blown away. We sip Jamesons flavoured with ouzo (brought home from Greece in a recycled bottle) to keep us warm (I’m still in shorts). The only thing that spoils the show at all are people coming and going (some with rucksacks on their backs). But that’s gigs in a big field for you. Bowie was magic. The perfect ending to the festival (though probably not the ending to my book, which is meant to take place in the Acoustic tent).
And then it’s over. The next hour is anticlimactic. We look for a friend of Diane’s in an increasingly farcical failure to get anywhere near the mythical landmark where he said he’d meet her, between twelve and one. At one, we have a rest, then Tank and co head to Greenfields to chill, but it’s too long a walk for me. I find the cornish pasty stall I saw on Thursday night, pick the nicest looking one (vegetarian, as it turns out) and head back to my tent. By the time I’ve finished eating my pasty (delicious, thanks for asking), I’m there. Takes me a while to get to sleep, tho’. I wonder, was there something in that orange juice somebody passed me or was it just the music made me feel so good?
Next day, the majority of shops are closed (some clothes places have sales), but I get to have my Spanish brekkie: churros and hot chocolate. So authentic that I have an apple afterwards to take away the taste. I decide that my tent has had its day and, after salvaging a few pegs, leave it behind for burial. I’ve had it for 23 years, it’s heavy, covered in patches and this is the first time I’ve used it in fifteen years (plus I don’t want to have to make two journeys to the car and back if I can help it and a trip to the osteopath costs more than the tent cost in the first place). Eventually, after a lengthy internal debate, Glastonbury seems the right place for the last rites . My neighbours photograph its demise, then we say our goodbyes.
It takes me half an hour to walk to the car park and four hours to make the forty yards out of the field I’m parked in. In total, I need nine hours to get home (two hitchers from Hull keeping me company for the largest chunk of driving). I got in the car at eleven and got home at eight. Back in Sherwood, I have a hot shower and Sue has a huge roast dinner waiting. I eat double portions. The official festival review which I buy on the way out says that this was the best Glastonbury ever (again) and I’m happy to believe it. Did I have a great time, despite all my initial misgivings? Yes, I certainly did. Will I do it again? Ask me when next year’s bill’s announced. Will I get a book out of it?
Watch this space.
Festival has been commissioned by Hodder, who hope to publish it in time for the June 2001 Glastonbury Festival. When I’ve finished the first draft of the book, I’ll add a diary section here chronicling the writing of it.