It's been, and like a tempest at full strength it has blown through. It's fierce lashing tongues of rain are now but wispy tendrils irritating my memories like escaped pillow feathers upon a slumbering cheek. The roaring of the crowds, sky slicing lasers, soundbite lunacies of passers by all echo or flash again across the recollections I have of it's vast and tireless dynamism. And the most lasting image, the least forgettable aural experience of this 'thing' of which I write; the sight and sound of hoards of people shuffling and wading through 6 inches of brown, top drawer Somerset mud.
I speak of course of the Glastonbury Festival.
I've been before, starting in '83 I think. At least, I reckon that would be it based on the Festival History website artists line up. Myself, my girlfriend and half a dozen mates got our collective and personal shits together and made a dash from Kent to the West Country. I distinctly remember turning up partway through Marillion's set. I was queuing to get in. I was probably sat behind the wheel of my black 1500 Avenger, (L reg, twin headlights, Cooool!) all youthful, barely a grain of cynicism in my make-up. When you see those lasers for the first time, firing seemingly ad lib into the night sky, your spine tingles as if sprinkled with fairy dust. It's as though they might strike you to illuminate your skeleton. The imagery evoked is more H.G.Wells than south of Wells, Somerset. (Oops, there goes Guildford).
I don't remember much about that weekend. I deduce that since my life-long affair with alcoholic excess was well and truly launched by that point, this memory loss is duly explained. There were just a handful of sunny, deliciously naive days left to run in my teens. Oh how a life can "gently go floating by". I do recall having a wonderful few days smokin' an' drinkin' an' snoggin' an' laughin'. I must have logged it as a success because I've still got the program from the following year.
Back then in 1984 the organisers boasted a 160 acre site. Now it's close to 1000. There was less to see, but since being in one place at a time is my limit(sadly)I can't see it all now anyhow. Ian Dury, The Smiths, Black Uhuru. Just a few of the acts. Those names and the sounds they made before and after that midsummer weekend 23 years ago were bandied about millions of student parties, bedsit smoko sessions, lorry cabs, taxi cabs, bathrooms and bogs the world over. People have been conceived, born, and died with strains of those notes and screeching sax solos ushering them from one existence to another.
I've been reading through the program lately. Maybe this is just nostalgia, a disease known mainly to the old or at least middle aged. Or is it a piece of personal history transformed into a relevant if tiny part of the history of all who were on that part of the planet at that time. A kind of shared epitaph, written long before the idea arose that any of the living at the time could ever die, could we?
Beyond those first couple of escapades, other girlfriends became ex-girlfriends as if to reflect the ever changing dramatis personae on the stages. Artistes moving on, audiences blithely following, year on year their numbers increasing. Each summer, around Solstice, tens and then scores of thousands of joy seekers, thieves, Jesuphiles, New Age Booksellers, The Happy, The Professionally Sad, Old Aged Pensioners, dealers flogging Oxo cubes and oregano in the half light to the half baked. Jugglers!! So many people learnt how to juggle. Absolutely Feckin' Every-Feckin'-Where!!!
The event itself became a juggling trick, an ants nest of activity, a mass of turmoil. A very big and often unruly thronging of humanity. Inside it's decreasingly gentle boundaries, and about it's periphery, all at once the divisions of the mid and late Eighties had fully fermented into the elixir for the early Nineties. The brew really had become special. Alongside the unstoppable roller coaster party spirit aroma of the troubadours and their dancing hoards, an altogether less palatable whiff of confrontation, hatred and mistrust had begun to pervade the relationships between desperate people from many hues of the social and political rainbow. Some jagged experiences were had by many. I largely escaped genuine difficulty, but for quite a few friends and types who knew the types I knew, life became stained by the bitter cynicism and Draconian outlawing of Not Being Normal. It really does seem like something ain't quite right when families watch their home smashed up primarily because it's on wheels.
During all this time, mid 80's -1990, I missed a few big festivals, went to some others, moved city, knackered lots of brain cells, joined some bands, played some hippie festivals, drummed under the chalk white horse, lived in an old cottage with a selection of occasionally fantastic, sometimes utterly deranged human and feline companions. Some stories may abound from such times. But the big year which cemented my ongoing rapport with those sloping fields in Somerset, was 1992.........