Saturday, June 25, 2016

Stoned to Death at Glastonbury 1986

Fetid hippies. Hatchet wielding Hells Angels. Unsanitary bogs. Duff bands (I hate the Cure!)  No girls. No cashpoints. England handballed out of the World Cup by Argentina. And mud. Glorious mud. Lots of it. This time, thirty years ago, "Glasto" was fun for a curious teenager in the middle of his O levels. 



Back then, you didn't take the bus to Glastonbury. You hitched. After three lifts, we made it to Shepton Mallet only to get jumped by irate cops with batons drawn and Worzel Gummidge accents ("Do you want to spend your holidays in the nick?") Bunking off school, with various controlled substances secreted within our persons, we did not argue with them.  


Male Trailing Spouse (far left) and friends do Glastonbury

Glastonbury was a ticketed event but bunking over the perimeter fence was standard during the Eighties and Nineties. Being goody two-shoes, we had paid £17 for our tickets. Lofty hippies kept pointing out to us that the first "Glastonbury Tor" in 1970 was free. Today, in 2016, tickets are £223. If you think that's pricey, you can upgrade to a luxury tent, "podpad" or Mongolian yurt for £1000 -- complete with carpets, flowers, sanitary bogs, hot showers and adjacent car park. Dom Pérignon champagne comes extra at £500 a bottle. It's a tale of two festivals at Glastonbury these days.  

Male Trailing Spouse (far right) and mates blank the bill. 

Back in 1986, we weren't really there for the music on the pyramid stage. We were there to get loaded and have a good time. The line up, the Cure, the Housemartins, Level 42 (Ed. Note: I do have a soft spot for the Isle of Wight funk outfit), Simply Red, was dog shit - accurately reflecting the piss poor state of pop music in the 80s. Even if the bill did raise a teenaged sneer, there was Gil Scott-Heron, the Pogues and the Waterboys to compensate. Moreover, lest we forget, Glastonbury was a political festival. The "most effective anti nuclear fundraising event in Europe" (it said so on the poster) raised £130,000 for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and local charities that year. That said, I still remember England's exit from the World Cup more than the music and the politics.


My Mum: Gillian Reynolds of the Daily Telegraph!

When I hitched back to London from Glastonbury '86, my Mum was entertaining some media types at home. One of them was the late BBC Radio 1 DJ John Walters. He was very dismissive of the festival and made a lot of comments about smelly hippies with gingivitis. That surprised me. But not the reaction from my neighbor -- he saw some footage on the telly and noted that the people in the crowd looked exactly the same as the people from the early 70s. Here's some footage from 1986. Looking at it, the thing that struck me was the way all the retro punks and hippies have a bit of an 80s new romantic vibe. 


Post-Glastonbury Male Trailing Spouse (1987)

I bunked school to attend Glastonbury and failed half of my exams. It didn't stop me from attending in 1987. But what a difference a year makes: by then the hustlers and the cops had moved in. Glastonbury hasn't been the same since. 

Glastonbury 1986

Big ass acts. BBC coverage, Cashpoints. Helicopter landing pads. Mud free zones for the VIPs and cognoscenti. It's funny how the mainstream has since embraced "Glasto." I wouldn't trudge through mud to go these days. Not even for a large sum of cash. It's too commercial. And about as anti establishment as the Henley Regatta.