WHEN Michael Eavis decided that the Glastonbury should take a year off in 1991, he spent a lot of his time trying to work out a way of keeping freeloaders and other non-paying fellow-travellers out of the festival. The idea he came up with was to surround the entire site with a very big fence.
The following year Tom Jones, Blur, Television, the Fall, Curve, Primal Scream, the Levellers, PJ Harvey, Carter USM, James, the Breeders, Billy Bragg, Van Morrison, Kitchens of Distinction and Spritualized were on the bill – and numbers of fence-hoppers were right down.
Among the thousands of lucky festival-goers were my then-girlfriend and me, inveterate freeloaders both. We’d managed to blag into the festival by writing a lengthy preview for the magazine we both worked for at the time.
I don’t recall seeing any of the bands above – not even the mighty Fall – but we did manage to catch the Shamen, which I think was just about the first time a dance act had played on one of the bigger stages at Glastonbury. Unfortunately, “good lights” is about the most either of us can remember about this groundbreaking performance. But they were always pretty good live, weren’t they, the Shamen?
“I think you and I only stayed two nights and didn’t sleep at all. We were up all night and too hot to sleep in the tent in the day. I do remember it wasn’t a lot of fun really,” says that same ex-girlfriend now. “Too hot, too skint, too tired, too paranoid, too scared of the toilets, going off crowds so only really being able to cope at night… Maybe you enjoyed it more.”
I probably did. I didn’t even notice how bad a time she was having, which probably says a lot.
I’ve just got a loose jumble of disembodied memories from the weekend. One of the most vivid is of an ambulance inching its way through a very packed crowd after one of the big acts had finished on the Pyramid stage one night. Some drug-nut planted himself square in front of it, crying and bellowing and wailing his heart out, not letting them by until they promised to take him away too. We’ve all been there, I’m sure.