Wednesday, November 26, 2008

History Of Festivals 19 : Charlton 1974

The Who played two gigs at Charlton Athletic’s football stadium in the mid-Seventies. The second, in 1976, was one of three one-day festivals hosted by the band that summer on their Who Put The Boot In tour (the other being Glasgow and Swansea). But the 1976 gig was spoiled by ticket forgery and gatecrashers, although unlucky punters who were turned away – despite having tickets – were given a free bus ride to Swansea, which was a nice gesture, if a bit of a hike. But it was the 1974 gig at the South London football stadium that sticks in rock’s memory.

The Who had released Quadrophenia the previous year and had most recently been touring around France playing it. They had, typically ambitiously, been using backing tapes with sound effects and atmospherics in a series of winter gigs that were at best a qualified success and sometimes bordered on the shambolic. For this Summer 1974 tour, they got back to a more traditional sound. Pete played a solo show in the April and the band did a low-key event in Oxford – playing their old classics, not the Quadrophenia material – and this May 18 gig at Charlton was the biggest event signifying a move away from shows based fundamentally on their great rock opera.

The Charlton 1974 might not have been their most technically accomplished, but in terms of a joyous celebration of what made them one of the most thrilling live bands of the time, and indeed of all time, it was a great showcase. There are lots of bootlegs available of the gig, and a good recording by the BBC that was broadcast on Radio London at the time.

Mention must be made without further ado of Keith’s drumkit, which is absolutely, hilariously massive. He has 11 tom-toms and – because you never know if one will be enough – TWO huge gongs. They don’t make them like that any more.

Anyway, the day. Some 50,000 arrived with doors at noon to see support including Lou Reed, Humble Pie, Bad Company, Lindisfarne, Maggie Bell and Montrose. The weather was pretty decent, although there were quite a lot of fights in the crowd throughout.

Maggie Bell got things underway with a warm and bluesy little set. Her solo albums Queen Of The Night and Suicide Sal are both excellent blues records. We'll be doing a Maggie Bell t-shirt soon I think. She really is one of finest blues singers ever.

Lindisfarne played a rollicking romp of folky, funky groove notable for a policeman trying to get on the stage and members of the band chucking beer at him. Roll on Ruby was just on the market - an over-looked album of theirs but the band was already coming apart - with half the band soon to split into Jack The Lad.

Bad Company laid down some nice heavy stuff – Boz Burrel’s bass in great form through a monster PA. Bad co was out and everyone loved it. Those first three Bad Company albums contain some of the best riffs of their genre. Mick Ralphs seems to get forgotton as a riffmeister possibly because rodgers is such a brilliant singer. We have a t-shirt of them both here.

Montrose played a great set, and the version of Space Station Number Five they did is still remembered fondly, screaming feedback and wild noises that continued for about two minutes after the band left the stage. Awesome stuff. That first montrose album is one of the miost influential in mid 70s rock n roll I think. That blend of muscular riffing and rawk vocals from Sammy Hager set a template for bands such as Van Halen. In fact I seem to recall they were produced by Ted Templeman. Jump On It - a good album - has one of the worst covers ever - a big pair of red panites.....always embaressed me in front of the parents that!

Lou Reed was embarking on his ‘Sally Can’t Dance’ tour and this was his third show of that run. The great New Yorker was rocking that rather alarming bleach blonde look he had and was pretty knocked out loaded by all accounts, but his band were real tight. The crowd weren’t that taken with him – maybe a football stadium isn’t really the venue for his wonderful, complicated, contrary brand of late-night spermy glamour and two-sided stories. Our Lou shirt is drawn from a shot from that period.

The highlight of the support acts was definitely the Humble Pie set, opening with Watcha Gonna Do About It. Steve Marriot was absolutely magnificent, a perfect blend of showmanship and musicianship, a real quality performance. There were plenty at Charlton 1974 who felt that the Humble Pie set topped The Who, but sadly recordings of their set are hard to come by. The Pie remain one of early70s best hard rock bands with Performance; rockin The Fillmore being one of my top 3 lives albums of all time. Also worth getting are Rock On, Smokin' and Eat It.

The Who came on stage at 8. 45 and launched into a medley that kicked off with I Can’t Explain, Summertime Blues and Young Man Blues. The version of Baba O’Reilly, next, is terrific – and not just for Pete’s Irish jig. There’s some powerful harp from Roger and some typically chunky, balls-out base from The Ox on a soaring, storming, urgent celebration of desperate youth. Substitute is another corker.

From Quadrophenia, they played Drowned, Bell Boy – which got a riotous reception for Keith Moon’s vocal (for which read: “bonkers shouting”) – and 5.15, although the last of those was pretty ropey and, along with I Can’t Explain, was left off a lot of the recordings of the event. Pete said that he was dead drunk for this gig – as he was for all of their sets at Madison Square Garden later in the summer – and also that he did not enjoy the atmosphere much at Charlton. He has said he felt there was a violent atmosphere in the stadium and does not regard this as among their finest live shows. And it’s true that, in terms of musical virtuosity, this does not necessarily show the band at the very peak of their powers.

That being said, the crowd absolutely loved the set and the sheer passion and energy they transmit to the band nevertheless inspired a thrilling performance. The highlight of their one hour 45 minute show was the medley of Naked Eye and Let’s See Action right near the end, which is blinding stuff, a real gem. They closed with the first-ever performance of what the band knew as My Generation Blues, a slowed-down, dense and dirty 12 bar blues take on their famous hit.

Although Quadrophenia was a groundbreaking, brilliant piece of work, this Charlton gig marked a pronounced move away from attempting it live in any depth. For the next quarter century, The Who gigs would take on more the format of a greatest hits package. Anyone at Charlton in 1974 would feel that they saw a hell of a show from one of the most important and exciting British acts of all time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

History Of Festivals 18 : Bickershaw 1972

He will be forever emblazoned on the British public consciousness for the inane Beadle’s About (for our US international readers, this was an Eighties TV show where the host played “hilarious” hidden camera jokes on members of the public), but Britain actually owes the late Jeremy Beadle, who died earlier this year, a debt.

For Jeremy was the organiser of the 1972 Bickershaw Festival. Among the attendees was a 19-year-old Joe Strummer, who said that Captain Beefheart’s performance there was a lifelong inspiration to him, and a 17-year-old Elvis Costello, who said that the set he saw from The Grateful Dead made him want to form a band.

Aside from playing a part in the development of two British powerhouses, Jeremy and his co-organisers also ensured that the North West had its first multi-day music festival. The Deeply Dale festivals in Bury picked up the baton in 1976, but this event just outside Wigan was a little bit of a local groundbreaker on 5-7 May 1972.

There was some concern prior to the event about the suitability of the site: there were worries that its location in a valley would provide problems with drainage and water. But a local fanzine The Mole Express hit back at the doom-mongers: “Pay up, shut up – or piss off and pass the oars!” People were ready to party.

More spectacularly, there were also fears that punters might fall into disused coal mines (!) but fortunately nothing like that came to pass. However, the weather played pranks on Jeremy Beadle and unfortunately Bickershaw was a legendarily wet one.

The stage was one of the most innovative yet seen, big screens on either side offering decent views from a long way back, and an efficient backstage set-up allowing relatively small delays for band changeovers.

Things got off to a fairly quiet start on Friday, all a bit folky rock, with sets from Jonathan Kelly and Wishbone Ash.

We called them, simply, ‘Ash.’ And for a while they were one of those great rock bands who had enough melody, folky twists and muscular boogie riffs to satisfy both the hairy male and his ‘lady.’ Girls who flinched at ELP’s radical noise would embrace Argus and, God knows, music aside, we should all love them for that.

Argus was huge. Sounds voted it album of the year. Everyone bloody loved Argus and its no wonder. Folky, proggy and rocky, it satisfied on so many levels. It was one of my most played albums of the 70s. We worshipped Ted Turner. For us he was somehow a slightly mystical character…and no, he didn’t set up CNN! The twin guitar sound with Andy Powell was the most liquid and melodious combo to date. No Ash, no Lizzy, I’m saying. Anyone with me?

Their set At Bickershaw was, for the record, Time Was; Blowin' Free;, Jail Bait;, The King Will Come; The Pilgrim; Warrior; Throw Down The Sword; Phoenix.

As you can see, its Argus heavy. If you get hold of a bootleg of this gig – and they’re out there – for me it’s still Throw Down The Sword that gives me chills. Ambitious and unique sounding, it’s a band on the top of its game.

Hawkwind really got everyone going, in more ways than one, as Stacia danced nude on the left of the stage through great versions of Silver Machine and others. A Lancashire crowd hadn’t seen naked gyrating like this since George Formby overdid it on the brown acid prior to a gig at the Free Trade Hall, freaked out during Chinese Laundry Blues and ripped all his clothes off “because there were ukuleles crawling all over me, mother”.

This was, for me, the classic Hawkwind era. The era covering In Search Of Space, Doremi Fasol Latido, Space Ritual and Hall Of The Mountain Grill when they performed a kind of spaced out trance vibration that was both futuristic and compulsive. Listening to it now is to hear something beyond time and fashion. Like all the greatest art, it transcends.

They were hairy sonic warlords creating a musical architecture that somehow managed to be atavistic and yet sophisticated. There’s a good argument to be had for saying that Hawkwind is the motherlode from which all the dance/trance music of the last 20 years has sprung. I’d buy that deal.

Doctor John was the other stand-out of the first day. Clad in top hat and tails, sliver jewellery in his beard, he looked the business. His nine-piece band, complete with horn section and hot gospel singers, were pretty awesome too. The Doc played lead guitar on Walk On Guilded Splinters and piano on some terrific R and B belters like Let The Good Times Roll. A stonking performance that saw him show off his total command of several different genres.

Thar first Dr John album, Gris Gris, is a spine-tingling voodoo album. And essential for anyone who wants to feel that edgy ju-ju vibe. Gilded Splinters is probably the highlight but call me a philistine, I think Humble Pie’s version on Rockin’ The Fillmore is the primo version; electrified by Marriott and Frampton’s up-to-ten guitars and some incendiary lead breaks, its 27 minutes of pure joy, man.

Linda Lewis also played. you remember her, right? A great servant to the session muso community, she played on co-Bickershaw performer Family’s album Bandstand, and she richly deserved her brief chart success with ‘Rock-a-doodle-do’. Check out the 1973 album, Fathoms Deep its chock full of some of Britain’s best musicians at the time including Family’s Jim Cregan who she was married to. Check her on the Stomu Yamashta Go albums too. There was a brief moment when Stomu was fashionable – Stevie Winwood played on those excellent jazz/rock/fusion albums and if you enjoy a bit of Japanese based noodle, those albums are a spicy treat. Still out there singing 5 octaves, she’s a rare treat and much overlooked. We should have an LL t-shirt. She’s that good!

Saturday had a brilliantly diverse line-up, from jazzers like Brotherhood Of Breath and Mike Westbrook to the Incredible String Band and Donovan (nicely laid-back greatest hits package). The Kinks also played but were a little bit stinky and a very bit pissed, by all accounts. Still, they did throw a piano off the stage.

Though their glory days of cutting edge R & B were behind them, The Kinks were still making great music and having hits. The first single I bought with my own money was the 1972 hit Supersonic Rocketship from the Everyone’s In Show Business Album; an excellent double album that is a mixture of live and studio

Cheech and Chong. They played Bikcershaw, man! I know, how weird is that?

Captain Beyond got their boogie on and got the crowd going, as did Sam Apple Pie.

Sam Apple Pie. If you like late 60s British blues bands then SAP will tickle your blues bone, featuring Malcolm Morley who would later come to marginally greater prominence with the incestuous Welsh stoner collectives of Help Yourself and Man who all produced wonderful records of stoned blissfulness, rambling soloing and drifting melodies better for the smoking of the home grown. Ah you know what I’m talking ‘bout.

Family played a typically roistering set, complete with microphone-stand abuse from Roger Chapman. Leicester’s Family didn’t make anything even approaching a bad album. By 1972 they were coming to the end of their lifetime but still had produced Bandstand – a classic rock album featuring hits like My Friend The Sun and the intense Burlesque. The fact that a band as eclectic and downright odd as Family made it big in the UK and Europe is a testament to the broadmindedness of the rock audience of the early 70s, hungry for any rock in any genre. Hairy people of the early 70s we salute you.

They were a surefire hit at any festival of the era, but an act probably less well-known to the crowd were the Flaming Groovies, who played a fun set of covers including Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Sweet Jane and Heartbreak Hotel. Music paper Frendz called them “a jukebox with balls”, which is a great description.

The Flaming Groovies had started in the late 60s and hadn’t amounted to much despite always being interesting but they got a second wind in ’76/ ’77 when they were kind of lumped in with the emergent American new wave of the Ramones. The 1976 album Shake Some Action was produced by Dave Edmunds and slotted right into the American new wave/power pop/proto punk or whatever other meaningless label you want to use, groove. And they have to have had one of the best band names ever, right?

But none of the above, with respect, could hold a candle to Captain Beefheart. Don and the gang did not get on stage until 4am, when bass player Rockette Morton, smoking a cigar, emerges alone for a throbbing, heavy and acid-dipped bass solo of brilliance and intent. The rest of the band join him - Zoot Horn Rollo in giant hat and tights, Winged Eel Fingerling in shades and quiff, Ed Marimba drumming with panties on his head. Beefheart enters into a spot and When It Blows Its Stacks roars in. Clad in his Sun and Moon cape, he leads his band through a performance of unremitting energy, verve and invention: a master at work. His a capella singing on Old Black Snake is just incredible. They close with Spitball Scalped A Baby.

1972 was Captain Beefheart’s commercial year releasing accessible killer R & B albums Clear Spot and The Spotlight Kid, the former produced by future Van Halen studio man Ted Templeman. Zoot Horn Rollo is on fine form. Check out Big Eyed Beans From Venus if you wanna get your guitar groove on.

Pity the band – Pacific Gas And Electric – who came on after them. As many of you who have known me for a while know, I collect vinyl big, and within that I collect 60s and 70s singles by West coast and blues bands. So I have a complete collection of Steve Miller, Electric Flag, Blues Project and PG&E singles…to name just four. I love them. For me records are art. The labels ; the logos; the font of the text; the black grooves. It’s all good to me. Like, its history in your hands dude. The romance of the 7 inch has never left me.

PG&E were a tasty band. Not that heavy, not that acid, but just good laid back rock with a bit of country & folk in the mix. Anyone who loves today’s type scene e.g. Neal Casal etc. you’d dig them. Worth getting a good compilation and sucking down a good taste of them.

The highlight of Sunday was the performance of the Haydock Brass Band. Only joking: the stars of the final day were, of course, The Grateful Dead. Country Joe and Brinsley Schwarz got things going.

Brinsley Schwartz were a very good band who were badly managed; there was the classic hype gone bad thing – flying loads of journos to the Fillmore for their USA debut went badly wrong. But BS were to be one of those under-the-radar- influential bands whose work would echo later in the 70s in the work of Elvis Costello, Graham Parker as well as, obviously, Nick Lowe and Ian Gomm. Pub rock with some country licks, yeah I’ll drink to that.

And then the New Riders Of The Purple Sage warmed the crowd up for the Dead. Seeing the NRPS out in the rural north of England must have been a trip all in itself. Panama Red is my fave album of theirs. Still satisfies.

They played a blinding, four hour masterclass, opening with Truckin’ and including stellar versions of Casey Jones and a lovely Dark Star. Pigpen rocking out on Good Lovin’ was another joy; and they played new songs Ramble On Rose and Tennessee Jed. Summer of 1972 was one of this great band’s most perfect eras; and the crowd knew they had seen something very special.

Over three days, it is estimated that about 60,000 attended the event and Jeremy Beadle said they took around £60,000 in gate receipts. As the tickets were priced at £2.25 each, even allowing for the traditional attendance exaggeration, it’s clear that a lot of people didn’t pay their way in. People were coming in, getting a pass-out, and then flogging their ticket back to someone else for a knock-down price.

Worse still, the event cost £120,000 to put on. They should have paid more attention in maths class. The blokes doing the gate were the usual “wolf in charge of the sheep pen” chancers, reselling tickets back to people, trousering takings – and all done with not so much a smile, more the threat of a busted head.

But there were just 32 drugs arrests, a few drunk and disorderlies and 18 Hell’s Angels nicked for breach of the peace outside. The weather was disgusting, and the site, in all honesty, was simply unsuitable. Nonetheless, Bickershaw was great for the region – and begat the well-loved Deeply Dale festivals later in the decade. Best of all though, were the two belting performances from the Cap’n and the Dead – inspirations that day to Elvis Costello and Joe Strummer, and to millions before and since and still.

Bickershaw rocked rightously. Part of the the UK's greatest rock days; it deserves its place in history.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

History Of Festivals 17 : Knebworth 1985

1985. Deep Purple are back – and so is rock at Knebworth.

1980 had seen Santana and the Beach Boys play at the Hertfordshire pile, then came two years of jazz / blues – including Ella, BB and Dizzy – before a couple of years of the Christian Greenbelt Festival including, erm, Cliff Richard.

Fortunately, in 1985, normal service was resumed.

Paul Loasby, who had promoted the Donington Monsters Of Rock in 1980 (Rainbow, Priest, Scorpions) that we talked about a few weeks ago, was among the organisers of the 1985 event.

In some ways, it was more of a Deep Purple gig than a festival as such: the main aim was a showcase for the reformed band, back now with their classic early-Seventies line-up of Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Roger Glover and Ian Paice.

Those personnel had released Perfect Strangers the previous October, while not being a totally successful return to their former glories, it was still an album filled with killer Blackmnore riffs such as Knocking At Your Back Door, the album opener and standout track, and it had whetted UK appetites for more from this definitive Purple line-up.

They embarked on a reunion tour that began in Australia and went to Europe and the USA, making a lot of already rich men even richer and what better way to do it? But, strangely, they chose to play only one UK gig that year: at Knebworth. sujrely they would have cleaned up in the UK where, thanks to tommy Vance's Friday rock show, their flame had been kept well and truely alive. Hairies everywhere then and noe still gobbled up everything they put out and every gig they played.

A licence was obtained for 100,000 and a truly astonishing PA was set up – capable of belting out 250,000 watts! The Who had set the record for the loudest British concert ever with Charlton 1984 and Purple were determined to break it.

“No camping, no bottles, no cans, no cameras, no tapes” proclaimed the flyer for the one-day event in June. And you thought you were here to have fun! In addition, there was no booze licence for the event. Thankfully, people managed to smuggle drink in. Naturally, this was consumed with the minimum delay possible, which meant that everyone was steaming early doors, which in turn lead to the old “piss in a bottle and chuck it” manoeuvre that was a staple of lots of outdoor rock events, but not so much in keeping with previous vibes at Knebworth.

But there was a problem besides being hit with a bottle of wee: it was raining. Really chucking it down. The weather was so awful that only 80,000 turned up, and it poured almost all day. Not for nothing did they call it ‘Mudworth’.

The first band to play, on stage about 11am, were Alaska, remember them? Like a more northerly Asia I seem to recall! They made for a quiet start, which no one could ever accuse the next band on of doing; Mountain – who had been supporting Purple on their tour.

As I write this i've just seen Mountain supporting Joe Satriani, with Corky back on the drums and am happy to report Leslie West is as loud and bone-crushingly heavy as they ever were. I still love mountain but i feel they're at their best when they had Brian Knight on keyboards. He fleshed out the sound on Nantucket Sleighride etc and gave it all more texture for the guitar to pound through.

The highlight of their set at Knebby in '85 (and last night as well) was Jack Bruce's Theme From An Imaginary Western - I came to the original after hearing Mountain's version - its on Songs For A Tailor and it is probably Bruce's finest vocal; epic stuff from a much under-rated singer if not bass player.

Drummer Corky Laing battered the hell out of a large black box for reasons that remained unclear at Knebworth

Mama’s Boys - who were going to be the next big thing if you recall - they were Irish weren't they? Well they played a short, loud set next – unfortunately so loud that it blew out a third of the PA system! The Who’s record would stand. The Southern boogie of Blackfoot was next – they played a grooving, fun set and the sun shone for 40 minutes, the only time it stopped raining all day. Ricky Medlock now sings for Skynyrd but Blackfoot were an awesome band in their prime capable of out-booginig everyone.

A set from NWOBHM stalwarts UFO – featuring new member Atomik Tommy on guitar – came next - this was a bit of a quiet time for UFO who had risen so high in the late 70s and early 80s.....if you;'ve not checked out 2004 You Are Here then do so, it's killer stuff and their best for a decade.

Then it was time for the strangest booking of the day: Meatloaf. The Loaf got a pretty iffy reception from a crowd unhappy with the rain and his music. And the poor bloke had a broken leg! To his credit, he made a decent fist of things, including a commendably surreal rant about the crowd reaction which likened it to drinking a kettle full of boiling water but urinating ice. If only he had soared to those heights of imagery on I Would Do Anything For Love.

The final support act was The Scorpions, who played one of the gigs of their career. Onstage from 6.30, they defied the rain with their World Wide Live Set and closed with a blistering version of Still Loving You. They were at the peak of their powers and were a real joy: a right rocking effort from the Hanover lads.

But the main event was Deep Purple.

This was not a love-in of a reunion, by a long chalk. The tensions that split the band up were already back to the fore, leading to one of the great rock and roll tantrum stories. Unwilling to socialise with each other backstage, the band had individual portacabins. But legend has it that they took it one step further – insisting that the cabins be turned around so as to not have to look at one another when leaving or entering!

Still, they all made it onto the stage one way or another – Ritchie famously shielding his guitar with an umbrella. Have their been any other instances of the lead guitarist of a major group taking to the stage in a pair of Wellington boots? Let us know if you can think of any! Mind you given a choice between 250,000 volts shotting through a wet stage and into your legs and wearing non rock n roll wellies i know which I'd take!

The ill-feeling between the band, and the general annoyance about the crappy weather, seemed to charge Ritchie’s playing with an urgent, driving anger. He’s fast and furious throughout, really hammering on the guitar and beating the notes out of it like a man possessed. His solos on Highway Star (the opener) and Smoke On Water (the closer) are crackers – even on the smoother numbers like Lazy he is still tearing into it.

Blackmore is an astonishing player. A revolutionary who I feel is sometimes held in less esteem than the likes of Pagey and Beck...but they things he does are jaw dropping. That arabesque tendency he has is all his own and the way he could wrestle noise out with the whammy bar before slamming back into a riff has always been masterly. Even going back to Black Night, the solo on that - a number 2 hit - was incredible.....starting with howling noise and finishing in a blues scale...I fimd his work tirelessly fascinating and there's a good argument to say he was the UK's all time riff-meister. From 1970 to 1985 he didn't make a bad record and wrote a whole canon of riffs that have stood the test of time.

They played a weird and wonderful take on (Rainbow’s) Difficult To Cure where Lord chucks in some of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy on the organ and Ian Gillan – whose voice was in fine shape – breaks out into Jesus Christ Superstar on Strange Kind Of Woman. Check out the ‘In The Absence Of Pink’ live album for a fine record of the day.

For many of the fans there, who had got into the band post-1976 break-up, seeing the classic line-up together was a dream they thought would never happen, and for that reason this has rightly gone down as a seminal, and much loved, Purple gig – even in the pouring rain.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

History Of Festivals 16 : Glastonbury 1971

When Noel Gallagher called the decision to book Jay-Z for this year’s Glasto “wrong” he was right, but for the wrong reasons, if you see what we mean. Noel reckoned the festival should be about guitar bands, not hip-hop, which is a point of view – albeit one contrary to the eclectic origins of the event. But really, it’s Jay-Z’s brand of remorseless ultra-capitalism, misogyny, slick marketing and corporatism that goes against the spirit of Glastonbury… as we shall now demonstrate, with help from our beautiful assistant Claude. Claude: the history books and the magic table, if you please. Isn’t Claude lovely?

There was a small festival at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset in 1970, famously headlined by T-Rex. Eccentric folk/proggers Stackridge(still on the road this year I noticed depsite all members now being 98 years old - do they still involve dustbins and rhubarb in theri stage sets I wonder?) earned a little footnote in history, being the first to play. But the Glastonbury Festival proper was first held the following year, on the 22-26 June. It represented many things about the hippy ideal that seem very dated, a bit silly even, today – but it also stood for some things which are still rather wonderful and which, maybe, the world could do with a bit more of.

The 1971 event was organised by an unlikely triumvirate of local farmer Michael Eavis, Arabella Churchill (Winston’s granddaughter) and the activist and writer Andrew Kerr. The last-named, inspired by the 1970 Isle Of Wight occasion, was determined to put on a free festival. He wrote at the time:

“Man is fast ruining his environment. He is suffering from the effects of pollution; from the neurosis brought about by a basically urban industrial society; from the lack of spirituality in his life. The aims are, therefore: the conservation of our natural resources; a respect for nature and life; and a spiritual awakening.”

Deep stuff, man! The dude was ahead of his time. But Kerr and company were serious. Bill Harkin designed and built the famous pyramid stage – a 1/10 scale replica of the Great Pyramid in Egypt! – in the lovely Vale Of Avalon, where the ley lines are said to converge, the pyramid-shape being the most effective receptacle for receiving the earth’s energy. Ley lines were very popular in the 70s. The old straight tracks and all that. Most of Steve Hillage's songs are about them. Can't be something to do with taking LSD can it?

Also converging on the free event around the summer solstice were around 7,000 festival-goers, looking forward to a week of music and love in the Somerset countryside. It was a perfect venue: hills on both sides, channelling the sound (and the energy man!) and loads of woods around to camp in.

The bill did not have the massive names of, say, the Bath Festival of 1970, but nevertheless included superb bands Fairport Convention, Melanie, Quintessence, The Edgar Broughton Band, Family, Traffic and David Bowie.

The very good Glastonbury Fayre film of the event shows Fairport in fine fettle on songs like Angel Delight, but sadly the Bowie stuff doesn’t make it due to legal reasons. Check out the film if you can – it was shot by Nicolas Roeg, who was then on the middle of a great creative period that saw him shoot or direct several classics of the time, including The Man Who Fell To Earth and Performance.

Another creative force who also very much encapsulate that era were the band Quintessence, one of the performances here which most define that sort of musical style and hippy vibe of 1971. They played a superb set here. There's not enough flute in rock these days. Melanie also captures the spirit of the times, playing Peace Will Come and a surprisingly punchy set. Both Melanie and the Edgar Broughton Band could be relied on to pitch up at almost any festival in the early 70s.

Family gave a typically exhilarating and bizarre performance: has there been a more idiosyncratic voice in rock than Roger Chapman? The singing goat I used to call him - but not in a bad way. His vocal here is amazing: the trippers must have been made of stern stuff; it’s bloody terrifying in places. The Pink Fairies, fixtures at free festivals, rocked their Uncle Harry’s Last Freak Out and Arthur Brown (whose birthday it was) cranked up the madness with a typically weird and wonderful late night slot. Traffic’s Gimme Some Loving was another festival high point. Traffic were having a bit of a resurgence thanks to their excellent john Barlycorn Must Die and Shoot Out At The Fantast Factory albums. albums of high quality they are too. Their jazzy influenced rock with a splash of folk and blues thrown in is never less than joyful. 1973's On The Road is one of my all time fave live albums. So much so that I once got into a fight at a party in 1978 when someone took it off to put on The Damned's new single! Oh the punk rock wars how we miss them.

The audio of the Bowie performances sounds really good, too. He played at dawn on the Friday and wowed the crowd with Oh! You Pretty Things and did Memories Of A Free Festival (how could he not?). The Supermen also sounds like it was excellent as well – what a treat to have seen such a legend, on the up, in such a setting.

Perhaps the absence of any truly megastar names help contribute to the atmosphere: there was less of the rampant egotism, and the eclectic nature of the festival encouraged dancers, jugglers and other loons. There was free food, and plenty of dope, and lots of naked dancing. Almost everyone who was there speaks of a peaceful, relaxed, loving vibe – even the Hells Angels were alright! There were litter patrols, there was a ‘Hassle Van’ driving around in the night to help people sort out any hassles – there were even (naturally) claims of a UFO sighting on the night of the Solstice.

If it all sounds a million miles away from Oasis fighting with Jay-Z about who’s more suitable for Glastonbury… it is. But what an amazing thing Glastonbury has been and still is, thanks to Michael Eavis and company. Hopefully a little of the spirit of 1971 still survives – and who knows, maybe the environmental concerns of today plus some sort of reaction against the X Factorisation of modern music could see an appetite for similar events return.