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Sounds, 30 June 1979, by RAB

Never mind the music

Glastonbury Fair

WE KNEW we were getting close when policemen started to appear at 50 yard intervals along the hedgerow lanes. Security from being hassled for being human is a prime concern at these three day thrashes, and little has changed in the cop-heart over the last eight years. Near the entrance they moved to pull us over, saw the press sticker and thought better of it. We thought about all the other unfortunates who didn't have immunity riding on the windshield.

First on Thursday were Mirage, an eight piece soul-funk-reggae mix who got us going in the drizzle and really showed what the sound system could do (when working). After what seemed like hours there was the Ronny Paisley Band, whose rather average rock and funk left me cold.

Thursday night was topped off by Steve Hillage. Hillage is completely in his element outdoors, communing with nature and sending wave after wave of synthesized guitar over the crowd who were loving it. He did the old favorites 'Hurdy Gurdy Man', 'Light in the Sky' and 'Motivation Radio'. His performance was supposed to be capped by a spectacular laser pyramid projected over the audience, but something got broken so all we got was one thin beam like an usherette torch raking the sky and showing God to his seat. A bit weak really.

Friday was beautiful in all respects except the music. Generator failure was the cause. First it blew a fuse through The Only Ones set, and when they resumed on half power an hour later they lasted two numbers before it ran out of diesel. Mike Kelly refused to leave this time and just kept drumming until the power resumed. Later Sky played, which after The Only Ones was a complete anti-climax. I went to sleep beside a camp fire. John Williams is a beautiful guitarist wasting his time with this crossover stuff.

By Saturday there were so many groups left to play that the panic really set in. Johnny Copin opened with 'Wishy Washy', very West Coast laid back stuff and somewhere after him and before the Pop Group, I went completely out to lunch. I only just came round in time to them ripping it up, and causing a complete split in the crowd. A little too severe for ageing hippies, obviously. Things were actually thrown at them. But an encore was granted to fans packing the front of the stage.

Then there was John Martyn and Peter Gabriel to come because of the 12 o'clock curfew. Martin did his usual echo loop trip to great effect and to high applause, and I much preferred him to the super-crowd we ended up with, which consisted of Gabriel plus Alex Harvey, Tom Robinson and Nona Hendryx all jamming, taking it in turn to do each other's numbers (quite a few of Robinson's as I remember) and being hailed as long-lost heroes. I lost interest by then and was concentrating on shaping up right and getting the tent down.

So what can you say? As a festival it was a success, but as a music event it flopped badly as at least half the bands billed never made it to the stage. Still, as the organisers were at pains to point out, the event was about people getting together, having a good time and falling over a lot. There was enough to do on the site with theatre and other events, and the lack of music didn't really matter. I think I'll leave it there.


Hi Dixon, find enclosed a copy of my review of Glastonbury 1979, enclosed only for the mention of the pop group.Not my greatest piece I'll admit but there's a story to that....

... I was contracted to do the first day and a half of the 79 Glastonbury and one of the staffers was supposed to cover the other half. So I roll into [work] about half nine on the monday morning with my copy all written and a deadline of 12 noon. No prob, ring the printers and dictate it to a copy taker. But when I get through the guy asks rather panically whether I stayed the whole weekend. Well of course we did, you don't go home half way through a festival do you? Great he says can you re-write your stuff and expand to cover the whole festival cos the staffer got so smashed he didn't even make it out of the car park, let alone see the bands. All my notes are at home and there's no time to go get them, so all I could do was to take an early lunch and repair to the pub accross the road for a very sweaty hour or so trying to lash this together. "lunch! what you mean lunch! you only just got here!" said my boss, but bless them they were very indulgent with me.

Thanks, RAB, for writing this article in 1979 and scanning it in 2004.


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