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Glasto Revisited

Stuart Bailie

Late Show Presenter

I have two indelible memories of Glastonbury. The first dates back to 1988 and my induction into the Avalon experience. For a variety of reasons I was fraught and unwell. I was wrapped up in a kind of psychic darkness and what rescued me was the sound of Elvis Costello on the Pyramid Stage. He was singing a Jimmy Cliff song, ‘Many Rivers To Cross’. The tune had previously graced the soundtrack to the reggae film, ‘The Harder They Come’. It’s a lyric about tough times and the struggle to hold it together. There’s a hint of redemption and a gospel finale but Jimmy doesn't promise that it will be easy. Likewise with the Costello version, his voice high and strained, the keyboards surging and Worthy Farm vibrating. I was saved.

The second moment was Pulp and a triumphal show in 1994. The Stone Roses had pulled out and I had spent the afternoon of June 26 with a cardboard Ian Brown mask strapped to my head, having a laugh. Backstage, it was a cynical and messy scene. Robbie Williams was falling apart and ready to be ejected from Take That. Evan Dando from the Lemonheads was in a pitiful orbit and had missed his own gig. He was trying to compensate by playing his guitar to strangers, badly. All of this was observed by the Oasis entourage who were callous and mocking.

But the Pulp moment was pure affirmation. They had been the outsider indie band for so many years, but now their songs were generous and gigantic and the spasm of Britpop was taking them to the mainstream. So Jarvis sang ‘Common People’ on that Glastonbury stage and the multitudes carried him to an awe-filled dimension. There was static in the midsummer air and magic in our bones as we sang along with the Glasto people.

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