In March 2003 a friend of mine said that his group – ‘Biggles Wartime Band’ – had been booked to play at Glastonbury and there was a vacant spot on the bill. Did my band want to take it? So me and Bob and Dominic and Graham and Steve and Roger gave it our very best consideration for a nanosecond and then said that we would. There would be no money or accommodation or groupie fringed hot tubs of course- but we were the Ragin’ Cajuns and we were ready to rock!
Dreading getting into the festival – the fans! the security! the traffic, the parking! – but with a bundle of “Access All Areas” passes, a map showing the private “Artists Only” entrance – and after a quick check of the car to make sure we aren’t carrying stowaways or ’ recreational smoking materials’ we are directed to the Green Fields site. It is immediately behind the Croissant Neuf stage where tomorrow afternoon we will be making our Glasto debut. ‘Biggles Wartime Band’ are there already, tents pitched, fire lit and cocktail lounge erected with two settees and a piano for the pianist who will arrive shortly. Watching ‘Biggles Wartime Band’ falling about I can tell that they are over excited and definitely ‘over-refreshed’. Fine weather.
THE FATAL BROWNIES
Lead singer drags me off to find food. Man at gate hears singer’s stomach grumbling and offers us ‘magic’ chocolate brownies. Me, a child of the 60’s, takes one and slowly nibbles it. Lead singer, a child of the 80’s, takes two and woofs the lot. A few minutes later the pixies will come and gently take him away
900 ACRES OF TENTS
The tents are pitched so closely together it is virtually impossible to walk between them or tell one from the other. A steward says that some people put up their tents, wander off to hear some music and never find their tents again. He said that there are still people left over from the first festival in 1970 roaming around Worthy Farm looking for their gear. Lead singer thinks that this is the funniest thing he has ever heard – ever!. I take him away.
THE SKATALITES AND THE SACRAMENT
Getting dark. Live on stage are the Skatalites, purveyors of Jamaican ‘ska’ music and known for their 1967 hit “Guns of Navarone” . A thin line of sweet smelling blue smoke drifts over the crowd. A policeman on the hill says that it is ‘a sacrament’ – an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible state of mind. I ask how he feels about 100,000 fans smoking ‘weed’ so blatantly. He says that he would rather deal with 100,000 pot smokers at the festival than 6 lager louts out of their brains in Glastonbury High Street on a Saturday night. Lead singer enthusiastically agrees. The policeman looks at him rather closely. I take him away.
The Skatalites at Glastonbury 2003 playing “Guns of Navarone”
LONG DROP TOILETS
There are signs all over the place asking people not to pee or poo in the hedges. A man on a tractor says that some people will pee or poo anywhere. Unoccupied wellington boots are a current favourite. Long queues of men and women mill around by the ‘long drop’ toilets. I ask a steward how ‘long’ was a ‘long drop’ toilet. He says don’t hold your breath waiting for a splash or you’re die of asphyxiation. Lead singer says that the smell has cleared his head. I take him away.
SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING 4.00am
Radiohead and Flaming Lips have cleared off the Main stage and but nobody is going to bed. The noise of 150,000 people just being awake – talking, laughing, singing, moving about – is overwhelming. In the Green Fields site the ‘Biggles Wartime Band’ have raked up their fire and now people are sitting round cooking sausages and singing songs from the 1950’s. ‘Jazz’ cigarettes are being passed round and nobody is asking anybody to be quiet. The Ragin’ Cajuns, me and Bob and Dominic and Graham and Steve and Roger all realise that we’re going to be on stage in ten hours time but hey, tonight we are all doing something that we should have done a lifetime ago – sitting around a fire under the stars and just being there at Glastonbury.
CROISSANT NEUF STAGE – SATURDAY 2.30pm
Show Time! For all the lack of sleep and a laid back attitude Glastonbury appears to be working very efficiently. We turn up at the Croissant Neuf stage – “Powered by the Sun!” – at the appointed hour, hand over our “Stage Plan” to a couple of roadies who look like they are held together with strips of ‘Gaffa Tape’. After twenty minutes of knob twiddling and “Test! Test!” we are on stage. Not as many as in front of the Pyramid Stage last night and those that are look like escapees from “Night of the Living Dead” but there’s enough to be comfortable. Lots of people crashed out on the floor between the dancing feet. People wander in and out. We play an encore and then another – . “Parlez-Nous A Boire” – and are cheered off. One man keeps shouting “Wally!” One of the roadies says, “So 1970’s… man!” Nobody mobs us on the way back to the Green Fields site.
By Monday 30th June 2003 it was all over. The tents were down, the fires were out and the cast of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ had shuffled off and me and Bob and Dominic and Graham and Steve and Roger are all back at work. There are no press conferences or lengthy reviews in the paper but people do occasionally come up and ask if we had been to Glastonbury. “Glastonbury? Yeah! We’ve just played there… man!”
According to some sources random cries of “Wally!” at Rock Festivals originated at the first Glastonbury Festival in 1970 when a sound engineer of that name got lost. (Easily done!) Others says Wally was a dog lost at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 or the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 or a name shared by new age travellers camped at Stonehenge in 1974 to confuse the police.
— from Martyn Day