Glastonbury, So Much to Answer For

There’s only one way to end a look back at past Glastonbury headliners, isn’t there?

As I watched this set from the comfort of my sofa, I cursed my luck that I wasn’t in one particular field in Somerset.

Annoyingly, the full gig doesn’t appear to be on YouTube, other than an audio clip which conks out in the opening seconds and then restarts about ten minutes in. If I manage to find a link to the complete concert, I’ll add it later.

In the meantime, here’s Blur’s somewhat frantic set from 2009; to my mind, this is what a headline set should be: a greatest hits sing-a-long.

I’m so jealous of everyone I know who were there that year, as they constantly remind me of just how brilliant this is:

Blur – Live at Glastonbury 2009

Just magnificent. Suck on that, Liam.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Since we’re looking at historic Glastonbury performances, there can be only one act that can feature this morning.

No, not Dolly Parton – although her set attracted more viewers.

Before Johnny Cash walked on stage on the 26th June 1994, the Sunday afternoon “Legend” slot wasn’t a thing.

By the time he walked off the stage jut over an hour later, it was.

Johnny Cash – Live At Glastonbury 1994

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Watching Radiohead’s headliner set from Glastonbury 1997 on Friday night, I was reminded of just how wonderful this song is:

Radiohead – Street Spirit (Fade Out)

I was also reminded of the video:

…bits of which I always thought were ripped off (towards the end) on this video:

R.E.M. – Electrolite

And here, finally, is Michael Stipe dropping a bon mot and a clanging name-drop when explaining part of the lyric on an edition of VH1 Storytellers:

Michael Stipe – Explaining Electrolite

I know, annoying I cut it there, right?

More soon (I promise, R.E.M. won’t feature).

Saturday Night Coming Up

I mentioned in my earlier post today how in 1999 the BBC managed to miss the first 7 songs from the R.E.M. set; if it was a broadcasting rights issue they had it sorted by the time Kylie was due to headline in 2005.

There were two problems though.

  1. No Kylie, who had, understandably, dropped out of the show following a diagnosis of breast cancer.
  2. Last minute replacements Basement Jaxx arrived on stage a little later than planned, hence the floundering and padding from Laverne, Whiley and Jupitus at the start of this footage.

A year earlier, our group had been split between those who stayed at the Pyramid Stage to watch Paul McCartney, and those who had gone to watch Basement Jaxx headline elsewhere. Afterwards, both groups were gushing about what they had seen, so when the news came through that The Jaxx were stepping into Kylie’s glittery high heels, I was perfectly happy, having been in the McCartney camp the year before.

Much is made of Pulp stepping in for The Stone Roses in 1995, and of Florence & The Machine doing the same for the Foo Fighters in 2015, but this stand-in and stand out show seems to get over-looked. I was there in 2005 and I danced my arse off to Basement Jaxx, who were just splendid: hit after hit, banger after banger.

To my mind, this is one set the BBC should be showing this weekend, but they’re not, so here it is for you (with floundering, padding intro) for you to watch and, if you’re so inclined, download and listen to:

Basement Jaxx – Live at Glastonbury 2005

Mental note to self: never agree to headline Glastonbury when the year ends in a 5.

More soon.

Glastonbury, So Much To Answer For

You may have noticed that this weekend would have been Glastonbury Festival weekend.

Of course, Covid has put paid to that for a second year running – perhaps if it were to have a snog and a grope with someone who didn’t have a ticket, that would be fine? – but the BBC have decided to mark the missing music by showing some of the finest headliner shows. Tonight you’ll be able to relive Kylie from 2019 (not a headliner set, but whatever, she almost was had the Big C not struck her down in 2005) and Artic Monkeys from 2013 on BBC2 from 22:00, whilst Iggy and The Stooges grace the 2007 stage (I was at that! – also not a headliner set) on BBC4, then on Sunday sees BBC4 fulfil it’s remit with a set from Fela Kuti from 1984. All of these concerts book-ended with various compilation shows.

Not sure how they’ve managed to over look Quo’s set from 2009, but they can’t get everything right, I guess.

Last night saw BBC2 show Radiohead’s headline set from 1997, and R.E.M.’s from 1999. I had intended to post some of my favourite sets from years that I attended, and top of that list would have been R.E.M.’s set from the first year I went, 2003.

You may have noticed that when I have bothered to post here recently, R.E.M. have often featured. See, I’m having a bit of an R.E.M. renaissance recently. A R.E.M.aissance, if you will. And I think I can probably attribute this to JC and The Robster’s excellent (recently concluded) series over at JC’s place where they honestly reviewed every R.E.M. single – and when I say “honestly” I mean they pulled no punches and called out the duffers where they occurred, which, as the band got older, was often – and now The (rejuvenated) Robster’s off-shoot series over at his own place where he picks what should have been singles from the band’s mighty catalogue.

Alas, I couldn’t find the 2003 set anywhere (if anyone has any good bootleg sites they care to recommend I’d be very grateful), so instead, just in case you want to check how off-key those Beach Boys-esque harmonies on At My Most Beautiful are, or how the end of Sweetness Follows seems to descend into an out of time (see what I did there) mess, here’s the audio from the R.E.M. show which was transmitted again last night:

R.E.M. – Live from Glastonbury 1999

Apologies for the intro nonsense on that, I haven’t had time to edit it out. Skip to around the 01:40 mark for the actual music to start.

Back in 1999, it seems the Beeb didn’t have the rights to show the entire set live, as we join the group as they are about to go into Daysleeper, which was actually the seventh song on the night. We’ve already missed (in order): Lotus, What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?, So Fast So Numb, The Apologist, Fall On Me, and The Great Beyond – some I’m not sorry were omitted but some….well, I hope whoever missed out on Fall On Me, one of their finest records, sleeps at night. (It would be remiss of me not to point out it does appear on the recent R.E.M at the BBC boxset.)

All of which makes me sound like a real sourpuss or grumpy face, but I don’t mean to be: while we may not get the full picture, we do get a lot of the big-hitters, the crowd pleasers, but we also get a snapshot of just how wonderfully entertaining and bewitching R.E.M. live could be on their day.

God, I miss them.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Continuing a watery theme from yesterday morning….

After the football on Friday night – i.e. just when I needed it – BBC4 aired an hour of R.E.M. live at the BBC.

If you can ignore the fact that it jumped from second album Reckoning‘s Pretty Persuasion to sixth album Green‘s Pop Song ’89 it was a reasonably career- encompassing show.

The highlight for me was a performance of Nightswimming, lifted from an edition of Later…with Jools Holland; to the best of my knowledge this has never seen a commercial release (and I’m sure The Robster will correct me if I’m wrong). It certainly doesn’t appear on the R.E.M. – Live at the BBC album which came out a couple of years ago..

And so here it is, just Stipe’s unmistakable vocal, Mike Mills on piano, and I think something that’s supposed to sound like a cor anglais parping along beautifully. Thankfully Jools doesn’t rock up with his trademark boogie-woogie piano:

R.E.M. – Nightswimming (Later… with Jools Holland 14 October 2003)

More soon.

Carry on Camping

Had all things gone to plan, then my London friends and I would have been spending this weekend meeting up for the first time since the Covid crisis first started, and going on a camping weekend in Kent.

However, I pulled out like a good catholic boy a couple of weeks ago, for reasons that I’ll go into some other time. My buddies were due to travel down yesterday, but on Thursday the WhatsApp chat group we’re all in became preoccupied with that most British of concerns – the weather – and in particular, given the forecast for Friday was thunder, lightning (the way you love me is frightening) whether they too should sack the weekend off, chance it and go anyway, or postpone travel until Saturday when the weather was predicted to be better, if only marginally so.

I watched their discussions from the wings, managing to supress those smug feelings I usually get when I don’t have a ticket for Glastonbury and the forecast is tumultuous. These are my friends, I reminded myself, and I wish them no ill, and specifically I don’t want any of them to be struck by lightning as they grapple with a guy-rope.

And then someone referred to pitching their tent as ‘getting their erection sorted’ and my cover was blown, to a predictable chorus of groans.

As it happens, I was glad that I had ducked out of the whole weekend, since I had not realised it clashed with the England v Scotland game in the confusingly named Euros 2020, postponed from last year because of the whole Covid malarkey. Imagine what a bad mood I’d have been in having rocked up in the driving rain, pitched my tent and then found out I couldn’t watch the match.

Of course, by the time the final whistle went, I was longing to be anywhere other than in front of my TV, even if it was in a rain-swept field in Kent, so desperately poor had England been, and how annoyingly good Scotland had been. Sure, it had ended goal-less, but England were lucky to escape with a point and Scotland unlucky to escape with the same.

Still, England should go through, and I genuinely hope Scotland do too – before the tournament kicked off I predicted to work colleagues that I thought they might progress out of the group stage at a major competition for the first time ever – and of course, Wales are still there so I can always fall back on my “honorary Welshman” status (as long as I don’t attempt the accent) when England inevitably crash and burn.

After the match last night, there was much discussion about quite what went wrong for England: were they fazed by the circumstance, the importance and history of the occasion? Did Scotland simply outplay them? Were Scotland more a team who gelled, whilst England were a team of individuals who did not? Yes, yes, yes and yes.

There was, of course, one other explanation which didn’t get much traction on the TV last night: the game was aired on ITV.

Coming into the tournament, England has lost nine matches on ITV and drawn 11. In comparison to the BBC, England’s record reads as Won: 14, Drawn: 3, Lost: 3. This gives England an impressive 70 per cent win rate on BBC, whereas on ITV it is a paltry 16.67 per cent.

England’s final group game, against the Czech Republic, is on ITV. Brace yourselves.

If that’s not a good enough argument to leave the BBC alone, I don’t know what is.

But anyway, I digress. My buddies are heading down to Kent this morning, intent on making the most of the situation, and I hope they have a really great time (impossible as that might seem without me there) and so this is for them:

Badly Drawn Boy – Camping Next To Water

Fingers crossed it will be next to, rather than under…

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’ve written before on these pages about my admiration of the TV series Fargo, and I’ve spent the evenings of the last week binge-watching the fourth series (airing on Channel 4 and streaming on All4 in the UK).

Here’s what wiki has to say about the idea behind the show generally:

Fargo is an American black comedy/crime drama television series created and primarily written by Noah Hawley. The show is inspired by the 1996 film of the same name, which was written and directed by the Coen brothers, and takes place within the same universe. The Coens were impressed by Hawley’s script and agreed to be named as executive producers. The series premiered on April 15, 2014, on FX, and follows an anthology format, with each season set in a different era and location, with a different story and mostly new characters and cast, although there is minor overlap. Each season is heavily influenced by various Coen brothers films, with each containing numerous references to them.

Basically, if you like the Coen brothers’ movies, then chances are you’ll like this too. But, since the body count piles up in all four series, then perhaps avoid it if you’re even slightly squeamish.

Which would be your loss, for each series features fine interweaving multi-strand storylines, where you’re not always immediately sure how they are linked (plot-wise, they’re not afraid to throw not exactly a twist (although there are plenty of them) but a total curveball in from time to time too), and has been exquisitely filmed, often with gorgeous overhead tracking shots. You can tell not just by the cast of each series (Series 1: Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Hanks; Series 2: Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, Jesse Plemons (if you don’t recognise the name, I dare say you’ll recognise him when you see him); Series 3: Ewan McGregor, David Thewlis, Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead; Series 3: Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw) but by the look of the show that a lot of money has been thrown at the production of each series.

Here’s the spoiler-free plot for the current series (again from wiki):

In 1950, the Cannon Limited, led by Loy Cannon (Chris Rock), threaten to usurp the Fadda Family, led by Josto Fadda (Jason Schwartzman), as the ruling crime organization in Kansas City, Missouri. In an effort to maintain peace, the groups agree to honor a tradition of trading the youngest sons between the two households. However, the alliance is jeopardized by the arrival of Josto’s brash brother Gaetano (Salvatore Esposito), as well as the unorthodox actions taken by a nurse named Oraetta Mayflower (Jessie Buckley). Meanwhile, Oraetta’s teenaged neighbour Ethelrida Pearl Smutny (E’myri Crutchfield) discovers her parents are in debt to the Cannon Limited, which gets her entangled in the criminal activities of Kansas City.

I have to say Rock – who I’ve only ever really encountered via his legendary stand-up routines – is an absolute revelation in his role, which is not to detract from any of the others; there’s not one duff performance on show here.

And, as when I last mentioned the show, there’s the soundtrack, a mix of blues, gospel, country and bluegrass guaranteed to pique the interest of anyone who regularly reads this series here.

As an example, this features in the current series, and it’s an absolute beauty:

Ola Belle Reed – High On A Mountain

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

1986, and Norwegian pop dreamboats a-ha released a remixed version of the title track and fourth (or fifth if you count Take On Me twice, since it flopped on its first release) and final single from their debut album, Hunting High and Low.

I had bought the re-released Take on Me on 7″ single (partly, admittedly, swept up by the magnificence of the ground-breaking video), didn’t buy but loved their only UK #1, The Sun Always Shines on TV, wasn’t particularly fussed about Train of Thought, but on hearing Hunting High… I was inspired to go and buy the album.

It’s a song which is all too often over-looked in favour of Take on Me (because of that video) and The Sun Always Shines… (because it was #1), which is a shame, I think, because, as I will say at least another two times before the end of this post, it’s just lovely.

Locked away in a part of my brain I have yet to recall the security code for, there is a memory of me – briefly – wearing, or at the very least considering wearing, leather laces as bangles, in the somewhat desperate hope it might make me look a bit like lead singer, Morten Harket, and therefore irresistible to members of the opposite sex. I don’t think I actually went through with it, but there’s enough doubt in my mind, and enough recognition of the daft lengths I would go to (try to) achieve the same goal when I was a teenager, to make me think I may well have done.

A case in point: at around the same time as a-ha were becoming famous, I went on a camping and canoeing trip to Norway, organised by my school. (To be clear, we did not canoe to Norway.) I knew very little about Norway, except I’d heard it was largely inhabited by blonde, blue-eyed beauties. And so I decided that what I needed to do was dye my hair blond, because that was clearly what Norwegian girls wanted from their overseas visitors: more of the same.

A friend and I duly purchased a bottle of Sun-In hair dye; we read the instructions, applied the lotion, rinsed and then…decided it hadn’t worked and did it again. And again. And then once more for good measure. So that by the time we boarded the ferry taking us to Norway, I was not the mousy brown-haired teenager I normally was, but neither was I the blonde sex god I had hoped for. No, my hair was a kind of muddy orangey red, and I looked as gorgeous as that sounds.

The female half of Norway was not in the slightest bit interested, needles to say.

Anyway, despite this traumatic memory, whenever I hear this song, it still makes me go “Ahhhh….” in the same way as it did when I first heard it, because it’s just lovely:

a-ha – Hunting High And Low (7′ Remix)

See? Just lovely.

More soon.


The other week, professional snake-in-the-grass Dominic Cummings gave his “explosive” evidence about the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic to a Select committee.

It went something like this: “Contrary to popular opinion, all the time I was working for the Government, I was constantly advising them to do the complete opposite of what they did. Everything would have been fine if they’d listened to me. That time I drove my wife and child to stay at an illegally built house and then to Barnard Castle? No, I shouldn’t have done that, but a death threat had been made against us. No, I didn’t mention it at the time because I hadn’t made it up then – oops, I mean, because I was advised not to. Yes, I was the Chief Advisor, what’s your point? I realise now that I should have been more honest, and that’s why you should believe me now, because I’m telling the truth now, just like I said I was last time. Oh, and Matt Hancock is useless and should have been fired somewhere between fifteen and twenty times.”

For a seven hour session, there was remarkably little meat on the bones. There was nothing here that we didn’t already know, and those bits we didn’t know we didn’t believe anyway. Cummings promised to produce hard evidence, but to date this seems to nothing more than a ruse to stay centre of attention, and a pathetic attempt to get more people to read his blog. I mean, who reads blogs these days, let alone writes them? What a loser.

This week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock had his right to reply in front of the same enquiry. It went something like this: “Of course I shouldn’t have been sacked. I’ve never lied to the PM, the general public or the House. No, not even when I said that people in care homes would be ring-fenced, when they weren’t. Or that time I said there was no shortage of PPE, when there was. I have acted to the best of my ability throughout. It’s Mr Cummings who is a liar. And his pants are on fire. And his nose has grown.”

But this Clash of the Trite Ones presents us with quite the dilemma: who, if anyone, should we believe? Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t believe a single thing which came from between eithers’ fetid fillings. Cummings has a history of bending the truth to suit his own agenda, whilst Hancock has floundered like, well, a flounder throughout the pandemic. It’s been perfectly clear that he’s been out of his depth pretty much since day 1, and it seems to escape him that if any of us, who do not have something as important as the health and safety of a nation resting in our hands, had admitted that they had acted to the best of our ability – and had fallen so glaringly obviously short – then we’d have been picking up our P45s pronto.

I was reminded of a similar dilemma back before the Brexit vote, where we had to pick a side, but whichever way you looked were people you you wouldn’t trust with looking after your house plants while you go on holiday, let alone your whole future. On one side shifty ne’er-do-wells like Farage, Johnson and Gove; on the other shiny faced toffos like Cameron and Osborne.

And I was reminded of this song (and this is not a recommendation of said song, which is one of those godawful coffee-table jazz-pop records which were briefly popular in the mid-80s):

Matt Bianco – Whose Side Are You On?

And then it occurred to me.

What was missing from this whole debacle was some input from the hard-working Bloody Great British public. Sure, everyone who wanted to have a say was doing so on social media, but were they being given access to the interviewees themselves? No they were not.

What we need here, I thought, is one of those phone-ins they used to do on Saturday morning kids television in the late 70s/early 80s, where you could phone the TV studio and, if you were lucky – and, it seems with the barest minimum of scrutiny – you could get through to ask Boy George where he bought his make-up from, or Adam Ant what his favourite colour is, or maybe even the aforementioned Matt Bianco….:

Of course, you can’t post that without also posting this one:

Not that it would solve anything, no progress would be made with political arguments, no scores settled, but wouldn’t it be great if you could just phone up an MP, call them a twat and have it broadcast on national TV?

Just think how much people’s stress levels would come down with that release! And think how much money it could generate from premium rate chat lines which could be spent on trivial things like the NHS, or solving the homeless problem.

Plus, if you introduced a rule that the same swear could not be used more than once, sooner or later callers would have to come up with new, ever-more florid profanities, to such an extent that we wouldn’t have to worry about school kids having to make up the months of English lessons they’ve missed out on during the pandemic.

And, if you ask me, I’d much rather our Government were kept perpetually on screen, answering the telephones and receiving abuse the likes of which haven’t been heard since I used to work as a cold-calling telesales operative, where I was told to fuck off with metronomic regularity. Because then, we’d all know exactly where they were and what they were doing.

“Has anyone seen Jeremy Hunt recently?”

“Yes, he’s on the phone-in section of Homes Under The Hammer, where somebody has finally got round to calling him by his rhyming slang name.”

I smell a BAFTA coming my way.

More soon.