And Lo! So it came to pass that the majority of the same motley crew from Glastonbury 2003 all managed to get tickets for Glastonbury 2004, with a few additions. I’m not going to list them all for a couple of reasons: firstly, they may not appreciate being linked to some of the activities described below; and secondly, I’m not entirely sure who all of the additions were (by which I mean, I’m not sure I can remember who was there, rather than not being sure who they were). Anyway, by my reckoning there were 16 of us this time, a record figure never to be repeated, not by us anyway.
I’d learned three lessons from the previous year:
1) Arrtive early (we did)
2) The stuff on the Pyramid Stage is not necessarily the most interesting stuff that’s going on (I vowed not to spend the whole weekend there again)
3) Stay off the brownies (I’m pleased to report that not one passed my lips)
You may call into question how honest I’m being on that last point when I tell you that when writing and researching this post, I find not only are there dirty great holes in my memory, but also that some of the acts listed in the 2004 booklet, and on the Wikipedia page, are not listed where and when I remember them being. But trust me, it was a brownie-free weekend.
We’ll stick with what I can remember, and what I think I remember.
Friday began with me utterly failing to honour my promise to not just sit at the Pyramid Stage all day. Although there were 16 of us in total, two (who shall be named: Gary and Meg) didn’t arrive until the Friday afternoon and for some reason we’d arranged to meet them at our usual spot at the back of the Pyramid Stage.
Much drinking ensued, and since the majority of our party were Welsh (I think just three, maybe four, of us were English) we spent much of the day making up humorous puns based on Welsh place names/acts playing the festival, in much the same way that now “I Love The Diff” do mugs with the names of works of popular fiction altered to include a Welsh place name or phrase. I haven’t explained that at all well, have I? Well, have a look here and you’ll see what I’m banging on about.
We came up with dozens of these, the pick being “Kings of Caerleon”, which years later Newport’s finest, Goldie Lookin’ Chain named one of their albums. I knew we should have got a copy right on that.
We even adopted the words to “Molly’s Chambers”, which in our world now went:
“You want it, she’s got it, Bonnie Tyler’s gonna change your mind, Bonnie Tyler’s gonna change your mind. She’s got your, your rissoles! Bonnie Tyler’s gonna change your mind, Bonnie Tyler’s gonna change your mind.”
Well, we found it funny, anyway. That’s the scrumpy for you.
Truth be told, this is where the first of the black holes in my memory appears.
My source materials tell me the first act on the Pyramid was Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herren Band (Nope, me neither). It’s entirely possible that I started elsewhere, but a quick flick through the listings fails to jog my memory as to quite what I was doing. I know I definitely wasn’t over at The Other Stage, that’s for sure, for that would have meant I was watching Kasabian, and I’d already developed a healthy, well-founded aversion to Leicester’s finest exponents of deathly unoriginal cock-rock. To this day I would rather eat my own testicles than sit through a Kasabian gig.
Let’s assume I was sleeping off a heavy Thursday night. This is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.
I do know that I was at The Pyramid in time to catch Bright Eyes, but remember nothing other than being totally underwhelmed by him/them. Next up: Wilco, a band who, given their association with Billy Bragg, you’d think I’d have some vague recollection of seeing, but no. Nothing. Zip.
Nelly Furtado. Yup, I remember her alright. Not quite sure why she was there, but there she was. You want proof? Ok.
Want more proof? What am I, your mother? Go YouTube it.
Next up, Elbow, a band enjoying a ground-swell in popularity at the time, which has seen them edge further and further up the bill as the years have gone on. This was, of course, in pre-Seldom Seen Kid days, and before that bloody song about opening your curtains became the obligatory soundtrack to every momentous event on television. Their set was notable for their performance of Grace Under Pressure; the version which appeared on their “Cast of Thousands” album featured a recording of the Glastonbury crowd from 2002 singing along (see what they did there? Quite literally, a Cast of Thousands), and which we were encouraged to reproduce, which most of us gladly did, even though we’d never heard the song before. I wondered loudly if I would get a share of their fee for assisting their performance. Suffice to say, I had not exactly entered into the spirit of things at this point.
Next: Groove Armada. I have a bit of a soft spot for this lot, mostly because a year or so later I saw them at Lovebox and during their set witnessed a bloke successfully – yes, successfully! – using the greatest, most bizarre chat-up line I have ever heard (for the record, it was: “Do you like Ian Dowie? I like Ian Dowie!!) And whilst, again, my recollection of their set is the very definition of “sketchy”, they definitely did Superstylin’, to my mind one of the happiest summer-ish records ever. So there.
PJ Harvey was next up, a typically wonderful set. I think. Can’t really remember it (it’s going well this, isn’t it?). Sadly, I’ve not been able to source much from her set, bar her rendition of The Letter which, marvellous though it is, isn’t the Alex Chilton/Box Tops classic of the same name. I think she’d do a tidy version of that. Probably wouldn’t even change the “she” to “he”, the saucy androgynous sexpot.
Next up were the Kings of (Caer)Leon, and if you thought my recollection has been a tad on the sketchy side so far, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet, for events were about to overtake us. In between Peej and the Followill brothers, O’Keefe and I were sitting on the grass, more than a tad pissed, happily watching the world go by, when I suddenly heard O’Keefe say “Ey up, eyes right!”. I assumed he had spotted an attractive lady, looked round, and spying nobody I thought likely to have raised his dander, said “Nice was she?”.
“No”, he replied, “on the ground. There.” I looked down to my right, and was greeted by the totally unexpected site of a rather large bag of white powder, nestling in the grass next to me. “Someone just dropped it when they walked by”. Quick as a flash, it was scooped up and safely stashed in my rucksack.
Now. I am not about to condone any kind of drug use. And I am certainly not about to suggest to anyone that they, in the event they are presented with a similar scenario, should do anything other than hand the contraband it in to the relevant authorities.
That said, at this time in my life, well….let’s just say that I had a bit of a reputation to uphold, and there was therefore only one place the contents of that bag were going. One quick dab confirmed it was speed. Not my favourite, but what the heck. A few more dabs, and Kings of Leon were on stage (the two facts are not linked, though I probably thought they were at the time. I very much doubt that Will Followill peeked out from behind the stage curtain, spotted me, and said “Hold on guys, he’s only had a few dabs…let’s give him a few minutes, eh?”). What seemed to be just a few more dabs later and their set was over. They did “Molly’s Chambers”, apparently. We sang the new improved chorus.
A few (okay, a lot) dabs more, the bag was empty (I’m not going to pretend I consumed the whole bag, but I am going to confirm I consumed most of the bag, and that none of the other people from our gang mentioned in this post had any), and suddenly, Oasis were coming on (similarly, there was no curtain twitching by Bonehead).
Never mind all of these Frank adverts which are supposed to scare folks off drugs; the most effective way to achieve total global abstinence from all things narcotic would have been to have a video camera permanently trained on me throughout Oasis’ set, for if ever there was an example of someone being off their tits and thinking they were the funniest bloke on the planet, but actually being an annoying, tedious prick, it was me, then. I spent the entire set with my hands clasped behind my back, leaning forward into an imaginary microphone, doing dreadful, oh so dreadful, Liam impressions (“Is it my imaginaayyyy-shun….”…”sunnnshiiiine” etc etc you get the giste), and also, bizarrely, encouraging everyone round me to “gather round…sing along…you all know the words”, phrases I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say.
It was later reported to me that my flatmate Llyr, when realising what was going on (and more pertinently, what I was on), was heard to mutter “Okay, own up: who’s given him a whole bag of speed?” and, later “If he wasn’t my mate I’d have fucking chinned him by now” He would have been well within his rights to have done so.
Here’s the performance of Cigarettes and Alcohol. Thankfully, they were loud enough to drown me out (just).
Saturday arrived. More (understandably, given the above) vague memories of making my way through the crowd on The Other Stage during Keane’s set at precisely the moment they performed Somewhere Only We Know the only song by them that I’ve ever liked. The intended destination was The Pyramid for Scissor Sisters, who seemed to be just about everywhere at the time, their debut album churning out an endless supply of glam-camp sing ‘n’ frug along pop nuggets, pick of the batch being Take Your Mama Out
Lostprophets were next on the main stage; bearing in mind the name of this blog, and the despicable, depraved behaviour which led to their lead singer’s recent incarceration, I’m glad I didn’t hang around for them. Nope: back over to The Other Stage for My Morning Jacket and British Sea Power (I got nothing) followed by a quick pit stop before returning to The Pyramid for……. the Black Eyed Peas! I’m joking, but sadly not about them playing there, for there they played. No, I did not return to The Pyramid to see them (though I did have the misfortune of catching their last song or two) – the possibility of seeing Fergie soil her trackie bottoms on stage was not sufficient a draw for me (or drawers, haha see what I did there?). No, I was off to see the headliner, Paul “Fab Macca Wacky Thumbs Aloft” McCartney (readers of Smash Hits in the 1980s will appreciate how much I loved just typing that).
McCartney divided opinion in our gang even before he came on stage. We were split pretty much 50/50, with half of the group (some might say, the cooler, or perhaps just the younger ones) opting to go and see Basement Jaxx play The Other Stage, the rest of us electing to watch McCartney. My position on this is that it’s not often you get chance to see one of the Beatles play live these days (and Lord knows we’re not exactly blessed with choices about which of them to see now anyway), and there was no way I would ever pay to go see McCartney anywhere else, so since he’d been nice enough to turn up…well, it’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it?
His set was one of the most enjoyable couple of hours I’ve ever spent at Glastonbury, one massive sing-a-long as he bashed out hit after hit after hit; kicking off with Jet (a song which always reminds me of Alan Partridge), Live and Let Die, and also treating us to a remarkable version of Helter Skelter. I have a vague recollection of being told this was the first time he had played it live since the whole Manson Family she-bang back in the late 1960s. Even more remarkably, his set didn’t end with an overly long rendition of either Let it Be or Hey Jude.
Sunday began, as every Sunday should, with a performance of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie on The Pyramid, followed by, apparently, Joss Stone. This is another one of those occasions where my memory plays tricks on me, for in my head Goldie Lookin’ Chain were on next, but since I can find nothing to corroborate this, I’ll just have to accept that they weren’t. Or were they….? The Glasto 2004 booklet has a slot between the Opera and Stone listed as “tbc”, so maybe I have remembered that right. I know I didn’t sit through Joss Stone and her pseudo-American accent (although that was a few years away yet), but I do know that I sat through lashings of rain and Christy Moore who was on after her…so…oh, I just don’t know.
The early part of my afternoon was spent over at The Other Stage, watching Belle & Sebastian, a band I was only really just getting into, despite having bought The Boy With the Arab Strap a few years earlier after I was impressed by their whole internet voting to win a Brit award-thing. The weather until then had been pretty crappy, but mid-set the clouds parted and the sun made an appearance, along with a spectacular rainbow. It was one of those moments that ordinarily you’d find quite lovely, but at Glastonbury you find yourself grinning from ear to ear about, attributing the change in climate and improved spectacle purely to whoever was on the stage at the time. I’m reliably informed the mood was much the same over at The Pyramid, where Supergrass were playing instead of The Libertines. Any rumours that Pete Doherty had refused to play until someone located his missing bag of speed are completely unfounded.
Next: Morrissey at the Pyramid. Now I love The Smiths, and, despite buying pretty much everything he’s ever released since the split, I have to say I’ve always found his solo stuff somewhat lacking. Sure, there are highlights, but they are few and far between, generally restricted to a few great singles and the occasional album track rather than the utterly flawless output created by him and Johnny Marr (I am legally obliged to add “and by Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce too”; anyone who has ever read Morrissey’s biography cannot have failed to notice that the legal case which led to Joyce getting a large slice of royalties still sticks in Morrissey’s craw, so much space does it take up in the book). Live, Morrissey and his pub-rock backing band will often try and recapture some of those past glories; but just listen to their version of “The Headmaster Ritual” at the start of this five song snippet (also featuring “The First of the Gang to Die”, “The World is Full of Crushing Bores”, “Everyday is Like Sunday” and “Irish Blood, English Heart”): plod…..plod……plod…….. Be grateful I haven’t posted a link to them doing “This Charming Man”, one of the most splendid records ever committed to vinyl, but which they somehow manage to make sound like “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet. The problem is that the band is lacking a certain spark, and the certain spark is someone who can play guitar like Johnny Marr, or preferably, the actual Johnny Marr.
Bringing things to a conclusion on The Pyramid were Muse, a band renowned for their astonishing stage shows. We, on the other hand, decided we would rather end the weekend over at The Other Stage where Orbital were performing what at the time was supposed to be their final ever appearance anywhere ever. The Hartnoll brothers have since got back together and even played Glastonbury again in 2010; however, believing this would be our last chance to ever see them, and being well aware of their entry into the annals of Glasto history following previous performances at the festival, the majority of us decided that’s where we wanted to be.
I say “the majority”, for there was one of our gang who most decidedly did not want to see Orbital, she wanted to see Muse, and took every possible opportunity to remind us that she wanted to see Muse, and that Muse were her favourite band and she really wanted to see them and they were supposed to be amazing and they were her favourite band and she really wanted to see them.
Now, I’m usually quite a laid back kind of chap. It takes a lot to get me riled. And even more to make me snap at someone, preferring to restrict airing my discontent to catty comments whispered to whoever happened to be standing nearest to me, like the true gentleman I am.
But by the time Orbital started, I snapped. I could make a case for mitigation in my defence: I was tired. It was raining. I was soaked. But the fact is, I’d just had enough of her whining, and, on hearing her announcing for the umpteenth time that she loved Muse, I found myself whirling round to vent: “Right. I’ve had enough of you now! We are not going to watch Muse. We are going to watch Orbital. If you don’t want to watch Orbital then Muse are playing over there, so either fuck off to watch them, or shut up and stay here!.”
I’m a real charmer when I lose my rag, that’s for sure.
Despite the whine and the rain, Orbital were amazing, treating us to Belfast (played surprisingly early in their set, possibly in an effort to get me to chill the fuck out), Satan (nuff said), Halcyon (one of my all time faves) and, inevitably, Chime
And so ended Glastonbury 2004. Well, not quite. The next day proved to be one of the most hellish in respect of actually trying to get out of the site, with traffic gridlocked for hour after hour after hour. Those of us heading back to Wales were luckiest, our minibus finally hitting the main roads some 4 hours after we had set off. Our London buddies were less fortunate, some of them still sitting in their car in the car park as night fell on the Monday.
But this delayed ending did provide one final moment of unutterable pleasure. We in the minibus had the radio tuned to Worthy FM, the radio station which broadcasts from somewhere deep within the bowels of the Eavis farm buildings throughout the festival. Our collective ears perked up as we heard a dedication coming out the speakers:
“And here’s a request from Gary and Meg, asking us to play “Molly’s Chambers” by…oh, it says the Kings of Caerleon here, that can’t be right…never mind…anyway, thanks from Gary and Meg to all of the Welsh gang for a wonderful weekend, and don’t forget: Bonnie Tyler has got your rissole. Er…ok. I’m not sure I understand that. Anyway, here’s the Kings of Leon and Molly’s Chambers“