Work, narcotics, typhoons or ill judgement: for one reason or another I’ve always had a knack of missing the ‘legendary’ Glastonbury performances.
When Primal Scream played their unforgettable ‘Screamadelica’ set on the NME Stage in 1992, I was among the 13 misguided fools fraggling out to Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine on the Pyramid Stage. When Jay-Z stuck it to Noel in righteous fashion last year I was stood glumly reviewing Massive Attack on the Other Stage, cursing the NME Reviews Editor.
And when Radiohead played their ‘best ever Glasto set’ in 1997 I watched the first 20 minutes then went to get twunted because, hmphh, I wasn’t that arsed about Radiohead.
But despite all this, I’ve still had my own Glastepiphanies. Pulp replacing The Stone Roses in 1995. Muse spectacularly earning their headlining spurs in 2004. Leading a noble choir of mud-encrusted, Merlot-muddled Bravehearts in a rousing 2am chorus of that re-imagined Clash classic ‘Rock The Wine Bar’. And most memorable of all, I was there for the best all-round Glastonbury day ever. A day that seems to dissolve into dream-like myth with every fond remembrance.
It began, like all the best Glastonbury days, one afternoon in 1994, chasing a riff down the hill from the Sacred Space, buzzing from lunchtime spliffs and last night’s speed. The riff, of a meaty hue, sparked a hundred-strong stampede across the back of the Other Stage field being, as it was, the opening riff from ‘Shakermaker’.
Oasis’ buzz was brain-rupturing – ‘Supersonic’ had devoured the dancefloors just two months before and this was the masses’ first chance to gasp at the Gallaghers’ gall. They didn’t disappoint: in black jumpers and shades, Liam and Noel treated their first Glastonbury like the Knebworth warm-up they knew it’d be, tossing out half an hour of future classics with irreverence.
It was amazing stuff, but when they left, nobody moved. Onstage, the roadies were drawing out the decade’s battle-lines. Not long after, Blur took the stage in all their buttoned-down glory, reborn as post-baggy nu-modster maniacs. Forget ‘Roll With It’ Vs ‘Country House’, most Britpop allegiances were set in stone that sunny afternoon between ‘Columbia’ and ‘Sunday, Sunday’.
From that point on you were either cool or crazy; you swaggered or you scrabbled. The indie nation chose sides over its dogmeat kebabs and waited for Pulp.
And the traditional Glasto dinner of spliff fajita with a topping of psychedelic salsa made the rest of that day a post-Blur, um, blur. I recall Jarvis swinging his twiglet legs off the front of the stage during the live debut of ‘Underwear’; I can picture Thom Yorke at the peak of his cockatoo plumage period roaring out ‘The Bends’ back when I was seriously arsed about Radiohead.
Later there was Spiritualized throbbing majestically on the Other Stage. And – and this might be me inventing an impossibly perfect early ’90s line-up by cramming their Sunday set into my memory of the Saturday – there were the Manics advocating the re-routing of the M3 over this glorious Avalonian vale.
As Suede closed the evening with a one-song encore – their first ever airing of ‘Still Life’ – in my eyes Nicky Wire had it right. Glastonbury would never match up to this again; might as well Tarmac the place to oblivion.
It would match up to it, of course. Even my worst day at Glastonbury – when we fell in the piss river on the way home and realised we’d lost the car keys – was still pretty brilliant. We’ve all got our Glasto glory days and, who knows, maybe this year’s Blur reunion will define Glastonbury for you the way their chimp-on-steroids antics of ’94 did for me.
It’s days like these that make Glastonbury more than just a festival, but one of life’s magical markers. Just promise me one thing – you will never think the best thing on is Carter USM…