Glastonbury (past) stories

In 1985 I bought a ticket from the Birmingham Odeon for the Glastonbury Festival, £17:50. I was in the 4th year at senior school. I hitched down there, via Stroud and Bath, then I was there, just in time to catch The Pogues on the Friday afternoon.

At this point in my life I had zero interest in drugs or alcohol (too young), just music. After watching loads of bands and taking in the incredible atmosphere I volunteered to work on the gate. Michael Eavis drove me to the main gate in his Land Rover, I didn’t know then who he was. It was a short shift, like 4 hours, but that was the first time I’d ever worked, other than a paper round.

CND yellow bib on, the stories my young ears heard to blag in. I had no filter, and let loads of people in, why not. A Ford Transit van pulled up at one point, I asked tickets please, or something to that effect and there were no tickets, for these were supposedly performers. I looked at them, and it just seemed right, waved them in, no questions, what did I know at 15? Nothing.

I watched that band I waved in on the Sunday afternoon, Dr & The Medics, they would, less than year later have a number 1 single. That Sunday afternoon though, as they played Mole Catcher and stuff from their debut E.P. they were brilliant. At one point a mate of mine looked away, grimacing, because the lead singers bollocks had popped out of his split joggers. They, Dr & the Medics were so much fun live.

In that first ever Glastonbury for me I would see The Style Council headline on the main stage with hundreds of people climbing on the main pyramid stage from the crowd, different times for sure. I would see Echo & The Bunnymen headline at arguably their peak. I would run out of money, I took £10 down with me, and run out of food and drink. I saw Ian Dury & The Blockheads after not eating all day and someone passed me a cask of cider, I was thirsty and gulped way, I near passed out as they played Sex & Drugs & Rock n’ Roll.

I would return next year, and every non-fallow year until and including 1995. It felt like home, a musical home. At 53 I probably will never go again.

Magical though, isn’t it…


I live vicariously through you people for the event. But Janet in 2019 looks like she was having a good time.

I only went once in 2005. It was the year Kylie was supposed to play but was diagnosed with cancer. I think Coldplay replaced her and played a cover of one of her songs. I didn’t really bother much with the main stages much but I have a memory of hearing a few Kylie covers that weekend.

The first day was baking hot, followed by torrential rain. I was camped on a hill and the water ran down over the baked ground turning into a river that ran through my tent. I woke up with the rain water flowing through me and my annoyance at that was put in perspective when I saw that the bottom of the hill had caught all the river water into a pond, with tents stick under so deep that you could only see the top inch of it. I watched crew search for bodies in the tents that first morning.

I spent pretty much the whole weekend at the glade stage watching my heroes, squarepusher, Luke vibert, the bug. At one point Fatboy slim rolled up along side the stage in a tank (which we all speculated was the one legendarily owned by Aphex Twin) and played a warm up set from the drivers section in a military helmet. Later on he headlined the pyramid stage and everybody had these cardboard shades that were being given out, that refracted smiley faces when the light shone through them.

Me and some mates went on a long ramble with a bag of K and spent almost all our money on nos balloons (that in 2005 still felt a bit novel). We spent our last pennies on a portion of cheesy chips and were incredibly excited to get our potion of warm chips smothered in melted cheese. We were almost inconsolable when the person serving us scooped some chips into a tray, slapped a cold Kraft slice on top and handed it over.

On the last night, we went to the stone circle for sunrise as we’d been told that was the thing to do. I remember the sun rising and everybody cheering, then somebody jumped up onto one of the stones and shouted “RICHARD WHITELEY IS DEAD!!!”.


Went to my first one at 19 - camped with a couple of mates from uni and some of their mates from home. After a hot Thursday spent smoking endless spliffs as I wondered the site, slightly awestruck we got back to camp.

Decided to try my first pill, took a hit from a bong and promptly fell to sleep outside. Woke up 30-45 minutes later, like “what the fuck is going on?”

Turns out that peaking on E had woken me up. It was love at first sight. After collecting my head I decided that I needed to see the site in this new state and headed off alone for an odyssey. Ended up back in the tent of a girl who’s name and face are lost to the mists of time, then headed back to the stone circle, where I dozed for an hour after sunrise.

That first explosion of my love affair with mdma wave of drugs would carry me through REM and Radiohead the next two nights, then one more for luck for a wander when Moby was playing.

Being 19, it only took me a couple of days to recover. Between the music, the general vibe and the mdma I really felt kind-of changed by the whole thing. Also kicked off my love affair with rave and electronica - it just made instant sense in that state. Still probably the best weekend of my entire life and suspect it always will be.

Am now pushing 40 and haven’t done drugs in a decade, but remain extremely grateful for every single experience I had with them in that 10 years - I am one of the lucky ones who never had a bad experience, but after seeing a couple of mates come close to doing themselves lasting harm I decided it was time to stop.


Went for the first time in 2001, which turned out to be a mistake as it was one of the fallow years. So it was just me and Michael Eavis watching the Stereophonics.


With a small amount of reflection the best moment at Glastonbury for me was going to buy some milk and ending up at a milk float all-night rave, I think it was 1992, got back to the tent about 9 in the morning.

Best actual bands / artists :

The Cure 1986.

New Order 1987.

The Pixies 1989.

Happy Mondays 1990.

The Milk Float Rave 1992. Can’t recall anything about this year after that.

  1. More raving, can’t recall watching any bands, can’t recall anything.

  2. Beastie Boys.

Rage Against The Machine.


…and finally 1995, and I look back at this with huge regret that I did not battle through a bottlenecked gate that was rammed with people to see Portishead (not on the main venues). However, I do think The Prodigy were probably the best act I saw at Glastonbury. It was the perfect time for them, they were known but they were right on the cusp of blowing-up massively. I lost everyone I was with before they came on in crowd surges but as they began space developed in the crowd so everyone could dance, and everyone just lost their shit in unison, getting goose-bumps just typing this.

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Been twice.

I was 16 and this was my first proper festival experience. Climbed through a hole in the fence. Saw a lot of great sets: Idlewild, Flaming Lips, Death In Vegas, NIN. And some admittedly awful stuff: Coldplay, Live, Bluetones. Left early as had no money left so missed Bowie.

Was playing drums for a band and did a lunchtime DJ set in some cafe tent. Found the gig stressful for numerous reasons, but DJing was fun. Also spent the weekend largely on my own wondering around trying to find good stuff. Really enjoyed Pixies, Sun Ra Arkestra, Melt Yourself Down. Massive Attack was boring. The Glade was brilliant.

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