Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Glastonbury Fayre (1972) - Nic Roeg & Peter Neal

I love these late 60's early 70's festival documentaries. Gimmie Shelter and Message to Love (about the 1970 Isle of Wight festival) are watched at least once a year in my house. I've always hankered after seeing Glastonbury Fayre purely because of the Roeg connection. He basically shot all the footage but then buggered off to make Don't Look Now leaving Peter Neal to put the film together.

Anyway said footage is from the second ever Glastonbury festival, the one that Pink Floyd were going to headline but never did. Instead we get a slew of 'underground' groups from the time. Most left over from the sixties, and seemingly a little rudderless. Which is why this documentary is such a great time capsule piece. Music was in a proper transitional phase back then. The sixties had fizzled out into the seventies, and with glam just around the corner, British music was in a bit of a rut. Enter David Bowie who would release Hunky Dory by the years end, and within a year would have given British music that much needed kick up the arse by transforming himself into Ziggy Stardust.

Bowie's set at Glastonbury '71 was made up of songs from Hunky Dory and a smattering of tracks from his already half decent back catalogue. Sadly for us though the people making the documentary were sound asleep when La Bowie hit the stage at dawn. Still what we do get is a great rip roaring track from Terry Reid to kick the film off. Another highlight is a fine 100 miles per hour Fairport Convention reeling, jigging, toking and generally being a fuck sight better than I would have expected they would be considering Richard Thompson had just left. What else? Well music wise there's a tough sounding Family, Roger Chapman singing like his vocals were being filtered through a sheep. Arthur Brown's band proving that they were better when Arthur wasn't onstage. The highlight though was Traffic belting their way through Gimme Some Lovin'. It reminded me Sly Stone putting everyone else to shame at Woodstock. It just sounds powerful, soulful and doesn't meander. Grinding bass, percussion all over the place, Winwood giving it his all into the obligatory gaffa taped mics, and the biggest baddest guy on congas since Big Black walked the earth. Everyone else sounds flat compared to this performance.

To be honest it's hard to see this as being by Roeg, there aren't any of the touches that we all love about him present here. But that isn't to say this isn't worth watching, because it definitely is even if it's just for the footage of Magic Michael. Don't know Magic Michael? Well imagine a seventies version of the Chemical Brothers, the blonde one whacking away with no sense of rhythm at a couple of tiny bongos held at head height. The dark haired one meanwhile is gurning and caterwauling away, pulling some truly excellent electroshock therapy faces, he's also clutching an acoustic guitar which is as close as he comes to playing it. Oh and he's bollock naked except for a grimy grey tank top. As I say Britain was waiting for Roxy, Bowie, Bolan to come along and lead people into the decade proper.

One of the best things about Glastonbury Fayre is the fact that (just like the festival itself) it doesn't focus purely on the music. There is plenty of the spiritual side of things, which could still be found even when I was going to Glastonbury in the 90's. Plus like all the best music docs from this period there is a lot of footage of the people, all 7,000 of them. Oh and Glastonbury back then was free. How hippy a concept is that, eh? Most of the crowd look at best like Mike Oldfield or at worst a Ginger Baker/Van Morrison hybrid (and yes that's the ladies too), but at least the barrier between audience and performer was almost invisible. Something that Punk would later claim to have torn down. It was never really there at Michael Eavis' farm back in the day. Everyone looks like they live in a commune, and it becomes apparent that decent hair products hadn't reached the early seventies British underground. I did find myself wondering if everyone went back to the daily grind after this or if they really did live the life.

Of course it wouldn't be a festival without two things;- naked types and mud. There are plenty of naked people, and they roll in mud, but they also do really bad interpretive dancing, ride motorbikes and paint their sagging dirty pillows really poorly. The weird thing is they just blend into the crowd. I remember one afternoon at some Glastonbury I was at being passed by a guy who was naked except for a bum bag, with the bag bit actually worn at the back. Real horror show like. I would never have been able to stomach Glasters back in the 70's. I could only just manage the few I did attend. Anyway to sum all this up, if you haven't seen this then do, it's a scream, it even has a guy doing stage announcements with a live chicken sitting on his shoulder. What more could you ask for?

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