Tom Hodgkinson recalls feral children, acid in the woods and a warning from Joe Strummer
My first Glastonbury was in 1987. It was the year New Order played. I drove there in my maroon Morris Traveller with my friends, Fred and James. Our plan was to sell watermelon slices. According to Fred, this was a surefire way of making money. You bought ten watermelons, sliced them up and sold them for a quid a slice (or maybe it was 50p).
We parked the car in a field alongside various slightly scary-looking New Age traveller vans with Mad Max type children running around.
James left on the second day. He wanted to return to London to see Hüsker Dü playing at the Camden Palace. They’d played Glastonbury but we missed them. I bought some acid from the travellers, took it and wandered around on my own, marvelling at the beauty of the woods, and the apple I was eating. We stored the watermelons underneath the car to keep them cool.
The next day we decided to prepare the watermelons for sale. Five of them had rolled out from under the Morris Traveller in the night and ended up in a ditch, and were smashed up into unsellable pieces. We soldiered on with the remaining watermelons. In a Wire-style effort to increase profits, we cut them into much smaller slices than we’d initially planned. Wandering among the crowds in front of the Pyramid Stage hawking our wares in the heat, we managed to just about break even. At least we had a bit of cash.
I don’t remember a wall or security guards. I remember it being hot but the photos online show a lot of mud. Now I think about it, I realise I’ve probably merged 1989 Glasto and 1987 Glasto into one memory.
I went a few times in the nineties with my friend, the late great journalist Gavin Hills, and other pals. We were there the year Pulp played, and Robbie Williams was charging about backstage in a golf buggy. I took mushrooms.
In the noughties Victoria and I went with a toddler and baby in a Silver Cross pram (surprisingly nimble across the muddy fields) and camped in the Joe Strummer area. Joe Strummer himself told us that it might get rowdy and did we really want to be here with a toddler and a baby? We said we’d be fine, but 24 hours later we bailed. He was right: it did get rowdy and we didn’t want to be there with a toddler and a baby.
This weekend I’m back, 35 years after my first visit, and unlike the old days when I gathered a tent and sleeping bag at the last minute, I’ve been planning my packing and worrying about it for some weeks. I’ve bought a new Coleman pop-up tent and a Primus stove. In middle-aged fashion, I’m going to take my Bialetti coffee maker, Lavazza coffee, bacon and rolls in order to save money on food stalls.
I plan to restrict my intake of mind-bending substances to a few pints of local ale. I’ve been checking the weather forecast daily in order to decide on clothing and correct thickness of sleeping bag and have also been phoning my 20-year-old daughter, who is working there, for advice on what to bring.
PS And in two weeks’ time we’ll be at our own festival. It’s a more modest affair than Glastonbury, being about one thousandth of the size, but is programmed with the same quasi-medieval emphasis on merry-making with a purpose.
PPS A few hours after I wrote this piece, I came down with a minor ailment which made it impossible for me to go Glastonbury. So I had to stay at home. No amount of Stoic philosophy could comfort me. I simply became extremely sad and grumpy.
These comments were mailed to us after an earlier version of this piece was sent out as a newsletter. We like to publish a selection and reserve the right to edit them for clarity. Feel free to drop us a line with your thoughts.
Hüsker Dü at Camden Palace was one of the gigs of the last century.
Thank you so much, Tom, for being able to remember enough of your time at Glastonbury, and now write it down, so I am able to get a strong feel for your experience and the place and the time and the smashed watermelon and breaking the tiniest bit better than even.
You lucky man. “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony” – Gandhi
Just take the acid Tom,
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