How the pyramid was built and where it all began: the legendary Nic Roeg's film brings back the magic long lost.
Now it's an institution: not that these days there's no greatness at the Glastonbury Festival stages, but for all its attractions the event lacks the original spirit, and hardly any of its current attendees feels the ley lines energy or the magic of the place. Everything was different in 1971 when the second music festival in Somerset had been staged without much ado and for free - out of charge and for the free will to flower. Flower power it wasn't, though, as no authority seemed to be present there, and a tent with the "Hippies not admitted" sign glaring from the screen is quite telling. All comparisons with Woodstock make no sense as, the anniversary replays notwithstanding, the American festival remains a one-off initiative, while Glastonbury is a continuing phenomenon and no less unique for it. How it gained such a status becomes clear from this movie, out on DVD for the first time.
It's interesting to align the Nic Roeg film with Murray Lerner's "Message To Love" shot a year before at the Isle of Wight Festival to feel the difference in the attitude, a riotous in the latter and placid in the former. At Glasto, singing, flicking V-signs, dancing naked, swimming in the mud and making love - all comes so innocent: hard to believe yet it's the conservative Britain running wild. There's a nice contrast in strange old ladies navigating through the young bodies as Terry Reid flies high towards his "River" glory with David Lindley on slide guitar and Linda Lewis' lark-like improvisations over the not-in-YES-yet Alan White's funky beat. The sounds play a huge part here, but it's amazing how many people don't actually look at the stage but just enjoy the feeling of togetherness that's much more important than the music. It just had to be passed on.
As one of the festival masterminds, Andrew Kerr, says in the movie, "it'd be nice to see not just Glastonbury Fair but lots of small festivals happening with the same motive... we can't tell what good will come out of it until we've tried". And FAIRPORT CONVENTION who flag their "Dirty Linen" here, with Daves Swarbrick and Pegg in blistering form visually feeding off one another's energy and having the folks reel with delight, have indeed been trying ever since five years later. The performers bring a great variety onto the pyramid stage the building of which was a spiritual thing in itself. If FAMILY, who were at the Isle of Wight in 1970, deliver the angular "Drowned In Wine" with Roger Chapman looking into some other world where spirit of inebriation reigns, TRAFFIC bring on a storming version of "Gimme Some Lovin'" driven by Jim Capaldi's tambourine, and Arthur Brown's KINGDOM COME dark circus involves burning crosses.
It's paganism rather than Satanism: with Hindu rituals set in motion out in the field to the QUINTESSENCE's raga, there are Catholic priests feeding the mass to the mess proclaiming, "where the people are the church should be". It's the people the real focus of "Glastonbury Fayre", so it doesn't matter that David Bowie's performance didn't make it onto the screen and PINK FAIRIES are seen only as a marching band waking everybody up, as the film captures one of the wonders of the world, and even the distant echo of that magic is a gulp of fresh air in our sultry times.