Basslines and bootlegs: tales from Glastonbury 1989

~ by PBH | 27th April 2015

My first one. Just me and a shiny new 2-man tent. The tent that survived a further 17 festivals' worth of rain, floods, winds, mud, and burning sun before getting chewed up by termites while packed away in the garage over the winter of 2000. A sad end, I always envisaged it dying on the battlefield after a particularly apocalyptic Glastonbury storm. Anyway, here are some thoughts on 1989:

The wild West

It was hot, Jesus it was hot. The sun burned down all weekend, and most of the site was just a dustbowl. Hardly any police presence, I saw two the whole time I was there. This was truly the Wild West Country, a hot, lawless temporary city full of strange sights and sounds, and quite a few strange people. Wonderful.

Pixies, Pyramid Stage

A memorable set for several reasons. They played it in alphabetical order, as Kim Deal informed us by occasionally singing the alphabet between songs. And what songs! Most of Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, their two albums to date. Let's just say they rocked.

And they were playing mid-afternoon, in the heat of the day. A lot of the songs they played started in a similar way, with bass and drums together for a while before vocals and guitar came in. The sound coming across the dustbowl in front of the stage back to where I was standing was so stark, and so powerful. It must have made an impression because my brain decided to make a permanent link - to this day listening to certain Pixies intros instantly brings to mind that hot afternoon in the glorious sunshine.

Bootlegs while-u-wait

Somewhere in my cupboard is a bootleg of the Pixies' set. There was a stall some way to the left of the Pyramid, selling cassettes of live gigs. A fiver for a C90. Here, the stall owner and his mates were churning out and selling tapes of Pyramid stage sets within 5 minutes of the sets actually ending. When the Pixies finished, I wandered over to that stall and picked up a cassette, still warm from the busy tape-to-tape recorder. Very civilized.

Of course, I don't have anything to play the tape on now. But it's in the cupboard, together with tapes of Julian Cope at the Dominion Theatre, London, and the Mega City Four at the now-demolished London Astoria. Ah, 1989, you were a good year.

Outrageous comedy fun

I spent loads of time in the Comedy Tent during this festival. It was a good place to go, pint in hand, when the heat got too much. The crowd inside was lively, and the stand-ups weren't half bad. One in particular.

Chris Lynham was just... bizarre. One of his gags ended with the punchline of him with a mouth full of chocolate shouting "F**k you George!" Can't recall now what the hell the routine was about, but that punchline made perfect sense at the time and was hysterically funny. At the climax of his set, Lynham sung "There's No Business Like Show Business" while stood naked with a huge lit Roman-candle firework stuck up his arse. You don't see that every day.

Headliners and death threats

Apparently the three headliners on the Pyramid Stage this weekend were Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, and Suzanne Vega. Didn't see a second of any of them, but I do recall that Vega and some of her band wore bulletproof vests on stage after receiving death threats. Yes, my first Glastonbury was bonkers in so many ways. Which may explain why I kept going back.

Glastonbury Festival 1989

When: Friday 16th June - Sunday 18th June
Where: Worthy Farm, Pilton, near Shepton Mallet, Somerset
Tickets: £28


Glastonbury 1989 line-up poster (Pyramid Stage, Theatre and Circus, Acoustic Stage, One Earth Arts Village and Green Field, Children's Area)

Glastonbury 1989 photo gallery

More Glastonbury Festival reviews

Glastonbury 2016, Glastonbury 2015, Glastonbury 2014, Glastonbury 2013, Glastonbury 2011, Glastonbury 2010, Glastonbury 1997