Monthly Archives: March 2017

Glastonbury has been graced with extraordinary headline slots from the start, but who was the best?

Glastonbury has been graced with extraordinary headline slots from the start, but who was the best? One of the legendary sets from the Britpop era? That moment when hip hop stole the headlines? Something from way in the past?

Here’s a selection of great sets for your consideration, from T. Rex and a Cadillac, through to Suzanne Vega in a bulletproof vest, Beyoncé with an unexpected guest, and up to a fantastically profane Adele just last year.

And now, just for fun, it’s over to you to rank these 11 performances and come up with the ultimate answer (until, of course, Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran make us re-think this all again)…

Michael Eavis has described this watershed moment in the band’s career as the best Glastonbury performance ever and, well, he’s seen a few headliners play. There’s also the fact that readers of Q Magazine once voted this their best concert of all time (though that was back in 2006, so maybe they’ve seen a better one since then; you’ll have to ask a Q reader). The set came just a fortnight after Radiohead released OK Computer, and the band played Paranoid Android, Karma Police and No Surprises. It remains to be seen if they can eclipse their own fearsome reputation this time around.
Here’s a great yarn, reported by Music Week: according to promoter John Giddins, who worked on David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour, Michael Eavis originally didn’t want the star to perform at Glastonbury, having described his recent drum ‘n’ bass tour as “the most boring thing he had ever seen”. In a cunning ruse, Gidding ‘leaked’ information to the press that Glastonbury was desperate to book Bowie and Eavis’s phone exploded with excitable phone calls. He swiftly did an about-turn and the resulting show – Bowie’s first at the festival since a low-key appearance in 1971 – was a greatest hits stomper that packed in the likes of Rebel Rebel, Starman, Changes and, of course, Heroes.
The Stone Roses cancelled their show when guitarist John Squire broke his collarbone on a bike ride (the most un-rock ’n’ roll mishap ever?), leaving Jarvis Cocker and his merry band of misfits to storm the Pyramid Stage with a performance that marked the zenith of Britpop. The oddballs had the world’s attention at last – although Primal Scream, Blur and even Rod Stewart were approached first. Cocker played up the stroke of luck, joking that he looked somewhat out of place on the main stage at the world’s most famous music festival. When Pulp played Common People, the anthem of the underdog, it underlined the feeling that culture had shifted and – for a time – anything seemed possible for anyone.

Of the most heartwarming letters written by musicians

We may not send nearly as many letters as we used to, but we remain fascinated by them as historical documents and because they provide insight into the private worlds of people we admire. And while email and other forms of instant digital communication might have made the purpose of a letter in its simplest form redundant, it’s online that we’re now able to investigate many centuries of letter writing.

Here are six sent by musicians that have come to light in recent years…

A 1994 love letter written by country superstar Johnny Cash to his wife June Carter Cash on her 65th birthday made headlines around Valentine’s Day in 2015 when it was voted the greatest love letter of all time in an admittedly rather spurious online poll commissioned as a marketing exercise by an insurance company. But that doesn’t take away from how wonderful the letter is.

Sent from Denmark, the letter begins “Happy birthday Princess”, before Johnny writes: “We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

“But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.”

This 1995 response to a young French fan called Laurence comes with quite a backstory, as detailed on Letters of Note. Laurence, 21, had written a 20-page letter to Iggy Pop telling the former Stooges frontman about “being the child of an acrimonious divorce with a string of social workers, lawyers, greedy estate agents and bailiffs at the door, the fear, the anger, the frustration, the love”.

Laurence didn’t receive a reply until nine months later – the exact day she was being evicted from her Paris home, along with her family. A day later and she may never have got the letter, which reduced her to tears.

Iggy wrote: “thankyou for your gorgeous and charming letter, you brighten up my dim life. i read the whole f****** thing, dear. of course… i want to see you take a deep breath and do whatever you must to survive and find something to be that you can love. you’re obviously a bright f****** chick, w/ a big heart too and i want to wish you a (belated) HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY 21st b’day and happy spirit. i was very miserable and fighting hard on my 21st b’day, too. people booed me on the stage, and i was staying in someone else’s house and i was scared. it’s been a long road since then, but pressure never ends in this life. ‘perforation problems’ by the way means to me also the holes that will always exist in any story we try to make of our lives. so hang on, my love, and grow big and strong and take your hits and keep going.

“all my love to a really beautiful girl. that’s you laurence.”

One of the hot topics in the toilet queue at Glastonbury

One of the hot topics in the toilet queue at Glastonbury is always: who should headline the next one? But as anyone who’s ever been will tell you, Glastonbury isn’t all about the headliners. The wealth of entertainment on offer at Worthy Farmmeans that the organisers have always been fairly relaxed about exactly who is topping the bill. In the early days in particular, a highly personal approach to booking bands led to some memorably eccentric line-ups that defied contemporary pop trends.

Looking back at old Glastonbury posters also reveals a number of headline bands whose star has since waned, but who were undoubtedly big at the time, particularly with a festival-going audience. Here are 12 of the unlikeliest Glastonbury headliners from years gone by – and by headliners, we mean any act who closed out a night on the main/Pyramid Stage or received top billing on the official poster.

When reminiscing about the glory days of Britpop, Northern Irish pop-punk outfit Ash are rarely one of the first bands mentioned. But a string of hit singles in the mid-90s earned them an Other Stage headline slot on the Friday. Then, when Steve Winwood was forced to pull out of Sunday night’s bill – supposedly his truck got stuck in the mud – Ash were asked to perform again, becoming the youngest-ever Pyramid Stage headliners. Come to think of it, had Winwood played, he’d probably be on this list instead…

The notoriously irascible former Cream drummer Ginger Baker, appearing with his new band, was the first act to headline the newly-built Pyramid Stage on 19 June, 1981. In a moment that certainly trumps Lee Nelson’s stage invasion during Kanye West’s set, Baker caused an almighty ruckus by setting up his equipment while the previous act, folk-rocker Roy Harper, was still playing. Understandably miffed, Harper confronted him and the two ended up scrapping on-stage. According to an eyewitness account on UK Rock Festivals, the crowd then pelted Baker with bottles during his set, with one hitting him square on the forehead. Some claim that Baker, hardman that he is, simply carried on drumming.

Pop history is littered with examples of artists who have wasted money

Pop history is littered with examples of artists who’ve squandered their cash on wacky ventures, like when Rita Ora put thousands towards a cup that enables women to wee standing up (“That is one of my worst investments,” MTVreported her saying) or The KLF burning a million in cash (“Of course I regret it – who wouldn’t!” the group’s Bill Drummond later said).

As news reaches us of yet another pop star frittering away their fortune – last week, the Telegraph reported that Mel B had “wiped out all her Spice Girls money” thanks to a series of “improvident lifestyle choices” – here are seven other tales of woe, beginning with the grand tale of The Haçienda, the Manchester club that New Order helped run at a tremendous loss for 15 years and that closed down 20 years ago.

Manchester rave mecca The Haçienda was a club that had windows and no cloakroom. As part of a consortium that included their label, Factory Records, and its boss Tony Wilson, New Order opened the venue in 1982, having poured around £3m (in today’s money) into creating a space that recreated the imposing atmosphere of legendary New York clubs. Bassist Peter Hook told the Guardian in 2012: “They told us it would cost £45,000 and if the band put up half we’d get our own nightclub – with free drinks. It ended up costing £450,000, a huge sum back then.”

Business was initially slow, before dance music took off in the city in the late-80s. Yet The Haçienda still lost massive amounts of cash, partly through mismanagement and partly because punters showed curiously little interest in spending money at the bar. It went bankrupt in 1997, at which point New Order calculated that they lost a tenner every time a customer came through the door. The great shock here, then, is that it ran for an entire 15 years. Hooky published a book about the club in 2009. It was called The Haçienda: How Not To Run a Club.

On Valentine’s Day 2016, Kanye West tweeted: “I write this to you my brothers while still 53 million dollars in personal debt… Please pray we overcome…” He went on, as the Guardian noticed, to implore billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to stump up a billion dollars to enable him to realise his creative ambitions. Kanye claimed that he’d sunk the money in the fashion industry, having recently launched a new season of his Yeezy line, while it’s been alleged that he lost $30m through his doomed 2011 womenswear range and $16m in the first season of a collaboration with a sportswear brand.

Luckily, his wife Kim Kardashian is a total baller and her countless successful business ventures include a lucrative range of mobile apps. As CNBC reported, she later tweeted: “Sorry I’m late to the party guys I was busy cashing my 80 million video game check & transferring 53 million into our joint account.” Who needs Mark Zuckerberg?