While the Glastonbury Festival is certainly not an overlooked event by any means, its origins have become somewhat obscured over the years.
After the success of the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival in 1970, promoters Andrew Kerr and Michael Eavis and their team decided to hold a free festival in 1971, then called the Glastonbury Fair.
Held over the summer solstice, June 22nd-26th, this groundbreaking show attracted 12,000 people and hosted an eclectic blend of some of the biggest names in progressive music at the time like Gong, David Bowie and Fairport Convention.
Apart from intentionally picking to host the event on the summer solstice, the organizers went out of their way to instill their mystical beliefs straight into the festival’s very DNA. For instance, the site for the pyramid shaped stage, now an enduring icon of the Glastonbury Festival brand, was chosen after the organizers used a dowsing rod and found a spot over a “blind spring” which also happened to be above the Glastonbury-Stonehenge ley line. Additionally, the spot was chosen as it was near by the Glastonbury Abbey, which “…is supposed to have been built as a spiritual successor to Stonehenge and in accord with the same hidden elements of geometry and numerology,” according to ukrockfestivals.com.
These supernatural practices and beliefs, which harken back to an England of old, fell right in line with the spirit of a great deal of the audience and some of the featured music.
Perhaps all of this superstition did the event some good, as the festival itself ran surprisingly smoothly. Unlike many of the festivals that we’ve talked about this summer, the usual unpleasant locals and local politicians, destructive storms and other kinds of disasters were absent at Glastonbury that year. Between the positivity of the event and the fact that the festival was recorded for posterity, it’s no real surprise that this is a still continuing annual show.
- Joan Baez
- David Bowie
- Edgar Broughton Band
- Arthur Brown
- Fairport Convention
- Gilberto Gil
- Help Yourself
- Henry Cow
- Magic Michael
- Mighty Baby
- Pink Fairies
- Terry Reid (with Linda Lewis & David Lindley)
- Brinsley Schwarz
- The Worthy Farm Windfuckers
- Pink Floyd *advertised but couldn’t get their gear through the mud, so had to cancel (Cue “Mudmen”)
As previously mentioned, thankfully this festival was actually recorded. Famed director and cinematographer Nicolas Roeg, filmed a documentary of the festival, Glastonbury Fayre, which is still available on DVD on Amazon. It features music by: Gong, Arthur Brown, Fairport Convention, Family, Kingdom Come, Linda Lewis, Melanie, Magic Michael, Terry Reid, Quintessence, Terry Reid, Traffic, Trumpton and The Riots, Tonto’s Expanding Head Band and Bostik Swastika.
These are some of my personal favorite songs and performances from the film:
In 1972, Glastonbury Fayre – The Electric Score, a triple record set, was released. The packaging was incredibly ambitious and creative by including a 32 page booklet, a fold and cut-out paper replica of the Silver Pyramid stage and a geodesic dome, a fold-out track listing as well as a printed plastic outer sleeve that would create a new cover design when slipped over the entire album. Despite this hugely creative package, the record is a bit deceiving.
Unfortunately, many of the album’s tracks weren’t recorded at Glastonbury and some are not even live performances (some of the artists, like The Grateful Dead and Pete Townshend, weren’t even at Glastonbury that year). The only songs on the album that are actually recorded at the ’71 Glastonbury Festival are the tracks by Mighty Baby, Gong, The Pink Fairies and The Edgar Broughton Band.
Mighty Baby’s track from Glastonbury Fayre:
Pink Fairies’ “Do It” from Glastonbury Fayre:
Apart from the occasional bootleg, there has also been a straight soundtrack to the documentary film, also just called Glastonbury Fayre.