Idle Eye 113 : The Refusenik (A Slight Return)

The Persians deliberately weave a flaw into the corner of the astonishingly beautiful rugs they create because they believe that only Allah is truly perfect, and it would be a bit of a slap in the face if they try to emulate him/her through their Earthly offerings. Readers, I am that rug: I got it wrong about Glastonbury (as I did with the Olympics and the once Scotch, then Brit, now re-Scotched Andy Murray). As a weathervane for the zeitgeist I can get seriously off-kilter sometimes and hands up, I’ve done it again. Not that I’m admitting it to those who dragged me there, kicking and screaming blue bloody murder to the permanent detriment of their weekend – Good Lord, no! Some things must remain between you and I, and I beg you to keep schtum on this one.

Despite the mud and the mucus, the filth and the fury, the long-drops and the long marches home, I reluctantly acquiesce that it was all reasonably acceptable. Being little more than a soldier ant in a ruthlessly efficient outdoor entertainment machine was, to be fair, somewhat daunting initially. And last time I frequented the place it was a squalid haunt of low-lives, drug dealers and hippies trying to locate my chakras. Particularly after bedtime, which it then seemed churlish to adhere to. However Glastonbury, like all things, has evolved.

Yes, it is vast and yes, it is seemingly commercial. But there are no Audi stalls here, attempting to flog you a luxury vehicle in the most inappropriate of places. No Costa, no McDonalds or Coke, miserably shoehorning their bullshit product in with anything popular they can access in order to maximise reach. For the most part (and I grant you, there are a few exceptions), the on-site businesses are small and endearingly homespun. You do not resent spending a couple of extra quid to keep these guys going. And this in itself would be enough. Perhaps a thumbs-up from this rusting ancient, best suited to keeping an eye on his portfolio in the pink paper, is not the best festival accolade out there. But it doesn’t matter, really it doesn’t.

If you fancy seeing out your ticket price in a hessian shack listening to ’70’s prog rock powered by punters on bicycles, then good luck to you: It’s there for the taking. Failing that, head off to Shangri-La when the main stages shut down and gurn the night away on substances for that authentic Hieronymus Bosch experience. Again, it’s your choice. The trick is knowing which buttons to push and which ones to let go of, and no-one really minds if you screw it up. It’s all part of the deal. Despite myself, being in a field with thousands of people yelling “ED…IS…DEAD!” at the Pixies felt curiously liberating. But if you think for a minute I’m going to let on now that I’m home, dream on…

Idle Eye 86 : The Pixies

One of the reasons I bailed out of the music scene in 1998 was down to an overwhelming fear of becoming one of those ancient ponytailed rockers who never learned when to throw in the towel. For me it was get in there early, shine while you have the limelight, then hand over the baton to the next in line. It’s usually a brutally short career path, as for footballers and athletes, but rightfully so: You need the stamina and the recklessness to bend your body and mind to the outer limits of excess in order to advance the cause, and these are the exact qualities that tend to retire with every advancing year (unless you are Sly Stone).

But never mind all that. I got an email from the Pixies a couple of weeks ago saying they were doing a secret show in Brixton and would I care to join them? How very thoughtful, I thought, and as each and every Pixie is a tad older than myself, I figured it would be churlish to refuse. It’s manners, innit? Like when your nan asks you over for tea. So off I popped on Friday night with a few chums, having enjoyed a few statutory light refreshments beforehand.

And hats off to them, they really were jolly good. Mr Francis, or Black now apparently, was shouting and screaming like my mother in the 1970’s, with not a jot of hair on him. Which was brave. His old chum Mr Santiago (on the guitar) was particularly splendid, and guess what? He was follicularly-challenged too, neatly getting around it with the cunning use of a flat hat. Mr Lovering on the drums was thinning a bit, but we forgave him for it as he pounded it out like a headmaster before New Labour got in, and then there was New Kim on the bass (Old Kim had stopped for reasons most probably outlined in paragraph one). And oh my stars! New Kim had masses of hair! And she wasn’t afraid to move it about, neither. In fact, New Kim probably had more hair than all the other Pixies combined. And I loved her for it. These are the things that matter when you’ve been out of the loop for a while.

We retired to an old-skool boozer on Coldharbour Lane for a swift digestif. Some boys with trainers the size and shape of Beirut flat blocks were unattractively spitting into their microphones, whilst behind them a disc jockey seemed to be having problems cueing up his songs. I know I’m going to come across all fuddy-duddy but you wouldn’t have got that from David Jacobs, now would you? At least he could put the bloody needle down in the right place, for heaven’s sake!

But I’m forgetting myself: Dear Pixies, it was lovely to see you all, and thank you for inviting me to your lovely party. I am most grateful. Now, where is my mind?