Glastonbury Festival 1971 - When Noel Gallagher called the decision to book Jay-Z for Glasto "wrong" he was right, but for the wrong reasons, if you see what we mean. Noel reckoned the festival should be about guitar bands, not hip-hop, which is a point of view - albeit one contrary to the eclectic origins of the event. But really, it's Jay-Z's brand of remorseless ultra-capitalism, misogyny, slick marketing and corporatism that goes against the spirit of Glastonbury.
There was a small festival at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset in 1970, famously headlined by T-Rex. Eccentric folk/proggers Stackridge (still on the road to this day, I noticed, despite all members now being 98 years old - do they still involve dustbins and rhubarb in their stage sets I wonder?) earned a little footnote in history, being the first to play. But the Glastonbury Festival proper was first held the following year, on the 22-26 June. It represented many things about the hippy ideal that seem very dated, a bit silly even, today - but it also stood for some things which are still rather wonderful and which, maybe, the world could do with a bit more of.
The 1971 event was organised by an unlikely triumvirate of local farmer Michael Eavis, Arabella Churchill (Winston's granddaughter) and the activist and writer Andrew Kerr. The last-named, inspired by the 1970 Isle Of Wight occasion, was determined to put on a free festival. He wrote at the time:
"Man is fast ruining his environment. He is suffering from the effects of pollution; from the neurosis brought about by a basically urban industrial society; from the lack of spirituality in his life. The aims are, therefore: the conservation of our natural resources; a respect for nature and life; and a spiritual awakening."
Deep stuff, man! The dude was ahead of his time. But Kerr and company were serious. Bill Harkin designed and built the famous pyramid stage - a 1/10 scale replica of the Great Pyramid in Egypt! - in the lovely Vale Of Avalon, where the ley lines are said to converge, the pyramid-shape being the most effective receptacle for receiving the earth's energy. Ley lines were very popular in the 70s. The old straight tracks and all that. Most of Steve Hillage's songs are about them. Can't be something to do with taking LSD, can it? No. Or...actually...yes.
Also converging on the free event around the summer solstice were around 7,000 festival-goers, looking forward to a week of music and love in the Somerset countryside. It was a perfect venue: hills on both sides, channelling the sound (and the energy man!) and loads of woods around to camp in.
The bill did not have the massive names of, say, the Bath Festival of 1970, but nevertheless included superb bands like Fairport Convention, Melanie, Quintessence, The Edgar Broughton Band, Family, Traffic and a little known chap called David Bowie.
The very good Glastonbury Fayre film of the event shows Fairport in fine fettle on songs like 'Angel Delight', but sadly the Bowie stuff doesn't make it due to legal reasons. Check out the film if you can - it was shot by Nicolas Roeg, who was then on the middle of a great creative period that saw him shoot or direct several classics of the time, including The Man Who Fell To Earth and Performance.
Another creative force who also very much encapsulate that era were the band Quintessence, one of the performances here which most defines that sort of musical style and hippy vibe of 1971. They played a superb set here. There's not enough flute in rock these days. Melanie also captures the spirit of the times, playing 'Peace Will Come' and a surprisingly punchy set. Both Melanie and the Edgar Broughton Band could be relied on to pitch up at almost any festival in the early 70s.
Family gave a typically exhilarating and bizarre performance: has there been a more idiosyncratic voice in rock than Roger Chapman? The singing goat I used to call him - but not in a bad way. His vocal here is amazing: the trippers must have been made of stern stuff; it's bloody terrifying in places. The Pink Fairies, fixtures at free festivals, rocked their 'Uncle Harry's Last Freak Out' and Arthur Brown (whose birthday it was) cranked up the madness with a typically weird and wonderful late night slot. Traffic's 'Gimme Some Loving' was another festival high point. Traffic were having a bit of a resurgence thanks to their excellent John Barleycorn Must Die and Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory albums. albums of high quality they are too. Their jazzy influenced rock, with a splash of folk and blues thrown in is never less than joyful. 1973's On The Road is one of my all time fave live albums. So much so that I once got into a fight at a party in 1978 when someone took it off to put on The Damned's new single! Oh the punk rock wars... how we miss them.
The audio of the Bowie performances sounds really good, too. He played at dawn on the Friday and wowed the crowd with 'Oh! You Pretty Things' and did 'Memories Of A Free Festival' (how could he not?). 'The Supermen' also sounds like it was excellent as well - what a treat to have seen such a legend, on the up, in such a setting.
Perhaps the absence of any truly megastar names help contribute to the atmosphere: there was less of the rampant egotism, and the eclectic nature of the festival encouraged dancers, jugglers and other loons. There was free food, and plenty of dope, and lots of naked dancing. Almost everyone who was there speaks of a peaceful, relaxed, loving vibe - even the Hells Angels were alright! There were litter patrols, there was a 'Hassle Van' driving around in the night to help people sort out any hassles - there were even (naturally) claims of a UFO sighting on the night of the Solstice.
A triple album called Glastonbury Fayre came out, only some of which was actually recorded at the festival but is a fascinating album all the same with some tracks recorded at Marc bolan and Pete Townshend's houses and the Grateful Dead playing Dark Star at Empire Pool, Wembley.
Defunct Record Labels - Manticore Records
A manticore is a legendary beast with the body of a lion, the head of a man, the tail of a scorpion and a giant Hammond organ for a bottom. Okay, the last bit is made up. Well, the whole thing is made up; it's a mythical creature.
It's also the name of the record company formed by Emerson, Lake and Palmer in January 1973.
ELP's second album, Tarkus, aside from featuring some blistering prog and a rare guitar solo from Greg Lake, also contained the anti-war Tarkus suite, which ran across all of side one. The Tarkus was a sort of mechanical armadillo, said by Greg Lake to represent the military-industrial complex. ER, right. The Tarkus is eventually defeated by a Manticore. It's sort of hard to explain, really. You kind of have to listen to it.
Anyway, aside from worrying about World War Three and mechanadillos, ELP were also unhappy with their label, Atlantic Records, and the sort of Seventies supergroup that sold the number of LPs that Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer did were not in a position to have to put up with being unhappy with their label. After their third LP, Trilogy, they were ready to go it alone.
Along with manager Stewart Young, they set up the label and drafted in Atlantic promo man Mario Medius - who Lake knew from his King Crimson days - to help run it.
Over the next four years, ELP would release their own records on Manticore, distributed first by Cotillion and then Motown from 1975 until the label's demise in 1977. The label's first release was Brain Salad Surgery, one of the great sci-fi rock records, and one of the finest of all prog albums. It's probably the group's most complete record, with Emerson's organs and keyboards absolutely titanic and Lake's voice at its most powerful. Lyrically, it's certainly their best record, thanks to the input of former King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield.
Shortly afterwards, Manticore released an album by Sinfield called Still, which would be his only solo release. It featured an impressive line-up of ex-Crimson members including Lake, Mel Collins and Ian Wallace, but did not prove a springboard to solo success, as Sinfield - although a lyricist of some beauty and imagination - was perhaps not a strong enough vocal presence to carry it off. In addition, he found himself co-opted into ELP as a lyricist, as well as contributing English lyrics to another Manticore act: PFM.
Premiata Forneria Marconi, a prog band from Milan, came to the attention of ELP during an Italian tour and were signed to the Manticore label. They had enjoyed success in Italy with Per Un Amico, and Sinfield was charged with creating lyrics for an English release that would rework existing music but with new words. The resulting Photos Of Ghosts was the first Italian rock record to enjoy significant success in the UK and USA. Over the next four years, Manticore released The World Became The World, PFM Cook, Chocolate Kings and Jet Lag - the last of which, in 1977, would be the label's last product.
But why have one Italian prog rock band when you can have two? Brothers Vittorio and Gianni Nocenzi formed Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, known also as Banco. They signed for Manticore in 1975 and the label put out a self-titled LP.
Other acts on the label were Hanson - not the boy band trio, obviously - Keith Christmas and Stray Dog.
Hanson were the group of Junior Marvin, the Jamaican-born guitarist (again, not to be confused with Junior 'Police And Thieves' Murvin) who would later join Bob Marley and The Wailers in 1977. Prior to this, he released the 1973 LP Now Hear This on Manticore and the album Magic Dragon a year later.
Keith Christmas is probably best known as the acoustic guitar player on David Bowie's Space Oddity album, but had also supported Crimson, Ten Years After and The Who. Manticore released his 1974 Brighter Day and the splendidly-named 1976 cut, Stories From The Human Zoo. Cat Stevens did the string and horn arrangements for the latter; it's some nice folk rock Keith had going there. He's got a website where you can check some out if you fancy. http://www.keithchristmas.co.uk/
Texans Stray Dog had met Greg Lake in London and enjoyed a short and riotous career of hard drinking and hard blues rock, with Manticore releasing their eponymous 1973 debut and While You're Down There in 1975, which was the year the band broke up.
Turning back to ELP themselves, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends (1974) was an accomplished triple live album, and an excellent showcase of the band at that time. As for the label, the fate of Manticore was naturally inextricably linked to the fortunes of ELP. After the brilliance of Brain Salad, the group was pulled in at least three different directions with none of the three seemingly sharing a vision. With rows about money and the huge costs of their stage shows, as well as the changing mood of the times, it was getting harder to see a future for a prog rock supergroup. The label was closed in 1977.
ELP released Works Volume I on Atlantic Records that year, but it feels like three albums in one, with each member being given one side of the double LP and the fourth being a 'collaborative' effort. Works Volume II from the same year is something of an oddity - some blues, jazz and bluegrass thrown into a mix of other offcuts - while ELP's last album before splitting up was the dire Love Beach, made for contractual reasons only. They split in 1978.
Manticore Records may have only lasted for four years, but it produced some great records by some of prog's most intelligent and skilful musicians, as well as showcasing some quirky artists who might not have enjoyed much airplay otherwise. Its crowning achievement remains Brain Salad Surgery, and although you didn't last for ever, Manticore, still, you turn me on.