George Melly laments the end of the counterculture in some unknown newspaper.He
was probably right in many ways, Windsor was the end of an era, but
other things, more regulated perhaps, but still involving the same constituency,
did take its place to some extent.
: by George Melly.
YEAR, for an impossibly long time, an enterprise called the National Jazz
Federation has run some kind of festival somewhere in the Home Counties.
This has I always been a frankly commercial enterprise, catering for traditional-jazz
fans during: the trad boom, Pop lovers during the pop explosion and, since
then ,rhythm and blues, psychedelic rock, heavy metal, glitter, or whatever
else promises to draw the maximum crowd commensurate with the 'space available.
The NJF runs a tight ship. The site
is always surrounded by sturdy barriers and patrolled by security men;
very few people get in without tickets. Lavatories are adequate, the camping
area as neat as a RAF base, purveyors of food are under licence and what
they charge, while inflated, is controlled to some extent.When the music
finishes, and it finishes on the dot, the site is cleared with surprising
if brusque rapidity.
I've sung for two years at Reading,
the current home of the festival, and its a very pleasant occasion for
the artist. Cut off from.the public by impenetrable barriers of corrugated
iron, we wander an enclave where a drinks tent, the hospitality caravans
of the record companies, the food stalls offering delicious Jamaican patties
and Greek sweetmeats, the French cafe tables with their umbrellas, all
combine to make life very bearable under the wide blue sky. Everybody
in there - performers, Agents, PROs, the Press, carefully blase groupies
-have run a vigorous security check and either wear or carry some identifying
I donít see that anyone who pays
to go to the Reading festival can complain, as they know exactly what
they're getting; the acts as advertised at the times promised and an atmosphere,
authoritarian certainly, but reliable and orderly.
Nevertheless, Reading is in no way a survival
of the legendary pop festivals of the sixties and was indeed never truly
part of them. The Isle of Wight, Glastonbury, these were the great manifestations
of the alternative culture of love, dope, sounds, macrobiotic food, tripping,
instinctive anarchism, youth, the new life style. The last bastion of
all that was the free festival at Windsor last week and anyone
rash enough to prefer to go there was at risk. Free food, free music,
people peeing in bushes and poking whatever and poking wherever and whenever
they felt like it, and on Royal ground too and without permission - there'll
be no more of that !
So the law moved in with truncheons and
shut the whole thing down. But why? Why do they hate freedom so much?
Why, now that the moment of youthful hope is dying, do they find it necessary
to stomp on its last moribund manifestations ? They are nothing like as
fierce about football hooliganism-do they think that it's more manly,
more easily channelled into violence under licence for the benefit of
an increasingly intolerant society? My middle-aged body was well nourished
and well paid to be in Reading. My spirit mourned for Windsor; the pathetic
and perhaps the last manifestation of peace and love.