Carry On Camping: Jarvis' Glastonbury Diary
Taken from Vox Magazine, September 1995

Last-minute Glastonbury headliners Pulp shunned the helicopter-and-swanky-hotel option for an in-tents relationship with the common people. Jarvis tells all...


We arrived about 8 o'clock on Friday night, but we had a bit of trouble in the van. We ended up driving through the NME Stage field at one point. We thought something was wrong when we could see Sleeper on stage. We had to do a U-turn in the middle of the crowd - most people were telling us to fuck off because the driver kept beeping his horn. Because we'd been added to the bill late on, all the posh buses had gone and we were in a hired mini-bus. We were given the choice between staying in a hotel in Bristol every night, or staying in tents on site. We decided to stay in tents, because at least then you can have a laugh. All of Pulp stayed in tents, because we're a very intense band. We had two big ones and a couple of small ones, for the couples. I didn't have my own tent, but I had the biggest compartment - I thought that was only fair.


We played Glastonbury last year, but before that I'd only been once, in 1985. I hated it; it just pissed down with rain all the time. I was going out with this girl at the time and we weren't getting on very well. We spent the whole weekend in this tent, screaming at each other, telling each other to fuck off, and ended up going early. It was just horrible. It's much easier to handle as a performer than as an ordinary person, because you've got that backstage compound to base your life around. Better than being stuck in Tent City - especially this year, when there seemed to be no space between the tents at all. It's like a tower block in field form, all these little compartments with people stuck in them. People need some personal space, otherwise they start to go mad. I don't know why people bother taking drugs there, because it makes you feel like you're on drugs anyway, being among that many people. It's like Camden Market on a Saturday, times a hundred. When we heard we were going to play last year, I wasn't looking forward to it, but I really liked it so I've beaten my phobia of Glastonbury.


I couldn't live like that, to be honest. It's interesting to go and see, like Blackpool Pleasure Beach, hippy-style. I think that lifestyle should be allowed to exist, but it's not for me. You have to grapple with the century you're living in, rather than the 17th century. You might not like it, but you have to deal with it. Glastonbury's not a utopia, but it's definitely the best festival for me. The music's just the excuse for it to happen, but the main thrust is you've got three days when you can just arse around doing what you want. I'm not anti-hippy. The things they espouse, peace and love, I agree with. It's better than hate and war, isn't it? But all that smoking dope doesn't do you any good. The main thing that doesn't appeal to me is the woolly thinking-you know, everything's permitted and if you want to shit your pants, you should be allowed. There has to be some discipline in your life. I'm not into letting it all hang out all the time. In the end, I think it's just a posture that people adopt.


As long as people are alright with you, it's kind of flattering. I don't think you should fob them off, but a couple of times it got a bit mad. It was quite funny because we actually did have some security people with us this year and one of them was supposed to follow me around on Saturday. But I just felt too embarrassed, so I just went out anyway, and a lot of people came up to say hello. Quite unusual people, with body piercing and tattoos and stuff-people you wouldn't think in a million years would have even heard of us, never mind think we were alright. But everybody was alright, I didn't get any hassle. You can make those situations worse. If you believe you need somebody to look after you, you can end up cutting yourself off and having a boring life.


There's a really big potential to lose yourself and have some kind of psychotic breakdown. Especially with us playing really late on Saturday night, I knew I couldn't go really mad. It wasn't totally unpleasant, but it was like an endurance test, just keeping it together. Like, even dressing reasonably and having a shave is very difficult, or finding somewhere decent to have a crap where you don't feel like you've suddenly become an animal. It's a good thing to go to once a year, because if you can come through it unscathed it proves you can still live on your wits a bit.

I went and sat in my tent for about three hours in the afternoon before we went on. It was like my own mini-Healing Field - I kind of centred myself. I didn't actually do any chanting or anything; I just wanted to be on my own and gather my thoughts. Then Orbital came on and we could hear them really loud, and I think their music's really suited to Glastonbury anyway, so I was thinking: Fucking hell, how are we going to follow this? It got nearer and nearer to Zero Hour, and I spread out all my little jobs: at half ten I got changed, at quarter to 11 I put my contact lenses in, at five to 11 I put my make-up on. Lots of little jobs so I didn't have to sit there pondering the awfulness of existence. It was the most nervous I've ever been in my life. I was so nervous, I was going to have an accident. I ended up just sitting on a chair for hours.

I didn't drink at all during the day. I decided I was only going to drink in a professional capacity, to take the edge off my nerves. But then Robbie from Take That came and wished us luck, so that was nice. Robbie read us some of his poetry. I was dubious at first, because sometimes poetry can be embarrassing, but it was really good. I've been meaning to write to bin and encourage him. Damien Hirst recommended Cajun sausage to me, too, which was quite nice. It wasn't in formaldehyde, either.


We'd seen Oasis the night before and it was hard to believe it was really happening. It wasn't really a concert, it was like a mass act of faith on the part of the audience: we want to be in this place and we want this concert to be happening now. It made me realise that the event was bigger than whether your E-string was slightly flat; the main thing was to fit in with the atmosphere of the event.


I was getting very emotional there, at the end of the concert. I'm not usually a very demonstrative person, but I did find it quite touching when we did 'Common People' and everybody was singing the words. I did watch a little bit of it on telly afterwards, but I fast-forwarded through all the talking because I always find myself intensely embarrassing. But it was spontaneous and sincere at the time. I don't think people should really be allowed to film or tape concerts - it's like wedding videos; it's better to have the idea, your mental picture of what it meant to you, rather than a warts-and-all video that brings it back down to reality. It was a weird weekend, what with John Major resigning, and also with it being the middle month of the middle year of the decade. I don't want to get over the top here, but we were suddenly headlining on Saturday night when we hadn't even expected to go as spectators, so I was thinking on a more cosmic level than I usually do. It had a significance beyond it just being us; it proved you can have 100,000 people crammed into one space without them killing each other.


We're in a different universe to The Stone Roses, but I was looking forward to seeing them. So I wasn't pleased with the way we got to be on the bill, but we couldn't turn it down. Like, we'd just written a song we played there called 'Sorted For E's And Wizz' -again, I'm not that into fate but the title came from me talking to this girl about when she went to Spike Island. That was her main memory, all these blokes walking around saying: 'Is everybody sorted for E's and Wizz?' It just seemed like a totally appropriate place to play it for the first time.


We had our festival rounded off very neatly when we were watching Elastica, and we'd lost one of our mates, then suddenly he appeared nude on stage dancing to 'Vaseline'. He was the Glastonbury Streaker, our mate Anthony; he'd been walking around in his George Best outfit all day. He used to be the bass-player in Pulp and he always used to take his clothes off for the last song then, so it wasn't that much of a surprise. He'd been planning it for months, going to Glastonbury as George Best, and he is quite good at football as well. We had to be in the studio on Monday morning, so we left just after Elastica. We came back with them, and we had a bit of a disco on the bus, which was alright. So that was Glastonbury. It's a bit like what people say about the '60s: if you can remember it, you weren't there. For me, Glastonbury was a pleasant blur.

Antony Genn (left), Steve (centre) and Damon Albarn (right)

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