Twenty-seven years ago, a fresh-faced twelve-year boy old was put on a bus one morning at the gates of Fellside Middle School and was taken with his classmates to a television studio in Newcastle, unaware that the events which would happen that day would change his life forever.
We’re going back to where it all began – delving into the genesis of my spiritual quest. Yes, this week on your favourite transcendental blog, you are getting some history.
The year was 1983. The TV programme was Tyne Tees Television’s Razzmatazz. Every week, three popular groups of the day would mime to their latest release while schoolchildren in the audience clapped along. And one of those schoolchildren was me.
Was it Kim Wilde who had such a profound effect on my state of consciousness? Perhaps – she almost fell out of her loose-strapped leather dress – but that is another story. Was it the new single ‘Who’s that girl?’ from the Eurythmics that started me on a quest for true wisdom? Well, it was a good song, but there was something better. As Tony Hadley, the Kemps and that cheery bloke on the bongos took to the stage, we could feel something special was in the air.
“It’s a slow start, so don’t start clapping along until the drums start,” the floor manager said. “Thank you for coming home,” Tony’s voice crooned over the sound system while the man himself moved his lips in time to the recording. We were transported into another world.
Perhaps it would be overstating the case to say that my entire life philosophy was sparked by a chance childhood encounter with Spandau Ballet. But I’m going to say it anyway. And last weekend, at the 2010 Isle of Wight Festival, I came full circle. There they were again. The magic was still alive.
Festivals are an essential part of any Existential Vacationer’s life experience. Paying hundreds of pounds to pitch your tent between the pile of beer cans and the chemical toilets, be hit by flying receptacles of suspiciously warm liquid and stand in the mud while your favourite recording artists try to remember the words of a song they ceased to care about two decades ago is a privilege, and truly develops the soul.
Fortunately, the weather at the Isle of Wight this year was warm and sunny, and a state of bliss was achieved during the saturday afternoon set of Crowded House, who played to a chilled out, sun-drenched crowd. “You’ve got a long night ahead,” Neil Finn called out to the fans, “Pace yourselves!” Rock and roll.
It was a weekend of wit and wisdom between the songs, as well as epiphanic moments during them. Neil Finn spent about twenty minutes trying to guess which county one of the stewards was from. “Dorset? Lancashire? Essex?” The audience was transfixed by his bold attempt to bond with them.
Sadly, it failed.
I have forgotten the name of the Strokes’ lead singer – but this seems appropriate, as I believe he would have been hard pressed to remember his own name during the gig, such was the level of enlightenment he had achieved. “Wow… man… Isle of Wighty!” he slurred, making it clear that he had left his sense of identity far, far behind, before trying to pimp the bass player to women in the audience. Truly an inspiration.
And Paul McCartney demonstrated his sound grasp of Rastafarian patois after what must have been a new song, backed by a strange blue projection of Barack Obama’s face. Yes We Can still perform for two hours at the age of 68. Fortunately he stuck mostly to the old stuff – after the huge pyrotechnics during Live and Let Die, he rested on his piano. “Too loud,” he groaned theatrically, before launching into another story about how he knew Jimi Hendrix and was part of The Beatles. “In the sixties…,” he began, before being interrupted by a cheer. “Don’t give me that, you don’t remember them,” he retorted. A classic put-down.
But if Neil Finn was your embarrassing dad and Macca your slightly confused grandad, Tony Hadley was the slick, suave uncle, returned from making a lot of money on the stock exchange, sharp-suited, tanned and full-voiced, looking prosperous and with a knowing wink to the ladies in the audience. “For some couples out there, this might be your song,” he said before True. And after the pre-encore bow, he said, “We could do the egotistical thing and go off and come on again – but let’s just get it over with. After three, shout ‘Hurrah!’ One, two three…”
“Hurrah!” we shouted.
“You know which song it is,” he said. We sang all the words. It was indestructible.