At the end of the ’60s and early ’70s, giant outdoor rock festivals became the rave. Making these festivals seemed even bigger were the documentary films that captured the event and allowed millions of people who couldn’t make the journey to get a sense of the experience. D. A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop Festival and Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock expanded the reach of their festivals. Woodstock won the Oscar for best documentary. Gimme Shelter conveyed the nightmare of Altamont Free Concert without the fear of being beaten by a Hell’s Angel for wanting to see the Rolling Stones. Filming the festival was quickly seen as a great way to make a quick film that will make back its money fast. And that’s exactly what happened when producers brought on Nicolas Roeg (Performance)and his crew to film the second Glastonbury Fayre. This was a extremely hippie weekend in the English countryside. The film Glastonbury Fayre – 1971: The True Spirit of Glastonbury gets deep into a special time when rock concerts were less commercial and clothes were optional.
Unlike Monterey Pop, Woodstock or Atlamont; Glastonbury was not a crush of humanity with every teenager in Europe rushing to Pilton, Somerset. The show was free so there’s no whining about the man ripping people off. This was the second time they held the festival, but the first time they created the concert stage that looks like a pyramid. Roeg makes sure we get to see what the festival crew went through to build the structure. His cameras are roaming all over the festival since there’s a lot to see. Drumlines spring up. Clothes comes off. People in the field are digging the nature scene. And there’s music. First off is Terry Reid. You probably have no clue who he is, but he turned down being the lead singer of Led Zeppelin and recommended Robert Plant to Jimmy Page instead. If you dug Terry in Groupies, you’ll enjoy his bluesy jam. Sadly this was his new band so you don’t get another chance to marvel at Keith Webb, the coolest drummer in Rock and Roll (as witnessed by his defusing abilities in Groupies). Linda Lewis does join Terry on vocals towards the end of the song. The Fairport Convention bring there folky sounds to the stage. This version of the band is post-Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson. They’re still perfect for an outdoor festival. Melanie gives a low key acoustic number that seems right for the audience. Magic Michael is a guy who was a fixture at British festivals who performs odd noises while dancing. Did I mention he’s pantless and going Full Monty for the crowd? Gong and Family pack the stage. Arthur Brown brings back the druid excitement with his band that wore make up before Kiss ever formed. Things wrap up with Traffic featuring Steve Winwood performing “Gimme Some Loving” which was a hit from his time in The Spencer Davis Group.
Sadly the act that would go on to major stardom is not covered in the film. There’s no David Bowie. Why? As Roeg explains in the bonus feature, Bowie took the stage at 4 a.m. and his film crew was asleep. There must have been no hard feelings at not getting in the documentary since a few years later Bowie and Roeg would team up for the classic The Man Who Fell To Earth.
There’s a big of confusion that Roeg is listed as a co-director with Peter Neal. This isn’t a case of two directors calling the shots on a busy four days. Turns out that Roeg directed and got behind the camera to capture a lot of the action. He even did the original cut of the film that the producers used while shopping the film around to distributors to get completion funds before a theatrical release. When Roeg went off to make Don’t Look Now, the producers found a distributor that wanted additional edits in the film. Thus Peter Neal was brought on to direct the final edit the film. While the producer claims Neal started from scratch on his edit, Roeg says that most of his film is on the screen. Roeg didn’t seem to make a big deal out of the credit since the film bombed after opening in four English theaters. Neal would go on to direct Yessongs (which also just came out on Blu-ray). But so much of the film has Roeg’s feel with Woodstock meets Wickerman.
Because Glastonbury Fayre was not a cult hit like the other festival films, viewings have been rather tough over the decades. But this is an absorbing film of what a festival’s like when you’re not being crushed by hundreds of thousands of drunks. This is just a few thousand folks tripping out with room to roam. Roeg and his crew do get deep into the activities of the four days. They are willing to explore the various spiritual moments that took play with various religious leaders in between the songs. They get as good a view of the audience as the performers. Glastonbury Fayre is just so freakish and fun that you’ll swear Noel Fielding was conceived in a field behind the pyramid.
Melanie: Live at the Meltdown Festival 2007 ties nicely into the Glastonbury as the singer takes the stage at Queen Elizabeth Hall. She did the show at the invitation of Jarvis Cocker of Pulp which marked her first show in London since the mid-80s. She recounts her time at Glastonbury and performs “Brand New Key.” You might recall that song playing when Rollergirl hooks up with Dirk in Boogie Nights. It’s a stripped down show of Melanie, her guitar and her guitarist keeping the packed crowd happy. The only bonus feature is a trailer for Glastonbury Fayre.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer looks fine for a shot on location concert film. You get a good sense of the hippies roaming the fields. The audio is LPCM 2.0 Stereo. The levels bring out the live music.
Audio Commentary with Nic Roeg allows the director to recount his four days at the festival with his film crew. Roeg hadn’t seen the film in a long while.
The Making of Glastonbury Fayre (35:33) has Roeg, Producers, Melanie and Linda Lewis recount the festival and the film.
MVD Visual presents Glastonbury Fayre – 1971: The True Spirit of Glastonbury. Directed by Nicholas Roeg & Peter Neal. Starring: Arthur Brown, Terry Reid, Melanie, The Fairport Convention and Steve Winwood. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 93 minutes. Released: November 9, 2018.
MVD Visual presents Melanie: Live at the Meltdown Festival 2007. Starring: Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Jarvis Cocker. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 143 minutes. Released: September 21, 2018.
Tags: David Bowie, Glastonbury, Nicolas Roeg