I did say I wasn’t going to write any more Beatles-related posts for a while – as there have been many around here of late – but after watching the headline act perform at Glastonbury last weekend (on telly), it can’t be avoided. I don’t know how well-known the Glastonbury Festival is outwith the UK but I’m guessing most people who visit this place will have heard of it. It’s a massive event in the British cultural calendar and it all began in 1970, inspired by the hippie movement and the counterculture of the 1960s. Michael Eavis, a dairy-farmer from Pilton, Somerset, came up with the idea of the first festival, and since then it has become a behemoth of an event where between two and three hundred thousand people have been known to attend. After the last two years’ planned festivals had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, it seems this year’s festival-goers were really up for it, and I dipped into much of the excellent BBC coverage over the course of last weekend.
The ‘big one’ however is the act who will perform on the Pyramid Stage on the Saturday night and this year it was to be none other than Sir Paul McCartney. He was supposed to headline back in 2020, and then last year, but eventually things got back on track and he got his time on that most famous of stages. It aired an hour later on telly, starting at 10.30pm, but I was really curious as to how it would go and of course I was also a bit nervous for him. He had turned 80 only the week before – could he still cut it? In the end I stayed up late, watching his entire set (link here to BBC iPlayer) until just after 1am and I think most of us would agree, yes he could.
With such a back catalogue of songs to choose from he was spoilt for choice, but he trod a nice balance, covering early Beatles, late Beatles, Wings and solo material, in no particular chronological order. Made it a nice surprise to find out what would pop up next. The vocals at times were less than perfect, and there were some sound issues, but his band have been with him a long time and are the consummate professionals. The crowd didn’t seem to notice any of the sound issues at all and were just happy to witness one of the world’s first pop superstars in action. Mr WIAA went to bed about half way through, which is a shame I think, because it wasn’t until the second half that the truly memorable bits happened. Lovely stills on the big screen behind him of George Harrison, and of course there was the duet with John Lennon using footage from Peter Jackson’s recent Get Back documentary series. There were also the ‘surprise’ guest appearances by Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen which meant at one point we had two of the three richest people in music on stage at the same time (sorry Dave, it wasn’t you), not that their wealth would have mattered a jot to them at that precise moment.
But what meant more to me than the joy of listening to all those songs I know and love, was that it could happen at all. In my current life I find it hard to feel positive about the aging process. My mum has had dementia since before she turned 80 and is now in a care home, along with a lot of other people who also have dementia or who are just too physically infirm to look after themselves. Many of them are much younger than 80. Watching Glastonbury on Saturday night made me realise it’s not a given that this will happen to all of us. If we are lucky, and look after ourselves, there is a lot to be positive about as the years roll by. Paul was looking pretty good and very youthful for a man of his vintage I thought, and to have played and sang for over two and a half hours in such a setting was no mean feat. I’m sure he’s had a bit of ‘help’ along the way but he always was the baby-faced one amongst the Beatles and it seems to be holding him in good stead – that and being a serial monogamist and family man possibly?
I have added his setlist from Saturday night in the Postscript below, but which of all the many songs that were performed have resonated with me most since? I can’t believe I’m even admitting to this, as a very unlikely pick, but for the last five days I’ve had Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! going round and round in my head. It’s not even a Paul song but one written by John Lennon after he bought an old 19th century circus poster in an antiques shop in 1967. The song’s lyrics detail the entire evening’s program and of course it ended up on the Sgt. Pepper album, also made in 1967. How weird that it’s stayed with me all week but maybe because it’s one of the songs that hasn’t become over-familiar and I did enjoy how on the night, his drummer flamboyantly waved his arms around in a circular fashion, in the style of a circus performer. Quite a performance.
I can’t find YouTube footage of this song from his Glastonbury set, but here it is from earlier in the month performed elsewhere. See what I mean about the drummer, Abe Laboriel Jr., at 1:05 and 2:05? Below it you will find an audio clip of the original Beatles song recorded for Sgt. Pepper.
So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Lots of enjoyment to be had from watching the reinstated festival this year, even if it was vicariously via the telly. I was nervous for Sir Paul, but I shouldn’t have been, as everyone accepted his vocals can’t quite be what they were back in the day and they were happy just to have this legend on the Pyramid Stage at last. His band was fantastic and what with his ‘surprise’ guests, and the audience participation towards the end, he must have been really pleased by how it went down. I might have quite a few poorly and infirm 80-year olds in my life, but some of these rock and pop heroes from the 1960s make me realise it doesn’t have to be that way. If you keep on working on new things and feel passionate about what you do, there is no reason to slow down or stop doing it.
As for those who were actually there, I am a tad jealous. Many of us have been home-based for an awful long time now, and post-covid, some of us will continue to live that way. Watching the crowd scenes at Glastonbury, of all those people who came together for a festival, it reminded me that we humans are by nature social animals and should live in communities, not alone, interacting with a computer screen. Last time I wrote about my get-together in Edinburgh with my blogging pals. It was a wonderful few days and it harked back to how I used to live, always surrounded by people, having a chat, having a bit of a laugh. Now, not so much. Will have to do better going forward.
To end I had better show a clip from the actual night itself, so how about this bit of amateur footage. As I said, very jealous. A celebration of 60 years of popular music, my era of popular music, and I wasn’t even there. Thank goodness for the BBC.
Until next time…
Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! Lyrics
(Song by John Lennon/Paul McCartney)
For the benefit of Mr. Kite,
There will be a show tonight
The Hendersons will all be there.
Late of Pablo Fanque’s Fair.
What a scene!
Over men and horses, hoops and garters,
Lastly through a hogshead of real fire!
In this way
Will challenge the world!
The celebrated Mr. K.
Performs his feat on Saturday
The Hendersons will dance and sing
As Mr. Kite flies through the ring.
Don’t be late!
Messrs. K. and H. assure the public
Their production will be second to none.
And of course
Henry The Horse
Dances the waltz!
The band begins at ten to six,
When Mr. K. performs his tricks
Without a sound.
And Mr. H. will demonstrate
Ten summersets he’ll undertake
On solid ground.
Having been some days in preparation,
A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
Is topping the bill!
Paul McCartney’s Glastonbury setlist of 39 songs
- Can’t Buy Me Love (The Beatles song)
- Junior’s Farm (Wings song)
- Letting Go (Wings song)
- Got to Get You Into My Life (The Beatles song)
- Come On to Me
- Let Me Roll It (Wings song) (with “Foxy Lady” outro jam)
- Getting Better (The Beatles song)
- Let ‘Em In (Wings song) – apparently many people only know this song from the Postcode Lottery advert and were bemused by how it turned up on his setlist!
- My Valentine
- Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Wings song)
- Maybe I’m Amazed
- I’ve Just Seen a Face (The Beatles song)
- In Spite of All the Danger (The Quarrymen song)
- Love Me Do (The Beatles song)
- Dance Tonight
- Blackbird (The Beatles song)
- Here Today
- Lady Madonna (The Beatles song)
- Fuh You
- Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (The Beatles song)
- Something (The Beatles song
- Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles song)
- You Never Give Me Your Money (The Beatles song)
- She Came in Through the Bathroom Window (The Beatles song)
- Get Back (The Beatles song)
- I Saw Her Standing There (The Beatles song with Dave Grohl)
- Band on the Run (Wings song with Dave Grohl)
- Glory Days (Bruce Springsteen cover with Bruce Springsteen)
- I Wanna Be Your Man (The Beatles song with Bruce Springsteen)
- Let It Be (The Beatles song)
- Live and Let Die (Wings song)
- Hey Jude (The Beatles song)
- I’ve Got a Feeling (The Beatles song, virtual duet with John Lennon)
- Helter Skelter (The Beatles song)
- Golden Slumbers (The Beatles song)
- Carry That Weight (The Beatles song)
- The End (The Beatles song with Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen)