For a long time, my memories of Glastonbury 2000 were dormant. I guess I knew I had been a part of a major concert event, but like many things about being in David’s band, the highs came and went like lightning flashes. I remember, much like being on a major label, I’d often tell myself “not to get used to it”. And it didn’t last long. Not long after Glastonbury, we were working on a record of David’s songs he wrote in the 1960’s…(the TOY record) and then I never got asked back to be in the band. But that was David’s way, to always change members…to keep things new and exciting…and I never took his decision personally. As you do when change comes along, you roll with it, and a lot of what I experienced with David went into a little vault in my heart. Plus, never having set out to be a backing vocalist, it was very easy to return to solo artist life…as part of me always missed singing my own songs.
This year, when they announced our Glastonbury concert was going to be released to the public, I was hanging a lot with Earl Slick, who I think had some mixed feelings about the concert being out there. My feelings were not really defined. I mean…I recalled our whirlwind time as a band on that day…travelling through the countryside in a little bus (not even a tour bus, more of a glorified shuttle)…spending loads of time together as a band, like a family…the way we were giddy like we were on the way to a birthday party. But I can’t say beyond that, that I remember every detail.
I remembered the sea of people as far as the eye can see, the steam rising out of the mosh pit…people being carried away by medical help. The Canadian in me was very concerned for them! The sheer elation on everyone’s faces in the audience. How relaxed David became as the set went on. I remember trying to escape the crowds after the show and getting stuck in traffic.
Today I watched the concert with my mom! Well, I watched the highlights that were broadcast on BBC4. Thanks Peter Janes for making that possible by sending me a way to view the BBC special which aired last month in the UK.
It struck me, halfway through watching the concert, that I had never seen myself onstage with David. Not really. I had seen our SNL performance, maybe Letterman. But 18 years had gone by and I hadn’t really thought too hard about it - the songs, the band, the way we gelled…the chemistry onstage. Also, I never really thought about the fact that I was 25 at that time…I remember I had taken a little time off between stints with DB. I toured with Ron Sexsmith through eastern Canada in that downtime…and I remember how that felt like another world, still a great one, but a whole other world!
I wondered - as I watched the concert with my mom on my laptop - why I put my hair up like that! And then I also noticed I had the little Yamaha keyboard in front of me - which I played simple things on like the synth pad in the choruses of Ashes to Ashes, the HORN STABS in Let’s Dance !!! (not the best-sounding patch but oh well!!! The 8 yr-old in me was super-psyched to play Let’s Dance regardless!!!) I saw my platform boots, again maybe not so on-trend…yet I realized….DB let me be ME. It had only been 8 months since I had joined the band, but there I was , totally being Emm. The keys, the boots, the hair…the moves. I think there was one occasion (at a previous show) where I had found some sneakers with wheels in them and I was rollering around one of the venues at soundcheck…wearing one of my big japanese toy watches….and I think David was wondering who would own those things, and when he realized it was me…I remember him saying, “Oh, of course it’s Emm.” It’s kind of brilliant that someone so legendary and accomplished took that time to know bandmates, even new, baby bandmates who had been shipped in from the rural Ontario countryside, totally by surprise!
During the concert you can see it in the faces of our band. Lots and lots of love, and just getting lost in the music, and the experience. We were all rooting for David’s voice, which he had lost during the Roseland gigs…we could feel the happy place he was in in life…about to have his daughter at age 55….And I do think we were a very special band. An eclectic mix of people …. and it all seemed to work.
I remember both the bus ride in to Glastonbury and the bus ride out. And how it was beautifully intimate…just the band, Coco (David’s longtime right-hand woman), David’s security personnel dude…and that’s about it! I’ve been on school trips that have had bigger entourages. I seriously believe that we had better chemistry onstage because David never hid away from the band, he just was himself.
And just as Rebel Rebel and Ziggy Stardust are nostalgic songs for people who grew up in that era, those songs, and all those hits…are now nostalgic for me….they remind me of the turn of the millennium and being 25, finding my way in the world. I always tried to be normal around David, because I wanted him to be normal around me. I’d say things to him like, “I’m glad you haven’t made records like all those old guys make records at a certain point in their careers”….or “You should make an album on a 4-track!!!” We’d go out to see bands in NYC. Talk about indie rock. Not good friends by any stretch, but bandmates…enough to laugh together and I knew when to shut up and listen to him talk about the 70’s or 80’s, about song lyrics…and intricate musical patterns within his music. I remember curling up with him on a couch during the Toy sessions like a little kid with her dad. Just always trying to be normal with him. But as I watched the video of Glastonbury today, and I saw smiles shoot across that gigantic stage between him and me at the opening riff of Ziggy Stardust…I realize there was nothing normal about it.
Happy Glastonbury 2000 release day.