My thoughts on the poignant tributes and sick jokes...
Chris Reynolds

12:57 30th June 2009

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There are times in your life when you remember where you were. Glastonbury was winding down after a scorching Thursday and I was sat in a circle around my tent sipping a luke-warm Magners and still salivating over the prospect of Neil Young to come the next day.
My phone buzzed for the first time in the day (bloody signal!) and a flurry of messages came through. “Meet me at the Green Fields”, “Has it rained yet?”, “Where are you camped??” The final message from my mate Jake made me jolt out of my seat. It simply said “Michael Jackson is dead.” I read it out to my friends who immediately asked if Jake was taking the piss. As we all know now, he wasn’t.
At that moment the whole of Glastonbury began to buzz with rumours. We took a stroll to the Park area and within 10 minutes the news from the outside world was spreading like wildfire. “He’s dead??” “No Way!” It was truly one of those moments when you’re pinching yourself.
The rest of the evening was dominated by drunken punters approaching randoms and informing them. The inevitable jokes began to flow and even before Glastonbury had properly started we already had the biggest news story of the weekend.
Backstage it clearly had an effect too with countless artists playing tribute throughout the weekend. It all began rather oddly though with Alan Donohoe simply saying “Did you hear the good news about Michael Jackson?” to the Other Stage on Friday morning. A muted response wasn’t surprising.
Dizzee Rascal’s gigantic crowd were treated to a medley of Jacko hits which came off as well as ‘Bonkers’ did. In particular Billy Jean was eulogised throughout the weekend with Mike Skinner doing his best impression over on the Jazz World stage.
Perhaps better hidden (according to Maximo Park’s Paul Smith) was Neil Young paying tribute to the king of pop during opening track ‘Hey Hey, My My (Out of the Blue)’ as he pulled a Jacko pose on the line “The King is gone, but he’s not forgotten.” The track was also referenced in Kurt Cobain’s suicide note (“It’s better to burn out, than fade away”) so clearly Mr Young is more than aware of the significance of the poignant song.
Jacko tribute boards were erected on site, everyone from Rolf Harris to the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s paid their tributes and even Spinal Tap jokingly admitted they wouldn’t exist without Jackson.
Of course for every subtle or kind tribute we had the obligatory sick joke or money maker. The Jackson 'tribute board' featured the comment “Don’t blame it on the boogie, blame it on the aortic valves...” which might be too close to the bone for some. Fucked Up singer Pink Eyes flippantly asked the crowd “So, Michael Jackson is dead. I know, I was wondering who he was too but apparently it's a big deal.” Hardly in keeping with the Glastonbury spirit eh?!
T-shirt sellers could see the dollars in their eyes and a swift trip to the printers meant we had Jackson joke t-shirts on sale as early as Friday. Joke texts also became widespread – I think I counted nine by the end of Thursday alone, perhaps this was why my phone wouldn’t work all weekend?! A tent near mine was also kindly offering Michael Jackson’s nose for sale at a ‘reasonable price’.
The award for the biggest tosser of the weekend though went to the compere on the John Peel Stage. He decided to go all out and make a Jackson joke after every band until finally on Saturday people began to openly boo him. I think it was the joke about Michael Jackson, a computer and children touching him which might have pushed me to realise this Gandalf look-a-likey was just an annoying twat.
In fact, whether Jacko’s death made you want to cry or piss yourself there was no doubting that not a soul on that campsite didn’t have something to say about the King of Pop during the course of the weekend, and that is a tribute of its own to Jackson’s influence.

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