|I came up from Plymouth, where I lived at the time, by train and, mindfull of the previous year’s failure to meet the others, I sit outside the train station at the appointed time. Someone in a Hanoi Rocks T-shirt is walking towards me: “Wigg’s got a T-shirt like that” I thought. The person speaks to me. Oh, it is Wigg. Off to the Duke for a swift sharpener before the walk to the site, then.
Now, Wigg’s come down from Birmingham with a couple of girls, Jo and Penny, who don’t have a tent and, understandably don’t want to squeeze in and share with Wigg and Dan, so I volunteer my tent for them, and I sling my gear into Dan’s tent. Wigg opts to go to Kev’s tent, which is in a different part of the camp-site, as he’s come down on the back of a Moto Guzzi with friends from Lincoln. This, as it turns out, will be a good decision for Wigg… Several of Dan’s friends arrive, too, including Graham. And none of them have a tent, either, which means there are five of us sharing Dan’s two-man tent. This is going to be a squeeze
Dan’s mate Shane arrives on the Friday, specifically to see Iggy Pop. Unfortunately, he gets searched on the way from the station, and is busted for posession. The sympathetic cops notice his Iggy and the Stooges T-shirt, and kindly make sure he’s locked in a cell, releasing him only when it’s too late to catch any of Iggy’s show. Bastards.
Friday is easily the best day, musically speaking, with The Wonderstuff, The Godfathers and Fields of the Nephilim providing early highlights.
There’s no excuse for hanging about near the back when the Ramones are playing, so it’s down the front for some frenzied leaping about. Needless to say, The Ramones are utterly unbelievable. They always were. Partway through their set, while I’m up against the barrier at the front, a door under the stage is opened and I can see through to the backstage area. There, listening from beneath the stage, drinking a beer and smoking a fag, is none other than Lemmy. Sadly, he doesn’t join the band onstage.
Iggy is tremendous value, with a dizzying mix of old and new. And his backing band contains ex-Hanoi Rocks guitarist Andy McCoy and ex-UK Subs bassist Alvin Gibbs.
Saturday at Reading always appears to involve getting completely shitfaced, and 1988 was no exception. Oh no. Wigg and I get so shitfaced that we crash out in Kev's tent. When we wake we discover that both our watches have stopped, and so we haven't the faintest idea what time it is. Undaunted, and, it must be said, still drunk, we head for the arena to catch some bands. We arrive to silence, followed by headliners Starship returning to the stage for a frankly unwelcome encore. In our stupor we've missed Bonnie Tyler gamely putting up with a hail of bottles and Meatloaf storming off-stage when faced with a similar barrage. Damn, I'd like to have seen that.
Sunday starts in fantastic fashion with John Otway opening the proceedings in manic form before a big, enthusiastic crowd, who, as one, turn and leave before The Lucy Show take to the stage. It's downhill from here on.
The day does, however, brings some awesome bottling action as the line-up for the final day is (incredibly) even worse. Deacon Blue are subjected to a rain of plastic and in the interval following their mercifully brief set, boredom among the crowd leads to an even bigger bottle fight breaking out. It's chaos and enormous fun all at the same time. Later, compere Janice Long comes on the PA to announce 'if you don't stop throwing bottles, Hothouse Flowers won't be coming on.' Hmm, like that's going to make a difference. The fight intensifies. Stage hands come on stage with bin liners to collect the bottles and are swiftly driven back into the wings by the crowd, whose aim is increasingly accurate. Sadly, Hothouse Flowers still play... as do Squeeze. Now don't get me wrong, Squeeze have had their moments, but there was no way they should have ever been headlining Reading. It's a terrible end to the worst ever line-up at Reading. Things can only get better, though, as Mean Fiddler take over for 1989...