Glastonbury Dispatches: Tom Watson MP
The man that took on Rupert Murdoch and won tells Noisey about his experiences at "the greatest music festival on the planet" and the band that made him want to sack half the Labour party.
As the dust and faecal matter settles on Glastonbury for another year, we asked those involved in the festival for their perspective on the weekend. Today we hear from Tom Watson MP – the Deputy Chair of the Labour Party who left Rupert Murdoch speechless and labelled James Murdoch a "mafia boss" during questioning about phone hacking. He tells Noisey about his experiences at "the greatest music festival on the planet" and the band that made him want to sack half the Labour Party.
UPDATE: Hours after writing this blog, Tom Watson resigned as Labour's general election co-ordinator. In his resignation letter to Labour leader Ed Miliband, he mentioned Drenge, the best band he saw at Glastonbury.
There’s a track on master songwriter Danny Coughlan’s Crybaby album called “This Time It’s Over”. It’s a sublime Roy Orbison meets Johnny Cash style reflection on love that's run its course. It’s been on loop in my head for months now – always the mark of a great tune. And it’s what I was playing when I left the greatest music festival on the planet this Sunday. This was the Glasto I realised I'm over the hill.
Waking up with a bad back and feeling drunk on two pints of cider: that's not supposed to happen. What happened to the Glastonbury days when I shared a double-decker bus with a stray Alsatian dog that was only useful in stopping 20 anarchists on acid from trying to push the bus over at 3AM in the morning? This time round, my mate had even bought deck chairs. It was such surrender to middle age.
Still, the festival kept me on my toes. Three hundred people attended an open meeting in Billy Bragg's Leftfield to discuss the left’s response to austerity. Almost to a man, woman and child the people wanted me to give them the route map back to supporting and believing in Labour. Yet I couldn’t traverse the chasmic gap between the words coming out of my mouth and the voices in my head. The audience cheered my nemesis, the left-wing polemicist Mr Owen Jones. They were polite to me, at least, but markedly unenthusiastic about what I had to say. Still, at least the event was on Friday lunchtime – leaving plenty of time to find the beer tent and bands.
We ploughed through to the main stage. Rita Ora: good performer, music uninspiring. Dizzee Rascal: all drunk blokes swearing in unison. Arctic Monkeys: an uncharacteristically timid set but polished and entertaining. I was annoyed at myself for missing Martin Stephenson in the Acoustic Tent. But we did make Billy Bragg's set over in Leftfield. He played a mix of old greats and melodic country music from the new album, Tooth and Nail – his best release in years.
One day down and I was feeling listless. No band had really hit home. It felt tame. Then it happened. I was seized with those fragmentary moments of pure music joy that festival goers live for. I found Drenge. Two brothers on a drum kit and lead guitar. I’m 46 years old. I should be reading submissions from the marketing people or approving some clever kid’s idea for a new campaign. But I’m in a field in Glastonbury falling in love with a bloke barely in his twenties playing the guitar like a Midwest cyclone. There were times when it was impossible to distinguish the instrument from the man; such was the intensity of his relationship to the guitar. More. The crowd want more. For a second I reflected that I couldn't imagine many of my colleagues – the shadow defence secretary, for instance – sharing in this communal love. The absurdity of the situation was not lost.
And yet in the euphoria, I get a sense of understanding that I'd missed in the Leftfield debate the previous day. It's been missing from the Labour Party since Tony Blair marched us into the arid desert of pragmatism that was so electorally successful. It’s belief. Belief in ourselves. Belief in the great cause of social progress. The marketing men, the spin people and the special advisers: they've won. For those brief minutes of Drenge I wanted to sack them all.
This was obviously a ridiculous notion. But the band had reignited a time when music was as raw as the times. My God, they were good.
Then back to the main stage for Elvis Costello and Primal Scream, just to add to the nostalgia.
I was one of the many who thought the Stones were shite on Saturday. We gave them ten minutes before sloping off to Public Enemy. Fight the Power. Back to work.