Welcome to a new feature entitled Video Rewind. Every Friday, a CoS staffer shares a beloved video clip dug up from the depths of the Internet. Consider it a quick jaunt down memory lane via moving pictures. In light of today’s interview with My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields, his first following the release of February’s Top Star-earning third album m b v, we turn back to a time when the Irish shoegazers were just starting out and the legendary Reading Festival experienced a reinvention that would change its legacy forever.
The 1989 installment of the Reading Festival marked a change of events for the decades-spanning series. Following a disastrous year of schticky commercial pop, featuring (no lie) Starship, Bonnie Tyler, and Meat Loaf, original promoter Harold Pendleto was ousted in lieu of Mean Fiddler Music Group. In an effort to separate themselves from the past, the 1989 lineup embraced the darker and more niche elements of rock ‘n’ roll — in other words, goth and indie music — by booking New Order, The Sugarcubes, The Pogues, The Mission, Swans, Billy Bragg, Butthole Surfers, Spacemen 3, and My Bloody Valentine. Other head scratchers included Tack>>head, Loop, Something Happens, and an exoskeleton of forgotten UK acts. Take a look at the lineup poster, which is just downright hilarious in hindsight.
Although they had been around for several years prior, and had unshelved a number of EPs to much acclaim, My Bloody Valentine were only just then supporting their debut album, 1988’s Isn’t Anything, which explains why four of the seven tracks of their Reading set were all off the album. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper MBV show if they didn’t test their audience’s patience with another drawn out live rendition of 1988’s “You Made Me Realise”. The song’s “holocaust section,” which refers to the single chord they slaughter sometimes for up to 15 minutes, feels like a rape to the ears, ringing at 130 dB at times. As The Guardian‘s John Moore wrote of a 2008 gig, “Too proud to reach for the earplugs, I lasted 10 minutes before nonchalantly making for the exit – pretending to have urgent business at the bar, then watched the stream of blasted, disoriented sonic refugees pouring out.”
There’s nothing exactly special about their performance at Reading in 1989; it’s moreover a glimpse into the alt. rock paradise the festival would become years later, spawning iconic moments like Cobain being rolled out on a wheelchair, Nick Oliveri parading his dick to audiences during a Queens set, and Jack White and Julian Casablancas sharing the stage amidst a media-made battle. It’s also intriguing to see the band at its most carnal. While Belinda Butcher and Shields remain stoic (something they’ve always done, apparently), watch as Debbie Googe slings her arm into the bass and just really lets the song have it. The “holocaust section” only survives a couple of minutes, but Googe and drummer Colm Ã CÃosóig soak up every last second. Ugh, why’d I have to be in grade school during this?