Between 1968 and 1970, the Isle of Wight (IoW) pioneered the modern music festival within the United Kingdom. However a year later, holding a music festival on the IoW was made all but illegal by the 1971 Isle of Wight Act. It would be 32 years before another attempt at hosting a one-day music event would be made on the Island. This, Rock Island in 2002, was a modest success. While the event didn't sell out and the weather took a turn for the worse, it did pave the way for another two-day event, in 2003, which again was successful.
Following the success with smaller events, in 2004 the organisers made a first real attempt to host a major music festival on the IoW since the beginning of the 70s. The success or failure of the 2004 Isle of Wight Festival would determine whether the historic Isle of Wight Festivals could be revived.
It was this 2004 Festival, the first three-day festival since 1970, that put the Isle of Wight Festival back on the musical map, with the return of The Who, who had performed at the 1969 and 1970 Festivals, as well as David Bowie, Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers headlining. Since 2004, a three-day event has taken place every year at Seaclose Park in the second weekend in June.
The weather for the 2004 Festival was perfect, with one of the hottest and driest weekends of the year. For most of the weekend the sky remained relentlessly cloudless.
As with the events of the previous two years, Seaclose Park in Newport played host to the 2004 Festival. Situated in the centre of the island, Seaclose Park provides an ideal site for the festival. Newport, capital of the IoW, has easy access from the ferries and regular bus links across the whole island. The size of Newport also makes it ideally suited to supporting the influx of 35,000 people spontaneously turning up for the festival. The town has a reasonable selection of shops, supermarkets and pubs, and the Park lies within a very short walk from the centre.
2004 was the first year that the Festival expanded from the confines of Seaclose Park and into the neighbouring Medina Arboretum.
|Friday 11 June||Saturday 12 June||Sunday 13 June|
|Stereophonics||The Who||David Bowie|
|Groove Armada||Manic Street Preachers||Euro 2004: England v France|
|Super Furry Animals||Jet||The Charlatans|
|The 22-20s||The Stands||Snow Patrol|
|The Duke Spirit||The Electric Soft Parade||The Delays|
|British Sea Power||Suzanne Vega|
|Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel||The Ordinary Boys|
|Proud Mary||Jerry Fish & The Mudbug Club|
|The Leah Wood Group||Countermine|
|Puzzle Muteson||RAW Samba|
Friday 11 June, 2004
This would be the first time since 1969, thirty-five years before, that an Isle of Wight Festival began on a Friday and lasted three days.
The Duke Spirit
The band that opened the 2004 Festival were The Duke Spirit, a London five-piece group fronted by blonde Leila Moss. Sadly although large numbers of people were listening to them, very few people were actually able to see them. This was due to the event organisers completely underestimating the length of time it would take to let people into the field the festival was held in. People attempting entry had their paper tickets checked and replaced with plastic armbands followed by having their bags checked. This whole process took a considerable amount of time, with the resulting queue over three hours long to gain entry to the festival. Fortunately the organisers learned from this mistake and improved on entry for the following festivals, but sadly it meant that the Duke Spirit's half hour set had a smaller audience than desired. Indeed, in the television coverage of the Duke Spirit performing, whenever the cameramen cut to a crowd scene it is painfully obvious that there isn't a crowd.
To make up for this, the band were invited back to the Isle of Wight Festival in 2008.
One of the members of the band was from the IoW, and confessed that he found it quite surreal that Seaclose Park, where he regularly had played football on a Saturday as a boy, was now hosting a crowded music festival.
The 22-20s are a three-piece band from Lincolnshire consisting of Martin Tumble, Glen and James. They had a distinct, 1970s sound, which again sadly many festival goers missed because of the entry problems.
Super Furry Animals
The first Welsh band to play were the Super Furry Animals, an experienced and established band since 1996. The lead singer Gruff Rhys came on dressed as a red Power Ranger, holding the microphone against the side of his visored helmet for the entire first number. Gruff Rhys described the Isle of Wight with the words, 'It's... great, like Anglesey but with more trees', and even dedicated the song 'Rings Around The World' to the people of Cowes, 'because it's got the same name as an animal'. Not a super furry animal, however.
Next on stage were Groove Armada. Also known as Tom Findlay and Andy Cato, they released their début album, Vertigo, in 1999. Their hit songs include 'At The River', 'Superstylin'' and 'I See You Baby', a song used extensively in a car advert shortly before their Isle of Wight Festival appearance. At the 2004 Festival, Groove Armada were the only act to change the Festival's backdrop for one of their own. Their backdrop was black other than showing their own GA logo in the middle. Groove Armada would play the Isle of Wight Festival again in 2007.
At 9:30pm the first night's headline act arrived. This was Welsh group Stereophonics. The friends from Cwmaman formed as a group in 1996 and the following year their début album Word Gets Around entered the Top Ten. In 1998 they were voted Best New Band of the Year at the Brit Awards. They followed up this success with more hit number one albums, Performance And Cocktails, Just Enough Education To Perform and You Gotta Go There To Come Back, and had successful singles such as 'Handbags And Gladrags' and 'Mama Told Me Not To Come' with Tom Jones1.
Frontman Kelly Jones wore an all-white outfit in tribute to Bob Dylan's costume at the 1969 Festival. When asked what he thought about the Isle of Wight he said, 'It's very nice, very pretty. Bigger than I thought.'
Stereophonics would later return to the Isle of Wight Festival in 2009. Their last song of this, their first appearance at the festival, was 'Have A Nice Day', a song which perfectly captured the mood of the day and indeed the rest of the festival.
Saturday 12 June, 2004
RAW Samba are a local Isle of Wight band booked for the festival very much at the last minute. Their origins can be traced back to Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. On 28 July, 1887, Queen Victoria left Osborne House, her East Cowes home on the Isle of Wight to travel to Ryde, where a flambeau-lit procession had been arranged in her honour. This was considered such a success that another procession was arranged for the following year purely as a celebration in its own right. This procession, on Friday 17 August, 1888, was labelled a 'carnival', a term at the time that referred only to pre-Lent celebratory feasting in Roman Catholic countries. Thus Britain's first carnival was born, complete with clowns, band, Morris Dancers, people dressed up as everything from Robin Hood to ghosts and British monarchs, as well as a tableau of Queen Victoria and her Empire.
Thereafter Ryde Carnival was repeated annually. By 2001, however, it was felt it was getting slightly repetitive and could do with a little rejuvenating. The organisation in charge of injecting some Notting Hill Carnival spirit into Ryde Carnival was Ryde Art Works (RAW) and one of their first achievements was to bring together volunteers interested in learning how to play samba music and form them into a new band, and thus RAW Samba was born. Their relaxed, rhythmic music was the perfect opener for the glorious sunny summer day that was the festival's Saturday.
Puzzle Muteson, real name Terry Muteson, was the second local act from Ryde to perform. This was his fourth ever solo performance, and he had won the right to perform in a local talent contest, Wight Noize, which continues to search for new local talent to perform at the IoW Festivals.
The Leah Wood Group
The Leah Wood Group was the first Saturday act to be featured in the festival's official programme. They were a new group who had formed in 2003 and had yet to release an album. They consisted of Leah Wood, daughter of The Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood, drummer Martin Wright, ex-Kula Shaker bass player Alonzo Bevan, Jason Knight from Reef on keyboards and guitarist Jesse Wood. Ronnie Wood later followed in his daughter's footsteps when The Rolling Stones headlined the Isle of Wight Festival in 2007. Alonzo Bevan stated simply afterwards, 'This was one of the best gigs that we have ever played.'
A Manchester band discovered by Noel Gallagher, Proud Mary formed in 2001 and have had very modest success. When interviewed, Greg Griffin, their lead singer, said, 'Today was top. It is nice to be part of something with this amount of history – Hendrix, The Who, all those people. That was part of why we wanted to play here… this is one of the biggest gigs that we have played.'
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel began their act with their cover of George Harrison's 'Here Comes The Sun', the perfect accompaniment for a sunny Saturday afternoon. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel was Saturday's first established act, and had enjoyed success in the 1970s, although the 2004 line-up did not include the original Cockney Rebels. Harley deliberately wore a white shirt to echo Bob Dylan's white clothes at the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival. He also enthralled the crowd by sharing that,
I came in 1970 and sat on Desolation Row [the nickname for Afton Down, the hill overlooking the 1970 Festival site] and didn't pay to get in. People were shouting up to us to get down and pay the entrance money. I was also here in 1969 to see Dylan and didn't pay either.
Harley closed his 45-minute set with his most famous song '(Come Up And See Me) Make Me Smile', which was a huge number one hit in 1975 in both Britain and Ireland. His appearance was later released on a DVD, entitled Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - Live At The Isle of Wight Festival 2004, and as well as a documentary about his performance, and includes the tracks:
- Here Comes The Sun
- Mr Soft
- Judy Teen
- Sling It!
- A Friend For Life
- Riding The Waves
- Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)
Steve Harley would again return to the Isle of Wight Festival in 2010, perhaps helped by the fact that festival promoter John Giddings was his first agent and was even the Best Man at his wedding.
British Sea Power
British Sea Power are a Brighton band whose eccentric mix of the Croatian National Anthem, Elgar, Scapa Flow, a plastic heron, an eight-foot bear and Gregorian chants are strangely enchanting and beguiling, enthralling the crowd. They are a band that has to be seen live to be believed.
The Electric Soft Parade
The Electric Soft Parade, another Brighton band, released their début album, Holes In The Wall, in 2002 and they were nominated for a Mercury Music Prize. Their guitar riffs and vocal harmonies showed fresh talent.
The Stands first performed in 2001, and in 2004 their début album, All Year's Leaving, was released to critical success. They have a melody- and lyric-central approach to guitar music.
An Australian quartet from Melbourne who supported the Rolling Stones in 2003 and have had successful singles within the UK with hits such as 'Are You Gonna Be My Girl' and 'Look What You've Done', popular at the time on Radio 1 as well as a successful album, Get Born Again.
Manic Street Preachers
Welsh band Manic Street Preachers, consisting of James Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore, formed in 1986, along with lyricist Richey Edwards, who is believed to have committed suicide in 1995 although his body has never been found. They have had eight Top Ten albums, including one number one album in 1998, This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours. They have had 15 Top Ten singles since 1992, two of which, 'If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next' and 'The Masses Against The Classes', reached number one, and four singles, including 'A Design For Life', have reached number two. They have also won several BRIT and NME awards during the course of their career.
- Blackpool Pier
- You Stole The Sun From My Heart
- Motorcycle Emptiness
- Empty Souls
- Ocean Spray
- Little Baby Nothing
- From Despair To Where
- Solitude Sometimes Is
- You Love Us
- If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
- No Surface All Feeling
- A Design For Life
It was the presence of The Who that sent the message that the 2004 Festival attempted to re-establish the Isle of Wight Festival as a major music festival. The Who had headlined the largest IoW Festivals in 1969 and 1970, and their booking showed a statement of intent that the Festivals were back and recapturing their glorious heritage. They became the first act to play at three different Festivals in three different decades: 1969, 1970 and 2004.
Sadly only two of the original members of The Who, a group from London who formed in 1964, were still alive to play. Keith Moon died in 1978 and John Entwistle died in 2002. For the 2004 Festival, original members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend were joined by Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr2 and Pino Palladino.
Despite never having had a number one single, they have had 15 Top Ten albums in the UK, including one number one, Who's Next, in 1973 and fourteen Top Ten singles, including 'My Generation' and 'I'm A Boy'.
- I Can't Explain
- Anyway Anyhow Anywhere
- Who Are You
- Behind Blue Eyes3
- Baba O'Riley
- The Punk and the Godfather
- Love, Reign O'er Me
- Eminence Front
- Naked Eye
- Real Good Looking Boy
- You Better You Bet
- My Generation
- Old Red Wine
- Won't Get Fooled Again
- Pinball Wizard
- Amazing Journey
- See Me, Feel Me
- Magic Bus
The Who's set included nine songs that they had also played at the 1970 Festival: 'I Can't Explain', 'Substitute', 'Naked Eye', 'My Generation', 'Pinball Wizard', 'Amazing Journey', 'Sparks', 'See Me, Feel Me' and 'Magic Bus'. They had also played 'I Can't Explain', 'Pinball Wizard', 'Amazing Journey', 'Sparks', 'See Me, Feel Me' and 'My Generation' at the 1969 Festival. Roger Daltry, when interviewed, said,
It feels good to be back on the Island, it doesn't seem like anything has changed. We are really looking forward to getting out there and playing. There are some great bands playing, people like the Manic Street Preachers and Stereophoncs. As a band, all we have got is the music now but Pete Townsend has still got it when it comes to writing.
When asked about his previous Isle of Wight Festival appearances, he simply stated,
All I can remember about playing in '70 is getting drunk with Jim Morrison, but [he] died and never bought his round.
Sunday 13 June, 2004
The only act to perform twice at the 2004 Festival. Their Brazilian beat was again the perfect way to open a sunny day.
The second act of the day were Countermine, a group from Bath that formed in 1995 but at the time of their Isle of Wight Festival appearance yet to release their début album. Despite this they have toured extensively, with singer Ollie Smith quoted as saying 'Our tour bus is a second home'. Countermine could also consider the Isle of Wight their second home as this was the second of three straight appearances at the Festival – they performed here in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Jerry Fish & The Mudbug Club
An Irish ten-piece band that was perfect Sunday afternoon entertainment with their smooth and relaxing easy listening rock and roll. Their début album had recently gone platinum in Ireland, despite the Dublin band only forming in 2003. Jerry Fish stated simply, 'I love it up there on stage. I like to... bridge the gap between us and the audience.'
The Ordinary Boys
The Ordinary Boys were a last minute replacement for Alfie, and were a shock to the system after the relaxing tones of Jerry Fish. A new ska band from Worthing, heavily influenced by Madness, they have had modest success. They most noticeably performed Eddie Cochran's 'Summertime Blues', in tribute to The Who, who had played that song at the 1970 Festival.
Wearing dark glasses for this, her first of three (to date) Isle of Wight Festival appearances (she returned in 2006 and 2010), Suzanne Vega was again a perfect relaxing Sunday afternoon act after the harsh awakening of The Ordinary Boys. An experienced performer since 1984, she has had unexpected number one success with a remixed version of 'Tom's Diner'. She easily persuaded the crowd to sing along to her acoustic version of this song. Like The Ordinary Boys before her, she also performed a song in tribute to The Who, a version of 'Behind Blue Eyes'. Some critics might feel that her return to successive Isle of Wight Festivals is due to her agent being John Giddings, one of the festival's organisers, yet she had definitely earned her place.
The Delays are a young, but impressive, Southampton band who were accompanied by a legion of their fans. They played many songs from their début album, Faded Seaside Glamour, which had been released in April, only two months before the festival. Their vocalist and guitarist Greg Gilbert stated,
Once we got past the nerves playing the first song it was great. I used to spend my holidays down here when I was young... so it was nice to get back here and play. There was a fantastic atmosphere.
We used to come on holiday to the Isle of Wight every summer until we were, what? 20.
The Delays would return to the Isle of Wight Festival in 2006 and 2008.
Following on from the Delays were Snow Patrol, a Scottish-Irish band formed in 1998, with a laid back but confident approach. Minutes before coming on stage they were enjoying a game of football in the backstage area, yet their accomplished act reveals a group that knows exactly how to please the crowds and perform to the best of their ability. Their leader Gary Lightbody tells the crowd that 'they are the largest audience by far they have yet played in front of', and play their hits including 'Run' to the delight of the crowd, which accompanies them. 'Run' is Snow Patrol's number five hit which was destined to be a number one hit a few years later for Leona Lewis.
Snow Patrol were an act on their way to big things. When they returned to play at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2005 and 2007, it would be as a headline act and their virgin Festival performance was a strong indicator of why.
The Charlatans were the first of the returning IoW Festival's headline acts. They appeared at the 2002 Rock Island concert, and returned as a support act for this, their second of three Festival appearances (they would return again in 2009). The Charlatans began their career in the late 1980s and had released eight albums before their 2004 Festival appearance.
Keyboard player Tony Rogers stated,
I think the [Isle of Wight Festival] has grown big time. We have been walking around the site and there is a really friendly atmosphere. The line-up for this year is much bigger... a lot of bands are trying to get on the bill.
After The Charlatans, The Libertines had been invited to play, but had been forced to cancel when principal member Pete Doherty underwent drug addiction treatment. Despite this, Carl Barat from The Libertines still attended the festival as a spectator, stating, 'We were looking forward to playing the festival, it was a shame that we didn't get to be but maybe in the future we could.' Carl Barat is reportedly fond of spending time on the Island. Instead of The Libertines, the festival's giant screens were used to broadcast the opening match of the Euro 2004 Football tournament, the England versus France game.
After the football finished, the headline act David Bowie took to the stage. Bowie is famous not only for his unbelievable run of hits since 1969's 'Space Oddity' but also to those who grew up in the early 1980s for his classic role in the film Labyrinth.
When interviewed by Virgin Radio before his performance, Bowie reminisced that he used to visit the Island when he was a boy, and was delighted to be asked to appear at the festival, stating, 'I jumped at it. I was so envious of other acts. It's really coming back.'
He introduced himself by promising to sing 'old songs, new songs, songs I haven't written yet' and sang a set-list that accommodates songs from throughout his career, although sadly none from the Labyrinth soundtrack. David Bowie easily interacts with the crowd, telling his audience to be be quiet so as not disturb the animals in the fields. He asked the audience 'No singing along with this one, okay? Promise?' with a smile on his face before singing 'All The Young Dudes', and then told the audience off afterwards when they did indeed accompany him vocally with the words,
I said 'Don't sing!' And what did you do? You broke my heart, it's been such a lovely show up 'til now as well...
- Rebel Rebel
- New Killer Star
- Sister Midnight
- All The Young Dudes
- China Girl
- The Man Who Sold The World
- The Loneliest Guy
- Hallo Spaceboy
- Under Pressure
- Ashes to Ashes
- Station To Station
- I'm Afraid of Americans
- Heathen (The Rays)
- Suffragette City
- Ziggy Stardust
The Television Coverage
For the first time, television coverage of the Isle of Wight Festival was broadcast over the Festival's weekend. Channel 4 had the rights, and broadcast two hour-long highlights programmes. The first, shown in the early hours of Sunday 13 June, showed highlights of the Friday's and half of Saturday's performances. The second, shown in the early hours of Monday 14 June, showed acts that performed near the end of Saturday as well as acts that performed on Sunday.
Unlike later coverage broadcast by ITV2, it did not have presenters but instead concentrated on the music, with short soundbite interviews with members of the band as well as the festival organiser and even respected Isle of Wight Festival historian Dr Brian Hinton.
|Jet||Get What You Need|
|Are You Gonna Be My Girl?|
|Super Furry Animals||Golden Retriever|
|Duke Spirit||Cuts Across The Land|
|22-20s||Such A Fool|
|Manic Street Preachers||Motorcycle Emptiness|
|Design For Life|
|Too Many Sandwiches|
|The Who||Who Are You?|
|Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel||Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)|
|British Sea Power||Remember Me|
|The Stands||The Way She Does|
|The Delays||Long Time Coming|
|Suzanne Vega||Marlene On The Wall|
|Electric Soft Parade||Blues|
|The Charlatans||How High|
|David Bowie||All The Young Dudes|
A DVD entitled Isle Of Wight Festival 2004 was released. This contained a song from most of the artists performing at the festival, but curiously not the main headline acts of The Who and David Bowie. This DVD repeated some of the same footage as the highlights programme broadcast on Channel 4, including interviews, but also showed unbroadcast material.
|Jet||Are You Gonna Be My Girl?|
|The Delays||Long Time Coming|
|The Duke Spirit||Lion Rip|
|Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel||Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)|
|Electric Soft Parade||Silent To The Dark|
|Snow Patrol||Spitting Games|
|British Sea Power||Stretch And Flex|
|Jerry Fish & The Mudbug Club||True Friend|
|The Ordinary Boys||Week In Week Out|
|Suzanne Vega||Tom's Diner|
|The 22-20's||Such A Fool|
|The Stands||Always Is The Same|
|Manic Street Preachers||Design For Life|
|The Charlatans||Sproston Green|