T in the Park 2013 - Scottish pop music festivals before T in the Park in 1994
On T’s 20th birthday, Allan Brown looks back at the festival’s first ever line-up
Prior to year one of T in the Park, rock festivals in Scotland were as rare and as fleeting as the Highland wildcat. Fittingly, then, in 1979, an early stab was staged in a zoo; or, rather, a bear park near Loch Lomond.
By most accounts it was a ramshackle affair, heavy with security and a bill comprising whichever acts had answered the phone first: The Stranglers, Dr Feelgood, The Skids. Mention must also be made of the Calderglen rock festival of 1984, which culminated in some US heavy metal has-been informing the (non-existent) crowd that ‘East Kilbride, you’re the best audience in the world!’
Over the decade following, matters would sharpen up decisively. Promoters began to look beyond one-night stands; they established their own venues and forged links with promoters overseas. Audiences were growing pan-generational. A well-assembled bill was equally an invitation to extreme hedonism or a jolly day out with the family. Such was acknowledged in the location of T’s inaugural offering, Strathclyde Park, an expanse of recreational greenery near Hamilton. And so it was that a fleet of chartered Corporation buses rolled up on a rank of dusty blaize pitches and disgorged over 40,000 music fans, most of whom would’ve assumed they were witnessing yet another fly-by-night and doomed attempt to defy the Scottish weather.
Rather, they’d stumbled upon the earliest days of a business that was starting to take its duties seriously. The bill was impressive - Blur, Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Rage Against The Machine, Cypress Hill - but the viewer was impressed also that it was all an actual proper thing, with bands appearing at the times the programme said they would. Back then, few believed such a thing could happen in Scotland. It was a heck of a lot rougher and readier than it is today, but happen it did.