‘It was David Bowie’s last ever show in the UK’: Isle Of Wight promoter John Giddings on the festival’s unforgettable moments

The Isle Of Wight Festival returns this weekend with a line-up including Kasabian, Depeche Mode, Liam Gallagher and The Killers. To mark the occasion, promoter John Giddings is Music Week’s cover star for the latest issue with an interview that also marks 50 years since the first ever festival.

Giddings has been in charge since the successful revival in 2002. Here, he picks some of his favourite performances from the Isle Of Wight Festival…

“That was David’s last ever show in the UK – sad, but true. I remember introducing him to Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and [Bowie] turned round to me and said, ‘John, when did I play here last?’ I said, ‘You’ve never played here!’ It was funny, when we did a tour with Tin Machine we were playing Wolverhampton Civic Hall and I went outside to look at the audience and there were all these ladies who wanted to come in and dance around their handbags to David Bowie. I went up to David and said, ‘I think you need to be a bit careful, I’ve just seen the soundcheck, it was a bit loud.’ And he said, ‘You’re the only promoter that’s ever told me to turn down before I’ve been onstage!”

“I got the opportunity because Keith Richards had fallen out of a tree, which meant we had to reschedule some dates. I’d sold the festival out and I had chance to put the Stones on and I thought, ‘Sod it, if I get run over on Monday morning at least I’ve brought The Rolling Stones to the Isle Of Wight.’ But then they turned up and Mick said, ‘Can we go on early? You booked us after you’ve sold out, people might not want to stay and see us.’ I said, ‘But you’re The Rolling Stones! I didn’t pay all this money to put you on at 3pm with no lights!’ The artists have dressing rooms in a Premier Inn backstage, so seeing Mick Jagger walking down the corridor of a Premier Inn made me laugh.”

Paul McCartney’s agent and promoter, Barrie Marshall, phoned me and said, ‘Have you got anybody that does acrylic nails?’ I suspected they were just bored on the ferry and were winding me up. But I thought I’d better check it out anyway, so I went to a concession stand and asked, ‘What are acrylic nails?’ And the lady said, ‘I know what they are but we haven’t got the equipment to do it here.’ So I phoned up this woman in Cowes, who came up with a little vanity case. I didn’t realise that acrylic nails harden your nails, so Paul was doing it for when he played the acoustic guitar. He actually had dinner with the lady from Cowes – beautiful story, really nice bloke.”


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