For Annie Nightingale, who had left home firmly behind, the people who went to these festivals felt like her real family: John Peel took a more jaundiced view. The crowd, he said, was a welcome distraction from the general awfulness of the music: he cited the lengthy doleful chant, "Out, demons, out", of the Edgar Burroughs band. He remembered a man called Jesus who always took his clothes off: "I like to think he's a quantity surveyor now," he said.
What began in the innocence of beery, bearded folk festivals culminated in the famous Hyde Park and Isle of Wight gatherings. Johnny Walker presented this excellent feature with wry affection. There were some great bathetic stories - of The Who, for example, descending glamorously on to a hard- board helipad that became instant matchsticks in their rotor-blades. And of Arthur C Clarke, the God of Hell Fire, who was supposed to be dropped by crane on to the stage with flames roaring from his hat, but someone's anxious dad doused him in beer just as he took off: he landed not blazing but dripping. Bob Dylan's appearance was hailed like the Second Coming but he came late, after he'd counted his money.
They may have wanted love not war, but the sight of their hillside camp fires just before dawn reminded one observer of the Crusades. Caroline Coon of Release, ministering to the frightened stoned in the Trip Tent, compared it to the Crimea. Peel said it replaced National Service: people boasted that they'd survived. Thirty years on, the movement has changed and become a World Party (R1).
A tripper, interviewed by a splendidly acerbic Jennifer Cox, said that guitars were for grandmothers. What he wants is techno or house-music and he's prepared to go to the ends of the earth for a party. Cox went to Thailand and Goa to see what happens. It's pretty depressing. They descend in their thousands on a remote beach or valley and trash it: nirvana becomes the nadir of their dreams. They risk violent attack from outraged residents and long terms of imprisonment for possession of hash, and they destroy communities. There is one old man who dances naked at these raves: perhaps Jesus didn't become a quantity surveyor after all.
The party-goers Cox interviewed were unrepentant and angry at being harassed by locals. The locals are distraught. It was pretty clear that she was on their side. I found myself thinking that if you want a house-party, you might hold it at home.
On Tuesday 3 June the god of hell-fire appeared in a sparkling little play based on Max Beerbohm's story Enoch Soames (R4). Soames is a vain Edwardian poet, author of an ill-received collection called Fungoids. On 3 June 1897 he sells his soul to the devil (cunningly disguised as a stage German with a huge waxed moustache). The price is a chance to skip a hundred years and visit the Reading Room of the British Museum where he hopes that his posthumous fame will be evident. It isn't. He exists only as the subject of Beerbohm's story. The play ends with Nigel Anthony as Beerbohm inviting listeners to get along there and see the wraith of the poet looking himself up. I wish I had. Apparently three Enoch Soameses turned up and - oh, creepy - only one was the actor officially employed to perform.
It is also a hundred years since the agony aunt made her first appearance, celebrated in A Century of Agony (R2). This was a good idea, containing excellent material, marred by unfortunate presenters and a dire script. The Fifties was not always an easy time for parents, apparently. Well, when was? The Sixties saw a nation on the move. Oh please. The very worst moment, I decided - and there were lots of contenders - came after an unseemly trot through the First World War. When it was over and demobilisation was on the way, we were told, the first people to feel the effects were the women. Oh yes, and what about the poor wretched Tommies? The general message was, you guessed it, that a problem shared is a problem halved.
The other sex fared little better in Lions Rampant (R5), a centenary history of the British Isles rugby team. This was patchy as a lawn in drought. The bright spots were reminiscences by a nonagenarian who had sailed with the Lions to New Zealand in 1930, eating eight-course meals while passing through the Panama Canal. The bare patches were the ecstatic replays of ancient tries and the tales of jolly boyish fun, like singing in Afrikaans to please the Springboks ("We didn't really understand about apartheid," explained Cliff Morgan, lamely) and revelling in drunken brawls: "Me and old Bill Travers would put on our jerseys and go down the docks and wait for someone to say something rude. Then we'd demolish them." Ah, happy days.
Another Bill Travers occurred to me while listening to Virginia McKenna, his co-star in the film, reading Born Free (R2), Joy Adamson's story of real lions. The text is as dated as Brief Encounter, but McKenna's performance matched it for leisurely elegance. R2's current obsession with nostalgic texts often falls flat: this was up and dancing.
And while we're on books, a welcome to Tom Sutcliffe as the new host of A Good Read (R4). He is as urbane as Edward Blishen and less nervy than Sarah Dunant, despite the potentially tricky combination of Edwina Currie and Terry Wogan as his first guests. Mind you, it was fun to hear Edwina's response to Sutcliffe's fervent praise of his own choice, Lake Woebegone Days. "I love it so much," he challenged them, "that I almost judge people on whether they do or not." She said it was tedious, boring and patronising. Politely, he reserved judgement.Reuse content