Taking stock of the iconic 2007 Amy Winehouse Glastonbury Festival performance that’s now being pressed to vinyl for the very first time
Fifteen minutes into the 2015 Oscar-winning documentary Amy, archival footage plays of an interview Amy Winehouse gave to music journalist Garry Mulholland around the release of her acclaimed 2003 debut album, Frank.
“How big do you think you’re going to be?” Mulholland asked.
“I don’t at all, because my music is not on that scale,” Winehouse said. “Sometimes, I wish it was, but I don’t think I’m gonna be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it. I’d probably go mad.”
The exchange is heartbreaking in retrospect, in light of the heights she’d reach in a few short years — and the subsequent downfall that resulted in her death from alcohol poisoning at just 27 years old on July 23, 2011.
Winehouse’s 2006 album Back to Black — and its standout Mark Ronson-produced singles “Rehab” and “Back to Black” — catapulted her to fame far more enduring than the 15-minute variety. She claimed the award for British Female Solo Artist at the BRIT Awards in February 2007. In March, Back to Black hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200, while “Rehab” peaked at No. 9 on the Hot 100.
The stage was set for that summer’s Glastonbury Festival, at which she would put forth one of the lasting Winehouse performances — one that will be pressed on vinyl for the first time on June 3, almost exactly 15 years since she left an indomitable mark on the Pyramid Stage. The news was jointly announced Wednesday by UMe, Island Records, and BBC.
“Amy Winehouse was a Glastonbury-goer through and through,” said Glastonbury co-organizer Emily Eavis of the upcoming 2LP black vinyl drop, including an exclusive crystal clear edition, per the release. “She either came and played or, when she wasn’t working, came and camped. She played in the blistering heat and the heavy rain, and there were so many magical moments to her performances.”
The full Live at Glastonbury 2007 tracklist can be seen here.
Live at Glastonbury 2007 captures Winehouse in the fragile time when her global profile was ascending to overwhelming territory. She had stunned at Glastonbury in 2004 while still relatively unknown. Three years later, like a young sports phenom, the artist was in the midst of a “breakout season,” one that erased any questions about the influence of her talent. Her passion no longer belonged entirely to her. All the while, she knew fame would be her demise.
When Winehouse won at the ’07 BRITs, as portrayed in the doc, she was asked if it signified “a breakthrough moment” or if her growth had been gradual. Yet again, she claimed she didn’t pay attention to external adoration — and acknowledged that people probably didn’t believe her. “If I really thought I was famous, I’d f—king go top myself or something because it’s frightening,” she said. “It’s a scary thing. It’s very scary.”
There was no ulterior motive or grandeur plan to revamp the music industry, though she did that before her tragic death. She probably felt more comfortable at Glastonbury as a fan camping out, in the studio, or playing intimate shows at an unassuming London jazz club. (Her debut album was named after Frank Sinatra.) But the sheer force of her voice — the magic that escaped every time she opened her mouth — made anonymity or even a basic modicum of privacy impossible.
Perhaps the saddest part is that music, at its core, is what helped her escape from the demons that ultimately killed her. She had never let it ring so true as she did at the 2004 the ’07 editions of the age-old festival in the southwest of England.
“I don’t think I knew what depression was,” she explained about her teenage self, around the time her lifelong battle with bulimia is also introduced in the documentary. “I knew I felt funny sometimes, and I was different. It’s a musician thing. That’s why I like music. I’m not some messed-up person. There’s a lot of people that suffer depression that don’t have an outlet. That can’t pick up a guitar for an hour and feel better.”
Separate archival footage in Amy shows television host Tim Kash pointing out to Winehouse that she’s about to start feeling more unwanted pressure in the public eye.
“That’s cool, but I think the more people see of me, the more they’ll realize that all I’m good for is making tunes,” she responded with a laugh. “So leave me alone and I’ll do it. I will do the music.”
In escalating, tragic fashion, the opposite unfolded. Paparazzi invaded Winehouse’s privacy at every opportunity. Nobody left her alone. As her hair grew into her signature beehive style, so too did her pop culture presence. Her substance abuse worsened, and she did not release another album before she lost her life.
The material across Back to Black lays out plainly the underlying pains present in her life long before 2007 and increasingly exacerbated by the fame machine — perhaps none more than “Rehab.”
Amy depicts a time before her sophomore album when Winehouse nearly entered rehab but pulled out after her dad, Mitch, told her managers that she didn’t need to. “She’s fine,” he’s quoted as saying.
“I think that was the moment we lost a very key opportunity,” added Nick Shymansky, her manager. “I’m not saying it would have worked. Very often, you have to go two or three times, but she wasn’t a star. She wasn’t swarmed by paparazzi. We could have just f—ked Back to Black off, and Back to Black might have never happened, but she’d have had a chance to be dealt with by professionals before the world wanted a piece of her.”
Winehouse met Blake Fielder-Civil, her eventual husband from 2007-09, between Frank and Back to Black, writing tumultuous songs about him and their toxic, drug-fueled relationship on the latter.
“She would tell me stories about [Fielder-Civil] and this tempestuous, extreme relationship,” Ronson recalled of their March 2006 studio sessions in the documentary. “That first day she wrote ‘Back to Black,’ all the lyrics and the melody, in two or three hours. It was just one of those serendipitous things. I just caught her at that magic moment.”
At the time, the ’07 Glastonbury performance looked like her pinnacle.
Looking back, it also turned out to be her precipice.
Two months later, in August 2007, Winehouse was hospitalized for what Island Records described as “severe exhaustion.” Come November, she canceled the remainder of her concert dates and all scheduled public appearances for the rest of the year on the advice of her doctor. “I can’t give it my all onstage without my Blake,” she also said in a statement while Fielder-Civil was behind bars for assault and obstruction of justice.
In January 2008, Island confirmed that Winehouse did check into the Capio Nightingale facility. She left rehab in time to accept five of her six overall Grammys in February.
The Glastonbury Festival hosted a more troubled Winehouse in the summer of ’08 hoping to recapture the magic — or even exceed it.
Winehouse started the June 28, 2008, set positively: “You don’t even know how happy I am to be here tonight. I feel like they should make up a new word in the dictionary for happy, and have a picture of me there,” she told the buzzing crowd. The performance progressively descended into chaos — a metaphor for the trajectory of her life and her career.
With Mulholland for The Guardian in 2004, Winehouse said, “In 10 years, I’m not gonna be doing [music]. I’m gonna be looking after my husband and our seven kids.” If only she’d gotten that chance at peace. Instead, 10-plus years after the cruelty of addiction sabotaged her for the final time, we’re left to grasp at the abbreviated legacy Winehouse left behind.
It is human impulse — an often frustratingly failing pursuit — to want to freeze fleeting moments in time. Vinyl is inherently a nostalgic medium; especially so when it comes to stars who burnt out far too soon. The same can be said for Aaliyah, who died at 22 in a plane crash in August 2001, and her third and final album making its vinyl debut this month.
Now given new life on wax, Live at Glastonbury 2007 allows fans to preserve as tangibly as ever Winehouse’s generational voice when it was still in its purest form.