I will always have fond memories of that day spent in the blazing sunshine back in '99. I was working at the time with a girl called Kate who was visiting this country from New Zealand. She had told me within minutes of us meeting that "Come On Eileen" was her favourite song. Since it turned out to be the only Dexys song she knew at that point I realised that I had a potential 'Soul mate' in the making so I wasted no time in letting her hear the rest of "Too Rye Ay". She was suitably impressed and before long she was the one saying "Let's play Dexys again" whenever we were working together. Needless to say that was a nice feeling. I had told her that the lead singer from Dexys was bringing out a new album in a few weeks time and it turned out, by a strange coincidence, one of her favourite bands, Pavement, were also releasing new material that summer. 'Her' album came out first and for a couple of weeks we played it pretty constantly in our shop - to the extent that whenever I hear the Pavement song "Carrot Rope" now, I'm instantly transported back in time to that summer.

Gradually I introduced Kiwi Kate to the other Dexys albums and in return she encouraged me to delve deeper into the back-catalogues of her other favourites such as Morrissey, The Cure and The Pixies. As a Dexys fan, you learn to appreciate those brief moments in time when there is a new release imminent and it seemed that every music magazine I picked up around that time had some mention of Kevin Rowland and his forthcoming album. But already it was clear that certain sections of the media had decided that the story they were going to tell was "Pop star loses it, wears womens' clothes and releases crap covers album". Once the press get a theme like that in their heads they rarely let little things like facts get in the way of their stories. And then, in one of these magazines, I made a glorious discovery. Kevin Rowland had been added to the bill for the Reading and Leeds festivals. As luck would have it, Pavement were also performing and so Kate and I quickly agreed that we would have to go.

Finally the Saturday of the Reading Festival arrived. It turned out to be one of the most gloriously sunny days of that summer. Perfect festival weather. Somewhat bizarrely, Kevin Rowland was due on stage immeadiately after Pavement but before that we were treated to a fine set from Beth Orton. When Pavement started playing, the front of the crowd went wild. Packed like a sardine between the drunken revellers (...yeah, OK... I'd probably had 'one or two' myself) I was propelled into a bout of involuntary pogo-ing - it's not that I wouldn't have chosen to join in, but when you are surrounded on all sides by people bouncing up and down like madmen it is physically impossible not to do likewise! Meanwhile, some of the more adventurous fans were engaging in crowd-surfing and - with bottles being hurled at the stage left, right and centre - it was all a bit riotous but good-natured.

Then Pavement finished their set and, with the crowd still pumped up, the stage was emptied of all the instruments and amps and on walked a guy in a long gown accompanied only by a microphone. This was the moment I'd waited 14 years to see - Kevin Rowland was back onstage. He made some comment about not having done this for a while and being a little nervous before the backing tape for his first song started. "You'll Never Walk Alone" was quite well received. Being an anthemic song it seemed quite well-suited to a drunken festival crowd even if it represented a dramatic change in tempo from the previous set. The only heckle I remember at this point was the light-hearted cry of "Show us your knickers!" from somebody who had clearly seen the posters and publicity shots in the press. At the end of that number he duly obliged, removing the gown to reveal a silky white undergarment, as he ushered on two, even more scantily-clad dancers. There were plenty of wolf-whistles from the crowd but again it was quite good-natured and Kevin seemed to be relaxing a little as he intoduced the next song "Concrete And Clay", explaining that this was his new single but it didn't seem to be getting much radio play. The performance which followed provided the press with their focal point for the savaging they gave Kevin in the subsequent reviews, feigning shock and disgust at Kevin's sexually suggestive routine.


 The hypocracy of journalists and the tabloids never ceases to amaze me. Take the Daily Mail for example - self-appointed moral guardians who bemoan the levels of sex and nudity on TV but who invariably use photos of scantily-clad women to illustrate heat-waves each summer. And dare I suggest that some of the journalists who crucified Kate Moss for her alleged drug use may, quite possibly, have taken drugs themselves at some point in their careers?! And so it was with Kevin's carefully choreographed caressing during "Concrete And Clay". Hardly the most explicit thing ever seen on a British stage, and certainly not as sick as biting the head off a bat. Come to think of it, his clothes were scarcely the most shocking ever worn by a recording artist either but it was clear that certain sections of the media had decided in advance to take the moral high-ground in their coverage of Kevin's return. Kevin had laid into the press in the past and now it was pay-back time.

And so it was time for the last number in Kevin's short set. A brave choice by anybody's standards: "The Greatest Love Of All" - a song burdened by as many negative preconceptions as Kevin Rowland himself. Again, the tempo was a little slow for an increasingly drunken and rowdy crowd, and the predominantly 'Rock audience' presumably weren't quite ready for a song they would probably have associated with Whitney Houston. None the less, Kevin launched into the song with a passion and purpose which countered my own previous misgivings about the song. As he sang, the rowdier elements of the crowd continued to act up - as they had done throughout the afternoon - and some of them launched bottles at the stage - as they had done throughout the afternoon. However, I guess there is a big difference (certainly in terms of how it can be perceived) between bottles being thrown at a stage full of musicians, instruments and equipment and bottles being thrown at a stage which contains one solitary singer. Inevitably it seems like a far more personal act. A bottle which hits the guitarist's amp on a busy stage may well go unnoticed by most. A bottle which flies past the shoulder of the only person on stage is harder to ignore. And so it proved for Kevin. In the middle of the song, with the backing tape still playing, he stopped singing and confronted the bottle-throwers.

"Some people here clearly don't love themselves very much" he observed, sticking to the theme of the song. "I'm trying to sing this song to the best of my abilities - who wants to hear me carry on?"

And then - and this is the bit that reports of the performance seem to ignore - there was rapturous applause from virtually the whole of the crowd in support of Kevin. For my own part, I made an exaggerated gesture of clapping enthusiastically above my head (which I swear Kevin saw because he repeated the action himself seconds later!) Visibly buoyed by the overwhelming endorsement of the audience Kevin launched back into the song with renewed vigor. Infact the seemless ease with which he rejoined the song as it was reaching its finale almost made it feel as though the interjection was an integral part of the number! [Like those spoken passages in the middle of some Dexys songs.] There was something about the way he sang those final words with such 'meaning' - as though the song had taken on a brand new relevance since he'd set foot on the stage - which gave a strangely triumphant ending to the short set. This seemed to be underlined as he was rejoined by his exotic dancers who walked him off-stage, one on each arm. It was an unforgetable return to the stage and one which the press wasted no time in presenting to the public as a cringing embarrasment. And if you weren't there, I guess it's easy to believe that it was.

Several months later, and long after Kiwi Kate and I had ceased to work together, I got a phone call from her out of the blue. She reminded me of that day in Reading and told me that it was one of the best days ever. And it was.

For the journalists who were there that day (and perhaps some who wrote their articles without having been there?!), Kevin's appearance at Reading (and his 'appearance' at Reading) presented an oportunity to mock the man who had once dismissed music journalists as the "dishonest hippy press". But for me - and for Kate also - it was an unmissable part of a glorious day - one which I will certainly never forget.