But in this kind of music what counts has nothing to do with any swollen sense of self. It's in a sense of being part of an ongoing vibrant medium where one element inspires another. All debts owed are fairly paid. When our anthem, Dirty Davey, appeared on the Levellers' eponymous album, it sold over a quarter of a million copies across the world. That in itself was not the real reward. I remember being at home one rather stilted and depressing day some years later, when The World At One came on the radio: a report on the protest against the new Manchester airport runway. I heard a familiar refrain sung to an out of tune guitar as a backdrop. It was Dirty Davey. The song had gone down, underground, where it had come from. A protest song, like any of those sixties songs that entered the tradition. It wasn't mine anymore, but theirs, or ours. And that is what defines belonging to the music of the times.
For all this, it is another, more simple and more personal instance which, for me, supercedes all others, and captures this sense of communion. The same year as Reading we played at the funeral of the theatre critic Jack Tinker's daughter, Charlotte: an acoustic set for one of our most loyal followers. That evening Anne Nightingale put out Rosa on Radio One, a song which pays homage to the spirit of traditional protest and cultural renewal in the figure of a revolutionary. A hard man on remand in Brixton jail contacted the station to say it made him weep. Unlike the festival, that's not the kind of moment you can ever imagine when you sit rehearsing over a smoke and a few cans. It vindicates even your most private commitment. As a writer of songs, there is nothing more you can ask for.
I'm too tired these days to mount any stages with intent. The latest surge of people's music has died back, and the mainstream have hold of the flotsam left behind, filling West End stages with bowdlerised Irish dancing and the like. But I'm sure it will rise again. Another generation will be inspired, cloak and song will fuse, a sense of liberation hang in the air, and the real show will take the road again.
I'm content to sit in a corner of a pub, playing the old songs and jigs and reels to anyone who will listen. But when I close my eyes, my mind dances back through lights and riffs, along motorways, and over fields, to a dull grey morning thirty years ago, when the end of a decade marked for me the start of an inspired life - life as a long song - and I know, whatever happens to me now, or anyone I might want to thank for being, on the way, I've learned, as the man himself said, waving his flute, the song never ends.
Members of McDermott's Two Hours and The Levellers released the album World Turned Upside Down in 2001 and Claws and Wings in 2002.
You can order the albums here.