20 sets that shook Glastonbury: the stories behind Worthy Farm’s most memorable ever performances

Today (September 19) marks 47 years since Somerset farmer Michael Eavis staged the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival on his land near Glastonbury. The first band to play? Stackridge. No, us neither – but from Radiohead to Jay-Z, Bowie to The Smiths, the festival has hosted some of the most memorable gigs ever. Here’s some of NME’s 20 favourites, starting with the first ever headliners…

1. T Rex – Main Stage, 1970
As told by Michael Eavis

“A brilliant, brilliant set. Marc Bolan was on his way to play at Butlins in Minehead and sneaked us in. He was on in place of The Kinks, who’d dropped out, and to this day it remains one of the most memorable slots ever at the festival to me. He came down in an American Cadillac and it was so wide and the track [to the farm] was so narrow with thorns hanging over it, so I don’t think he knew what to expect. He was really grumpy when he arrived, and I was trying to be nice to him by brushing the leaves off his car, doing the whole jolly farmer thing. He wouldn’t have any of it.

“He said, ‘Don’t touch my car!’ and I thought, ‘Oh my God, we’ve got someone really grumpy and he hasn’t even started yet!’ It was my first ever confrontation with a rock star. When he got onstage, however, he was absolutely brilliant. The sun was setting behind the stage, which was up at the top of the farm back then and was held together by string and twine. He came in and did the ultimate rock’n’roll gig. He was so professional, which was such a contrast to what we were doing – he wasn’t put off by the fact we didn’t know what we were doing, just dairy farmers having a bit of a party. Bolan played on and on and on as the sun was going down… all the hits, the full works, and it sounded fantastic. It was so inspiring to me. It was a pivotal point to me, even if it did cost me £500 – which was a fortune in those days. In fact, I had to pay him a hundred pounds a month for five months afterwards out of my milk money.”

2. New Order – Pyramid Stage, 1981
As told by New Order’s Peter Hook

Peter Hook: “Us and Hawkwind was quite a surreal coupling, but I was actually happy with it because I was a Hawkwind fan as a kid. I remember it being a very loose and easy-going festival in those days, nice and relaxed. I remember going to Michael Eavis’ house beforehand because the dressing room we had was a very cold, damp caravan. He suggested that we use his house instead and it was lovely. I remember me and Rob Gretton sitting with a cup of tea in his kitchen, it was the only warm place on the whole bloody site that year.
The crowd were mainly made up of bikers who were ripping round the place at breakneck speed and revving their engines at us. It was definitely a pretty frosty reception because everyone was waiting for Hawkwind. They were more Greasers rather than Hells Angels. I suppose it was our version of Altamont but without any trouble.

“The performance was quite enjoyable though. It was… spirited, shall we say? At that point, we were finding our feet as New Order and our confidence levels were rising. The thing was, there wasn’t that much pressure because it was only 3,000 or so people. Glastonbury wasn’t such a big deal back then – it was just a load of blokes camping in a field. It was a charity festival for CND essentially. All we got was costs, which is something I’ve always liked because it’s a nice thing to do when you’ve got such a good job as we have. The second time we did it was in 1987, and that was when it started to go really commercial – when Michael Eavis was walking round with big bags of money!”

3. Ian Dury and the Blockheads – Pyramid Stage, 1986
As told by Chris Parkin

The truth is some bands hate being at Glastonbury. There was the Manics not getting into the spirit in 1994, Conor Oberst christening the John Peel Stage in 2005 with a tirade against the late DJ, and back
in 1985 there was an almighty strop from the headliners. By Saturday night that year, 40,000 goths whacked off their bongo on carrot cake and LSD had spent three days wading through fields more treacherous than Ypres, putting up with surprise performances from New Model Army (gee, thanks) and a set from The Boomtown Rats. Before too long, the mud was a-flinging. After hours spent covering long-forgotten post-punks with cow shit, fans welcomed Ian Dury with his Blockheads to the main stage. But habits are hard to break and Dury came under a sloppy attack. Forty minutes later he stormed off with DJ Andy Kershaw ticking off the crowd. Only after plenty of ego-buttering did they return for ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’, but by then, unity had been torn asunder.

4. The Smiths – Pyramid Stage, 1980
As told by NME’s Barry Nicholson

According to Morrissey, “It’s not something that I’d like to relive. It wasn’t the best of our performances, and there was some animosity from certain sectors of the crowd. It is quite strange when you’re singing to people who obviously do not like you. People are there to see other groups, it’s tricky, and that’s how Glastonbury worked out for us.” Back in 1984, it wasn’t hip-hop that was ‘wrong’ for Glastonbury: indie rock was the bête noire of choice, and The Smiths were one of the most divisive headliners Worthy Farm had ever seen. “A lot of people didn’t believe The Smiths should be playing,” recalled Michael Eavis of the set, which he regards as one of the most influential in Glasto’s history. “People were going ‘What’s happened to Santana, then?’ I said, ‘This is not Santana, this is The Smiths.’ They didn’t like it.”

You can say that again. The tie-dye mafia who regarded the festival as their own spent much of the set booing or bottling these fey, alien Mancunians who had trespassed on their turf. For their part, The Smiths – then used to playing in medium-sized venues to adoring audiences – were way out of their comfort zone in a field made up mostly of non-fans, and were in no hurry to return. And yet, a quarter of a century on, that day has gone down in Glasto lore as one of the festival’s most significant gigs. It certainly marked a shift from the stale hippy subculture of yesteryear towards a more contemporary approach: it also saw Glastonbury’s first-ever stage invasion. “Morrissey was actually beckoning the fans up onstage,” remembers Michael Eavis. “When I saw that, I knew that the whole thing had changed into something else… there was no place for the Santana audience any longer. We’d gone into pop.” It may not have been a vintage performance, but The Smiths arguably saved the festival from obscurity. You’ve got them to thank for the fact that Phish aren’t headlining this year.

5. Happy Mondays – Pyramid Stage, 1990
As told by Gavin Haynes

Wild, it was. Wild. The Glastonbury of 20 years ago was not the well-policed bastion of the liberal social conscience we know today. It was an altogether more feral thing – a place where new age travellers and squat-monkeys often fought pitched battles with campus security. Where the public took a libertarian attitude to freedom, and a gentle anarchy pervaded throughout. In 1989, into this unrestrained atmosphere, someone threw an unrestrained drug: ecstasy. As the fans got hyper, the drug dealers made hyper-profits, swelling their numbers, and for the second summer of love, Glastonbury oozed an edgy hubris.

Then someone thought, ‘What can we do to really ignite this already volatile situation? How can we throw some propane on this already smouldering bonfire? I know… let’s invite Happy Mondays…’ The rest is music folklore. By 1990, the Mondays had already hit it big with ‘Step On’, but they had yet to cement their legacy with the ‘Pills ’N’ Thrills And Bellyaches’ album. They were in their young prime, both as a band and as a bunch of lairy creatures-of-the-deep, one big, rolling 10-legged party of Mancunian fun-factor.

Well, 10-legged is a massive understatement. The fact is that, as they prepared to headline that year’s festival, the Mondays weren’t so much a band as a football supporters’ club with particularly nifty terrace anthems. They regularly rolled with an entourage of upwards of 60. Their guestlists would often contain up to 200 people – occasionally outnumbering the paying public. Fifty-thousand quid was all it took for Glasto to procure their services for a Friday night slot headlining the Pyramid Stage. A fee the band felt was modest, but whatever – it was an experience. All the anticipation was of this being a crowning moment for band and rave nation – a sacred mass for the burgeoning E-culture.

6. Verve – NME Stage, 1993
As told by Richard Ashcroft

“My initial memories are that we didn’t have a pitch on the inside of Glastonbury, so we arrived and we had a tent just outside the gate, even though we were playing. That was the first big festival I’d ever been to, and it takes your breath away, when you see that field for the first time, that city of tents. And then you’re playing as well – all I remember is just the rush, the adrenaline, it was definitely the biggest crowd that I’d ever looked out on. And it was a great opportunity for a band like ours, because we were formed through jamming, and influenced by dance music in the sense of taking people to a higher place by just building, building, building the tension. But that made the time constraints… difficult. We were doing ‘Gravity Grave’ and there’s these people at the side of the stage waving at us: ‘One more minute’. So I just started chanting, ‘We got one more minute/we got one more minute’ over and over, like, ‘Come on, this is it – play like it’s the last minute of your lives.’

“Glastonbury was still pretty hairy in the early ’90s. It still had one foot in its older self – no cash machines, no mobiles, obviously – people getting lost and not seeing each other for three days. It was bonkers when you went out at night. And the sheer amount of drugs on the site at that stage was unbelievable. The amount of dealers in one place in one country, I’m surprised the police didn’t just drop a net over the place. Brian Cannon, who did The Verve’s sleeves, his famous quote through the whole of the ’90s was, ‘I’ve been to Glastonbury, and never slept once.’ That used to be the Glastonbury mantra. If you actually fell asleep in those three days then something had gone seriously wrong.”

7-10. Oasis, Pulp, Radiohead and Blur – NME Stage, 1994
As told by NME’s Mark Beaumont

Some will argue Britpop started with the first slap of microphone on Brett Anderson’s arse. Others might claim it was born in the rattle of Graham Coxon’s spray can as he prepared to scrawl ‘modern life is rubbish’ on a Clacton pavilion. A few of this parish will remember the lunch hour in the pub when Stuart Maconie slurred out the name, and state that as the defining genesis of the genre. But for those of us out ‘in the field’, the first moment that Britpop gelled into a recognisable movement was when we gazed down the running order of the Other Stage at Glastonbury on Sunday June 26, 1994. Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Radiohead – a sharp new gang was in town.

“Are you lot gonna wake up then?” sneered a snarly young tyke in a black jumper and shades, “for some proper songs?” In June 1994 Oasis were the gobby new lads on the British pop scene, come to rub some proper working class grit in the faces of the poncy art school sooverners and their mockney ‘oi-oi!’ cod-chav fop-pop. The crowd was already fired up on ‘Supersonic’ and ‘Shakermaker’ but this was the first time most had felt the hedonistic heat of ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, ‘Live Forever’ or ‘Fade Away’, or been stared out by the bullish and cocksure Manc-rock Gorgon that was Liam Gallagher. Suddenly it was clear that the Britpop Derby wasn’t going to be a one-horse race.

As the afternoon drifted on, more and more once-promising acts seemed to be taking up the Britpop challenge and surpassing themselves. All grey blazer, droll witticisms and angular pointy dancing, Pulp’s singer Jarvis Cocker oozed indie-star appeal, and his laconic confidence was perhaps buoyed by knowing what Pulp had up their tightly buttoned sleeves. Within two months, at that year’s Reading Festival, they were premiering a billowing torch song called ‘Underwear’ that made their own previous big ballad ‘Have You Seen Her Lately?’ sound about as elegant and moving as Johnny Vegas chewing the head off a live yak. Oh, and a little ditty called ‘Common People’ as well. Pulp seemed like Pyramid Stage headliners-in-waiting. Amazingly, they only had to wait one year.

“Who’s on next?” the dazed and amazed crowd asked in unison. “Aw, not fucking Radiohead! Shall we go see The Spin Doctors?” True, in mid-’94 Radiohead had a bad reputation as corporate rock twonks with only one song – ‘Creep’ – and they felt somewhat out-of-their-depth themselves. “We were on between Oasis and Blur,” Jonny Greenwood said later. “What a line-up – it was like the Champions League.” What they were doing was upending preconceptions, changing minds and evolving fast. They unveiled stunning new tracks ‘High & Dry’ and ‘My Iron Lung’ that expanded on the ambitious rock of ‘Pablo Honey’ and laid the way for their rock-era masterpiece ‘The Bends’ the following year.

But if Radiohead were in the middle of a legendary rebirth, it was Blur who were holding their coming-of-age celebration that day. ‘Parklife’ was in the process of defining the era and this was the first chance for ‘Girls & Boys’, ‘To The End’ and ‘End Of A Century’ to get the outdoor airing to which they’d soon become accustomed. Damon’s rabid onstage dementia had become an assured bounce, Alex’s leisurely slouch had become nigh-on iconic and everyone present knew they were dancing on the crest of the zeitgeist.

Within a couple of years Britpop would be the stuff of News At 10, stadium gigs, bitter feuds and arses waggled at Jacko, but at Glastonbury 1994 it felt like the world was achieving an unstoppable motion. As Spiritualized closed the day – themselves the comforting background hum to the entire decade – they sealed the birth of Britpop in a deep coating of amber.

11. Orbital – NME Stage, 1994
As told by NME’s Mark Beaumont

It’s no understatement to say that this headlining set in 1994 was a defining moment, not just for Orbital, but for Glasto itself and British music as a whole. What helped Phil and Paul Hartnoll’s outfit greatly was that it was the first year the festival had been televised by Channel 4. As a result, the duo’s performance, which featured their now-legendary torch headlights (worn to help them see what they were doing as well as providing an arresting visual spectacle), was beamed into millions of music fans’ living rooms, many of whom would never go near a dance club. It was a defining moment for the still-nascent rave culture, and should be given as much credit for taking it overground as affordable ecstasy is.

The performance was so successful that the following year’s Glastonbury saw the Dance Tent being opened to punters for the first time, while Orbital were promoted to a prime Saturday night slot on the Pyramid Stage. Again, this was a huge success, and saw them playing to a massive ‘rock’-oriented audience, sandwiched between PJ Harvey and Pulp on the bill. This year, the now-reunited outfit will perform again, their sixth set at the event. In many ways, Orbital’s shows encapsulate the modern Glastonbury era much more than many of their guitar-wielding contemporaries. They’ve stuck in people’s minds and become a Worthy Farm institution.

12. Johnny Cash – Pyramid Stage, 1994
As told by Matt Wilkinson

Aside from inventing the so-called ‘legends slot’ at Glastonbury, Johnny Cash’s 1994 performance also ushered in the final, glorious part of his own career. He’d released ‘American Recordings’, the first of his Rick Rubin-produced albums, in April 1994, but it was his presence at Worthy Farm two months later that brought this newfound confidence to the brim. Addressing the masses with his iconic curt introduction “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash”, this was a man reasserting himself. With those words, his so-called “invisible” period was consigned to history. Dressed all in black, obviously, the then-62-year-old powered through a career-spanning set with way more panache than anyone else on that day’s bill. “I love you people,” Cash gushed at one point, a craggy smile appearing on his otherwise stern face. No wonder he later picked it as one of his all-time favourite gig.

13. Portishead – Acoustic Tent, 1995
As told by Paul Stokes

‘Dummy’ had sneaked out in August 1994. By the end of the year word of mouth was spreading fast: Portishead’s debut album finished at or near the top of all the end of year polls and was hailed as the most brilliant, original album of the decade. The hype snowballed into 1995. Radiohead expressed admiration; Noel Gallagher declared that it had been an influence on ‘The Masterplan’; soon it would win the Mercury Music Prize, and bands imitating its cinematic sound – trip-hop – started to spring up everywhere. For Portishead, hailing from Bristol, Glastonbury was something of a homecoming show. Yet having been offered the pick of slots and stages, they opted for a low-key billing in the small Acoustic Tent on Saturday night. When it finally came, however, there was nothing ‘acoustic’ about this performance: their set crackled with electricity. Little was said onstage, yet the ever-shy Beth Gibbons bewitched the crowd, and every song from everyone’s new favourite album was cheered like an anthem on a football terrace.

In front of Portishead, it was total chaos. Sweaty limbs slid against each other and one moment you were capsizing to the right, before pressure came back the other way and the ripples started swelling again. Briefly, the band left the stage, allowing just enough time for word to skip around the crowd that, outside, 15,000 others were trying to squeeze in. The scrum had been worth it, though, and, as ‘Glory Box’ rounded off the encore, the mass of bodies who’d been squashed together all night were suddenly able to part. For those of us who endured the wait, the crush and, worst of all, Dando, a bond for life had formed. We are the ones who can say: Portishead at Glastonbury 1995, I was there…

14. Pulp – Pyramid Stage, 1995
As told by Andy Welch

And to think it almost never happened… In 1995, the build-up to Glasto focused largely on whether The Stone Roses could pull off their Pyramid Stage headline slot after the lukewarm reception ‘Second Coming’ had received. One broken collarbone later, though, and history was altered inexorably. Even after the news came through that John Squire had fallen off his bike and would not be able to play, Pulp were by no means the first choice to step into the breach – Blur, Primal Scream and Rod Stewart were all approached before Jarvis & co. Perhaps unsurprising when you consider that the year before they were halfway down the bill on the much smaller NME Stage.

In an interview with NME just a few days before, Jarvis said of the show: “With it being the 25th one, it’s a chance to participate in a culturally significant event, something that people will remember for a long time. It is all a bit last-minute, but we’re used to that sort of thing. We did it recently, supporting Oasis at Sheffield Arena [the Gallaghers’ first ever arena show, where The Verve were supposed to support but fell ill]. You’ll find us in Yellow Pages, actually, under Bands For Hire. We’re the super-subs of modern music. And no, I don’t think we’ll be doing any Stone Roses covers.”

The latter comment may have been flippant, but the former couldn’t have been more prescient. One of the biggest gambles in Glastonbury’s history turned out to be one of its most iconic moments, and one
still remembered with fondness and reverence by those who witnessed the crowning of a new folk hero. In fact, so commanding was Jarvis that night that it’s become the yardstick for what defines a winning performance on the Pyramid Stage. And how did he do it? By showing instinctively that he knew what it meant, and by offering little touches that, in retrospect, took on massive significance. Like calling himself a “lanky get” and saying that if he can make it on to this stage, anyone can. Like – as NME’s Roger Morton wrote in his review – “taking photos of the common people” and “joking with the field dwellers about staying
in a gold lamé tent”. That night, way before the Jacko-baiting ubiquity, Jarvis showed he was a man of the people. And boy did those (common) people love him back.

15. Radiohead – Pyramid Stage, 1997
As told by Dan Martin

Some moments in musical history are tipping points, a time where things can be decisively forced one way or another, for better or worse. Glastonbury 1997 was just such a moment, a perfect microcosm of the strange transition period music found itself in as Britpop began its downward slide. On the Friday night The Prodigy headlined, reaching the apex of their careers, as did Sunday night’s bill-toppers Ash (who replaced Neil Young). And in the middle, Radiohead sat atop a day that was mainly represented by beige dadrock; Cast, Dodgy and Ocean Colour Scene. This was a world in need of saving. By the end of the day, Radiohead would have showed up everything around them as dull and stunted, like a flare set off in a troglodyte lair.

“We felt very much like we had a huge spotlight on us in 1997,” Colin Greenwood recalled later. “‘OK Computer’ had just been released and went down very well, and suddenly we went from standing to being at some sort of enforced speed in a very short space of time.”

Having maintained that momentum so far, the band were confident, if not cocksure, riding a growing wave that would take them to an entirely new level. In a bold, perverse stroke that prefigured the course their career would plot from now on, the band opened with ‘Lucky’, ‘OK Computer’’s tenderest moment. But as they powered into ‘My Iron Lung’, hitting a graceful stride with ‘Airbag’, it was clear that some sort of heavenly alignment was creaking into place. From up onstage, however, the stars looked more skewed. The weather didn’t help, the monitors broke and the band couldn’t hear a thing. “Everything broke onstage,” Ed O’Brien remembered later. It turned into the worst night of our lives. I don’t think we ever wanted to play a concert again.”

“It was a show of fairly emotional extremes,” Phil Selway confirmed. “We hadn’t done anything that big before, and I think your senses are going to be heightened in that situation, but it was a very memorable show to do. I can’t actually remember the ins and outs leading up to the day, but the intensity of the show is indelibly in there now.” Michael Eavis put it even more simply than that: “It was the most inspiring festival gig in 30 years.”

16. David Bowie – Pyramid Stage, 2000
As told by Hamish McBain

In truth, only one man ever has arrived onsite with a gargantuan reputation to live up to and – effortlessly – surpassed everyone’s expectations, slaying Glastonbury to the extent where absolutely no-one can argue. That man’s name is David Bowie.

He did everything. From ‘Wild Is The Wind’ to ‘Changes’ to ‘Ashes To Ashes’ to ‘Rebel Rebel’ to ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, one by one they came – leisurely dispatched by a grinning 53-year-old man with a gorgeous blond mane and an only slightly ridiculous long coat, a nod to the outfit he wore on his previous performance at the bash in 1971. “I got struck down by laryngitis earlier this week,” he noted casually over a tinkling piano intro, “so if I give out, and if any of you know the words, then for gawd’s sake join in. I’m counting on you!”

Showmanship, songs, the element of surprise, the good-natured vibes… it’s hard to see what more one could ask from a headline set. Even as he closed with the comparative low of ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’, the crowd went with him. They belonged to him. Glastonbury was his.

17. Primal Scream – Pyramid Stage, 2009
As told by Martin Robinson

As the song ‘Kill All Hippies’ should have indicated to the organisers, Primal Scream were kind of a wrong choice to play the Sunday evening at Glastonbury in 2005. Wrong and so very right, as it resulted in the festival’s purest punk appearance – ie, it was outrageously, offensively, aggressively corrupt.

The Scream had arrived by helicopter the previous Friday with a monstrous supply of drugs that didn’t exactly quell their open disgust for the event. On the Saturday, Bobby Gillespie had caused upset backstage by defacing a celebrity-signed Make Poverty History poster so it read ‘Make Israel History’. By the Sunday, the Pyramid Stage slot assigned to Scream seemed almost designed to bring out their most evil side: an early evening slot between Brian Wilson’s ‘Smile’ set and couples’ favourite Basement Jaxx, the replacements for Kylie Minogue, who had pulled out after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

After the Scream came on and played the nice hummable ‘Accelerator’, the smiley crowd lent their ears to Bobby’s first words to them: “We’re a punk rock band and you’re a bunch of fucking hippies.” A thousand ice creams fell to the floor. After next informing them that “The war on terror is a pretext for an international police state,” he then introduced ‘Detroit’ like so: “Do you wish you were seeing Kylie Minogue? Well, fuuuck you.” Then he did a Nazi salute. So fucked and fucked off were the band that at the end of their set they simply refused to leave the stage, with Gillespie contemptuously berating the crowd now gathered for The Jaxx. Mani taunted them with a snippet of the bassline from ‘I Am The Resurrection’. “Do you want to hear The Stone Roses?” Gillepsie asked. “Well, you should have been there 15 years ago, you lazy bastards.”

A contrary, offensive, arrogant, nasty, bloody-minded, violent, disturbing car-crash of a musical force. Glasto had been shook by a visceral dose of rock’n’roll.

18. The Killers – Pyramid Stage, 2007
As told by NME’s Barry Nicholson

If there was a lesson to be learned from The Killers’ headline set, it was this: be careful what you wish for. That, and don’t try to appease the neighbours at the expense of 100,000 people. The Las Vegas quartet arrived at Glastonbury that year having turned down the chance to replace Kylie Minogue in 2005 because, in Brandon Flowers’ words, they “hadn’t earned it yet.” Nevertheless, headlining the festival had long been a dream of the band’s, and with a second album under their belt all the talk in their dressing room an hour from showtime was of “knocking it out of the park”.

Sadly for them, the sound never carried beyond first base, and audience members’ cries of “Turn it up!” echoed far louder into the night than any guitar solo. The band themselves were oblivious to the fact that two-thirds of the crowd couldn’t hear them, leaving Flowers – heroically clad in a gold lamé lounge suit, playing a synthesizer affixed with stag antlers – looking faintly ridiculous and, later, profoundly disappointed. Michael Eavis at first blamed the Pyramid Stage’s new sound system, but later admitted that he had come under pressure from the local council to keep the noise down, though things were back to normal for The Who’s set the following night. As of yet, The Killers haven’t returned for a second bite of the cherry…

19. Jay Z – Pyramid Stage, 2008
As told by Jay Z

“It was something new for me: it was almost like we were conquering a territory. We came over and there were all these tents, it was like war! Obviously, before there was all this banter that hip-hop shouldn’t be here. At that point, I was like, ‘Man, should I not be here? What have I gotten into?’ It was one of those nervous moments right before I went on and I haven’t had that feeling in a long, long time. But it’s just what happens – that old line of the fence. On the other side people were like, ‘Yes, come over, this is how we listen to music, we like hip-hop, we like all types of music.’

“The people in control of the press and the media, they all made it seem like it was a real thing. Because Noel Gallagher was one of the biggest detractors, I figured using his quote would be a cool way to start the show. I have a sense of humour like a Brit, so I thought people would appreciate that. I played the short film at the beginning – about the people saying, ‘You shouldn’t play Glastonbury’ – and when the crowd responded like ‘Nooooo!’, that was when I was, like, ‘Wooo!’ And coming on to ‘Wonderwall’ with the guitar, I actually did try to play it. I should have just practised more, because I could have done it. I was actually sat in the dressing room trying to work out the chords! The irony of the whole thing is that at my bar, The Spotted Pig, that is to this day our theme song. Because we know the place goes off, you get everyone singing, and you have a fantastic time. So, you know, it was like, ‘Man, it’s weird how it works out.’

“It was a historic night for Glastonbury and for me, as it was the first time a hip-hop act had headlined. But it was incredible. I’m glad it went that way, ’cause the world was watching. It felt like a moment in time. Would
I do it again? Of course!”

20. Bruce Springsteen – Pyramid Stage, 2009
As told by Liam Cash

Despite Jay-Z’s Pyramid Stage set being unanimously lauded as a success, you got the distinct impression that, in the immediate aftermath of Glasto 2008, the air in the Eavis farmhouse was one of relief rather than triumph. Certainly, they were pleased they were right and Noel was wrong, but the tickets had only just sold out – a fact that was clearly at the forefront of their minds when booking the next year’s headliners. Diverse, youthful and multi-cultural 2009’s top draws were not to be, but in terms of bums-on-seats you’d be hard pressed to find more solid, certain draws than Neil Young, Blur and, most of all, Bruce Springsteen. The plan worked, too: buoyed also by the rave reviews of the last year, the festival sold out in minutes.In most people’s minds there was little doubt as to which of these three sets would provide the talismanic centerpiece, the cast-iron EVENT of Glastonbury 2009. Emily Eavis said at the time: “It’s been our mission for quite a long time to get him. I thought it was quite unlikely, especially when the agent said, ‘Glaston-what?’ But we put together some information, including quotes from lots of different people, musicians who have played. Pretty quickly he said yes.”

What’s more, when he kicked off with a version of Worthy Farm legend Joe Strummer’s ‘Coma Girl’, then in the breakdown of ‘Working On A Dream’ bellowed, “I HEARD ABOUT IT, AND I HEARD ABOUT IT… NOW I’M SEEIN’ IT!”, you realised The Boss was getting it. And, as the few knobheads moaning about the lack of anything super-familiar trudged off to see Franz plod through ‘Take Me Out’, the gargantuan crowd that remained were treated to an absolute masterclass in showmanship and the redemptive powers of rock’n’roll.
‘Out In The Street’, ‘Promised Land’, ‘Born To Run’, ‘Thunder Road’ and a final ‘Dancing In The Dark’ all stunned. But it was when Bruce told us we were “gonna take away all the fear that’s out there and build us
a house of love” that it struck everyone present that THIS was what Glastonbury was about. Suspending cynicism for a few hours, believing that instead of just talking about a dream, we could try to make it real, and maybe on Monday, rather than being in a shitty job, we’d be speeding down an open highway into a world of endless possibilities. In other words, Bruce Springsteen killed it.

First published in NME, June 26 2010