Glastonbury is this month! And this year we’ve got Muse, Adele and Coldplay to look forward to. But not every Pyramid Stage headliner goes down in history. Click forward for 13 you might have missed.
THE LEVELLERS, 24 June 1994. Back before the place had phone signal, winnebagos and serviceable toilets, The Levellers were the ultimate Glastonbury band. Call it ‘folk punk’ or call it ‘crusty’, but the merry ‘One Way’ band summed up the festival’s alternative spirit. They’d just released their eponymous third record.
PETER GABRIEL, 26 June 1994. This was the year of world music down Worthy Farm; all whirlygig tents, dogs on strings, and closing the Pyramid Stage on the Sunday, Gabriel at the height of his new age journey into WOMAD world.
ASH, 29 June 1997. When Steve Winwood was forced to pull out, the then-teenage punks from Downpatrick stepped into the breach, on the strength of debut album ‘1977’ for the slot of their wildest dreams. Oh yeah, it really was the start of the summer.
SKUNK ANANSIE, 27 June 1999. “I can’t believe we’re headlining the last Glastonbury of the 20th Century!” wailed Skin as her band bestrode the Pyramid Stage. “Neither can we,” was the shrugging response of plenty of the crowd, but their politicised stadium punk proved a more durable match than many people expected.
TRAVIS, 24 June 2000. Way back at the turn of the century, Fran Healy’s soft Scottish indie types were a big enough deal to headline the Pyramid Stage. All they wanted to do was rock, but it turned out that the biggest hit of the night was their cover of Britney’s ‘…Baby One More Time’ which had them singing all the way back to Lost Vagueness.
ROD STEWART, 30 June 2002. Sunday night is the night is golden oldie night. And they don’t get much more golden (well, bronzed) than Rodders. He was entering his Great American Songbook period, but he still got his hits out. “We weren’t sure whether to play it, because it’s not very cool,” he said of ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ “But it’s part of my history, so bugger it.”
MOBY, 29 June 2003. By now Moby wasn’t quite still at the extreme heights of ubiquity of his mammoth record ‘Play’, but he was still easily big enough to take on headline duties. He put in a fairly safe performance from his coffee table record ‘18’, but he still slagged the president and covered ‘Creep’.
BASEMENT JAXX, 26 June 2005. Kylie Minogue had been booked to close the show in 2005, but her breast cancer diagnosis forced her to pull all her live shows. Felix and Simon put on a spirited house spectacular full of feather boas, but even they knew they weren’t Ms Minogue. She eventually made it to Worthy Farm with the Scissor Sisters in 2010.
THE WHITE STRIPES, 24 June 2005. Could a band with two members and no bass cut it at the top of the Pyramid? This was their ‘Get Behind Me Satan’ phase, so Jack was dressed as a mariachi buccaneer, and setlist drew heavily from their gothic fifth record. But when they played their cover of ‘Jolene’, it sounded like the whole of Somerset was singing along.
ARCTIC MONKEYS, 22 June 2007. The big question was whether after just two albums, the Monkeys had sufficient chops to pull this off. None of them had even been as punters, but they needn’t have worried. They owned the thing, they covered ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, and they brought Dizzee along for B-side ‘Temptation Greets You Like A Naughty Friend’.
THE VERVE, 29 June 2008. The great return of The Verve didn’t play out brilliantly, but their Glasto show was its highpoint. Rousing renditions of their emotive anthems ‘History’ and ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ brought the sun down on another year in poignant style. “A shout out for Jay-Z for putting in a good performance,” said Richard of the previous night, “but tonight’s about rock’n’roll!”
STEVIE WONDER, 27 June 2010. The good vibes that Wonder brought to the festival when he finally made it were unsurpassable. “I believe God is about the perpetuation of life, not the destroying of it,” he said. “If I could see I could really kick some ass!” At the close of the festival’s 40th year, Michael Eavis joined him onstage to sing along with ‘Happy Birthday’. A perfect moment.
BEYONCE, 26 June 2011. After her husband Jay-Z triumphed two years before, it was only a matter of time before Hurricane Knowles would hit Worthy Farm. And when she did, it was something spectacular, beaming as she surveyed thousands doing the ‘Single Ladies’ dance in wellies, and declaring, “Glastonbury, we are all rock stars!”