Every UK festival season has a defining festival anthem – one song that stands above the rest as the unspoken soundtrack to that year’s festival mayhem. Last year, as voted for by NME readers, it was Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Do I Wanna Know’. Unveiled at the beginning of the Sheffield group’s Glasto set (a pretty bolshy move), its singalong-inviting guitar riff made it an instant crowd favourite.
2012 – The Stone Roses, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’: From Heaton Park to Benicassim, the Roses’ return was in full swing for festival season 2012. No wonder then that this aspirational indie anthem, with its juggernaut chorus and sizzling guitars, was named that summer’s number one festival anthem by NME readers in our annual festival survey. Adored indeed.
2011 – Foster The People, ‘Pumped Up Kicks’: Even at festivals these Californians weren’t playing, such was the size of this indie-pop crossover, you’d hear it sung by fans between bands. Ironically though, it’s actually arguably one of the darkest songs of recent years – look beyond its shimmery feel-good vocal harmonies and you’ll find it details a gristly high school shooting.
2010 – The Libertines, ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’: With this Libs’ first reunion in runaway motion, 2010 was always going to belong to Pete and Carl. With another reunion now underway, could they claim 2014’s festival anthem too?
2009 – Kasabian, ‘Fire’: A kick-starting turbo adrenaline rush, the Leicester group’s 2009 hit seemed scientifically engineered for lairy festival crowds. Job done, Tom and Serge.
2008 – MGMT, ‘Kids’: “Control yourself/take only what you need from me.” Simple apply-your-own-meaning lyrics about fading youth; a soaring pop keyboard motif and irresistibly dancey beat, MGMT’s smash had all the ingredients for a unifying anthem.
2007 – Klaxons – ‘Golden Skans’: The moment the Klaxons went from fashionable nu-rave leaders to art-pop titans. All falsetto vocal hooks, mystical lyrics and indie-disco drums, this track rightly dominated 2007’s festival season.
2006 – Gnarls Barkey, ‘Crazy’: A torch song for anyone whose love for someone has ever dragged them to the brink of insanity, Cee-Lo Green’s croons on this track gave 2006 an upbeat but richly melancholy-defining festival anthem.
2005 – Futureheads, ‘Hounds Of Love’: Reworking Kate Bush’s classic into a four-part maze of chirping vocals over scratchy Geordie indie guitars, the Futureheads’ cover was named not only 2005’s best song by NME, but the summer’s biggest festival anthem by NME readers.
2004 – The Killers, ‘Mr Brightside’: Brandon Flowers and co’s indie-pop beast was first released in 2003 but took a year slow burning to success. As the song took over the airwaves in Britain that summer, it also dominated festivals.
2003 – The Rapture, ‘House of Jealous Lovers’: A post-punk, disco beat-propelled firecracker, whose crackly vocal screams (“HOUSE OVVVVV! JEALOUS LOVAAAAHHHHS!”) were heard mimicked all over festival fields that year.
2002 – White Stripes, ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’: Puppy love never sounded so raucous as Jack and Meg’s caterwauling two-minute instant garage-rock classic.
2001 – The Strokes, ‘Hard To Explain’: No difficulty explaining this one – on their emergence in 2001, Julian, Albert and co’s rowdy but hook-heavy bursts of NY garage were a revelation and this single became a firm favourite with crowds almost immediately.
2000 – Queens of the Stone Age – ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’: Does what it says on the tin? Not quite. But Josh Homme’s moody, violent smash tapped deep into festival counter-culture, with lyrics that read like Patrick Bateman’s grocery list for a night on the tiles.
1999 – Fatboy Slim, ‘Praise You’: There’s a reason why Kasabian built a cover of the timeless ‘Praise You’ into their encore at Glastonbury 2014 – because Fatboy Slim’s ’99 smash is exactly the sort of simple, joyous, grin-inducing endorphin rush festivals are built for.
1998 – Cornershop, ‘Brimful of Asha’: “Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow” sang the nation’s farms and fields in summer 1998, as the Leicester group’s idiosyncratic, thinly psychedelic cult hit became a runaway success with festival goers.
1997 – The Verve, ‘Bittersweet Symphony’: Both poignant and dripping in attitude, Richard Ashcroft’s swaggering, string-led Britpop anthem still packs the powerful euphoria it did at festivals in summer 1997.
1996 – The Prodigy, ‘Firestarter’:
‘Firestarter’ shocked chart-music to the core and gave brit-pop a great big kick up the arse with its hectic jungle and manic punk vocals. It got to number one despite controversy and became the defining anthem of ’96 festivals.
1995 – Pulp, ‘Common People’
If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, we urge you to watch Pulp’s performance of ‘Common People’ at Glastonbury 95. The Sheffield legends were at the height of their fame riding high on writing one of the greatest pop songs ever.
1994 – Beastie Boys, ‘Sabotage’
From Worthy Farm to Lollapalooza, Beastie Boys showed the world they could play a damn good live show. ‘Sabotage’, the first single from their fourth studio album ‘Ill Communication’ became 1994’s festival anthem.
1993 – Rage Against The Machine, ‘Killing In The Name’
Rage Against The Machine opened Reading festival in ’93 with their furious magnum opus and screaming “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” along with thousands of moshers, became the abiding festival memory.
1992 – House of Pain, ‘Jump Around’
What are the necessary ingredients for a festival anthem? Energy, feel-good vibes and lyrics that are easy to roar back at the act on stage – and ‘Jump Around’ has that in abundance.
1991 – Janes Addiction, ‘Been Caught Stealing’
Jane’s Addiction headlined the very first Lollapalooza in 1991 and an enormous world tour saw them playing signature tune ‘Been Caught Stealing’ all over the world.
1990 – Deee-lite, ‘Groove Is In The Heart’
As soon as you hear that earworm bass line, it’s hard not to be in a ridiculously good, summery mood. From New York band’s Deee-Lite’s debut album, ‘World Clique’, the track got people grooving all over town.
1989 – Public Enemy, ‘Fight The Power’
Public Enemy’s rally cry to disenfranchised youths shook up the music world in 1989 and when the group performed it live the atmosphere was electric. Still is to this day.
1988 – Guns N’ Roses, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’
Guns ‘N’ Roses headlined the now defunct Monsters of Rock festival in Donnington Park. Sadly tragedy marred their set with the death of two fans, but the song still defined the summer.
1987 – US, ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’
In 1987, U2 were touring ‘The Joshua Tree’ and played numerous stadiums all over Europe during the summer, including Wembley. Lighters up!
1986 – Cameo, ‘Word Up’
You couldn’t turn the radio on in 1986 without hearing Cameo’s ‘Word Up.’ In the UK, it spent 13 weeks in the top 40 though unfortunately it was ruined for a new generation by Mel B in the 00s.
1985 – The Smiths, ‘How Soon Is Now’
The Smiths were playing across the UK in the spring of 1985 as part of their world tour and anyone who saw them was exceedingly lucky. One of the greatest moments of 21st century music.
1984 – Prince, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’
And to finish, it’s Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’-era paean to enjoying life. ‘And if the elevator tries to bring you down, go crazy.’. Well, quite. It became a huge hit and a concert staple from 1984 onwards.