Glastonbury’s free and open spirit is famed and beloved but sometimes the acts the festival choose to play are particularly bizarre. From the English National Ballet to Björn Again, here’s 24 of the most interesting bookings – and one rumoured for 2015. Long may they continue.
Last year the English National Ballet made a surprise appearance at the festival with a moving First World War tribute 100 years on, helped out by Billy Bragg, who performed ‘Between The Wars’ at the outset. There’s something special you’ll never see again!
In 2013, even Santa Claus made an appearance. No, beg your pardon, it was Colonel Sanders. I’m sorry, it was actually Kenny Rogers, the white bearded country legend, whose hits include Ruby and Coward of the County. The Glastonbury crowd lapped it up.
The Master Musicians of Joujouka appeared at Glasto in 2011, seemingly from nowhere, though the Moroccan musicians have been ploughing their own wild sufi trance furrow for some time now, with Brian Jones producing an album in 1968 which was then distributed after his death on Rolling Stones Records in 1971.
Omar Souleyman made a triumphant appearance at the festival in 2011, in what was surely the Syrian musician’s best year yet. He also appeared at SSSW, ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas, and was asked by Björk to remix three of her tracks from Biophilia (to be found on the Crystalline Series second disc).
Willie Nelson is a living legend who not only appeared in 2010, but ten years before in 2000 as well. On the latter occasion he managed to squeeze in 30 songs in a one hour set. Willie has written more classics than you probably realise, including Elvis’ ‘Always On My Mind’ and Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’.
Arthur Brown made an appearance in 2010. The artist formerly known as The Crazy World of Arthur Brown had a massive hit with ‘Fire’ in 1968, and it achieved a second life 24 years later when the Prodigy sampled it on their own track of the same name.
U2 were due to play Glastonbury in 2010, but heartbreak ensued for the band when Bono put his back out. Undeterred, guitarist The Edge packed up his axe and practice amp and shuffled off to Worthy Farm regardless, rewarded with a cameo playing with headliners Muse during their encore. U2 finally made it in 2011.
In 2009 Abba appeared at Glastonbury; not the actual Abba, but the next best thing, Björn Again. No doubt there were revellers out there so pie-eyed that they actually thought they were watching the real thing, and who are we to disappoint them. Yeah, that really was Abba, stoopid.
The greatest spoof metal band of all time appeared in 2009. No, not Metallica, we’re talking Spinal Tap! The “British” rockers with the slightly suspect transatlantic accents got amongst the Flower People and turned Worthy Farm into a Sex Farm. They would have been buoyed by the fact Stonehenge was just down the road too.
Some might not realised it but Lady Gaga brought her stage show in 2009, and despite her newfound superstardom, actually appeared on the Club Dada stage about halfway down the bill. Lady Gaga at Club Dada has rather a ring to it don’t you think?
Scrumpy and western favourites The Wurzels caused controversy in 2007 when they pulled out of Glastonbury having been allotted a bandstand rather than a stage. Thankfully they made up with Michael Eavis and have been back since to thrill their westcountry brethren and sistren.
Hayseed Dixie brought their own version of bluegrass covers in 2005, and if you’ve never heard them play Motörhead’s Ace of Spades then you haven’t lived! It’s almost as good as the real thing (OK, nothing’s quite as good as the real thing).
Ironic Welsh rappers Goldie Lookin Chain became something of a fixture at Glasto in the mid-Noughties, and burnt the dance tent a new blim hole in 2004. It was definitely more entertaining than Maggot on Celebrity Big Brother a few years later, that’s for sure.
Free from having a crossbow pointed at their heads by Don Van Vliet, the Magic Band sans Captain Beefheart made an appearance at Glastonbury in 2004. Great it was too, though it was a shame their leader had retired. A shame for us anyway…
Bill Bailey made an appearance in 2003 and has become a hugely popular live draw in subsequent years, even headlining Sonisphere in 2011. Beast sign!
Remember Portuguese punks The Parkinsons? The wild four piece took to the Other Stage in 2002 and didn’t let anyone down who was hoping they might climb scaffolding and take all their clothes off. It was only 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
Performing songs from The Wicker Man and singing in Gaelic, Welsh and sometimes Cornish among other ancient Celtic tongues, it stood to reason that Mediaeval Baebes would be perfect for Glastonbury actually, and thus it proved in 1998.
Mud appeared at the festival in 1997. No, not the 70’s glam rock band led by Les Gray, but actual mud… bloody tonnes of the stuff. The mud has made reappearances since, but it was ‘97 where it picked up that dubious Somme reference, such was its prevalence.
Back in 1997 record companies had more money than sense, and there was possibly more cocaine than average floating around too. Anyone who’s read Kill Your Friends and remembers Murray Lachlan Young being signed for £1m by EMI realises it’s not a satire. The performance poet appeared amidst a hail of short lived hype that year.
Tom Jones appeared in 1992 and won respect from a crowd plenty of whom had turned up with their ironic hats on. The Welsh warbler put in an energetic and committed display, but when did he ever not?
Zimbabweans the Bhundu Boys appeared at Worthy Farm in 1987 and made a massive impression, as they apparently did on everyone they ever performed for. Andy Kershaw called them the “single most natural, effortless, catchy pop band I’ve ever heard,” while John Peel is said to have wept when he saw the east Africans.
The Eavises have presided over Glastonbury since the very beginning in 1970, and co-organiser Emily Eavis even appeared herself as a musician aged five, enchanting us all with her violin playing in 1985. Awww. I say us all, most of us weren’t actually there.
The famously irascible Cream drummer Ginger Baker appeared as Ginger Baker’s Nuts in 1981, and started moving his drumkit on stage during Roy Harper’s set, annoyed that the mystical folk singer had overrun.
The awesome Australian / French / British psychedelic funk powerhouse that is Gong first appeared at the festival in 1971 and wowed Worthy Farm subsequently through the years too. Sadly leader Daevid Allen is suffering from inoperable cancer, and has been told be has just six months to live. Still, the music will live on…
Rumour has it his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama will be appearing at Glastonbury 2015, though he’ll probably be offering salutary wisdom rather than playing any tunes.