Six Other Times Glastonbury Headliners Have Dropped Out – And How Their Replacements Fared

In case you’ve spent the last seven days in some sort of cave or coma: disaster struck the Foo Fighters last weekend in Gothenburg when Dave Grohl, rushing to the front of the stage to “shred some tasty licks for the kids up front” as he later explained, fell a brutal 12-foot drop to the floor and broke his leg. Actually, shattered might be a more accurate description: an x-ray later we could see a agonising-looking split in his fibula. Now he’s got six screws in his leg and the crushing disappointment of being forced to cancel the group’s massive Wembley and Glastonbury shows to contend with. Now Florence + The Machine have been revealed as their replacements, here’s a look back at the other times Glastonbury headliners dropped out, and how those who filled in got on…

1970 – T Rex replace The Kinks

The first Glastonbury headliner ever, T-Rex, was actually a replacement for The Kinks, who had pulled out after seeing Michael Eavis’ inaugural, £1-a-ticket ‘Pilton Pop, Blues and Folk Festival’, labelled a ‘mini-festival’ in Melody Maker. T-Rex did more than simply fill in, setting the standard high for the festival’s future: Eavis has described this as one of the most memorable slots at the festival ever. Playing to a crowd of just 1500, Marc Bolan’s crew were heading for their prime, with ‘Ride A White Swan’ about to become a Number 1 single. “It was the ultimate rock ’n’ roll gig,” says Eavis. “[Bolan] was so professional. It was a pivotal point for me.”


1993 – Lenny Kravitz replace RHCP

The first of three replacement headliners in the 1990s, Lenny Kravitz was described in that year’s NME Glasto review as “a charlatan; a second-rate imposter feeding off the myth of Hendrix.” He replaced the Red Hot Chili Peppers after Flea developed chronic fatigue syndrome, but he was at least a popular headliner: thousands of people flocked to see him, spontaneously linking arms for his final song ‘Let Love Rule’.

1995 – Pulp replace the Stone Roses

It was John Squire’s mountain bike fall and broken collarbone that did it for Stone Roses in 1995, forcing them to cancel their spot and accidentally elevating Pulp into the mainstream in the process. Jarvis Cocker won the crowd over fair and square in a career-defining night, first taking a photo of the audience as a memento, and then telling them that if a “lanky git” like him could end up headlining Glastonbury, anyone could. ‘Common People’ had just hit the big time, and their ‘Different Class’ album, out four months later, would go on to become a massive success on the back of this night. Looking back on the set in 2010, Emily Eavis said, “they just rose to this challenge of filling this valley of 100,00 people and everyone was transfixed.”

1997 – Ash replace Steve Winwood


In 1997, Steve Winwood pulled out very last-minute. Ash had already headlined the Other Stage on Friday night, but were asked to headline the Pyramid on Sunday too. NME’s Johnny Cigarettes reported sympathetically that “Paul Weller and long-lost living legend number 492, Steve Winwood, are staying at home with their blanket and cocoa to watch Songs Of Praise.” It was actually a turn up for the books, allowing the Northern Irish trio to showcase their brilliantly raw teen debut ‘1977’ in front of a massive crowd. We described it as “a gloriously frantic, ridiculously speed-punky set… Hats off.”

2005 – Basement Jaxx replace Kylie Minogue

Kylie pulled out of 2005’s festival after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Her replacements, Basement Jaxx, covered ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ as a tribute, then followed up with a lairy chant of “2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate? Kylie!” It was a successful set, closed by the undeniable ‘Where’s Your Head At?’, but in the history books it remains overshadowed by what had come just before: Primal Scream, who offended just about everyone by saying, “Do you wish you were seeing Kylie Minogue? Well fuck you!” and following up with a Nazi salute. They then refused to leave the stage while Basement Jaxx were preparing to come on – eventually the power was cut and Gillespie was dragged off stage.

2010 – Gorillaz replace U2

Bono’s back injury meant U2 had to delay their headline Glasto slot until the following year. Damon Albarn’s cartoon band Gorillaz stepped into the breach, dressed in nautical clothing, just a year after Damon’s landmark headline Glastonbury show with Blur. Commenting on replacing the big act, the frontman said: “Glastonbury’s not about names and statuses. It’s about continuing the tradition of musical rituals that’ve played out at this location for thousands of years.” A host of stars performed with the group, including Shaun Ryder, Mark E Smith, Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack and Lou Reed. The reception of his unusual headline act was lukewarm from some quarters, but NME praised their element of surprise: “It’s heartening to think how unlikely it is that anyone here tonight could have encountered anything quite like this before.”

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