Coldplay had already performed at the festival on the “new bands stage” and the Other Stage before topping the bill at Worthy Farm.
Speaking to Jo Whiley on BBC Radio 2, festival organiser and founder Michael Eavis recalled needing a headliner for the annual Pilton Party event, which is put on to thank the local villagers for their co-operation with the festival. “The Strokes had pulled out and Emily said, ‘Well, why don’t you phone Chris?’” Eavis explained.
“She dialled his number and before I knew it I had Chris on the phone. I said: ‘Chris, I’m so embarrassed but we’re stuck for a headliner on Friday’. So he said, ‘Which Friday?’ and I said, ‘This Friday, the day after tomorrow’.”
Coldplay were already had a gig booked in Paris on that day, but Martin told Eavis to book them a flight and they would come and play afterwards. “And do you know what, he actually arrived at the venue in time to headline the Pilton Party, just the two of them – Chris and Jonny [Buckland, guitarist],” Eavis said.
“So I said, ‘For this, Chris, you can headline the festival next year. Seriously – you will headline next year. I’m pleading with you to do it.’ And then I had the agent and management on the phone saying he wasn’t quite ready and all that kind of thing and I said, ‘But he is, he’s an absolutely perfect headliner. And, of course, he was – and he’s never looked back since that gig, has he?
“2002, the Friday night, it was so good. Every single song he makes is a hit. He’s so good. He’s such a star. Every time he plays, he gets better every time. We’re longing for him to come back, of course. He can come and call in and do the milking any time.”
Read more: The 50 greatest Glastonbury moments… ever!
Martin also spoke to Whiley about the road to Coldplay’s first Glastonbury headline set, recalling being in Soho when he got Eavis’ call. “He said, ‘Chris, The Strokes have let me down’,” he explained. “I said: ‘That’s an amazing sentence to hear from Michael Eavis’. All he meant was they can’t make it the show, I don’t think they tried to screw him over.”
He added that while at the Pilton Party, he had asked the festival boss who was headlining the year after, only to be told by Eavis, “We thought you’d do the Friday”. “I said, ‘You thought what now?’,” Martin said. “I basically nearly dropped my Smarties and that’s how we came to do it. That was a big deal – it still is. Every time we play Glastonbury, it’s a huge deal.”
Glastonbury was scheduled to take place this weekend (June 24-28) with headliners Kendrick Lamar, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift marking the festival’s 50th anniversary. The 2020 edition was forced to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is provisionally set to return in 2021.
Eavis said earlier this week a track-and-trace app could help the festival to return safely. He has already held discussion with Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn to collaborate on a scheme that will allow ticket-holders on site after they’ve proved they are virus-free.