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The most memorable Glastonbury Festival music moments of all time

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The most memorable Glastonbury Festival music moments of all time

Glasto is finally back this weekend, 52 years since it first started.

Glastonbury Festival 2022 is almost upon us, marking the first official trip back to Worthy Farm in three years.

With acts including Sir Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish, Diana Ross, Kendrick Lamar and Eurovision Song Contest 2022 winners for Ukraine Kalush Orchestra set to grace the various stages over the event’s three days, there’s something for everyone.

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As revellers begin to descend on Somerset with their highly-coveted tickets, keeping their fingers crossed for good weather, let’s look back at some of the most memorable musical acts of the past fifty years.

Starting right back where it began, in 1970…

Still known as Tyrannosaurus Rex, T Rex saved the first festival

Still known as Tyrannosaurus Rex, T Rex saved the first festival.

In 1970, a mere 1,500 people attended the first Glastonbury, then known as the Pilton Pop, Folk & Blues Festival.

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It cost £1 and included all the milk ticker holders cared to enjoy. The Kinks were the planned headliners, with Wayne Fontana, Steamhammer and Duster Bennett also on the bill.

However, when the Kinks dropped out (reportedly due to seeing it described as a ‘mini-festival’), Michael Eavis managed to get T Rex – then still known as Tyrannosaurus Rex – as last-minute replacements.

Founder Michael Eavis has since called it ‘one of the most memorable slots ever’.

David Bowie, 1971 and 2000

Bowie did two very different (but equally iconic) headline slots, nearly 30 years apart

Bowie did two very different (but equally iconic) headline slots, nearly 30 years apart.

David Bowie appeared on the bill alongside Fairport Convention, Hawkwind, Traffic, Melanie and Quintessence at the second ever Glastonbury festival in 1971.

Even better for festival-goers, tickets were actually free after the inaugural Glasto’s bargain price.

A bit of a shambolic affair – but still a lot of fun – the music icon didn’t actually make it on stage for his planned midnight slot until around 5am, meaning it’s likely a fair few of the estimated 12,000 attendees missed out.

The Space Oddity hitmaker then returned almost 30 years later to share the bill with Travis and The Chemical Brothers, after a decade or so of shunning greatest hit sets.

The two-hour headline set is considered to be the most legendary of them all as Bowie ran through gems such as Under Pressure, Life On Mars?, Rebel Rebel, Starman and Let’s Dance.

If there has to be a highlight, then we’d pick the singalong to Heroes.

Oasis and Blur, 1994

The 1994 edition of the festival saw a brilliant battle of Britpop

The 1994 edition of the festival saw a brilliant battle of Britpop.

It was all about Britpop in 1994 thanks to the likes of Oasis and Blur both rocking the NME Stage, which was also graced by Pulp and Radiohead that same weekend.

It was a line-up that Johnny Greenwood would describe as ‘like the Champions League’.

Johnny Cash, Van Morrison and Elvis Costello might have been playing the Pyramid Stage that year, but fans remember it as the iconic moment of Cool Britannia that it was.

Pulp, 1995

Pulp were one of the most memorable last-minute Glasto headliner subs

Pulp were one of the most memorable last-minute Glasto headliner subs.

It was an actual nightmare for original headliners Stone Roses when poor John Squires broke his collarbone in a cycling accident in San Francisco, forcing the entire band to pull out of their much-anticipated headline set.

Few knew who was replacing the rockers until they walked on stage, but Pulp saved the day after they were suddenly promoted to the coveted headline slot with just a few hours’ notice.

They produced an excellent performance, adding to the ever-growing list of last-minute substitutions.

Sir Paul McCartney, 2004

Sir Paul is back again for 2022 after his triumph in 2004

Sir Paul is back again for 2022 after his triumph in 2004

Apparently wooed for years by Michael Eavis, Sir Paul finally took to Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage in 2004 in what was his first ever UK festival show!

His appearance proved a tonic for the crowd, following bad weather that had blighted that year’s festival and Portugal knocking England out of the Euro 2004 football tournament.

With a 33-song set from one of the best back catalogues around, the Beatles star was able to lead his audience in singalong after singalong with classics like Eleanor Rigby, Drive My Car, Penny Lane, Get Back and Live and Let Die. Of course, Hey Jude was the storming highlight.

Returning as the oldest headliner ever this year, just after this 80th birthday, he’s still some way off beating the record for oldest act, held by Burt Bacharach, who was 87 for his set in 2015.

Beyonce, 2011

Beyonce was an epic headline act

Beyonce was an epic headline act.

Queen Bey was actually pregnant with Blue Ivy when she headlined Glasto in 2011 and still managed to put on this stunning set, worthy of the queen of the charts.

She gave us ev-er-y-thing on that Pyramid Stage from the big curly hair to the glittering gold blazer, a live band, all the hits, her iconic Single Ladies backing dancers and that very random guest appearance from trip-hop icon Tricky.

And she was one of the few women in Glastonbury history to ever do it too.

Let’s hope new album Renaissance could lead to another Beyonce appearance in Somerset in the future…

Dolly Parton, 2014

Country queen Dolly was everything we hoped for and more

Country queen Dolly was everything we hoped for and more.

Our beloved Jolene hitmaker filled the prestigious tea-time Legends slot on the Sunday and it did not disappoint.

One of the highest-attended sets in festival history, Dolly Parton gave fans everything they wanted and more, from rapping about the mud to playing the Benny Hill theme song backwards.

Decked out in a white spangly outfit, the country legend truly soared when she performed her original version of I Will Always Love You, popularised by Whitney Houston for the Bodyguard soundtrack.

You also know it’s something special when the security staff choreograph a dance routine to your song.

The Killers, 2017

They’ve headlined since, but The Killers’ secret set in 2017 was a beautiful follow-up to their 2004 performance

They’ve headlined since, but The Killers’ secret set in 2017 was a beautiful follow-up to their 2004 performance.

The Killers invigorated the New Tent early on the Saturday evening of 2004, with the audience spilling far out beyond the confines of the canvas.

The Las Vegas rockers treated their earlier fans to All These Things that I’ve Done and certified floor-filler Mr Brightside.

Ready to recapture some of that magic years later, the band returned to the stage (now the John Peel Stage) for a secret set in 2017

Oh yes, the calibre of these surprise acts is hardly shoddy.

Kylie Minogue, 2019

Oh yes, the calibre of these surprise acts is hardly shoddy.  Kylie Minogue, 2019

Oh yes, the calibre of these surprise acts is hardly shoddy.
Kylie Minogue, 2019

There’s possibly never been a more satisfying moment in Glastonbury history than seeing Kylie Minogue on that stage after her breast cancer battle.

The Spinning Around singer had been due to headline back in 2005 but was forced to pull out to undergo cancer treatment, prompting Basement Jaxx to step in and replace her.

It wasn’t until 17 years later, when Kylie finally reclaimed her rightful place on that Pyramid Stage and it was truly worth the wait.

The BBC later announced that Kylie’s performance was the most-watched Glastonbury set in history, surpassing Ed Sheeran.

Stormzy, 2019

Rapping superstar Stormzy delivered an all-time great set

Rapping superstar Stormzy delivered an all-time great set.

The Vossi Bop rapper became the first black British solo artist (and first British rapper) to headline Glasto last time around – and did it after releasing only one album, Gang Signs & Prayer.

He also did it in style, wearing a Union Jack bulletproof vest designed by none other than Banksy, and accompanied at different turns by ballet dancers and special guests Chris Martin, Dave and Fredo.

During the performance, Stormzy also shouted out dozens of names of almost every black British artist he could think of and got the 135,000-strong audience to shout: ‘F**k the government, f**k Boris.’

Who else could?

Glastonbury 2022 takes place from June 22-26. For those not able to attend in person, they can tune into the action from home with live coverage of Glastonbury airing across BBC TV, radio and iPlayer for the duration of the festival.


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