Thursday 12 December 2019

The greatest and most controversial Glastonbury headliners

The Somerset event, which started in 1970, has seen the likes of Jay Z, Beyonce and David Bowie headline on the famous Pyramid Stage.

Kanye West headlines the the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury (Yui Mok/PA)
Kanye West headlines the the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury (Yui Mok/PA)

By Alex Green, Press Association

Glastonbury’s greatest headliners have often brought controversy with them.

Each year the news of who will take to the Pyramid Stage is met with wild celebrations or deep groans.

One thing is for certain – the Somerset festival’s organisers are not afraid to take risks, last year booking grime figurehead Stormzy despite the then 25-year-old only having released one album.

Here the PA news agency runs down 10 of the festival’s biggest and most controversial headliners.

T Rex in 1970

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Marc Bolan and T-Rex were a late replacement (Keith Morris/PA)

Marc Bolan made an entrance as he christened the first edition of Glastonbury with a storming set on the event’s then much smaller main stage.

In the time-honoured fashion of headliners dropping out at the last minute, T Rex had themselves stepped up to replace The Kinks.

Bolan arrived at Worthy Farm in a Cadillac so large it barely fitted down the property’s narrow lane.

The festival’s founder, Michael Eavis, told the NME that the late star’s performance “remains one of the most memorable slots ever at the festival”.

Pulp in 1995

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Jarvis Cocker and Pulp replaced the Stone Roses (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Carrying on the tradition of last-minute no shows, the Stone Roses were forced to pull out when guitarist John Squire broke his collarbone on a bike ride.

Jarvis Cocker and his oddball crew were on hand to step in as Britpop’s popularity peaked.

Primal Scream, Blur and even Rod Stewart were approached by the Eavis family but Cocker struck lucky.

Pulp did not fail to impress, crowning their set with the now-ubiquitous Common People.

Radiohead in 1997

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Thom Yorke of Radiohead at Glastonbury in 2017 (Yui Mok/PA)

Hot from the release of their revered third album, OK Computer, the Oxfordshire band were in fine form as they took to the Pyramid Stage.

Heavy rain blighted – or added drama to – their performance.

They tore through songs from Pablo Honey, The Bends and the most recent addition to their fast-growing back catalogue.

David Bowie in 2000

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David Bowie returned in 2000 (Toby Melville/PA)

Bowie played at the second Glastonbury in 1971, and often recalled how he roused the audience with a late-night rendition of Oh! You Pretty Things.

He returned in 2000, this time as a bona fide rock star with a back catalogue to match.

Jay-Z in 2008

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Jay-Z’s booking in 2008 caused controversy (Yui Mok/PA)

The New York rapper’s notorious headline slot proved hip hop could fill the top slot with ease.

Noel Gallagher was famously riled by the booking, saying at the time: “Glastonbury has the tradition of guitar music. I’m not having hip hop at Glastonbury. It’s wrong.”

But Jay-Z arrived on stage brandishing a guitar and opened his set with a cover of Oasis’s Wonderwall, a knowing wink to the nay-sayers.

Beyonce in 2011

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Beyonce followed in her husband’s footsteps in 2011 (Yui Mok/PA)

In a performance only bested by her own 2018 slot at Coachella, Beyonce brought her A-game to Glastonbury.

While still controversial, her show attracted less negative attention than her husband Jay-Z’s.

And like him, she exceeded expectations with a show-stopping performance including tracks such as Crazy In Love and Single Ladies.

The Rolling Stones in 2013

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The Rolling Stones headlined in 2013 (Anthony Devlin/PA)

“After all these years they finally got round to asking us,” quipped Mick Jagger as he strolled on stage to the roar of 100,000 fans.

Of course, Glastonbury’s organisers had been asking the band to headline for years.

But touring commitments and reported quarrels over their fee blocked the way.

Their eventual performance was hailed a masterclass by critics, and showcased their energy, despite their advanced ages.

Metallica in 2014

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James Hetfield of Metallica at Glastonbury (Yui Mok/PA)

Glastonbury once again broke the mould in 2014, booking Metallica as the first heavy metal band to headline.

Any scepticism was pushed aside by an opening salvo of hits before the band reached a crescendo with Enter Sandman.

Kanye West in 2015

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Kanye West’s turn in 2015 divided opinion (Yui Mok/PA)

Critics dubbed the US rapper’s performance a compelling but messy affair.

West re-started his song Black Skinhead and forgot the lyrics to an impromptu version of Bohemian Rhapsody.

He ended by repeatedly shouting: “I am the greatest living rock star on the planet.”

Prior to him taking to the Pyramid Stage, a petition to stop him headlining had reached 55,000 signatures.

Adele in 2016

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Adele charmed the Glastonbury crowd in 2016 (Yui Mok/PA)

Adele began with Hello and, from the moment she opened her mouth, she had everyone in the palm of her hand – despite dropping copious f-bombs.

The Skyfall singer spoke for long periods between songs – at one point revealing she “had a Chinese and did the dishes” as she watched Muse’s headline set from her home the previous night.

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