A festival, as much as a British institution, the Glastonbury stages are places where careers can be defined. Handpicked by the festival’s organizers, the Eavis family, top artists from numerous genres get to grace the sacred ground at Worthy Farm. While a definitive top five list is a difficult task, today we do our best to list the greatest performances in the Glastonbury Festival’s prized and lengthy existence.
5. Primal Scream – 1992
Few bands define English indie music quite like Primal Scream. Famously, the band would go on to play the festival again. But a lot them returning had to do with the success of their first performance, while supporting their masterpiece Loaded. Originally seen by some as simply a tax write-off for the Creation record label, by others as dangerous drug users, Primal Scream created an album like no other. The mix of dance music and rock was not quite anything that had ever been heard before. In front of a bewildered Glastonbury attendance the indie rock pioneers performed an inspired set.
4. T-Rex – 1970
It’s the stuff of legend now, but Marc Bolan’s T-Rex played at the inaugural edition of the Glastonbury festival and were, arguably, the first group to truly capture the energy of the festival. T-Rex were brought in to replace the Kinks. It was all set up as a Woodstock-like event in rural England. But, Bolan, ever the showman, seized the opportunity, played the hits, jammed the day away and left a lasting impression.
3. Happy Mondays – 1990
Glastonbury does a neat trick of capturing groups in their prime. So was the case with the Happy Mondays who were leading a generation of young Brits, who romanticized 60s peace and love culture, loved the mix of dance and rock music and, famously, ate up truckloads of ecstasy. Happy Mondays played a triumphant set, and were set as unlikely Brit rock heroes.
2. Radiohead – 1997
Oasis had defined 1990s British rock and had sparked an endless list of imitators. Radiohead in 1997 seemed to stand as the complete antithesis having just released OK Computer, a somber, melancholic, complex album. At the 1997 edition, there were notorious equipment problems on stage, but the quality of Radiohead’s songs could not be denied. Their performances of Lucky, No Surprises or Karma Police remain defining moments for rock music at the end of the century.
1. Pulp – 1995
Nobody did it better, but it was a set that nearly didn’t happen. Pulp were chosen as the last minute replacements for the Stone Roses, a band drawing their in last breaths. Pulp, on the other hand, were yet to truly make themselves known to the general public. In fact, not many in attendance would have known who the band were. This would change drastically following the performance, with Jarvis Cocker commanding the stage, bringing Disco 2000 and Common People to thousands, then to millions of listeners, and adding a new layer of intelligent, quirky songwriting to Britpop. It was Pulp’s, as well as Glastonbury festival’s, greatest moment.