Who was the headliner of the first Glastonbury Festival?

September 19, 2021, 11:00

The original pyramid stage at Glastonbury Festival.

Photo: Ian Tyas/Keystone Features/Getty Images

Michael Eavis organized the very first festival at Worthy Farm on September 19, 1970… but who was on the bill? And which superstar group retired?

At Friday, September 18, 1970, jimi hendrix died in a London flat. For many people, this event marked the end of the 1960s, when one of its brightest stars passed away at the desperately young age of 27.

The sad news nearly eclipsed the very first installment of what was to become a staple of the UK music calendar, and perhaps the biggest festival of all time: Glastonbury.

The very first Glastonbury Festival took place on Saturday September 19 at Michael EavisPilton Dairy Farm, Somerset. Originally it lasted only one day and was called at the time the “Pilton Pop, Folk & Blues Festival”.

Eavis charged the very reasonable price of £1 for a ticket, plus free milk from their own dairy. Advertisements for the festival also promised “Sheltered fields for camping!” », « All the food at fair prices! and “Roast Beef!” Take a look at the original poster below, a reproduction of which you can now buy direct from Glastonbury here.

Glastonbury Poster 1970

Glastonbury 1970 poster.

Photo: Official Glastonbury website

But who played the very first Glastonbury Festival?

The original headliners were The Kinks: brothers Ray and Dave Davies had fronted the band since 1964, but since the beat boom days their music had morphed into something quintessentially English, most typified by their 1968 album The Green Village Preservation Society. In June 1970, the band had just released what would become one of their biggest hits, Lola.

The Kinks circa 1970

The Kinks around 1970.

Image: Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

As low as playing the first Glastonbury was wayne fontanaa Manchester musician best known for his 1965 hit A groovy kind of love. By 1970 he had gone solo and the hits had somewhat dried up.

In advertisements for the festival, Eavis also promised, “At least six more bands!” and the DJ between acts was the reassuring name “Crazy Mick”. It was Mick Ringham, who revealed to the Daily Mail in 2010 that the very first piece of music played at Glastonbury was a cover of the classic It’s All Over Now by a band called The Valentinos.

However, neither Fontana nor The Kinks actually played at Glastonbury. They both pulled out of the festival, leaving Eavis to find a replacement…and it wouldn’t be the last time he had to – in 2015 the Foo Fighters pulled out after Dave Grohl broke his leg .

Mickey Finn and Marc Bolan live at the Redcar Jazz Club, 1970

Mickey Finn and Marc Bolan live at the Redcar Jazz Club, 1970.

Photo: Graham Lowe/Redferns/Getty Images

Stepping into the breach was the folk-rock duo, Tyrannosaurus Rex. It was the duet of Mark Bolan and mickey finn, who were transitioning their sound from psychedelic fantasy to the glam rock stompers that would make them famous. At the time of their Glastonbury slot they were working on the self-titled debut album under the shortened name T.Rex.

Reports say the weather was “foggy and wet” on Saturday morning, but the sun peeked through the clouds and by afternoon it was actually quite warm.

Start of the Glastonbury Festival

Start of the Glastonbury Festival.

Photo: Ian Tyas/Keystone Features/Getty Images

Opening noon poster of the day, English psychedelic rockers Quintessencefollowed by British blues singer Duster Bennett, Worthing-based rockers steam hammerfrom Walthamstow Apple Pie Sam and some local groups. The official Glastonbury website notes that Keith Christmas, Stackridge and soon to be famous singer-songwriter Al Stewart also performed.

A minute of silence was observed to pay tribute to the late Jimi Hendrix, before Tyrannosaurus Rex took the stage around midnight.

DJ Mick Ringham recalled, “There was only one stage and it was all smooth, like a country party, only with longer hair. It was Woodstock with scrumpy. I only saw two policemen all day, and they were seated.

A group of hippies dancing during the Midsummer celebrations at the second Glastonbury Festival.

A group of hippies dancing during the Midsummer celebrations at the second Glastonbury Festival.

Photo: Ian Tyas/Keystone Features/Getty Images

In fact, 1,500 people showed up. “Since then, many people in the industry have assured me that if I had advertised Tyrannosaurus Rex as the main attraction, I might have had ten times as many fans,” a somewhat disappointed Eavis told the Central Somerset Gazette.

But he wasn’t too discouraged and was asked if he would organize another festival. He replied: “At the moment I am not considering doing it, but I would not like to say that the possibility does not exist.”

Sure enough, another Glastonbury Festival took place in 1971 – and that year saw the first appearance of an iconic part of the event’s mythology… The pyramid scene.

Jan G. Gilbert