At a time when thousands of people should be heading to Worthy Farm for what would be the 50th-anniversary celebration of the Glastonbury Festival, we’re looking back at some of the most iconic line-ups in the event’s long history.
The world’s most iconic festival, a five-day cultural bonanza in celebration of contemporary performing art, officially launched in 1970 and named the Pilton Festival after being inspired by the hippie counter-culture movement of the time.
After tinkering around with the name and organisation, Glastonbury Festival was placed in the very sturdy hands of the local farmer and site owner Michael Eavis and, since 1981, he has successfully expanded the event to quite remarkable proportions.
Now working alongside his daughter Emily Eavis as co-organisers of the festival, Glastonbury was set to play host to a quite mammoth 2020 event before the current pandemic put the party on hold for 12 months. With names ranging from David Bowie to Beyonce, we’re looking back at 50 years of free spirited music celebrations through Glasto’s line-up posters.
See the development, below.
Glastonbury Festival 1970 Line-up
Inspired by the Isle of Wight Festival which was held just a year before, Eavis decided to host the first festival, then named Pilton Festival, and set about laying the foundations.
Attended by the somewhat humble figure of attended by 1,500 people, the first even boasted The Kinks as the headline act. Backing them up, Eavis managed to land the likes of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Wayne Fontana, Steamhammer and more.
Tickets? Just £1 please.
Glastonbury Festival 1971 Line-up
The next instalment of the festival would see a heavy dose of glitter fall upon Worthy Farm as glam rock arrived in Somerset. As well as Hawkwind and The Grateful Dead, the 1971 edition welcomed Marc Bolan and David Bowie to the illustrious stage.
Arguably the festival—despite what diehard fans will tell you—was already dabbling with the pop stars of the world before Beyonce ever arrived on stage.
Tickets had started to climb as the expense of holding a legitimate event on such a large scale began to ring true.
Glastonbury Festival 1978 Line-up
Known as the ‘Impromptu Festival’, the festival was thrown together at a moment’s notice and was highlighted by the drop-down in headlining quality.
Gone are Bowie, Pete Townshend and The Grateful Dead. They were replaced by acts like Pedro, Tribe, Nik Turner’s Sphinx and White Island. Although every festival counts, this one is probably more on the forgettable side.
Glastonbury Festival 1979 Line-up
Things had kicked back into gear by the following year as Worthy Farm once again opened its doors to the rock world and the invasion of new wave acts began.
Leading the charge on that front was Peter Gabriel, The Only Ones, The Leighton Buzzards and The Slits. But the folkies of old needn’t have worried as the festival was slowly developing an eclectic fanbase to support all kinds of genres on its stages.
Glastonbury Festival 1981 Line-up
On the Pyramid Stage in 1981 was a sign of things to come as the main stage welcomed a smorgasbord of different musical genres. Grateful Dead’s lyricist Robert Hunter gave a wondrous performance on the Friday while Bernard Sumner and co in New Order took the Saturday slot.
Though Hawkwind would headline that evening, the scene was set for the new wave of pop and rock to flow into the farm.
Glastonbury Festival 1982 Line-up
The festival experience continued to swell in 1982 as the site began to offer up both theatrical and cinematic experiences across the festival. Glastonbury was becoming an enveloping experience for every member of the family.
On the music side of things, Van Morrison headlined while there were also spots on the line-up for A Certain Ratio, John Cooper Clarke, Jackson Browne and more.
Glastonbury Festival 1983 Line-up
While politics underpins everything we do as a society, and that includes music, 1983 saw the two intertwine more heavily than ever and it’s something replicated in the line-up and the post for Glasto ’83.
Apart from the obvious ‘CND’ motif, which advocates for nuclear disarmament, there was also a keener look of racial unity on the line-up. 2-tone acts included UB40, Fun Boy Three and The Beat, while Curtis Mayfield took a Sunday slot.
Glastonbury Festival 1984 Line-up
1984 welcomed a host of different acts to Worthy Farm and saw the maiden performance of The Smiths, who were forced to perform earlier than expected—something which kinda killed the atmosphere—after Amazulu arrived late on Saturday morning and missed their slot.
The headline performance on that day was filled by none other than Elvis Costello & The Attractions who was a part of another stellar line-up including The Band, Fela Kuti and Joan Baez, to name a few.
Glastonbury Festival 1985 Line-up
Another classic poster from the festival saw it once again continue to align with the sounds and motifs of the world around it. Ian Dury and The Blockheads headline the Saturday night slot after following Paul Weller’s Style Council.
Friday had already seen the chaotic performances of the Boomtown Rats and The Pogues for a punk knees up, but on the Sunday the Pyramid stage saw Billy Bragg, The Triffids and Echo & The Bunnymen take charge.
Glastonbury Festival 1986 Line-up
Another sublime line-up welcomed Psychedelic Furs, The Cure and Level 42 to take the respective headline slots. Under them the festival welcomed The Pogues, The Housemartins and Simply Red as well as what would become a long tradition of Madness performing.
The size of the festival was growing every year and this was the first time Glastonbury sought to capitalise on that by showing the value of buying a festival ticket. Nobody could offer this many great bands at once.
Glastonbury Festival 1987 Line-up
Elvis Costello and New Order again took a slot at the Pyramid stage as did Van Morrison and Ben E. King. Worthy Farm was quickly becoming a home away from home for some artists.
One thing Glastonbury Festival has always done more than any other festival is to make people feel at home—like they don’t want to leave. Apparently that applied to artists too.
Glastonbury Festival 1989 Line-up
If the festival were keen to show the variety and volume of artists appearing at the festival then by 1989, the organisers had become pretty blatant about it. The poster for the ’89 edition required reading glasses.
Among the huge volume of acts was Costello, Suzanne Vega, Fela Kuti, Peter Gabriel, The Waterboys, and Donovan & Friends. At the time many music journalists had suspected Donovan’s ‘friends’ would be Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton. In the end, it was Ozric Tentacles.
Glastonbury Festival 1990 Line-up
The 1990s landed heavily on Worthy Farm as the festival welcomed Happy Mondays and James for the Friday evening’s proceedings as well as Galaxie 500.
Saturday continued with the ’90s-a-thon as The Cure and De La Soul appeared with Sinead O’Connor picking up Sunday’s headline spot. The advance-only sale of tickets didn’t stop people arriving at the gates hoping to get in and we imagine they still do.
Glastonbury Festival 1992 Line-up
James took up Morrissey’s slot in 1992 as the Smiths singer cancelled last minute—a pattern Moz would adopt for most of his career. Aside from that, Glasto continued to grow and the variety of acts grew more and more.
On the NME stage on Sunday, the crowd were treated to not only P J Harvey and Teenage Fanclub but a young and raring Blur.
Glastonbury Festival 1993 Line-up
Lenny Kravitz took the spot of the cancelled Red Hot Chili Peppers and completed a rock heavy line-up. As well as Kravitz, the festival welcomed Robert Plant and The Kinks to the Pyramid stage.
The NME stage continued to grow as it welcomed Suede, Dodgy, Jamiroquai, The Verve and Spiritualized. It marked another shift toward the chart-topping Britpop to come.
Glastonbury Festival 1994 Line-up
The Levellers, Elvis Costello and Peter Gabriel headlined the Pyramid Stage while The Pretenders, Orbital and Spiritualized took to the headline slots of the NME stage.
Supporting those headline slots were some big names icnluding Paul Weller, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Rage Against The Machine, Johnny Cash, Bjork, Beastie Boys and so many more.
Glastonbury Festival 1995 Line-up
The 25th anniversary of the event saw the festival of contemporary performing arts once again open its doors to hundreds of thousands of people for a truly memorable weekend of events.
Unforgettable for those in attendance, Glasto welcomed Britpop to the main arena as Oasis, Pulp and The Cure headlined the Pyramid Stage. Jarvis Cocker’s Pulp took the spot after The Stone Roses dropped out.
Glastonbury Festival 1997 Line-up
Largely regarded as one of the worst Glastonbury’s in recent memory it was rescued by one band and one band only, Radiohead.
Taking to the Pyramid stage on Saturday night, Thom Yorke and the group confirmed themselves as bonafide musical heroes as they delivered a spellbinding set worthy of saving a festival.
Glastonbury Festival 1998 Line-up
The festival rescinded the extensive display of their line-up on the festival posters and instead tried to promote the ‘vibe’ of the event over everything else.
Britpop still reigned supreme as this time the genre took all three headline slots including Primal Scream, Blur and Pulp. Another moment saw Foo Fighters make their Glastonbury debut with Robbie Williams also grabbing a mainstage slot.
Glastonbury Festival 1999 Line-up
The end of the 1990s was marred by some sad news for Glastonbury Festival as the death of Michael Eavis’ wife, Jean, was confirmed. To solidify her legacy, a wicker sculpture was burned in tribute and fireworks lit up the sky.
With many paying homage to Jean, the likes of R.E.M., Beautiful South, Hole, Blondie, Ash, Manic Street Preachers, Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, Billy Bragg and more propped up the line-up.
Glastonbury Festival 2000 Line-up
Entering the millennium with an action-packed line-up, David Bowie would return to Worthy Farm to take up a headline spot.
There was no doubt that Glastonbury has really stepped up their game in the year 2000 with major acts headlining multiple stages.
Alongside Bowie, the likes of Travis, Chemical Brothers, Pet Shop Boys, Ocean Colour Scene Happy Mondays, Cypress Hill and more made their temporary home on the Pyramid Stage. Elsewhere, Nine Inch Nails, Moby, The The, Idlewild, Coldplay, Elastica and more took on the Other Stage.
Glastonbury Festival 2002 Line-up
After another fallow year, Glastonbury was bursting with excitement upon its return on 2002… even if the line-up poster fails to suggest so.
Pushing their promotion as “the greatest festival in Europe”, Glasto ramped up the security around the event and built a monster steel fence around the parameters. If you think more on that, there’s certainly a Brexit joke in there somewhere.
After being down the billing two years ago on a smaller stage, Coldplay solidified their prolific few years by returning to headline the Pyramid Stage with a monster performance. Other stand out names that year included the likes of Faithless, Roger Waters, The White Stripes, Garbage, Queens of the Stone Age and more.
Glastonbury Festival 2003 Line-up
It was in 2003 that organisers began to understand the major demand for the festival. Withing 24 hours tickets had sold out.
Boosting their line-up with an even more eclectic list of acts, REM and Radiohead would appear to rapturous applause while Moby also headlined for the very first time.
2003 would actually become the final time Radiohead would headline until they made their triumphant return in 2017.
Glastonbury Festival 2004 Line-up
Did somebody say Beatle? Yes that’s right, Macca was back.
The major popularity of Glastonbury was snowballing by 2004 and Paul McCartney was joined by a quite spectacular line-up which includes the likes of Muse, Oasis, James Brown, Kings of Leon, PJ Harvey and many more.
The organisers had also extended the site and added yet more stages.
Glastonbury Festival 2005 Line-up
Much like many bands in the story of Glastonbury Festival, 2005 saw the return of some old faces.
After rocking up a couple of years back in the mid-level position, The White Stripes arrived with their Seven Nation Army to headline the Pyramid Stage and no, nothing could hold them back. And yes, they ripped it off.
The Killers Elvis Costello, Coldplay, Fatboy Slim, Razorlight, Bloc Party, New Order, The Coral… and on and on. Huge year.
Glastonbury Festival 2007 Line-up
After a year out for the local communities to rest up for Worthy Farm to recover, Glasto was back and it was crowned by two opposite ends of the musical spectrum.
While Shirley Bassey rolled back the years with a quite impeccable set, a small group from Sheffield known as the Arctic Monkeys capped off a meteoric rise to fame with a headline slot.
The Killers, The Who, Arcade Fire, Bjork, Kasabian, The Who and more made up the list.
Glastonbury Festival 2008 Line-up
The year that sparked debate around who should and should not be headlining Glastonbury was ended when Jay Z took to the Pyramid Stage on Saturday and smashed it out the park.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Noel Gallagher said at the time. “If you start to break it then people aren’t going to go. I’m sorry, but Jay-Z? No chance.”
He continued: “Glastonbury has a tradition of guitar music and even when they throw the odd curveball in on a Sunday night you go ‘Kylie Minogue?’ I don’t know about it. But I’m not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It’s wrong.”
Jay later rapped during his set: “Somebody should have told him I’m a fuckin’ rock star.”
Right or wrong, Jay Z put in an impressive display. It can also be said that his performance marked a turning point the future plans of event which, since 2008, has been more open to acts of differing genres.
Glastonbury Festival 2009 Line-up
Given some negative reaction in the previous year, organisers looked to steady the ship in 2009 and welcomed Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Blur as the headline acts.
Michael Eavis would later describe this year as “the best Glastonbury ever” but that does tend to arrive most years these days. Lady Gaga was given a slot on the bill, as was The Specials, Lily Allen, Dizzee Rascal, Animal Collective, The Horrors and more.
Glastonbury Festival 2010 Line-up
A brand new decade and Glastonbury Festival were here to confirm that the festival, as ever, was changing and evolving with the times. The line-up exploded with a variety of different acts with Muse and Stevie Wonder taking headline slots.
There was also a headline spot for none other than a cartoon band, Gorillaz. As well as the animated band there was also Snoop Dogg, Scissor Sister, Faithless and Slash to make for an eclectic roster.
Glastonbury Festival 2011 Line-up
The quality of bands increased greatly in the new decade as the multiple stages that littered the site at Worthy Farm continue to be filled with a stunning array of artists.
The smaller stages may have been full of artists like Foals, Portishead, Crystal Castles, Phoenix and more but the attentions were trained on the rocking headline trio.
Arctic Monkeys took another headlining spot in 2011 on Friday while the world paid attention to The Rolling Stones’ headline Saturday performance. Mumford & Sons may have taken the Sunday headline place but Nick Cave supported so that’s something.
Glastonbury Festival 2013 Line-up
Glastonbury Festival continued to open up the forum of Worthy Farm to the great and good of the music business. Headlined by Arcade Fire, Metallica and Kasabian the other stages offered up a selection of different artists.
The remnants of indie’s explosion continues to hang around the line-up list and its suggested that it was here that the event went truly mainstream. Another evolution was awaiting in the next year.
Glastonbury Festival 2014 Line-up
One thing to confirm that evolution was the change of branding. The festival moved away from the static styling of the past and moved into the 21st century with this change. With it the band also welcomed a new wave of pop acts to proceedings.
As the musical landscape changed and tribal audiences were a thing of a past it became clear that Glasto would need to adapt with the times and develop a cut and paste ethos to the line-up. It meant that artists like Kelis and The 1975 mingled with Dolly Parton, Kasabian and others.
Glastonbury Festival 2015 Line-up
2015 was all about Kanye West. After Jay-Z had changed the landscape of the festival, West had some big shoes to fill but he did so with aplomb, creating a landmark moment for everyone watching. It also saw the mass selling of those God awful sunglasses.
Aside from West, the festival welcomed acts from Metallica to the reunion of The Libertines as well as Deadmau5, Jungle and more.
Glastonbury Festival 2016 Line-up
While the headliners, Muse, Adele and Coldplay left little to enjoy special shout out to Adele however who spent most of her set in disbelief she was there at all, the bubbling of the festival’s new stance on music was beginning to grow.
Rock had begun to drop off the major spots at the festival and with artists like Skepta jumping on the Pyramid stage, UK Hip-Hop was getting its recognition.
Glastonbury Festival 2017 Line-up
One stunning performance from the history of Glastonbury Festival is undoubtedly the return of Radiohead to the Friday night headline performance. It was a whirlwind night that saw The xx take on the famous stage before Thom Yorke and Co. arrived.
The rest of the event saw a continued joining of the alternative and pop music worlds. As well as Katy Perry performing it saw Ed Sheeran close out the event as the famous Sunday headliner.
Glastonbury Festival 2019 Line-up
To have both the indie anthem-makers The Killers and the perennial goth legends The Cure headline the 2019 Glastonbury Festival was seen as a massive coup. Little did everyone know that Stormzy would steal the show.
Arriving on stage in a Union Jack stab-proof vest designed by Banksy, Stormzy managed to make hundreds of thousands of members of the audience jump and dance and lose themselves, as one. It was a unifying moment that will forever ingrain Stormzy on the festival’s history forevermore.