Glastonbury 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the legendary festival. During that time, it established itself as the greatest show on Earth. It is the World Cup final of culture and the Somerset solstice of peace and love. It has made many careers, and it will no doubt give lifeblood to many more. And behind it all, there has been one noble farmer: Michael Eavis.
When the bearded cow-botherer was given a CBE, whatever one of those is, even the Queen asked him, “Are you the fellow that started it all?” Whether there was any degree of profundity to the vagueness of that Royal utterance is unknown, but he certainly kicked off a lot, and we are still reeling from his cultural revolution to this day.
While there is a certain suspicion that he keeps his favourite acts and tents at the top of the hill, close to his humble abode, and leaves the press tents drowning down the bottom, part of the reason the festival is so beloved is that he isn’t too clingy about it despite always looking out for its integrity. Thusly, he pushes diversification in every which way and offers up a smorgasbord of delights for all tastes, not just his own.
Nevertheless, he obviously has favourites and in 2009 he offered the Guardian a rare glimpse into his own cherished memories. Picking out his five favourite moments up until that point, he delved back to the start, and then to The Smiths who he longs will reform, and even a rowdy Oasis blitzkrieg.
Michael Eavis’ favourite Glastonbury Festival moments:
T Rex (1970)
The first-ever festival tragically fell the day after Jimi Hendrix parted. What could’ve been a sombre affair in the wake of that news turned into a swell of eudemonia that decreed, ‘You know, I think there’s something to this standing around in random cow shit listening to music y’know.’
As Eavis fondly recalled of Marc Bolan and co: “The sun was setting, everyone was watching, it was brilliant. It gave me the courage to carry on with the festival.” That moment has been riding a white swan ever since.
John Martyn (1979)
On the surface, John Martyn seems like the quintessential folk artist, but when you delve into his back catalogue you see that beyond the gingham exterior, he blurred the blues, jazz, and a little bit of rock in the palette too. That musical mix might have been ethereal, but he could be a prickly character too.
As Eavis asserts: “He was in a good mood for a change. He was always drunk and slagging me off, we had quite a stormy relationship really. But on that occasion, at that moment in time, he was perfect.”
The Smiths (1984)
Back in 2018, the festival enjoyed a “fallow” year off. However, Eavis did state, “there’s one band I want to reform, if they reform, I’ll change my mind. I’d like The Smiths to reform. I haven’t told them that yet. That’s my job for next week.”
It’s hardly a surprise given what he said about their 1984 performance. “We had no fence around the Pyramid, but it was the last year we could do that, because everybody climbed on stage and the band couldn’t finish their set. I think they had a good time but Morrissey never admits to enjoying himself,” he recalled.
Another band often touted for a Glastonbury reform is Oasis. However, Eavis is not one calling for the comeback. “Not 1995 or any later, because they deteriorated with age, I think. But they were fantastic in 1994,” he said.
That year they offered up some Britpop madness that wrapped up ‘Supersonic’ and finally a cover of The Beatles’ trippy classic ‘I Am the Walrus’. They returned as conquering heroes the next year but Eavis preferred the early days.
There are musicians out there lucky enough to become ‘friends of the festival’. These are the fellows you often see occupying the secretive TBC slots and popping up for DJ sets. Radiohead are one such act.
And seemingly Eavis has tried to book them a good few times. “I really wanted them to play again in 2008 but I got mixed up with the dates and they couldn’t do it. I just think their performance that night, particularly of the song ‘No Surprises’, was very, very moving,” he said.