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Music

The reason why The Kinks declined Glastonbury Festival

The Kinks have never been known to do things the normal way, partially because they’ve never cared to do anything that the trappings of rock and roll expected of them. But it is definitely surprising to hear that the band declined the chance to appear at Glastonbury Festival when their ostensibly English sense of eccentricity seemed to fit perfectly with the festival’s rustic, farm-like aesthetic. 

The band were primed for the top slot when they made the decision in 1970 not to appear at the festival. The Kinks were already enjoying the wave of success and did not seem too eager to perform “playing skittles” on a farm in the English countryside, and deserved some level of respect that was due for them. 

So, they withdrew, citing an illness on Ray Davies‘ part, and the band missed out on the experience of headlining Glastonbury. It was a missed opportunity, albeit one done based on misinformation about the festival that later snowballed into a colossus grander than the genre of rock and roll itself. Melody Maker claimed that the festival was going to be a small one, based on a testimony founder Michael Eavis gave to the local press. 

What Eavis failed to grasp was the importance of the promo to sell the material, and ever the gentleman, tried to undersell the event in the hope of giving it more integrity. But it backfired when The Kinks found out, who felt that the festival wouldn’t do much for their image, particularly as they were picking up the pieces The Beatles had left behind them. 

The Kinks may have come to regret this decision, but they aren’t the only burgeoning act to decline a headlining slot at Glastonbury Festival. The Killers decided to turn down a slot in 2005, citing their relative lack of experience as a reason. 

“We didn’t take it because we’re basically a band that’s been around for, as far as the UK’s concerned, a little over a year,” Ronnie Vannucci explained. “So we didn’t think we were deserving of a headlining slot”. They had a point, because as splendid as Hot Fuss was and still is, it was only one record after all. 

Stormzy, however, had no such qualms when he agreed to appear for the headlining festival at Glastonbury in 2019. Brimming with excitement, adulation, acidity and action, Stormzy’s set culminated in a damning dissertation on class relations still felt in the United Kingdom. Scintillatingly produced and washed with political imagery, the performance recalled the tragedies pencilled by one William Shakespeare in a past life. And yet the silhouettes, spectacles and serenades were deeply modern, culminating in a performance that was every bit as English as the ditties Ray Davies produced on The Kinks 1960s trajectory. 

The song that reminds Ray Davies of the early days of The Kinks

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What the performance offered was context, not history, and the set was centred on the importance of the gathering that had come to his show in this moment in time. The Kinks might very well have come to a similar conclusion if they had elected to perform in 1970, but they did not understand the magnitude of the event in question. 

This is not to say that they could not get it together for 2022 as the post-pandemic buzz grows stronger. The time is right for a reunion of The Kinks, and everyone feels that the band are ready to put past grievances behind them to get back on stage and play once more. As it happens, Ray and Dave Davies have made it clear that they are hoping to perform together in the near future, which might give them the chance to rectify a wrong they made in the past. 

And if they can’t do that, then an album is the next best solution, harnessing the grandeur of their earlier work with the knowledge age has given them. The appetite for nostalgia has only grown wider and stronger over the years, so there’s no reason why the band of brothers should not take advantage of the opportunity presented to them. 

Dave Davies can perform a few songs, and Ray Davies can entertain as if transporting listeners back to a decade that resides only in imagery for the vast majority of them. 

Some 53 years following their decision to decline a headlining slot at Glastonbury, The Beatles remain broken up, The Rolling Stones are reduced to a trio, and Crosby, Stills & Nash seem more interested in removing their music from Spotify than playing the tapestry they wove together to the hungry punters. Somebody has to fill the void, so it would be foolish of The Kinks not to appear at Glastonbury when they could perform so many of their beloved work. And if they time the tune correctly, they could perform ‘Waterloo Sunset’ just as dawn is rising in England, leading people to have another blast of music and sunshine. 

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