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The Changing Face Of Glastonbury 1970-2011

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Oh Glastonbury, oh Glastonbury, how wonderful it is to have you in our lives. OK, I know what you’re thinking–what’s going on here? Glastonbury 2011 fllew past as fast as Superman. It was on June 22 till 26 when Glastonbury screamed once again as music lovers treated their ears to the sound of music.

This four-day extravaganza set Worthy Farm Pilton UK on fire. Well-known acts including U2, Coldplay, Beyonce, and Wu Tang Clan joined the stage to make the crowd roar with excitement. Believe it or not, I’m not here to talk about this year’s festival. Did I surprise you?   Let’s begin to understand the real reason behind this article.

This festival has taken centre stage in Pilton UK for 41 years. It built up a reputation of being a rock ‘n roll territory. You can’t help but want to delve deeper, and find out just how it all began. Join me on this journey of adventure as we uncover the changing face of Glastonbury.

Page one of this exciting story is the first Glastonbury Festival, which hit the stage on September 9 1970. 

The grand opening was held a day after Jimi Hendrix’s death. It must have been one of those moments when a British citizen screams out, “I’m proud to be a Brit, Hallelujah, God Save the Queen”. All the artists featured were representing Great Britain on that day. These artists included the following;

Marc Bolan – Singer/song writer and guitarist who’s best known as a solo artist. However, he was previously part of a group which he also founded, entitled Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Keith Christmas – Singer who released his first rock album, Stimulus, in 1969.

Stackridge – A group of four men, one of whom looks a little like Winston Churchill (sorry, I know I went off track for a second there). Anyway, the band had all the girls screaming in the 1970s, with their self-titled debut album released on August 1971.

Oh, and a few others I’ve never heard of, until now. Despite it being Glastonbury’s first event, It was still an impressive turn out of 1,500 people getting together to celebrate and appreciate music.

As The Glastonbury Festival grew, it started to be identified as rock ‘n roll territory, where listeners bopped their heads to their favourite rock anthems. Back then in the 1970s, the entrance fee was £1 ($1.60). In 2008, tickets cost £155 (approximately ($249). However, in 2010, tickets slightly increased, and attendees paid £165 ($265).

For 38 years, the Glastonbury Festival was rocking out. it wasn’t until 2008  when changes started to happen, when hip-hop invaded the rock ‘n roll territory. potentially opening the doors for a music war. The festival organisers made a decision to try and boost ticket sales by making changes to the traditional line-up. Roc-A-Fella CEO Jay-Z was announced as the first rapper ever to appear on the Glastonbury stage. Many other rappers were amongst Jay-Z, including Dizzie Rascal and Lupe Fiasco.

According to MTV, the attempt to boost ticket sales wasn’t as successful as Glastonbury hoped. The rappers’ appearance at Glastonbury didn’t really maximise ticket revenue. It only sold 10,000 on the first day; prior to this event, tickets usually sold out in a matter of hours.

The changes to Glastonbury, made a lot of people unhappy, including rockstars and their fans. Stars like Noel Gallagher, the lead singer of the British band Oasis, made this statement to MTV in 2008: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, If you start to break it, then people aren’t going to go. I’m sorry, but Jay-Z? No chance.”

According to an NME report in 2008, Glastonbury boss, went completely against the “Wonderwall” singer. Michael Eavis, founder of the Glastonbury Festival, said

Jay-Z just worked for us, it could have gone the other way, but the crowd were into it,  They knew all the words, that amazed me, it’s very fast street New York poetry, isn’t it? It amazed me people knew all the words, and two of those were my grandchildren!

Despite all the drama, attendance was notable with 134,000 weekend tickets  and 137,000 backstage passes sold.  Since 2008, Eavis has continued to push the boundaries with festival fans.

Future line-ups proved no different to 2008.   Bear in mind, these are not so much hip-hop acts. So, instead of drinking gangster juice, choose to go pop. Let this be a reminder for you, as it proves just how quickly Glastonbury is changing, and making us feel numb, particularly rockers.  Last year, the following acts ‘rocked’ the pyramid stage: Shakira, Pet Shop Boys, and Stevie Wonder.  This year, this trend continued as Queen B of R&B Beyonce, Wu Tang Clan, Tinie Tempah, and Plan B, wowed the audience.

How can something that started out to be ‘rock land,’ turn into hip-hop/pop central? I would think it has to do with money. Do I agree with it? I don’t really know. I believe music has a right to expand. It has the power to bring people together; that I don’t doubt. If you wanted my opinion, I’d say; “Let music unite us, whatever the genre is.”

We all love music, so why not enjoy it together right? I understand it’s a tradition which is now broken. Remember, change is sometimes good. On the other hand, I realise that some people don’t like change. These people who refuse to accept changes don’t want the chain to break, especially when it has been working seamlessly for 41 years.

Come on, is this really necessary? If I’ve learnt anything from life, its that everything changes in time, whether you like it or not!

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About Busrah

  • http://blogcritics.org/music/article/the-changing-face-of-glastonbury-1970/ John

    Glastonbury had to change, it’s a music festival that attracts the biggest and best musicians and artists in the music industry today meaning that when music changes the festival changes with it. It’s diverse and offers every possible type of music including classical, dance, techno, rock, jazz and many more! Anyone who has been before will agree that the festival caters to everyone’s needs even those of us who don’t like music (as strange as it sounds). Also there is an error in this article, Glastonbury’s capacity has never 271, 000. Its capacity is roughly 175,000 which is about 135,000 tickets to sell and 40,000 for staff and volunteers.

  • Bee

    Thank you John, for highlighting the errors in the article. Apologies for them. However, the refences I used gave me those numbers and they were pretty solid references. I still hope you enjoyed reading the piece. I agree with the point you have made about the music changing, and the festival changing alongside it. Thank you for your comment.

  • Gerry Prewett

    Bee, Stackridge has NEVER been a 4 piece band and I can’t think that any of them looked remotely like Winston Churchill, Stackridge are still gigging and are a wonderful band. Check ‘em out!

  • Bee

    Gerry I have to say if you click on the band’s ref link you will see, that the man on the right slightly resembles W.Churchill. (joke), trying my best to make it entertaining for people to read, and avoid bordom. I wasn’t mocking any of the artists’ contribution to the music industry. I’m just going by what ref tell me I’m sorry if I was mistaken and I never said they weren’t still around. I just thought I’d put my thoughts out there! Thanks for reading my stuff hope you enjoyed it!