45 Years Ago: First Glastonbury Festival Features David Bowie and Traffic
Britain’s now-legendary Glastonbury Festival began on June 20, 1971. Thirty-something farmer Michael Eavis had seen Led Zeppelin headline a festival in Bath and decided to throw one of his own. He booked no less than the Kinks to play at his farm on Sept. 19, 1970. However, the Kinks didn’t show and T. Rex ended up headlining the first (and only) Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival.
1,500 people paid one British pound – which included free milk – to attend.
The Glastonbury Free Festival (also known as Glastonbury Fair or Fayre) was planned for June 20-24, 1971. This was a much grander event than the previous year’s Pilton fest. Creating what would become an iconic symbol of Glastonbury Festivals for decades to come, set designer Bill Harkin crafted a giant pyramid stage from scaffolding and sheet metal. According to Harkin, who got the idea from a dream, the stage was a one-tenth replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Still, the festival managed a respectable bill of around 20 acts, including Joan Baez, Traffic, Arthur Brown, Brinsley Schwarz, Hawkwind, Fairport Convention and pre-superstardom David Bowie. David was set to headline Saturday night, but due to the organizers’ desire to avoid upsetting neighbors with late-night noise, he was pushed back to dawn on the next day. He took the stage with guitarist Mick Ronson and debuted a bunch of tracks from 'Hunky Dory', which he was recording at the time.
Fairport Convention-Dirty Linen (Glastonbury Live 1971)
Traffic - Gimme Some Loving (Glastonbury Live 1971)
With 10,000 attendees, the modest festival was deemed a success although, because of free admission, not a financial one. Roeg’s film (Glastonbury Fayre) brought some attention to the event and a triple-album (featuring many performances not from the fest) was released to recoup some of the costs. Regardless, another Glastonbury would not held until the late ’70s, and the festival did not become a regular event until the ’80s.