Strictly speaking, Glastonbury as we know it now wasn’t the first Glastonbury festival. From 1914 to 1925, classical music composer Rutland Boughton organised a series of cultural events in the town over summer, which he called the Glastonbury Festival. And when Michael Eavis began his event in 1970, it was called the Worthy Farm Pop Festival, not Glastonbury. As you can see from the above flyer, it cost a quid to get in (about £15 in today’s money) and featured eight performers - at least! Here are some other facts…

1. It began the day after Jimi Hendrix died

Michael Eavis advertised the Worthy Farm Pop Festival as starting on September 19, 1970 “and goes on over”. If you’d bought a newspaper that morning, you would have read some tragic news: Jimi Hendrix had passed away the day before. Here’s the BBC’s Brian Matthew talking to Jimi about how he formulated his “freakish blues” sound.

2. Michael Eavis started the festival to try and clear his overdraft

I’m just an average sort of fella - I’m not all that cunning"
Michael Eavis

In this intriguing BBC interview, Michael Eavis fesses up: he’s in debt and the festival is an attempt to get him back in the black. Asked whether “hard cash” is the object of staging the event on his farm, he replies: “I think I’m just an average sort of fella - I’m not all that cunning. I do enjoy it, but obviously I’ve got an overdraft and I’ve got to try and clear it.” Eavis also talks about satisfying the local authorities, the type of people he expects to turn up and how many of them. And, yup, even back in 1970 he was worried about gatecrashers.

I’m just an average sort of fella - I’m not all that cunning"
Michael Eavis

3. Headliners The Kinks pulled out and were replaced by Tyrannosaurus Rex

This year, Michael Eavis has had to contend with Foo Fighters cancelling their Friday night Pyramid Stage set after frontman Dave Grohl broke his leg. Headliners pulling out, though, goes all the way back to very first festival when The Kinks (as well as Wayne Fontana, the other act listed on the flyer) were no-shows. They were replaced by Marc Bolan’s Tyrannosaurus Rex. Other performers included singer-songwriters Keith Christmas and Al Stewart, and psych-rock bands Stackridge and Quintessence.

4. Hardly anyone turned up

Very poor attendance, I think mainly due to bad advertising"
Disgruntled punter

These days, the Eavises sell a jaw-dropping 175,000 tickets for Glastonbury in about two nanoseconds after they go on sale. Back in 1970, Michael was hoping 5,000 people would turn up at Worthy Farm, but far fewer made the trip. In this wonderful film, one punter says: "Very poor attendance, I think mainly due to bad advertising. Could have been a gas, great show, had it been better advertised.” Others say they had a good time, but Michael is disappointed: "I wouldn’t say a disaster, but it hasn’t been as good as I hoped."

Very poor attendance, I think mainly due to bad advertising"
Disgruntled punter

5. The festival dropped Eavis deeper into debt (but at least the weather was good)

I don't know exactly what my loss will be, but not too great"
Michael Eavis

They may have over-cooked the number of people that turned up (the official Glastonbury site says it was as low as 1,500), but the Central Somerset Gazette gave the festival a positive write-up. However, within the review, Eavis mentions that he made a loss. "The incredible response I have had from the people that did come has wiped out the gloom of not managing to make a profit," he said. "There is no question of my having to sell the farm or any part of it. Although I don't know exactly what my loss will be of yet, I can say it will not be too great." Oh well, at least the weather was good, as the review also mentions.

I don't know exactly what my loss will be, but not too great"
Michael Eavis

6. Okay, this one isn't surprising: "Everybody was high"

We were all high, man! Everybody!"
Quintessence

When Glastonbury turned 40 in 2010, artists who played the first festival were invited back. Some, like DJ Mad Mick, hadn't returned in the intervening years. They all have fond memories, no doubt assisted by the fact that, as a member of Quintessence (who played again in 1971) says, "Everybody was high. We were all high, man! Everybody!"

As for the future of the festival, we all know how well that panned out. Here's a reminder...

We were all high, man! Everybody!"
Quintessence

Related links

Added item image
"
"
Added, go to My Music to see full list.
More from