The final headliner of the Glastonbury Music Festival was confirmed today, as rock legends The Who declared they'd be performing on the Pyramid Stage during late June, along with other headliners Kanye West and the Foo Fighters. The inclusion of the band continues the attempts of the Eavis family to book the biggest acts in British history, such as the Rolling Stones during 2013. It makes us wonder: What are the biggest bands in UK music history that haven't graced the big stage yet? There are several that still seem ripe for a headlining gig, such as Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and more.
Bands that have broken up or otherwise wouldn't be able to perform were ruled out of consideration (so no...we didn't count Pink Floyd, despite the rumor mill running full steam).
Everyone knows that The Beatles are the bestselling act from the UK in history. You might (or might not) be surprised to know that Elton John is the no. 2 however, topping competitors Led Zeppelin and Queen by more than 50 million records sold. As such, it's no surprise that the Rocket Man himself was among the most rumored headliners for this year's Glastonbury Festival while the rumor mills ran hot during 2014. Around November, John announced that he was going on a stadium tour of the UK, right around the time of this year's festival. Not to mention he had performed at the British Bestival as well as the American Bonnaroo during 2014, suggesting that he was warming up for one of the world's biggest gigs. All of that came to nothing however, as The Who ended up being this year's big throwback pick. At 67, John still has several years ahead of him to land the big gig however.
As we suggested above, Queen is also one of the biggest exports of the UK, with more than 300 million records sold to the band's name. The group has also amped up its touring regime in recent years since adding Adam Lambert as vocalist, an improvement over Paul Rodgers for the role, by our reckoning. The Glastonbury crowd tends to be true-blooded rock fans, and they would devour a set full of anthemic choruses and solos from Brian May. "But wait," you say. "Using that logic, why not bring back Led Zeppelin to headline? Both bands have a deceased original member and have sold more than 300 million records." Well, for one, Led Zeppelin has—with the exception of one 2007 concert—been firm in its commitment to not reuniting without John Paul Jones behind the drum set (although his son would more than likely love the idea, if he could play rhythm). As sacrilegious as a Queen-sans-Freddie Mercury might be to some Queen fans, the band would be more than happy to make an appearance at a major musical event.
Few events showcase the difference in tastes between American and British listeners than Glastonbury, such as when acts such as Kasabian and Basement Jaxx can play on the Pyramid Stage alongside Metallica and The White Stripes, respectively. This isn't exactly the case for Cliff Richard, but his name sure doesn't ring a bell in the United States like it used to (he peaked at no. 6 on the Hot 100 during 1976 with the single "Devil Woman"). That said, he's an iconic member of British music history, having sold more than 250 million records worldwide. Some might note that Richard is much more pop, even more so than Elton John, and therefore might not live up to the strict guitar-based standards of the Glastonbury faithful. That said, the crowds historically have been much more open to older, "more historic" acts. For example, Dolly Parton was one of the most discussed live sets at the event last year. Although she wasn't a headliner, there's talks of bringing her "Mud Song" back this year.
Depeche Mode is another act that's more than familiar to American listeners, yet we don't comprehend exactly how big the synth-rock/industrial icons are in its homeland, so much so that British betting agency Paddy Power listed the group as the favorites to headline the 2015 event during the earliest predictions, with odds of 3-to-1. Needless to say, they were wrong (as they were with the next five acts they predicted: Prince, Parton, The Eagles and Oasis...plus one other group we'll look at in a minute). This is one band that Michael Eavis and co. have definitely been in contact with before (the other groups may have as well, without making the information public). Depeche Mode claimed that it was offered a spot at the 2009 event...but that the group turned Glastonbury down because the line-up didn't quite work for us." That lineup included Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young...acts a little too organic for Depeche perhaps.
Fleetwood Mac was among the most popular names around the water cooler once again during 2015, as the act has been a favorite for headlining Glastonbury since it reformed its full, "authentic" lineup during 2008. The odds were heavily in their favor for 2015, as Paddy Power gave 5-to-1 odds, another losing bet. The band will once again become the topic of conversation once this year's festival ends during late June (as will other perennial nominee Prince), so you just know that one of these days Michael Eavis is going to break through and nab both of those acts.