Glastonbury has been graced with extraordinary headline slots from the start, but who was the best?

Glastonbury has been graced with extraordinary headline slots from the start, but who was the best? One of the legendary sets from the Britpop era? That moment when hip hop stole the headlines? Something from way in the past?

Here’s a selection of great sets for your consideration, from T. Rex and a Cadillac, through to Suzanne Vega in a bulletproof vest, Beyoncé with an unexpected guest, and up to a fantastically profane Adele just last year.

And now, just for fun, it’s over to you to rank these 11 performances and come up with the ultimate answer (until, of course, Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran make us re-think this all again)…

Michael Eavis has described this watershed moment in the band’s career as the best Glastonbury performance ever and, well, he’s seen a few headliners play. There’s also the fact that readers of Q Magazine once voted this their best concert of all time (though that was back in 2006, so maybe they’ve seen a better one since then; you’ll have to ask a Q reader). The set came just a fortnight after Radiohead released OK Computer, and the band played Paranoid Android, Karma Police and No Surprises. It remains to be seen if they can eclipse their own fearsome reputation this time around.
Here’s a great yarn, reported by Music Week: according to promoter John Giddins, who worked on David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour, Michael Eavis originally didn’t want the star to perform at Glastonbury, having described his recent drum ‘n’ bass tour as “the most boring thing he had ever seen”. In a cunning ruse, Gidding ‘leaked’ information to the press that Glastonbury was desperate to book Bowie and Eavis’s phone exploded with excitable phone calls. He swiftly did an about-turn and the resulting show – Bowie’s first at the festival since a low-key appearance in 1971 – was a greatest hits stomper that packed in the likes of Rebel Rebel, Starman, Changes and, of course, Heroes.
The Stone Roses cancelled their show when guitarist John Squire broke his collarbone on a bike ride (the most un-rock ’n’ roll mishap ever?), leaving Jarvis Cocker and his merry band of misfits to storm the Pyramid Stage with a performance that marked the zenith of Britpop. The oddballs had the world’s attention at last – although Primal Scream, Blur and even Rod Stewart were approached first. Cocker played up the stroke of luck, joking that he looked somewhat out of place on the main stage at the world’s most famous music festival. When Pulp played Common People, the anthem of the underdog, it underlined the feeling that culture had shifted and – for a time – anything seemed possible for anyone.