David Bowie: the day I pulled the plug on his Glastonbury comeback

When David Bowie headlined the festival in 2000, the BBC cut him off – and switched to Michael Eavis singing Elvis instead. As the channel finally airs the show in full, the man responsible fesses up

There’s a vast crowd heaving before the Pyramid stage, dusk is turning into night and some shadowy figures have slipped behind their instruments and started to play space-jazz. Here is the culmination of Glastonbury 2000, the millennium festival’s final act, and, for a moment, everything hangs in the balance. Since 1995, David Bowie has released Outside, Earthling and Hours – each sprinkled with the odd cracking song but all grasping rather desperately for the zeitgeist. Bowie’s 53 now, and although he has toured relentlessly throughout the preceding decade, this isn’t his arena or his production. He’s out on a limb and he could fail in front of all these people and the million or more watching on BBC Two …

This was the BBC’s fourth year of filming the festival and I was – as I remain – the overall producer of the coverage. The festival was wilder then, before the wall was built in 2002, and we’d survived two of its wettest years in 1997 and 98. We were determined to make Glastonbury’s headline sets required viewing. We’d had Moby on Friday and Travis on Saturday, but the whole narrative of the festival was built around Bowie. However, there was a problem: Bowie really didn’t want to be filmed.

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