Thursday, August 6, 2009

Remembering Woodstock

Next week will see the fortieth anniversary of the music festival at Woodstock, NY in 1969, which would be listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of its '50 Moments That Changed The History Of Rock 'n Roll'. As the magazine described it:

On the weekend of August 15th, 1969, an estimated 400,000 people from all over America descended on the 600-acre dairy farm of Max Yasgur, in Bethel, New York, for a three-day concert, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. On Monday, August 18th, they all melted back into America after witnessing legendary performances by, among others, the Who, Santana, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix and, in only their second live show together, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

. . .

Despite delays, the danger of electrical shocks and general backstage anarchy, Woodstock pulled off the ultimate magic act of the 1960s: turning utter rain-soaked chaos into the greatest rock festival ever and the decade's most famous and successful experiment in peace and community.

There's more at the link.

The Woodstock poster. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

I'm sure there'll be much reminiscing and re-living the fun and games. A particularly interesting article was published in the Daily Mail today, titled, 'Forty far-out facts you never knew about Woodstock'. A few of them:

5. Joni Mitchell wrote the festival's eponymous song, with the lyrics 'We are stardust we are golden', from what she heard of the event from then-boyfriend Graham Nash, ex-Hollies and one quarter of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. But she never made it to Woodstock. Taking the advice of her manager, she chose to guest on the Dick Cavett Show and then watched the festival unfold on TV, tears streaming down her face.

7. With storm clouds approaching, the crowd was urged: 'Let's think hard to get rid of the rain.' A chant went up: 'No rain, no rain, no rain.' But it didn't stop the deluge and in three hours, five inches of rain fell and the festival became a mudfest. Joan Baez famously sang 'We shall overcome' during a full-on thunderstorm.

The crowd and stage after the rain. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

9. The performance of The Star-Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix that closed Woodstock was described by the rock critic from the New York Post as 'the single greatest moment of the Sixties'. Yet it was witnessed by just a fraction of the crowd. Most had gone home by the time Hendrix came on stage, at 9am on a Monday morning.

15. There were ten million yards of blue jeans and striped T-shirt material at Woodstock.

16. The dove perched on a guitar neck in the famous poster announcing 'Three Days of Peace and Music' is really a catbird, an American perching bird known for its catlike calls.

23. Off-duty police officers were banned from providing security, so a New Mexico commune known as the Hog Farm were hired to form a 'Please Force.' The Hog Farmers were led by Wavy Gravy, a toothless former beatnik comic, who put on a Smokey-the-Bear suit and warned troublemakers they would be doused in fizzy water or hit with custard pies.

26. The Food For Love concession was running low on burgers so it raised prices from 25 cents to $1. Festival-goers saw it as capitalist exploitation, against the spirit of the festival, so burnt the stand down.

29. With the festival start-time running over an hour late, there was panic to find a performer ready. Tim Hardin, (who later died of a heroin overdose), was too stoned, so Richie Havens went on. When Havens finished his set he kept trying to leave but was told to do more encores as the next band was not ready. His song Freedom was improvised and became a worldwide hit.

Richie Havens at Woodstock. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

33. For those lost and confused there were two wooden signposts nailed to a tree. Chalked on one was 'Groovy Way' with arrows in opposite directions. On the other was 'Gentle Path' and underneath 'High Way' pointing to the left.

37. While most acts revelled in having appeared there, sitar player Ravi Shankar found it a 'terrifying experience' and said the crowd in the mud reminded him of the water buffaloes at home in India.

There's much more at the link. Entertaining reading.

To those of my readers who can remember it: what were you doing during Woodstock? I was at school in South Africa, of course. Tell us your memories in Comments.



mostly cajun said...

I was in the loving arms of the US Army, home on leave awaiting my trip to Korea...

PeterT said...

I was in the Navy, at GLakes going to ET school. A bunch of us had plans to go to Woodstock for the weekend till the school CO found out and canceled our liberty for the weekend...(at least that's what the Chief said...)

ajdshootist said...

I would have been shooting most of that weekend as i got my Firearms Licence in May that year i remember hearing about it and wondering what it was like we had the Isle of Wight festival in Sept 68 and remember hearing the music across the solent in Lyminton.

Sam said...

Whidbey Island Washington compliments of US Navy. We were prepping for deployment to Vietnam.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading the ads for the festival in the LA Free Press and thinking: "Oh my God, this's gonna be IT!!" Planned to sel my car for the cash to get a flight out after work on Friday and go! Thank God no one wanted to buy my POS car; it woulda been a disaster...

Anonymous said...

Clark Air Base, Phillippines.
I dont remember hearing about "woodstock" at the time, though armed forces television did give coverage to the moon walk.
joe mcdermott

The Old Man said...

I was prepping for the RVN at POR (Preparation for Overseas Replacement) at Ft Lee, Va. I was in Nam a month later.

Gerald said...

I was in the USAF, and a hippy I was not. I hate to think that far back 'cause it makes my head hurt(but so does Tequila).

Anonymous said...

I was there.
It was great.
Seven of us, all ex-Boy Scouts, just graduated from high school or about to- packed a 10-man tent and supplies and spent Wed. to Sunday there.
I had just hitch-hiked back home (Ridgefield, CT) from a summer in LA after graduation. Folks had gone on vacation, so off I went.
Lots of fun. Remember it well.