Lots of interest this weekend as the granddaddy of rock festivals marks four decades of retrospect. Groovy. Frankly, the most stunning thing about it is that if has been forty years. TWC finds that mind blowing.
A couple of other things happened that year that were pretty cool, one of which was the first internet email message was sent at UCLA and I heard there was a moon landing, which the 9-11 Was An Inside Job crowd, all of whom buy off on Area 51 alien body rumors, claim was faked. [shrugs] I didn't think up that observation on my own now, Franklin H put me onto it.
But, I know a guy named Warren who was there with his girlfriend. His memoir is a fascinating glimpse into a story that has acquired a life of its own over the ensuing decades. Also know a chick named Debbie who lived in the Haight during the Summer of Love. Shoulda asked her too, but it's a little late now.
Fixin' to Die Rag Video here. See if you can spot Warren.
Without any other introduction.......
As per TWC's request, and in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Three Days of Peace and Music, here are my remembrances of Woodstock (and Cindy, if you're out there, forgive me if I'm wrong in any details... it's been a long, strange trip since then.)
My girlfriend and I were living in SF in the summer of '69, dirt-poor. Somehow she heard about Woodstock and bought tickets out of her meager savings. We flew back to Maryland and drove my old Beetle up to New York. We took sleeping bags and blankets, about $60 cash, and not much else. We figured there would be food concessions at the show. We went to Woodstock first, then White Lake, where the concert was re-located, only to be directed (by exasperated locals) to Yasgur's farm, which I think was at least 20 miles away. Of course we had no idea 500,000 freaks would show up. Most of them were gate-crashers, and after crawling along in an immense line of cars, parking in a cornfield and walking almost a mile to the venue, we were a little pissed to realize we didn't need tickets! I think they cost $25 each, a lot of money to us in those days.
I vividly recall the hordes of kids making the long trek to the stage, hopping on car fenders to get a rest from the dusty slog. I remember wondering how many of them were refugees from the Summer of Love.
We put down a blanket about 2/3 back but with a good view of the stage. I had a little pair of binocs, which helped a lot. There was no problem hearing the music, the sound system was incredible. Now and then, someone would give us a joint, in exchange for using the binocs for a time.
The entire field, which made a natural ampitheater, filled up with freaks- no aisles, no cleared paths. If you wanted to leave for a bathroom break you had to step over bodies- seemingly endlessly. There were some concession stands, but they were out of food by the time the music started. They sold sodas the first day, if you wanted to spend an hour in line. I bought us six Cokes. We had a little water but it was gone quickly... after that we had to nurse our last two sodas, except a couple of times when canteens floated through aimlessly.
At one point a couple to one side of us stripped down and made love in front of all, then got dressed and continued watching the music acts as though nothing had happened.
Friday was good. We stayed put through the night, and saw nearly all the Saturday acts, but stumbled back to the car that night to get a little sleep. Some kids nearby had brown rice and gave us a little... as I recall we gave up our last half-joint for it. I think that was the only food we had for the three days we were there.
We saw some of the artists on Sunday, but because it rained much of Saturday into Sunday morning, and because we were soaked and starving and everything was becoming impossible, we missed the later acts. The Beetle was stuck in the muddy ex-cornfield, and we paid the exorbitant sum of $10 to get a farmer to pull us out with his tractor. The crawl of cars leaving Sunday was worse than the one arriving Friday. On our way out of town, stopped in traffic, I got out of the car and paid a dollar for two Coke cans full of water out of the garden hose of one of the locals, who felt free to give me a load of crap about all of us hippies, we should get a bath.
Although the scene was maddening at times, I must say that the stories are true... We saw no violence, heard no angry words, and witnessed a remarkable degree of cooperative behavior from the kids- and we were just kids- of the counterculture Nation.
Here are the performers I remember:
Friday: Ritchie Havens, Country Joe, John Sebastian, Incredible String Band, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez
Saturday: Santana, Canned Heat, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin
Sunday: Jefferson Airplane (mostly while walking from the car to the stage area), Joe Cocker
Of these, the best IMO were Ritchie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Santana, Joe Cocker and of course the incredible amazing Janis.
Acts we missed include: The Who, Ten Years After, The Band, Blood Sweat and Tears, Johnny Winter, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Paul Butterfield (damn shame that), Sha-na-na and Jimi Hendrix. However, I've seen the documentary a few times, and sometimes I feel Hendrix's version of the Star Spangled Banner, with which he woke up anyone who was still there Monday morning, is one of my memories, too.
Today I saw two of the organizers of Woodstock on CSPAN, peddling a book about the behind-the-scenes mayhem of it all... they said a new box-set DVD will be coming out next week, with every single act, in their proper order, for the first time ever. Unfortunately many will be ear-crunchers... but whether or not you were there, you can put on your bell-bottoms and peasant shirts, invite 50 of your best friends to share your living space, and pretend it's 1969.
TWC 🍷Photo Credit (unless otherwise noted): ©TWC, all rights reserved