I was sixteen coming on seventeen. With my friend Lee, I hitchhiked from Yorkshire on the Wednesday before the festival began. We had rucksacks, sleeping bags and an old tent. We didn't quite know what to expect but we had the best weekend ever. At that impressionable age we were both in love with the music of our generation. Not catchy pop music that appeared in the singles charts but proper, progressive music. Music with depth and integrity. We absorbed it.
But being there on The Isle of Wight was more than the music. It was about the people and the youth culture that was emerging in the western world, following "flower power" and The Beatles with "All You Need Is Love" and the anti-Vietnam movement and "Ban the Bomb" and long hair and the birth control pill. World War Two had finished twenty five years before and Harold Wilson spoke of "the white heat of technology". It was 1970.
I realise that I have written about The Isle of Wight Festival before but after half a century please allow me this nostalgic self-indulgence. It had a big impact upon me. I stood in the middle of that great field at East Afton Farm and saw the throngs of people around me - like a great medieval army resting in the sunshine before battle resumed. It was a battle for peace and love. We were together. We were so young.
I witnessed so much great music - mostly on the main festival stage though there were some side venues too. My main regret was that I slept through The Doors' entire set but I did see: Joni Mitchell, Donovan, John Sebastian, Free, Ten Years After, Chicago, Tiny Tim, The Groundhogs, Terry Reid, Family, Procol Harum, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Melanie, The Moody Blues and Jethro Tull.
And the Sunday night into Monday morning was something very special. This was the line-up: Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen and as the sun rose over the hummocky downs, Richie Havens:
Awesome memory YP.ReplyDelete
You have used the word "awesome" accurately Carol.Delete
I have see Donovan, Elp and Jethro Tull. Great post. I love Prog Rock nostalgia.ReplyDelete
If you had been there you could have woken me up so that I didn't miss The Doors.Delete
As Mary Hopkin once sang - "Those were the days"!ReplyDelete
That was a great song CG..."We thought they'd never end".Delete
I was two years old at the time - way too little to know anything about it. My parents were a young couple, having a three- and a two-year-old to look after; they loved music, and especially my Dad would forever play music on the stereo or the radio, but they could not have attended such a festival; as you rightly say, you were so young! A great memory for you, and wonderful to read about.ReplyDelete
If only I had known! I would have asked your parents to parcel you up and send you over to Yorkshire so that I could take you down to the festival. Yes - a great memory Meike.Delete
What an event that must have been. I saw Richie Havens in concert somewhere- can’t remember where. - and can still here his amazing voice.ReplyDelete
Hear, not here!!ReplyDelete
Yeah - Richie Havens! What an artist Marty. It was as if he entered a kind of trance and his style of guitar playing was very original. I loved that guy.Delete
I enjoyed reading about this and can see that you cherish your memories. Richie Havens played at a very small restaurant in a neighboring town for two consecutive New Years Eves and we had the joy of seeing him prior to his death. I had seen him in Central Park as a teenager. It was always,as you say. awesome!ReplyDelete
I think he was underrated Terry. I still love his album - "Stonehenge" that came out in 1970. How wonderful to see him perform in a small restaurant! I am a little envious.Delete
Never liked Hendrix. Even now I turn him off as soon as he comes on one of those old music programmes on BBC4. I don't get why people say he was a great guitar player.ReplyDelete
We all have different tastes. I loved the guy and even visited his grave in Seattle. He made sounds that no other lead guitarist could make. I sort of understand why some people didn't "get" him. He was so avant garde.Delete
Or, in other words, crap.Delete
Now, now, Tasker. Just because you think it's "crap" doesn't mean you need to shit on it. There was a time Clapton was thought of as God. And don't mention Bob Dylan to me. His music is fine, can't bear the adulation of the man.Delete
There is a lot of music I don't get. Sometimes for totally irrational reasons. By way of fluffy example: I can't stand Madonna. I mean the person or, rather, her public persona. Which is why I never listen to her music. Give me Tina Turner instead.
Come to think of it: What do you think of Billy Gibbons, him of "Sharp Dressed Man" and ZZ Top fame? He does a fine line in sauces too.
All I'm saying is that I've never thought of Hendrix as a particularly outstanding guitarist. I have always thought there were/are so many so much better, liked or not liked. Gibbons does nice riffs.Delete
Okay, you don't like Jimi Hendrix. Best stick to Steps, S Club 7 and The Brotherhood of Man Tasker! I feel personally hurt that you dismiss Jimi's music as "crap". Do you think Picasso was "crap" too? Was George Orwell "crap"? Was Barbara Hepworth "crap"? Bollocks!Delete
Not at all. If turning the amp loud so you make a sound by lightly dabbing your fingers all over the fretboard, or playing it with your teeth, or simulating sex with it, counts as legendary guitar playing, then the bar is not very high.Delete
You recall those moments out of context. I guess that Jimi Hendrix's legions of fans both then and now are wrong or misguided or just plain stupid? As I said at first we all have different tastes. For example, I dislike opera but I would not say it was "crap" - just not my cup of tea.Delete
Melanie - 'Look What they have done to my song Ma'. Remember that, my daughter still remembers me playing 'the record' over and over again!ReplyDelete
I saw her around Christmastime last year on TV. I was shocked to see how she has changed. Her voice was so plaintive back in the day. "Goodbye Ruby Tuesday!"Delete
You have made me remember The Laurel Pop Festival (held at a race course outside of DC) which was a precursor to Woodstock--held in July 1969. It did not involve camping out, but many of the acts went on to perform at Woodstock. I went on the second night, so missed first night performers: Led Zepplin, Johnny Winter, Jethro Tull, among others. But, unfortunately, I didn't miss the rain and cold of the second night. There were some good performers: The Jeff Beck Group, with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood (group broke up after this); Ten Years After; The Guess Who (who were rain delayed by two hours); and The Mothers of Invention with Frank Zappa. Finally, Sly and the Family Stone came on, but their performance didn't start until 2 am and by then the off and on rain and cold night had taken the charm off of things (for me, for sure). To keep warm, some people started bonfires using the folded, wooden seats that had been set up for the concert--this included someone trying to light a fire using my chair--while I was still on it. My date swiftly pulled me off before my (then waist length) hair could catch on fire. Things went downhill quickly. Sly's group only got off a song or two. Savoy Brown didn't get to play at all. The police were called, not just for the fires, but because some disgruntled folks started to throw the wooden chairs. Not peace and love. It was actually very scary and pretty much put me off going to concerts. Being short, I couldn't see what was going on most of the time and it made the event unhappily claustrophobic. Thankfully, my date got me out of there safely. At least I have some good memories of other concerts from the mid-60s on to remember--ones a little less harrowing.ReplyDelete
Sorry Mary but I chuckled at the point where you recalled someone trying to set fire to your chair with you still on it! Was it Guy Fawkes Night?Delete
Wow! So amazing that you were there. You got to experience a life-altering event. I never went to a music festival like that. Being a girl, freedom was a lot more restricted, plus I lived in central Florida and NOTHING like that happened anywhere near us.ReplyDelete
I have seen some of the bands you listed. And I dreamed about Jethro Tull just a few nights ago! I worked first aid at concerts in Denver for awhile and saw them there.
Fifty years ago...
It was a different world.
Yeah, the world was still in black and white then. Colour was just being invented.Delete
I'm a big fan of Chicago, I didn't realise they performed at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival - Britain's Woodstock. Too young to have been there of course but what a fabulous line up. You were lucky to have experienced it.ReplyDelete
Chicago made a big brassy sound...like a brassy blonde!!! Mentioning no names.Delete
I've said this before, but I'm so jealous you got to witness this momentous event. History in the making! I think that was a very special time, when so much of the western world's baby-boom population was youthful and idealistic.ReplyDelete
Special times Steve. You could feel it in the air - not just with the benefit of hindsight. Ah but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.Delete
Joan Baez and Leonard Cohen were/are among my old favourites too, along with for example Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. (But Jimi Hendrix was not).ReplyDelete
I was with you all the way till the parentheses!Delete
Great memories. We didn't get to any festivals but did manage a few concerts.ReplyDelete
Do you remember Ian Dury? we saw him live and Tom blames the accompanying group for his tinnitus, They were so loud and called 'Root boy slim'lol
Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll... that's probably what gave Tom his tinnitus!Delete
Yes, I bet there is a part of you that feels like it was only yesterday that you were honored to see such a famous part of rock history. The Isle of Wight Festival holds an important spot in the history of the best concerts and musical events. I would love to have been there to see that assortment of acts and I enjoy hearing you describe it. I have been fortunate to see some of those bands and many others but I will always regret not being able to go to Woodstock. I did attend one three day concert in Texas back in 1971 so I got the feel of it but nothing could replace the significance of The Isle of Wight Festival or Woodstock. These memories of yours should be passed down. When your grandchildren are teenagers they will love to hear what their Grandpa did!ReplyDelete
I wish you had been at The Isle of Wight Bonnie. With your permission of course, I would have danced with you!Delete
Great, and heartfelt, post, YP. I have only ever been to one mud fest, somewhere in the North of the motherland. My overriding memory? Squelchy. Even the car (VW) broke down on the way back.ReplyDelete
On a good day I can see the Isle of Wight from my coast line. Other than that the live music scene is effed in CV-19 times.
To the sound of "Come on, Baby, light my fire",
No, make that "Riders on the Storm".Delete
Okay, okay...don't rub it in Ursula. I missed ALL of The Doors' set!Delete
I wonder if the same will be said about today's music. I won't know because I'm too busy listening to very oldies.ReplyDelete
A lot of today's music seems shallow and forgettable or am I just being an old fogey?Delete
Those were good times, good memories. This generation is making their own, music, times and memories.ReplyDelete
I guess they are Joanne but it's almost unknown territory to me.Delete
Thank you for sharing a spectacular memory. I was a little young for Woodstock and most of those musicians but my sisters, who are all older, were fans, I heard it all from a small child's point of view. It makes me happy and I think of them when I hear the music of that era.ReplyDelete
It was a special time. Thanks for calling by again Linda.Delete