Friday, August 14, 2009

Woodstock - 40 years on!

It seems impossible not to write today about the 4oth anniversary of the Woodstock Festival which was held from 15th to 18th August 1969 - not actually at Woodstock but at Bethel in Sullivan County some 43 miles southwest of Woodstock, New York.

The iconic and now infamous event - billed as "The Woodstock Music and Art Fair presents An Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, NY - 3 days of Peace and Music" - was set-up with the expectation of selling around 80,00o tickets; it actually sold around 186,000 tickets; but an estimated 672,000 attended as the fences and controls failed to handle the crowds that arrived. Reportedly over a million people had to turn back because of traffic chaos and congestion!

3 days of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll followed as those present enjoyed 32 acts (some of the greatest names in rock) - Jimi Hendrix closed Woodstock with a memorable performance of The Star-Spangled Banner but this took place at 9am on a Monday morning as the event horribly overran due to a multitude of delays and poor weather - sadly many had therefore left by then and missed what was called "the greatest single moment of the sixties" by the New York Post.

The success - or perhaps that should be notoriety - of the festival has arguably fuelled every outdoor rock event since 1969 - it was the precursor for Glastonbury (now in it's 39th year) and it no doubt inspired Freddie Bannister to persuade David and Christine Cobbold to host their first concerts at Knebworth in 1974 with his "Bucolic Frolic" event headlined by The Allman Brothers Band.

My time at Knebworth (from early 1985 to late 1997) enabled me to engage with some amazing events and some entertaining people. The first concert that I was involved with was the Deep Purple event in Summer 1985 - my last was the two day Oasis event attended by 125,000 people each day. I learnt - and saw - a great deal; certainly a chapter or two in my memoirs if ever written!

I am now here at Blenheim Palace alongside this Woodstock - it still amuses us that people get the two confused - there must be an opportunity to capitalise on the linkage more than we do - now there's a project for the 50th year anniversary in 2019!

Everyone has heard of "that" Woodstock - around the world it had an impact on social behaviour that still has influence today - indeed the recent inauguration of Barack Obama got the headlines "Washington's Woodstock"!

Back to 1969, Chip Monck was the lighting director for the festival and became the last-minute master of ceremonies when Michael Lang (the co-promoter/organiser) clapped him on the back and said "We haven't hired an MC - you're it!". Amazingly his first act was to get over 500,000 people to pick up all their belongings and move back 10 steps - some metal sticks and a clothes line were then erected as the stage front barrier and remarkably this flimsy barrier was not breached over the whole three days of the event - such was the "relaxed" nature of the event throughout. Not sure that the same could be achieved today.

For those who attended back in 1969 and for those whose lives were changed by the greatest music festival in rock 'n roll history - enjoy the memories - even if they are somewhat hazy!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woodstock was a druken ,dope infested, sexual disgrace

August 14, 2009 at 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty much like Blenheim Palace then!

August 16, 2009 at 1:44 AM  
Anonymous John Hoy said...

Woodstock typified it time in the 60's - today it would be impossible and unlicensable for all of those reasons and more besides!

Such comments applied to Blenheim Palace are unjust and unwarrented - shame that the writer should choose to remain anonymous.


August 17, 2009 at 2:57 AM  

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