Monday, August 10, 2009

Woodstock 40 Years Later

Woodstock Music & Art Fair

When: August 15 to August 18, 1969

Where: Bethel, New York (Max Yasgur's 600 acre farm)

Who: Thirty-two Rock, Folk, Blues Artists.

Founded by: Michael Lang, John P. Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld

Ticket Price: $18 in advance / $24 at the gate (for all 3 days)

On Friday, August 15, 1969, the historical concert event that was billed as “An Aquarian Exposition” quickly became one of the greatest moments is music history. The organizers thought they could attract between 50,000 and 100,000 people, which was an ambitious and optimistic estimate at the time. No one knew that more than 500,000 music lovers would turn Woodstock into a fairyland of sound, peace, love, drugs and human conformity.

However, there were a multitude of problems, which one could understand given the magnitude of the event. Hunger, bad sanitation, water shortages, inclement weather, traffic jams, first aid issues, bad drugs, why the list seems endless. However, even with these issues, it was a victory for the youth of America and the music world as well. There was no racial tension at a time when racial tension was at its peak. There was little resentment toward your fellow man; it was a place of social harmony and free love. It was a major coup for the counterculture, despite the obvious problems.

Countless books, documentaries, interviews, news articles have captured all the specifics that occurred on Max Yasgur’s farm. But more than the aforementioned qualities, errors in judgement and logistical nightmares, it was after all, one of the most successful events in music history. Let’s explore the time line and some of the little known facts behind this massive musical experience.

The Players:

DAY ONE - August 15, 1969
1. Richie Havens
2. Swami Satchidananda
3. Country Joe McDonald
4. John B. Sebastian
5. Sweetwater
6. Incredible String Band
7. Bert Sommer
8. Tim Hardin
9. Ravi Shankar
10. Melanie
11. Arlo Guthrie
12. Joan Baez

DAY TWO - August 16, 1969
1. Quill
2. Keef Hartley Band
3. Santana
4. Canned Heat
5. Grateful Dead
6. Mountain
7. Creedence Clearwater Revival
8. Sly & The Family Stone
9. Janis Joplin
10. The Who

DAY THREE - August 17, 1969
1. Jefferson Airplane
2. Joe Cocker
3. Country Joe & The Fish
4. Ten Years After
5. The Band

After midnight - Monday Morning) - August 18, 1969
6. Blood Sweat And Tears
7. Johnny Winter
8. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
9. Paul Butterfield Blues Band
10. Sha-Na-Na
11. Jimi Hendrix (Hendrix insisted on being the final performer and was scheduled to perform Sunday at midnight. He didn't take the stage until 9 A.M. on Monday morning and played for 2 hours to a dwindling audience)

Musical Acts That Declined Invitations:

The Beatles declined because John Lennon said he couldn't get them all together at the time.

Led Zeppelin was asked to perform, their manager Peter Grant stating: "We were asked to do Woodstock and Atlantic were very keen, and so was our US promoter, Frank Barsalona. I said no because at Woodstock we'd have just been another band on the bill." Instead the group went on with their hugely successful summer tour, playing that weekend south of the festival at the Asbury Park Convention Hall in New Jersey.

Jethro Tull declined to perform. Ian Anderson is reported to have later said he "didn't want to spend [his] weekend in a field of unwashed hippies." Another theory proposed that the band felt the event would be "too big a deal" and might kill their career before it started. Little did they know just how important this could have been for the band. Ironically, in the film Jethro Tull songs can be heard playing in the background between acts.

Bob Dylan was close, but pulled out when his son became ill. He also was very turned off by the number of hippies hanging around his house, which was near the originally planned site.

The Byrds were invited, but chose to defer, figuring that the event would not be any different from all the other music festivals that summer. Additionally, there were monetary concerns and they had trouble earlier that year at a performance at the first Atlanta International Pop Festival, held at the Atlanta International Raceway on July 4 and July 5, 1969, where a melee had broken out.

"We were flying to a gig and Roger [McGuinn] came up to us and said that a guy was putting on a festival in upstate New York,” recalled bassist John York. “But at that point they weren't paying all of the bands. He asked us if we wanted to do it and we said, 'No'. We had no idea what it was going to be. We were burned out and tired of the festival scene. [...] So all of us said, 'No, we want a rest' and missed the best festival of all.”

Tommy James & the Shondells declined the invitation because of being misinformed about the size and scope of the event.

Lead singer Tommy James stated later: "We could have just kicked ourselves. We were in Hawaii, and my secretary called and said, 'Yeah, listen, there's this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.' That's how it was put to me. So we passed, and we realized what we'd missed a couple of days later."

The Moody Blues were included in the original posters as performers, but backed out after taking a gig in Paris on the same weekend.

The band Mind Garage declined because they thought it wouldn't be a big deal and had a higher paying gig elsewhere. Oops.

The Randy California-led band Spirit also declined, they had other shows planned and did not want to back out of their commitments; not knowing how big that Woodstock would ultimately become.

Cancelled appearances:

The Doors were considered, but they canceled at the last minute, most likely due to frontman Jim Morrison's distaste for performing in large outdoor venues. However, band member John Densmore did attend.

The Jeff Beck Group was an England rock band formed in London in January 1966 by ex-Yardbiirds guitarist Jeff Beck. Their innovative approach to heavy-sounding blues was a major influence on popular music during the late 1960s and early 1970s....They were scheduled to perform at Woodstock, but failed to make an appearance because the band broke up the week before.

Iron Butterfly was a psychedelic rock and early heavy metal music band, well known for their 1968 hit "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” They were enroute, however were stuck at an airport, and their manager demanded helicopters and special arrangements just for them. At one point, helicopters were the only means of transportation that could get to the location. They were wired back and told, as impolitely as Western Union would allow, "to get lost," and they left without playing.

Singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell was scheduled to perform, but her agent recommended that she appear on The Dick Cavett Show. However, she wrote a song from what she had heard from then-boyfriend, Graham Nash, about the festival appropriately called “Woodstock,” that became a major hit for Matthews Southern Comfort and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. She was also discouraged by the audience response to her performance at the Atlantic City Pop Festival that was held earlier in August prior to Woodstock. The audience was so rude that she was not able to complete her set and she walked off the stage, sobbing.

Canadian band Lighthouse were originally was scheduled to play at Woodstock, but in the end they decided not to, fearing that it would be a bad scene. Later, several members of the group would say that they regretted the decision.

Musician Ethan Brown was scheduled, but was arrested for LSD possession just three days before the event.

More About Woodstock:

In 2009, complete performances from Woodstock by Santana, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, and Johnny Winter were released separately and were also collected in a box-set entitled “The Woodstock Experience.”

It's also being reported that Woodstock promoter Michael Lang has had to drop plans for a 40th anniversary concert. When asked why he abandoned the pursuit for a third anniversary concert celebrating the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, Lang simply lamented: “Money. No sponsors.”

However, Lang remains busy with Woodstock-related projects. On August 8th, he will join Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee and screenwriter/producer James Schamus in Woodstock, New York, for an advance screening of the comedy “Taking Woodstock,” which hits theaters Aug. 28. The film, directed by Lee, with screenplay by Schamus, is based on a book written by Elliot Tiber, who along with his parents ran a motel in Bethel during the Woodstock festival. Should be interesting…..

In 1997, the site of the concert and 1,400 acres surrounding it was purchased by Alan Gerry for the purpose of creating the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. The Center opened on July 1, 2006 with a performance of the New York Philharmonic. On August 13, 2006, Crosby Stills Nash & Young performed to 16,000 fans at the new Center — 37 years after their historic performance at Woodstock.

The Museum at Bethel Woods opened in June 2008. The Museum contains film and interactive displays, text panels, and artifacts which explore the unique experience of the Woodstock festival, its significance as the culminating event of a decade of radical cultural transformation, and the legacy of the Sixties and Woodstock today.

VH1 on Friday, Aug. 14, will air, “Woodstock: Now & Then,” a documentary directed by Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple. Original Woodstock promoter Michael Lang is executive producer of the film. The History Channel will show “Woodstock: Now & Then” on Aug. 17.

On August 23, 2009 at Belleayre Mountain, which is just west of Woodstock, Lang will co-present Kidstock, with a “Tribute to Woodstock” by young musicians from Paul Green’s School of Rock, the inspiration for the Jack Black movie.

Written By Robert Benson

Music News & Notes

Julian Lennon's Atlantic Years To Be Reissued

When a son of John Lennon announces his own musical career and shows up looking and sounding very much like his iconic dad, critics and listeners alike are bound to react with arms firmly folded. But Julian Lennon's gifts as a songwriter quickly broke down skepticism and sent the young artist soaring up the American album and singles charts. Three of his original Atlantic Records albums have long since fallen out of print, only to be reissued by Noble Rot, a subsidiary of Collectors' Choice Music in the Infinity Entertainment Group. The albums "The Secret Value of Daydreaming," "Mr. Jordan" and "Help Yourself" will hit retail on September 8, 2009, (the day before the remastered album catalog of his dad's group appears in stores). Author Gene Sculatti wrote the liner notes.

Lennon's first single, "Valotte," and "Too Late" from his 1984 Phil Ramone-produced "Valotte" album notched the No. 9 and 5 positions on the Billboard pop singles chart. The platinum-certified album received a Grammy nomination, and Sam Peckinpah directed the videos.


Bowie 40th Anniversary Space Oddity

Forty years ago, David Bowie released his eponymous first album, or Man of Words/Man of Music as it was known in the States. Soon after, the LP adopted the name of its biggest hit, Space Oddity. Now, four decades later, the Thin White Duke will reissue his debut album as a double-disc collection due out this October. The first disc features the album as it was originally presented in 1969, plus a second disc full of demos, B sides and other unreleased recordings, Bowie’s official site announced this weekend.

This Date In Music History-August 10


Jimmy Dean (1928) “Big Bad John”

American singer and entertainer Eddie Fisher (1929)

James Griffin – Bread (1943)

Ian Anderson - Jethro Tull (1947)

Ronnie Spector - The Ronettes (1947)

Patti Austin (1948)

Gene Johnson - Diamond Rio (1949)

Mark Price - All About Eve (1959) Also worked with The Cure and Right Said Fred.

Julia Fordham - singer, songwriter (1962)

Todd Nichols - Toad The Wet Sprocket (1967)

Michael Bivins - New Edition (1968)

They Are Missed:

Michael "Panic" Houser, guitarist for Widespread Panic, died of pancreatic cancer in 2002 (age 40).

Born on this day in 1940, Bobby Hatfield, singer, The Righteous Brothers , “You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin.” He died on November 5, 2003.

Born today in 1909, Leo Fender, inventor of The Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars. Died March 21, 1991.


Recorded in ’58, while Elvis Presley was on furlough during his Army stint, “A Big Hunk O’ Love” is released over a year later (1959) and takes only five weeks to reach #1.

In 1959, four members of The Platters were arrested after a gig in Cincinnati after being found with four 19 year old women, (3 of them white), in various stages of undress. The scandal resulted in radio stations across the US removing Platters records from their playlists.

13 year-old Little Stevie Wonder started a three week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1963 with “Fingertips part II,” making him the youngest singer to top the charts.

Cream started a four-week run at #1 on the US album chart in 1968 with “Wheels Of Fire.”

In 1968, the Who released their single "Magic Bus," which later went to #25.

The trial of Doors' singer Jim Morrison began in 1970. He faced numerous charges (lewd and obscene behavior) resulting from a '69 Miami concert. Morrison was found guilty but files an appeal which was still pending at the time of the singer's death less than a year later.

Following a concert in Sweden in 1972, Paul & Linda McCartney are busted for drug possession. They pay a fine and are on their way. (Paul is fined $1,000 and Linda $200)

In 1970, Elvis Presley began a 58-show stand at the Las Vegas Hilton International Hotel.

After doing two albums for Elektra/Asylum Records, Bob Dylan returned to his longtime label, Columbia Records in 1974.

John Denver went to #1 on the US album chart in 1974 with “Back Home Again.”

Roberta Flack went to #1 on the US singles chart in 1974 with “Feel Like Makin' Love,” the singers third US #1.

In 1976, Elton John played the first of ten nights sold out nights at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The $1.25 million generated from the shows broke the record set by The Rolling Stones in 1975.

Canadian singer, guitarist Bryan Adams scored his first US #1 album in 1985 with “Reckless.”

In 1985, Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran was air lifted to safety when his boat 'Drum' overturned while racing off the English coast. Le Bon was trapped under the hull with five other crew members for twenty minutes, until being rescued by the Royal Navy.

Also in 1985, after Paul McCartney advised him to invest in a music catalog, Michael Jackson buys ATV's for $47.5 million. The catalog contained 251 Beatles songs written by Lennon and McCartney.

"Like A Virgin," by Madonna, became the first 5 million seller by a solo female artist in 1985.

In 2004, Sammy Hagar’s career, his Montrose and solo efforts (but not Van Halen), was chronicled in “The Essential Red Collection.” Spanning 1973 – 1999, the Red Rocker’s set features twenty tracks, including two previously unreleased demos – “Call My Name” and “Thinking Of You,” recorded in 1975.