Category Archives: Music of the 60s

Old Man Woodstock Reflections

Old Man Woodstock Reflections

The Irony of Woodstock

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, many find themselves reflecting about that iconic event and its impact.

Thank you to Charlie Maloney, Woodstock alum, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts volunteer, Museum docent, and a guy who "gets it" when it comes to the spirit of the 60s that Woodstock has come to epitomize. It was he, who while surfing the internet one recent night, found an article written by Robert Hilburn for the Los Angeles Times. It kept him up later than he'd planned, but it was worth the sleep loss.

1989 was the 20th anniversary of Woodstock. Like 50, 20 is also an number that summons reflection as well.

Robert Hilburn

Hilburn's point was that if Woodstock had been held in 1989 it would have been a very different event. By 1989 the commercialization of rock music had gone from the 1950s fear of rock to a late-20th century commercial takeover with branded events.

The article's first  example is Janis Joplin's bringing a bottle of Southern Comfort on stage with her in 1969. In 1989, such "product placement" would have cost the liquor-maker. For the article, famous concert promoter Bill Graham suggested that, "...Southern Comfort would pay her a million dollars for just holding that bottle...."

Hilburn wrote that Graham's viewed Woodstock, "...not principally as a great musical moment, but as the day corporate America saw the big money to be made in rock. Indeed, Woodstock itself was a grand attempt to escalate the scale of rock."

The article quotes Joe Smith, a Capital-EMI exec, "Woodstock legitimized rock 'n' roll, and it sent out the message that there was a lot of money to be made in it."

Lou Adler, one of the organizers of rock's "first" festival, the Monterey International Pop Festival, said, "If Monterey made rock 'n' roll an art form, Woodstock made it a business."

Really?

Old Man Woodstock Reflections

Woodstock Ventures didn't just lose its shirt that weekend, it lost its pants, shoes, had, and underwear. None of the four organizers, Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts, or Joel Rosenman, ever got rich from it. They did continue to get plenty of grief and a mailbox full of law suits. Within days, Ventures sold the movie and music rights to to just begin to get out of the financial hole it found itself in. It was more than a decade later before that hole was filled. Not what I would call an acceptable rate of return.

If anything, it might be more accurate to say that corporate America saw the potential for "big money" in Woodstock's muddy aftermath and its may brethren festivals that summer.

It's many brethren? Until I began training as a docent at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts' Museum, I had, as most recollect and the article implies, that Woodstock was one of the two memorable festivals that year. The other, the sad counterpoint, being Altamont and its association with Hell's Angels violence and failed security.

Where were…?

That was not the case.  My research led me to dozens of other festivals that summer. None had the huge attendance that Woodstock had, but many had the same names. In fact, the lack of Black artists and bands at Woodstock (given the number available), stands in contrast to those other festivals. For example, none of the following were at Woodstock, but appeared throughout that summer at other festivals: The Chambers Brothers, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Taj Majal, Elvin Bishop, Sun Ra, Bukka White,  Carla and Rufus Thomas, Ike and Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye,  Albert King, Albert Collins, Edwin Starr, Slim Harpo, Big Mama Thorton,  Champion Jack Dupree, John Lee Hooker, Edwin Hawkins Singers, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Charles Lloyd, BB King, Little Richard, James Cotton Blues Band, Sam and Dave, Fred McDowell, Deacon John and the Electric Soul Train,  or Junior Walker and the All Stars,

I am not suggesting that Woodstock's invited line-up was a biased or poor one. It was great (others were, too). And I am certainly not suggesting that all of those listed above should have been there, otherwise the true musical coexistence that the spirit of Woodstock implies would ring hollow. But why not any?
Old Man Woodstock Reflections

 

As a Woodstock alum, myself, it is a thrill to hear "my" festival so celebrated and given such importance, yet when Lou Adler states that, ""My feeling has always been that if it hadn't rained, we may not have heard that much about Woodstock, or at least heard about it in a different way.....More than the music, it was the story of people pulling together against all these adverse elements. That's what made it such a dramatic and universal story" I cringe a bit.

The rain did happen, but the weekend was not a wash-out by any means. Sunburned backs attest to that. 
Old Man Woodstock Reflections
That those of us who attended did return home with a sense of solidarity seems to be accurate. The most common theme I note after conversations with returning Woodstock alum at the Museum was the sense of "Us" that we had there and afterwards.

Always remember that on that misty Monday morning when Hendrix finally closed the (actually) 4-day event, there were "only" 30- to 40-thousand people left. Most of us had gone home. We were tired. We were hungry. We were wet. We were muddy. We wondered whether our car was still there. And we had to get back to our jobs--whether that was a full-time one or a summer job before college began.

Love for Sale

Old Man Woodstock Reflections
Locals along 17B on Saturday 16 August selling hot dogs and soda. $1 each.
Woodstock's mythic story intensified what had already begun. FM rock stations and college stations (always underrated in terms of their influence) became a bigger influence. Hillburn writes that, "Woodstock changed the progressive rock format from an experiment to a boom."

The record industry did continue to increase its profits, but not, until the mid-70 did sales skyrocket: "$2.37 billion in 1975 . . . $2.73 billion in 1976 . . . $3.50 billion in 1977 . . . and $4.13 billion in 1978." And those profits are credited to Woodstock's fame.

The end result, by 1989, is that the counter-cultural music scene had gone mainstream. Stadium shows with commercial sponsors and ticket prices that make Woodstock ticket-buyer wax nostalgic.  The idealism of the 60s could still be found, but now part of a subset, not the primary aim.

A disillusioned Bill Graham quit the promotion business. Temporarily. He  returned to help create hundreds of stadium shows and help oversee a merchandising-related company. Ironically, he died in a helicopter accident after a successful meeting with Huey Lewis about doing a benefit concert.

By 2017, even a not-for-profit venue like Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has to charge what seem to many to be exorbitant prices for tickets to make ends meet. Ends, actually, that don't meet and depend on the generosity of others to close the gap and finally end in the black.

Apparently the intersection of Hurd and West Shore Roads will always be a beautiful, iconic, and historic site, but not a profit-making one.

Today you can find an exhibit at the Museum called "Love For Sale." The exhibit "examines the pervasive influence of the Counterculture on American popular culture and commerce." 

Old Man Woodstock Reflections, Old Man Woodstock Reflections, Old Man Woodstock Reflections, Old Man Woodstock Reflections, Old Man Woodstock Reflections, Old Man Woodstock Reflections, Old Man Woodstock Reflections, 

May 31 Music et al

May 31 Music et al

Jimi Hendrix enlists

May 30 Music et al

May 31, 1961: Hendrix (19 years old) enlisted in the Army after  being caught for a second time riding in stolen cars and given a choice between spending two years in prison or joining the Army. After completing basic training, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. (see “in November”)

Jimi Hendrix discharged

May 31, 1962: paperwork was filled recommending a discharge for Hendrix. (see June 29)

White album begins

May 30 Music et al

May 31, 1968: from the Beatles Bible: While the precise date is unknown,towards the end of May 1968 The Beatles met at Kinfauns, George Harrison's bungalow in Esher, Surrey. There they recorded demo versions of a number of songs written in India, 19 of which later appeared on the White Album.

The 27 songs believed they recorded the songs on Harrison's Ampex four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder. They grouped  them mostly grouped together by the composer of each song, although John Lennon's songs were more scattered across the day.

Sessions will span 4+ months, ending on Oct 14. (see July 17))
May 31 Music et al

Timothy Leary dies

May 30 Music et al

May 31, 1996: Timothy Leary died. From Find a Death dot com: In 1995, he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. I was speaking to Rocky Horror actor Barry Bostwick a couple of weeks ago. As I do.  He had prostate cancer, and was cured. However, he still goes in for checkups all the time, and could not emphasize enough the importance of getting checked. Especially men in their early 40s. So take it from Brad, do it guys.

Timothy's god daughter was shoplifter Winona Ryder. She supposedly moved in with him a couple of weeks before he died. It is said that she loved him deeply, and the two were very close.

On May 31, 1996 - Leary was in bed and everyone was waiting for him to die.  Suddenly he sat up and asked, "Why not? Why not? Why not?" It was 12:44 a.m., and the 75 year old died. About 20 friends, his stepson Zach, and his ex-wife Rosemary Woodruff Leary were with him. Timothy made sure that the entire event was videotaped. (see November 10, 2001)

May 31 Music et al, May 31 Music et al, May 31 Music et al, May 31 Music et al, 

May 23 Music et al

May 23 Music et al

Theme from a Summer Place album

May 23 – 29, 1960: Theme from a Summer Place album again Billboard #1. Originally known as the "Molly and Johnny Theme", the piece is not the main title theme of the film, but a secondary love theme for the characters played by its stars Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue.

 

“Cathy’s Clown”

May 23 Music et al

May 23 – June 26, 1960: “Cathy’s Clown” by the Everly Brothers #1 Billboard Hot 100. The musicians included the Everlys on guitars, Floyd Cramer on piano, Floyd Chance on bass and Buddy Harman on drums. The distinctive drum sound was achieved by recording the drums with a tape loop, making it sound as if there were two drummers

 

Our Man In Paris

May 23, 1963,  Dexter Gordon released Our Man In Paris album. The album's title refers to where the recording was made, Gordon (who had moved to Copenhagen a year earlier) teamed up with pianist Bud Powell and Kenny "Klook" Clarke were living in the City of Lights and were joined by the brilliant French bassman Pierre Michelot. Powell, Clarke and Michelot had often played together under the name The Three Bossesin Paris since Powell moved there in 1959. (see All Music)

 
May 23 Music et al
1969 Festivals…
Ask someone about 1969 and music festivals, their first While many people know about the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in Bethel, NY and the next one, usually the only other one, is Altamont at the end of 1969.  Most people don't realize that there were many many other major festivals that summer each with the same bands that Woodstock had. I will list them as their anniversary comes up. Here are the first three.
see Aquarian Family Festival for more
May 23 – 24, 1969, Aquarian Family Festival, San Jose, CA. (on the San Jose State University football practice field)
see Northern California Folk-Rock Festival for more
May 23 – 25, 1969: Northern California Folk-Rock Festival (Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, San Jose, CA)
see Big Rock Pow Wow for more
May 23 – 25, 1969: Big Rock Pow Wow (Seminole Indian Village, Hollywood, FL).

May 23 Music et al, May 23 Music et al, May 23 Music et al, May 23 Music et al,