Incredible String Band Woodstock

Incredible String Band Woodstock

The Incredible String Band was supposed to be part of Friday’s folk-oriented lineup, but circumstances pushed their performance to Saturday.  Unfortunately the so-called psychedelic-folk group using mainly acoustic instruments  followed the rousing electric and brass performance of the Keef Hartley Band. It was about 6 PM and for some in the crowd who hadn’t had “lunch” it was dinner time. They went in search, often unsuccessfully, for that dinner.

Incredible String Band did make it to the Monument, but not into the  initial release of the movie or the soundtrack.

A 2020 BBC article says that comedian and banjo-player Billy Connolly, who was a massive fan and who got to know them when they played the folk clubs of Glasgow, described the band as “hairy, exotic and interesting“.

The band consisted of: Mike Heron, Robin Williamson, Christina “Licorice” McKechnie, and Rose Simpson. They would be on stage for about a half hour.

Their setlist was:

  • Invocation (spoken word)
  • The Letter
  • Gather ‘Round
  • This Moment
  • Come with Me
  • When You Find Out Who You Are

 

Incredible String Band Woodstock

Invocation

For some this band is too difficult to approach. Their instrumentation is proficient, but their lyrics require attention. For many the huge setting was not the intimate setting to appreciate this band.

Mike Heron began with a poem.

I make a love peace with you
Lifers that move the heart
In fur and scale
Ancient associates
And fellow wanderers
You that place yourselves in this space.
You that strengthen the horn
And make quick the eye
You who run the swift fox and the zigzag fly
You sizeless makers of the mole and whale
Aid me and I will aid you
I make a peace with you
You that lift the blossom and the green branch
You that weave symmetries more true
You who make time slower,
And watch the patterns
You who eat deep 
And eat water stretching high    
You rough-coated
Your green blood
My red blood
We will mingle them
But I harm you not
That you shield me.
I make a pact with you
You who are unconfined
And have no shape
Who are not seen
But only in your action
Who have no depth
But choose direction
Who bring what is willed
That you blow my ship to pleasant harbors
I make a pact with you
You who are the liquidness of the waters
And the spark of flame
I make a pact with you
You who make fertile the soft ground
And guard growth
I make peace with you
You who are the blueness of the sky
And the wrath of the storm
I take the cup of deepness with you
Earthshakers
And with you the sharp and the hollow hills
I make reverence to you
Round wakefulness we
Call the earth
I make wide eyes to you
You who are also awake
Every created thing both solid and sleepy
Or airy light
I weave colours round you
You who will come with me
I will consider it beauty
Incredible String Band Woodstock

The Letter

Incredible String Band Woodstock
I Looked Up album cover

The Letter typifies what ISB did. In some ways, its simplicity and beauty is comparable to a Richard Brautigan poem. The song would appear on their 1970 album, I Looked Up.

Started rubbing my eyes
When I heard the birds talk
Hey Mister Sleep you’re gonna
Have to take a walk
But nothing has as much power to
Make me rise as the post man
Bringing a morning surprise
Here he comes
Here he comes
Too much I’ve got a letter
I’d better get out of bed
I said
Then I pulled the covers right
Up to my nose
I thought well the letter
Might be for Rose
Her mother she writes very regularly
Mister Postman have you got
A letter for me
Mr. Heron, yes I have yes I have
Too much I’ve got a letter
Better get on up out of bed
Came from Maria, Chicago, Illinois
And I never have met her but she sounds sweet
Like a flower
Grown on a rubbish heap
She’s got a lot of things ’round her
She’s gotta sort out
But she’s gonna make it
And I have no doubt 
Neither does she, not Maria
Maria, the plane that brought your letter must have
Felt a little bit lighter
And  air hostesses must’ve felt brighter bringing your letter over the sea
And the pilot was your Orpheus
Singing a song for you
Maria I’m singing
Hear me singing I’ll be your Orpheus too
And by the time you hear this song your
Your troubles will be gone
And you’ll be left with what’s shining
Through your letter you
By the time you hear this song your
Troubles will be gone
And you’ll be left with what’s shining
Through your letter you

Incredible String Band Woodstock

Gather Round

Before the band can begin their next song, Chip Monck asks people to sit down, to move away from the camera crane, and to descent from the light towers. He emphasized the importance of the crowd’s cooperation.

Gather Round does not appear on any ISB album.

Gather round and I will tell you,
Of the man who walked alone,
He met with me one dusty evening,
He could not recall his home.
And he was not a beggar
But people pressed coins in his hand
And his skin it was weathered
His eyes full of far foreign lands
And beneath the food they offered him
For the hunger in his soul
And the ones who wished him evil
It was written on their scroll

He had sold his heart's desire
Winding many a tangled thread,
Salted tears, he drank for water
Hopeful thoughts he ate for bread.
In the bag across his shoulder
Was a painted paper heart
Filled with several thousand reasons
Why two souls can seem to part
For he knew the truth was seldom spoke
Nor written with the ten pens of the hand
And he sought not wealth or glory
Only wished to understand
And he sang of times a'coming
When those secrets would be known
And the stars will sing in the chorus
And no soul will walk alone.

Here we are
Here we are
Here we are
Here we stay

Here we are
Here we are
'til the clouds shall roll away
Incredible String Band Woodstock

Fantastically Happy

Robin Williamson mentions to the crowd something that is often heard by other Woodstock alum: “I’d just like to say right now that I’ve never been to anything like this before and the thing that surprises me is how many of us there are and it makes me fantastically happy.”

Incredible String Band Woodstock

This Moment

This Mike Heron song would also appear on their I Looked Up album.

This moment
Is different
From any
Before it
And this moment
Is different
It’s now
And if I
Don’t kiss you
That kiss is
Untasted
I’ll never
No never
Get it back
But why should
I want to
I’ll be in
The next moment
Sweet moment
Sweet lover
Sweet now
The walls of this room
Are different from any before them
They are now
They are now
The air that you breathe
Is different from any before it
It is now
It is now
You may think that life is repeating
Repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating
You may think that life is repeating
Oh no, Oh no, Oh no, Oh no, Oh no
Oh no.
Each moment
Is different
From any before it
Each moment
Is different
It’s now
Incredible String Band Woodstock

Come With Me

Incredible String Band Woodstock

This Robin Williamson song was recorded before Woodstock, but did not appear on an album until they Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending [the soundtrack for a film of the same name,] in March 1971.

I have a ship both sleek and fine
I point her bows wherever I will
The seven bright seas they all are mine
I call the winds
I call the winds her sails to fill

If you will flee away with me
And bid farewell to the land you know
I’ll show you marvels presently
And wonders
And wonders that the earth does show

The diamond mountains
– 0 Speak on sir
Shouting valleys
The caves where sleep the stars by day
Eve’s clouded bower
Adam’s garden
The secret land that love does see
O come with me
I will come with thee

The gentle spring rains will lave your face
The winds will bear your train
The morning birds will sing your song
The earth will call your name
The stars will be your canopy
The sun your candle flame
The greenygold wheat your incense sweet
My heart your windowpane
O come with me
I will come with thee

Acknowledgement

Incredible String Band Woodstock
Robin Williamson

Robin Williamson, as many other performers had already observed, speaks to the size of the crowd and thanks them for their called-out requests, but “…we thought it would be nice to do all new songs today which haven’t been recorded yet cause it’s nice for us to play them. I hope you don’t mind that. 

Incredible String Band Woodstock

When You Find Out Who You Are

The last song is  Robin Williamson tune also appears on the I Looked Up album. Again an apology for the time it took to start songs as “all the instruments got wet last night.”

It’s of a strange and furious time
When men did speed to pray
Along the road of discontent to gods of gold and clay
Some did seek security
Among the seas of change
Some did seek dear life to wound
A furious time and strange
But when you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
But when you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
But when you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
But when you find out why you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
Just look around and notice where you are
Just look around and notice what you see
Each moment born for you innocently
And when I see what we have made
What we have cut with the mind’s blade
Stood In the blackness feel it all
Repeated faces rise and fall
With ancient goals unwondering fail
Further obscures the ancient trail
Filling with the endless years
Rivers of my heart’s tears
You are the way
I swear you have the power
As the angels do
Spread out your fingers and
Make all things new
Change the world by the things you say
By the things you love
And by the games you play
And you make each new day
You are the way

But when you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
When you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
When you find out who you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
When you find out why you are
Beautiful beyond your dreams
Oh how funny in your mummy’s tummy
Before you get born into
The world for to carry on
Remember young man of the time
Before you first went to school
How did it feel trying to live by the rule
Remember young man of the time
When your love stick
First rose free between your legs
Like a growing tree
Remember you walked with your lover
Like a gypsy and a gypsy queen
Under the stars where the sign was seen
Under the stars where
The leaves were green
Under the stars where the sign was seen
0 how many shining hearts
With love have guided me
And many I have met before
In lands across the sea
We used to speak of that ocean deep
How little words can say
It’s better now to ask your friend
What makes you sad today
0 how many shining hearts
With love have guided me
And many I have met before
In lands across the sea
We used to speak of that ocean deep
What little words can say
It’s better now to ask your friend
What makes you sad today
You can make it come true
Make it come true
Incredible String Band Woodstock

Goodbye

We have to leave now. I’d like to say goodbye. Thank you very much. Goodbye.

Incredible String Band Woodstock

Keef Hartley Band Woodstock

Keef Hartley Band Woodstock

It was around 4:45 PM when Chip Monck introduced the Keef Hartley Band. One of the common questions asked by visitors to the Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is, “Why weren’t the Beatles here in 1969?” The simplest answer is that they had stopped touring three years earlier and by August 1969 cracks in the band’s cohesiveness were wide.

Having said that, the Beatles aura was frequently felt.  Richie Havens’s opening set had two Beatles songs: With a Little Help From My Friends (also covered even more famously at Woodstock by Joe Cocker) and Strawberry Fields. Early Monday morning, Crosby, Stills and Nash would cover Blackbird.

Many Beatle fans know that before he joined the Beatles, Ringo was the drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Who was later a drummer in Rory Storm? Keef Hartley.

Maybe you’ll win a drink someday with that Woodstock trivia.

The Keef Hartley Band released its first album, Halfbreed earlier in 1969. The album personnel who also played at Woodstock were: Keef Hartley (25), Miller Anderson (24), Gary Thain (21), and Henry Lowther (27). Jimmy Jewell was not on the album, but at Woodstock.

Their instruments were: Keef Hartley: drums
Miller Anderson: guitar, vocals, Jimmy Jewell: saxophone
Henry Lowther: trumpet, violin, and Gary Thain: bass.

Their 47-minute setlist was:

  • Spanish Fly
  • She’s Gone
  • Too Much Thinkin’
  • Believe In You
  • Halfbreed Medley: Sinnin’ For You (Intro) >Leaving Trunk > Just to Cry > Sinnin’ for You

The band undeservedly encountered Woodstock’s triple whamie: not on the movie soundtrack, not in the movie, and not on the Monument.

Keef Hartley Band Woodstock

Spanish Fly

While Woodstock fans may associate acts with horns with Janis Joplin, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Sly and the Family Stone, and Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Keef Hartley Band stands equally beside those great bands’ brass sound.

Spanish Fly is an instrumental and features those horns as well as  Miller Anderson’s great guitar. Unfortunately, the crowd response is minimal.

Keef Hartley Band Woodstock

She’s Gone

The band paused just a moment before Keef Hartley drummed the intro of She’s Gone. The whole song is powerful.

Keef Hartley Band Woodstock

Too Much Thinking

No patter. A bit of tuning. A quick mention that Too Much Thinking is from their Halfbreed album and into the song.

There is something wrong with my life
Rather than I think
But I keep reflection in my mind
People imagine in such string
Think creeper through my hair
I’m tought I’m a man
But I feel yeah, just like a campagne
Everybodie’s crazy
I’m working too if i work so lazy
Wonder women everything
Gonna stop stop it uneasy
Too much thinking no
If i don’t stop
I gonna stop thinking
Woow… woow… yeah
But I fell stop myself
But stop myself
Yes if I stop myself
Ooh no… I’m just thinking
But I think myself
But I know where I look
If you can’t think yourself
I’m looking in anybody
But strange think cramper to my hair
Though i’m a man
But I feel just like campagne
Everybodies crazy
I’m working too if I work so lazy
Wonder women everything
Gonna stop it uneasy
Too much thinking
If I don’t stop
I gonna stop thinking
Woow. I felt stop myself
Ooh yes I felt to do that
But I stop myself
Yes I know I gonna stop myself
No… no. no… no I just can take

Keef Hartley Band Woodstock

Believe in You

The next song will appear on the band’s second album, The Battle of North West Six.

(No lyrics available)

Keef Hartley Band Woodstock

Halfbreed Medley

The medley consisted of Sinning For You / Leaving Trunk / Just To Cry / Sinning For You and was 17 minutes long. While there were many long songs played at Woodstock, this medley is the eighth longest.

The song ends, the crowd applauds, Chip Monck asks the crowd not to block Hurd Road and to please get off the light towers–again.

Keef Hartley Band Woodstock

John Sebastian Woodstock

John Sebastian Woodstock

Other than music and rain, it seems the Woodstock’s one common thread was the nearly constant between-set requests to those who had climbed on the light towers to please come down. Whether it was Chip Monck or John Morris doing announcements, there was always a typically polite request to get off the towers.

And so Monck did several times before John Sebastian, an unscheduled guest, the third of the festival (Melanie and Country Joe), and the second of the day appeared.

John was a spectator. Not planning on playing,  but ready and willing to jump in and help out. He performed solo.

It was about 3:30 PM and his 24-minute set was:

  • How Have You Been
  • Rainbows All Over Your Blues
  • I Had A Dream
  • Darlin’ Be Home Soon
  • Younger Generation
John Sebastian Woodstock

How Have You Been

John Sebastian Woodstock

Reprise Records would not release John’s first solo album, John B Sebastian,  until January 1970, but three of the five songs he sang would be on that album. This was one.

Because the songs were still young, because John was still young (25), because life at Woodstock was often enhanced, the published lyrics of songs and the lyrics John sang do not always co-inside.

Thank you. I don’t know how amazing you look, but you’re truly amazing, you’re a whole city. And somehow you’re something that an awful lot of us talked about 8 and 10 years ago in little living rooms…I have a song for you.” John Sebastian

He begins singing a cappella, then uses his guitar.

How have you been my darling children,
While I have been away in the west?
Though you are strangers,
I feel that I know you.
By the way that you treat me and offer to feed me and eagerly ask if I’ll stay for a rest.
Now sit yourselves down in a pile here before me.
I wish I had presents for each of your smiles.
I have been traveling,
Without much to carry.
Just a broken guitar case with tape on the sides,
A bag and a few signs to help me get rides.
Here are some beads from a throat of a princess,
Who reigned in the years ’round 200 BC.
Divide them and wear them,
And make sure you share them.
Because I want you to have them in hopes that’ll be,
As lovely as the lady who gave them to me.
Here is a strange European guitar string,
I found on the floor of a Club in Marseilles.
It’s fat for the third string and too skinny for the fourth string.
But I keep in hopes I may use it someday,
It’s funny how people just keep things that way.
Here is a turtle from a Long Island Expressway.
Says that his home has been covered with tar.
So I gave him a ride on the back of my suitcase.
And he wants to stay here in your yard,
At long his life won’t be quite so hard.

How have you been my darling children?

John Sebastian Woodstock

Rainbows All Over Your Blues

Rainbows All Over Your Shoes was also on John’s first album. John tells a story about having just coming back from California and living in a tent there. That a woman taught him how to tie-dye and John is one of the two performers (Joe Cocker being the other) who prominently wore tye-dye clothing, unlike most in the crowd where little if any such style could be found.

“A cloth house is all you need if you got love.”

I’ve been waitin’ my time, just to talk to you
You been lookin’ all down at the mouth, and down at your shoes
Well bay – ee – aby, I come to give you the news
I’ll paint rainbows all over your blues
I heard you been spendin’ a lot of your time, up in your room
And at night you’ve been watchin’ the dark side of the moon
You don’t talk to nobody, if they don’t talk to you
So Buddy and me came here to sing you a tune
I give up, is all you’ve really got to say
Well, it’s time to find a new life style
‘Cause this really ain’t the way
Let’s go for a bounce on my trampoline
I can show you the prettiest mountains that you’ve ever seen
You better run to your closet
And fish out your blue suede shoes
‘Cause I’ll paint rainbows all over your blues

John Sebastian Woodstock

I Had A Dream

His third song is the third of the three that would appear on that aforementioned solo album.

In many ways, John’s heartfelt spoken words sum up the sense that “we” had arrived and it was special.

“Far out. Far around. Far down. Far up. I’d like you to hear a tune about…I guess about those discussions that I was talking about that I seem to have had in so many small circles of friends around living rooms, around pipes when they weren’t selling no papers on the street and we weren’t walking around this beautiful green place…smokin’ and ah…not being afraid. This is about all of us. I love you people.”

I had a dream last night
What a lovely dream it was
I dreamed we all were alright
Happy in a land of Oz
Why did everybody laugh
When I told them my dream
I guess they all were so far
From that kind of scene
Feeling mean
I heard a song last night
What a lovely song it was
I thought I’d hum it all night
Unforgettable because
All of the players were playing together
And all of the heavies were light as a feather
All I remember is a feeling tomorrow
And as I recall the rest will just follow
I had a dream last night
What a lovely dream it was
I dreamed we all were alright
Happy in a land of Oz.

John Sebastian Woodstock

Darlin’ Be Home Soon

Sebastian had, as everyone there was well aware, been the leader of the very successful Lovin’ Spoonful spectators call out such requests. His next song was one of their hits.

“Oh man, there’s a half a million people and they’re all singing a hundred songs. I tell you what, I’m gonna’ sing a song that’s a kind of a goodbye song…but it’s not a all-the-way goodbye song. It’s just that ah…it’s kinda’ like a 15-20 minute goodbye song because we’re all here and we’re gonna stay here, let it all keep on happening. Stay here until it’s over.”

The crowd applauded as soon as he began to strum the well-known song. I had learned the word “dawdled” from this song

Come and talk of all the things we did today
Here and laugh about our funny little ways
While we have a few minutes to breathe
And I know that it’s time you must leave, but darling be home soon
I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
My darling be home soon
It’s not just these few hours but I’ve been waiting since I toddled
For the great relief of having you to talk toAnd now, a quarter of my life is almost passed
I think I’ve come to see myself at last
And I see that the time spent confused
Was the time that I spent without you
And I feel myself in gloomSo darling be home soon
I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
My darling be home soon
It’s not just these few hours but I’ve been waiting since I toddled
For the great relief of having you to talk toSo darling…
My darling be home soon
I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
My darling be home soon
It’s not just these few hours but I’ve been waiting since I toddled
For the great relief of having you to talk to

Go and beat your crazy head against the sky
Try and see beyond the houses and your eyes
It’s OK to shoot the moon

Darling be home soon
I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
My darling be home soon
It’s not just these few hours but I’ve been waiting since I toddled
For the great relief of having you to talk to.

John Sebastian Woodstock

Younger Generation

He told the crowd that they were all beautiful, but Chip Monck asks him back as the crowd continues to cheer and applaud.

“Oh boy. This is really a mindfucker of all time. I’ve never seen anything like this, man…just love everybody around ya’ and clean up a little garbage on your way out and everything gonna’ be alright. The press can only say bad things if there ain’t no fuckups.”

He dedicates the song to the announcement that someone was having a baby saying, “This kid’s gonna be far out.

Why must every generation think their folks are square
And no matter where their heads are they know mom’s ain’t there
‘Cause I swore when I was small that I’d remember when
I knew what’s wrong with them that I was smaller than
Determined to remember all the cardinal rules
Like sun showers are legal grounds for skipping school
I know I have forgotten maybe one or two
But  I hope that I recall them all before the baby’s due
And I know he’ll have a question or two
Like “Hey Pop, can I go ride my zoom
It goes two hundred miles an hour suspended on balloons
And can I put a droplet of this new stuff on my tongue
And imagine frothing dragons while you sit and wreck your lungs”
And I must be permissive, understanding of the younger generation
Then I’ll know that all I’ve learned my kid assumes
And all my deepest worries must be his cartoons
And still I’ll try to tell them him all the things I’ve done
Relating to what he can do when he becomes a man
And still he’ll stick his fingers in the fan
And “Hey, Pop, my girlfriend’s only three
She’s got her own videophone and she’s taking L.S.D.
And now that we’re best friends she wants to give a taste to me
But what’s the matter Daddy, how come you’re looking man?
Can it be that you can’t live up to your dreams?”

John Sebastian Woodstock

What's so funny about peace, love, art, and activism?