“Going down to old, old Woodstock
Feel the cool night breeze
Going down to old, old Woodstock
Going down to give my baby a squeeze”
(From the song Old Old Woodstock, written and performed by Van Morrison, Copyright 1971, Caledonia Soul Music, Warner Brothers Music Corporation)
Being a member of the Woodstock generation my soul is deeply connected to the Aquarian exposition that was held August 15, 16, 17 and 18, 1969 in White Lake, NY. Woodstock signifies a defining moment in the evolution of rock music.
Live music has been my passion for 40+ years. Woodstock is the bedrock of live music, the festival that defined our generation, establishing strong values of peace and love.
I recall the summer of 1969 very well. I graduated from Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, Connecticut that year. It marks our 40th class reunion this year. I met my wife in January 1969. We have been together 40 loving years.
I didn’t go to Woodstock. I was supposed to attend. I didn’t have tickets. A friend, Alan Miller was supposed to pick me up in his VW Micro Bus on August 14th. But Alan Miller was not a reliable hippie. It turns out he had made arrangements to take twin sisters to Woodstock. Instead, I learned afterwards and understood where his priorities lie.
Perhaps this was for the best, as I don’t know if I would have survived the flat blue acid, the green acid or the brown acid being distributed that weekend. Having never done hallucinogens I was fearful and paranoid of the mind alterations they could do to a person. Supposedly 200,000 of the 400,000+ people took acid that weekend.
Woodstock has always been an integral part of my psyche.
The Woodstock journey began when my wife gave me the gift of the 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition DVD. We sat down to watch it together in July and the magic of Woodstock overtook us.
I started collecting books, buying magazines and purchasing music about the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock. The books led us on a further journey to visit Woodstock in August. We had a Woodstock 40th Anniversary week, August 9th through August 14th that took us on a special trip back to the garden.
That trip led us to the The Museum at Bethel Woods, Center for the Arts, a Celebrating Woodstock 40 book signing and photo exhibit at Morrison Hotel Gallery and The Heroes of Woodstock concert at Foxwoods Casino. The legs of that journey are described next with pictures and special memories.
I hope you enjoy this trip and the reviews of the books, music and the Woodstock movie. The combination of media and live experiences embody The Spirit of Woodstock at 40.
I. The Museum at Bethel Woods, Sunday August 9th, 2009
A picturesque, historical farm that is now a national landmark and museum. The Woodstock museum is a rich, multimedia experience. The Woodstock exhibit (scan Main Exhibit Gallery) immerses you in the garden of time and magic.
The first portion of the exhibit is entitled The Sixties, where we are taken back to the timeframe of transistor radios, Top 40 radio, the Beatles, and 45 r.p.m. records spun by the popular disk jockeys of the day (Murray the K, Scott Muni, Cousin Brucie). This exhibit represents important signature memories of my early teenage years growing up. The museum has put together various viewing booths with channel selections that allow the visitor to witness characteristics of the Sixties.
The exhibits flourish the sentiments leading up to the Woodstock event, which is the core presentation of the museum. There are lots of memorabilia, photographs and a rich set of information about how Michael Lang, Artie Kornfield, John Morris and the investment backers, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman rose above the various challenges to bring us Woodstock.
There are some great exhibits that recreate Woodstock for visitors. There is a Merry Pranksters bus that you walk onto and watch a video of their journey from New Mexico to White Lake, NY. Being a die hard fan of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, having read and absorbed his novel, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, I loved finally being on the bus.
The other exhibit that enthralled me was the large semi-circle with a huge panorama view of portions of the Woodstock film displayed on the wall. It was entitled “The Festival Experience”. We sat in the shadow of recreated towers just like the Woodstock audience did. The recreation of the rainstorms, complete with thunder and lightning, made for a very surreal setting. Yes, it felt like you were right there at Woodstock as the artists played large than life before us.
The Woodstock movie theater projected a twenty-one minute film, “Woodstock, The Music”, with many rare videos and music appearances from Woodstock. The film is unique from the re-released Woodstock movie. “Woodstock, The Movie”, has many interviews with artists who played Woodstock such as Carlos Santana as well as contemporary artists like Grace Potter of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (who we had just seen the night before in concert at Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Ct.).
We spent five hours at the Woodstock museum and then we headed over to the Woodstock monument on the grounds. A very cool thing happened on the way to and at the monument. We got a thunder and lightning storm, then it rained, which I felt was very appropriate. Right behind the monument is the field where the audience sat and where the stage was constructed. Sacred ground indeed.
II. Celebrate Woodstock 40
313 Bowery, NYC
Thursday August 13th, 2009
We attended The Morrison Hotel Gallery event, which featured Woodstock Festival Executive Producer Michael Lang and official Woodstock photographer Henry Diltz (who is one of the principal founders of The Morrison Hotel Gallery, which has become a strong , recognizable brand for music photography art.)
It was our first visit to the Bowery Gallery as we have become customers of The Morrison Hotel Gallery in SoHo. Our son works in SoHo and we feel a very strong connection now with the neighborhood and its businesses.
We noticed on our way to the Bowery Gallery that a street sign on Bowery indicated Bill Graham way. I wondered if that was in memory of the late Bill Graham of Fillmore East/West fame. Certainly Bill Graham has a special place in our hearts as the individual who made live music concerts a reality. Bill Graham also played a principal role at Woodstock helping Michael Lang and Artie Kornfield manage and coordinate the event (as did John Morris, production coordinator who learned the ropes working for Bill Graham running the Fillmore East.)
When we arrived the autograph signing was underway, we smiled when we saw John Sebastian gazing at the Woodstock photographs mounted on the gallery walls. I approached John Sebastian and asked if he would sign The Road to Woodstock book I had brought with me. He did so with a charming smile and I thanked him with a “God Bless You ,John”. It was only fitting John Sebastian was there as he is pictured on the cover of The Road to Woodstock in his tie die splendor.
We bought another copy of The Road to Woodstock book to have Henry Diltz, Micheal Lang and Holly George-Warren sign it. Each person was very cordial. Henry was a playful soul, with a twinkle in his eye that belied his keen photographic sense. Holly George-Warren is a music author that I deeply respect and admire. I was very honored to meet her.
Michael Lang, the Woodstock Festival Executive Producer signed the book next for us. I shared with Michael that I was very appreciative of his vision of producing Woodstock. I informed him I had graduated from high school forty years ago and that my wife and I had met 40 years ago as well. He smiled up at us and then I shook his hand. I got a nice vibe from Michael and it was a very proud moment for me to meet him. Having attended 275 concerts in 40 years, I couldn’t help but flash on how instrumental the Woodstock Festival has been in forming the foundation of live music for millions of fans all over the world.
We then got lost in the photographs on the wall and drinking in the ambience of the evening. It was a sizeable crowd. The event then moved to the selection of the raffle prizes. It was very cool to see Michael Lang, John Sebastian and Henry Diltz up on the platform laughing and smiling as the prizes were awarded.
I especially enjoyed the audio by the late Walter Cronkite about the Woodstock event as a nightly news story from 1969. Michael Lang seemed very moved by the slide show and I could feel him smiling when we all cheered when he was shown on the screen.
I was fortunate to get a photograph with Michael Lang during the event. Here we are flashing the peace sign, notice my big smile.
I am very grateful for The Morrison Hotel Gallery for inviting us to this event. We had a lovely time.
III. The Heroes of Woodstock
Foxwoods Resort Casino
MGM Grand Theater
Friday August 14th, 2009
The evening began with Country Joe McDonald as Master of Ceremonies. I have always wanted to see Country Joe McDonald perform and wish I had seen him in his hey day with Country Joe and the Fish. Country Joe McDonald organized the Heroes of Woodstock tour and served very well as a snarly, in your face, MC. He has a great sense of humor coupled with a sardonic wit. He teased us by starting to say, Gimme An F, but he held back as he would do the Fish Cheer/Fixin to Die with us later on.
He sang a couple of songs, then introduced his friends from San Francisco, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Big Brother and the Holding Company represented the music of Janis Joplin, who played at Woodstock with her Full-Tilt Boogie Band. Sam Andrews lead guitarist of Big Brother played with that nucleus at Woodstock, so therein lies the tie-in to Heroes of Woodstock.
Country Joe McDonald entertained us after Big Brother’s set, as the stage was set up for Canned Heat. Country Joe led us through the Fish cheer, which was fun to do , Gimme an F, Cimme a U, Gimme a C and Gimme a K, what’s that spell, FUCK. He then performed I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die Rag.
Canned Heat performed next and they were very true to form. There were three members of the original CannedHeat in attendance, Harvey “The Snake” Mandel, lead guitar, Larry “The Mole” Taylor, bass guitar and Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra on drums.
They did a fine set with Going Up The Country, On the Road Again and Work Together. What a great hard core blues band Canned Heat is
and they really
laid down the boogie for us. They were spot on and I loved hearing them play the classic hits and feeling the blues they make.
Ten Years After was next. Ten Years After Now consists of Leo Lyons on bass, Rick Lee on drums, Chick Curchill on keyboards (these are the original members of Ten Years After) and Joe Gooch on lead guitar. It took Ten Years After a little while to warm up., but once they reached their energy level they caught fire and they crowd was right here with them. They performed “Going Home” admirably. I especially liked how animated Leo Lyons was on bass. After their set I went out to the lobby and had them all sign my Heroes of Woodstock poster.
Jefferson Starship completed the evening playing the classic Jefferson Airplane tracks, “White Rabbit,” “Somebody to Love”. Tom Constanten joined them on keyboards so they did “Turn On Your Lovelight” to cover the Grateful Dead base of Woodstock.
Heroes of Woodstock Mementoes
Autographed Country Joe McDonald Photograph with GimmeAnF guitar pick
Larry “The Mole” Taylor, Canned Heat Autograph
IV. Woodstock Book Reviews
Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock
By Pete Fornatale
Publisher: Touchstone Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster
(Review pending, I haven’t read this book yet. As soon as I have read and digested this book, I will share my thoughts about Pete Fornatale and his writings about Woodstock.)
The Road to Woodstock
By Michael Lang with Holly George-Warren
Publisher: Ecco Books, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN: 978-0-06-157655-3
(Review pending, I am in the midst of reading this book. After having met Michael Lang and Holly George-Warren, I want to be certain to do their collaboration justice with an accurate, well thought through review. I plan to write their book review next. Watch this space for an update within the next week. Ed Jennings, 8/17/09)
The Woodstock Story Book
By Linanne G. Sackett and Photographs by Barry Z. Levine
Publisher: Channel Photographics/Brunswick Institute Publishing
My wife and I met Barry Levine and Linanne Sackett at the Gathering of the Vibes on July 25th in Bridgeport, CT. We spoke for a little while and I felt compelled to purchase their book through our meeting. They are two warm, loving people who have put together a candid picture story of how Barry saw and captured Woodstock through his camera lens. Linanne added her prose as accompanying thoughts to her husband’s pictures. The combination of the two in loving collaboration works very well throughout the 176 pages.
I especially liked the foreword by Wavy Gravy as Wavy was the master of ceremonies at the Gathering of the Vibes (GOTV). In many way GOTV is a sister music and arts event that served perfectly as a prelude to Woodstock at 40. Wavy Gravy’s role at Woodstock is legendary and there is a very paternal feeling Wavy creates for music festivalgoers, when you are in his midst.
The photographs are unique; they form an up close and personal view of an event of enormous proportions and significant ramification for generations to follow.
Woodstock, Three days that rocked the world
Edited by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsbury
In association with The Museum at Bethel Woods
Center for the Arts
Publisher: Sterling Publishing
I have found this coffee table sized book invaluable in writing and researching my article, The Spirit of Woodstock at 40. Like other points of integration in this article, I like the fact that the authors worked with The Museum of Bethel Woods, Center for the Arts who serve as an authoritative source as the Woodstock museum on the Woodstock site. The points of integration this book signifies are that we visited the Woodstock museum on Sunday August 9th, 2009 (see the separate story elsewhere in this blog posting), so we know how authoritative the book is in relationship to the museum curators. The other point of integration is that John Sebastian who was at the Celebration 40 event we attended in NY City was quoted as follows:
“Woodstock was beads and colors and flowers and sunshine and beautiful people”
The contents are based upon a timeline, as is the museum. I loved the foreword by Martin Scorcese who was an NYU film student in 1969 and an editor of Woodstock. His personal story about Woodstock put the film making process in perspective. Of course Martin Scorcese has overseen other major music documentaries such as The Last Waltz, (The Band and other guests celebrating a classic music concert), No Direction Home (Bob Dylan), Martin Scorcese Presents The Blues (in conjunction with PBS and the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the blues), and Shine The Light (The Rolling Stones in concert at the Beacon Theater). Realizing that Woodstock provided the impetus for these other historic music documentaries is a wonderful feeling to share with Martin Scorcese.
The book is structured with careful organized thought as it defines the Woodstock Venture, the project team and the venture capitalists who invested in Woodstock. We get great glimpses into Max Yasgur and Micheal Lang’s relationship, learning how instrumental Max Yasgur’s Farm was as the ultimate location of Woodstock. We learn about how the famous Woodstock poster came together. We learn how the sound of Woodstock was constructed by Hanley Sound (with all its challenges and hurdles). There are numerous photographs of the stage construction, which was worked on right up until the last minute of the concert itself.
The book then takes on a chronological perspective of the musical acts that played Woodstock, complete with the date/time the artist started, everyone who played on stage during the set, which instruments they played and the entire set list of their performance. We begin with Richie Havens on Friday August 15th at 5:07 p.m., Richie and his band played 2 hours and 40 minutes, with eight encores. We are then taken through beautiful color and black and white full pages of all the artists who performed at Woodstock. I found this book wonderful to follow along with the six CD set, Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm.
I especially liked the pages about Bert Sommer, an artist who started as an actor with the musical Hair on Broadway. Bert Sommer is one of the artists (like Sweetwater, Quill, The Keef Hartley Band, etc.) who were ignored by the original Woodstock movie and soundtrack issuances in 1970. I actually booked Bert Sommer to perform live in concert at my old college, Norwalk Community College in 1971.
The photographs of each Woodstock act are stellar, as are their words from their memories and their hearts from that experience. All in all, a great book for those who like organized research, history and beautiful photography in timeline fashion.
By Elliott Landy
Publisher: Backbeat Books
Elliott Landy’s book, Woodstock Vision, is a delight to the mind and senses. Eliott takes a comprehensive view of Woodstock, NY and its artisans over the decades.
There is a special 98 page section, “Woodstock An Aquarian Exposition, 3 Days of Peace and Music, August 15, 16, 17, 1969, Bethel, New York”. There is an introduction in classic, cosmic form by Jerry Garcia. Captain Trips felt the presence of invisible time travelers from the future had returned to witness Woodstock, its music, its vibe and its tribes.
Elliot’s photographs captured the event with marvelous color and imagery. His use of the wide fish eye lens offers a great panorama of the spectacle of the event. The writings of John Morris, stage announcer and production coordinator are insightful for those who seek to know more about the history of the events surrounding the stage and artists. The interview with Michael Lang, who hired Eliott Landy to be one of two official photographers (Henry Diltz being the other official photographer), revealed what it was like to be the Festival Executive Producer.
Elliot has been judicious in choosing key individuals who provide their thoughts and memories about Woodstock 1969. Lisa Law, photographer and Hog Farmer tells us what it was like to feed 400,000 plus people.
The commentary from Richie Havens in the afterword is a wonderful testament to the event. Entitled “The Essence of Woodstock”, Richie recalls what his day was like. Richie Havens opened the Woodstock Music Festival, playing for two hours and 40 minutes. Little did I realize he created Freedom ad-lib as a result of his view from the stage. Richie came to the realization that the freedom of the early sixties was finally being exercised at Woodstock.
VI. Woodstock Music
Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm
Six CD Set
Rhino – R2 519761
Rhino Records has released a six CD(actually DVD Audio) boxed set that is a chronological anthology that definitively captures the live sounds of the Woodstock stage and its audience, amazingly well. Andy Zax and his team assembled this four-year project with great care. The music is represented faithfully from the pair of eight-track recording systems that were manned by infamous recording producer Eddie Kramer that weekend.
The packaging is a delight to the senses. Each of the DVD’s is brightly colored with the Woodstock dove and guitar image from the festival logo designed by Arnold Skolnik. The eight hours of music and stage announcements envelops the listener deeply in the Woodstock experience. The 80-page booklet that is included complements Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm by including the complete listing of the entire set list by artist in order from the beginning of the Woodstock festival to the end. This is a real treasure to own and have. It is titled “The Complete Band Order and Set List”. This two page documented list has been the subject of lively debate for decades, even amongst the artists, their management, recording crews and the festival producers. Country Joe McDonald has always been adamant about when he did the The Fish Cheer ( Gimme an F…) We now know it was Saturday August 16th in the afternoon, after Quill and before Santana.
There are only three groups who did not allow their music to appear on this recording, The Band, The Keef Hartley Band and Ten Years After. Of those three the rarest music to be heard and found was The Keef Hartley Band and The Band. I finally heard portions of each of their sets live on Sirius Satellite’s Woodstock channel this past weekend.
My favorite tracks of the 95 tracks in total are Canned Heat’s, Woodstock Boogie (28 minutes of heat), Mountain’s Theme For An Imaginary Western, The Rainstorm, captured so perfectly I find myself covering up and saying, No Rain, No Rain, Blood, Sweat and Tears, You’ve Made Me So Very Happy and of course Santana’s Soul Sacrifice. I love the fact that 38 new tracks have been uncovered and added to the music of Woodstock since the first Woodstock triple album was released in 1970.
If you want the Woodstock 1969 Festival in all its audio glory this is the recording you must own!
VII. Woodstock Websites
VIII. Woodstock Event Artist Lineup
I have attended over 275 concerts in the past 40+ years. I have had the opportunity to see 17 of the 32 acts that played Woodstock perform live at various concerts over four decades. The artists shown in italicized text are the ones I have seen live in concert. I’ll keep trying to add to that list over the years we all have remaining, God willing.
Friday, August 15th, 1969
Saturday, August 16th 1969
Country Joe McDonald
John B. Sebastian
The Keef Hartley Band
The Incredible String Band
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Sly and the Family Stone
Sunday, August 17, 1969
Joe Cocker & The Grease Band
Country Joe & the Fish
Ten Years After
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Monday, August 18, 1969
Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Sha Na Na