Tuesday Tunes 68: Woodstock

I follow a page on Facebook called On This Day In Music, and on Sunday it gave me a helpful reminder that it was the anniversary of the Woodstock festival, which ran from 15-18 August 1969. This was originally scheduled to run for three days but, due to delays caused by bad weather, it ran over until the final act – Jimi Hendrix – took to the stage at around 8.30am on the Monday morning. Perhaps not surprisingly, only around 30,000 hardy souls remained of the 400,000+ who had been estimated to be there at the peak, but at least they could say that they saw Jimi play Woodstock. There is a movie of the festival but, rather than run the whole three hours of it, I thought that for this week’s tunes I’d share some music by some of the stellar list of acts that appeared there. Several of these are the actual Woodstock performances, mixed with a few others for good measure. So, back to my hippy days I go…

The Woodstock Music & Arts Fair was held on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre farm in Bethel in New York, about 80 miles North of New York City. Attended by over 400,000 people, the festival was one of the most pivotal moments in popular music history. It was designed as a profit-making venture – tickets cost $18 in advance (equivalent to around $75 today) and $24 at the gate for all three days. Around 186,000 tickets were sold beforehand and organisers anticipated approximately 200,000 festival-goers would turn up. It famously became a “free concert” only after it became obvious that the event was drawing hundreds of thousands more people than they had prepared for, and was causing massive transport problems in the area around the site.

The first band to sign up for the festival was Creedence Clearwater Revival, who were at their peak then, and once the word got round that they would be playing the remainder of the 32 acts that eventually played were quick to sign up. I couldn’t find a video of CCR’s Woodstock performance, but this is of that vintage:

This was a track from the band’s third album, Green River, which was released a couple of weeks before Woodstock, and gave them their first US #1 album, also reaching #20 here in the UK. The track was released as a single four months ahead of the album, and became their only UK #1 hit. It peaked at #2 in the US: they have never had a #1 single there, surprisingly.

Like the CCR one, this performance by The Who isn’t taken from their Woodstock appearance, but it is also from the same year, and is so good that I just had to include it:

This was released in 1970 on the band’s Live At Leeds album, which reached #3 in the UK and #4 in the US. It was also a single hit, peaking at #38 in the UK and #27 in the US.

Now for the first of my choices from the festival itself:

Perhaps best known for its inclusion in the soundtrack of the Easy Rider movie, though in a cover version by Smith, for contractual reasons, this was a track on The Band’s debut album Music From Big Pink, which was released in July 1968. The album got to #30 in the US and #18 in their native Canada, but didn’t chart in the UK. I bought it at the time, and absolutely loved it – I still do. This track was released as a single, peaking at #63 in the US, #35 in Canada, #21 in the UK and #13 in the Netherlands.

I mentioned earlier that Jimi Hendrix closed the festival but the only video I can find of that performance is his version of the US national anthem, and I’m not really a fan of their obsession with that, sorry! So I thought I’d give you this live performance of one of his quieter, more reflective songs from a couple of years earlier:

That was a track from Are You Experienced?, the debut album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, released in May 1967. The album was a #5 US hit, and got to #2 here in the UK. This song was released as a single, reaching #6 in the UK but failing to chart in the US.

Time for another from the festival, I think. This is another band that I’ve loved since way back when:

This was a track on Santana’s eponymous debut album, which was released a couple of weeks after the festival, and got to #4 in the US and #26 in the UK. This was the second single to be taken from the album, at the end of 1969: it got to #9 in the US but wasn’t a hit here in the UK.

My final selection from the festival is an iconic one, one of the songs by which the generation became known:

To give the song its proper title, that was the I Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag, the title track from Country Joe And The Fish’s second album, which was released in November 1967 and reached #67 in the US. The song became very much the signature tune for anti-Vietnam War protestors, and was the high spot of the band’s Woodstock performance. As you can see, it is preceded by the ‘Fish Cheer’ which comprised the ‘gimme an F’ beginning. More often than not (as here) the four letters didn’t spell out ‘FISH,’ which led to the band being banned from tv, perhaps not surprisingly!

Joni Mitchell was originally booked to perform at the festival, but cancelled at the last minute on the advice of her manager after seeing the traffic chaos on the TV news, as she didn’t want to miss a scheduled appearance on The Dick Cavett TV Show the same weekend. She did, of course, write a song about the event which captured the moment in time perfectly, and in her introduction to this performance she retells that background:

This was a track on Joni’s third album, Ladies Of The Canyon, released in April 1970. It reached #16 in her native Canada, #27 in the US, but did best here in the UK, where we took it up to #8.

The song was also recorded by those friends she mentioned, who were one of the bands who did play at Woodstock. This is, of course, slightly later, but it seems an ideal place to close this little trip:

I’m not sure how much, if any, of that footage is genuinely from Woodstock, but it gives a good feel for what it must have been like, as I imagine it and as other footage shows. The song was included on Crosby Stills Nash And Young’s second album, Déjà Vu – the first with Neil Young on board – which was released in March 1970 and was a US #1, also peaking at #5 here in the UK. It was also a hit US single, getting to #11, but didn’t hit the UK singles chart – we had to suffer the weedy cover version by Matthews Southern Comfort, which was a #1 here. Our bad!

That’s a wrap for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed some musical history and some great tunes from what you’ve probably realised by now is my favourite era. I’ll see you again next time – until then, stay safe and well 😊

45 thoughts on “Tuesday Tunes 68: Woodstock

  1. Pingback: Dear August | Take It Easy

  2. Pingback: Tuesday Tunes 69: Woodstock Encore | Take It Easy

  3. wonderful post about such a defining era in music and the U.S.

    I came so close – just one song I was not familiar with – the Jimi Hendrix song you shared.

    All great songs; my favorite one from Woodstock was the Country Joe And The Fish song, and my favorite non-Woodstock was is the performance of Woodstock by Joni Mitchell – she is just phenomenal.

    I never knew CCR never had a number one hit – hard to imagine!

    And I imagine Roger Daltrey must lose a few pounds every time he is on stage…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jim. I was pleased to get the prompt, as it was indeed a defining era in music and in world politics too.

      I’m not sure if the Hendrix song was released as a single there, so it may just have been an album track and gone under the radar for most.

      Country Joe just had to go in – that is an iconic song for that time.

      I was surprised at the CCR fact too – very strange, given how big they were. Joni was another I couldn’t leave out, and that is such a charming performance.

      Daltrey was great in his heyday. Sadly, he has become a rabid pro-Brexiter in his later years, and I’ve lost all respect for him. Great music though!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a great post to celebrate Woodstock and quick question – I can look it up later – but was it 99 miles north of NYC?
    When we visited a couple years ago we were in PA and it was a shirt drive but I don’t recall us being in that proximity for NYC?? I will look later but wanted to ask you too

    Liked by 1 person

      • I checked and you are correct! I also saw how we made it there from PA – it was just when I read it at first it sees off!
        And if you ever did make it there – it is not very unique – big friend (and famous area of course but still just a field) small gift shop and the museum part is quant – perhaps the best part – but a very humble kind of place to visit

        cheers to CCR for getting the sign up going (enjoy their music)
        And I do wonder what it would be like to hear live music all night long and early in a.m. and in rain – and have food dropped in

        Liked by 1 person

      • Glad to know I chose my source well! I doubt I’ll ever go there, but it’s good to know there is an ongoing recognition of the event. I’ve never been to a festival – I prefer an indoor seat with better acoustics!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes – I can see why you like indoors
        And a too takeaway from our short visit had to do with the people
        So cool!
        Met a few folks who were there as part of remembering a loved one – interviewed a guy in the display hall and his brother passed and so once a year he visits Woodstock in memory of his bro / can’t recall if his bro went to the original or just was into that music and all that

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I was only nine years old when Woodstock happened, so I didn’t understand the significance of the event at the time. The notion that some of these artists are still performing more than fifty years later is mind-blowing and speaks to their talent and staying power.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A dream walk for me this week Clive. I’m very grateful. For years I tried to get a copy of Country Joe and the Fish’s single Here I go Again after Twiggy reminded me how good it was, but how much better it had been. I finally managed it.. Maybe you could manage another small one with the ones you had to leave out like Richie Havens, Joan Baez and especially Melanie who’s version of Ruby Tuesday just blew me away. Great job though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, David, I’m pleased it was a good set for you too. Those were great times for music. As you’re the second to ask, maybe I’ll do a follow up: the only clip I’ve found so far of Melanie at the festival isn’t great – and nor is it Ruby Tuesday! I featured seven acts, but there were 32 in total so there’s scope for a return, even allowing for the ones who have long since faded into musical history.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. thanks for the inside views into the history of Woodstock. I was sheltered what can I say but this was such fun. loved it and Joni Mitchell’s sweetness. Hope she’s doing better ! Great artists and unabashed times for many . Nice job Clive❣️❣️❣️👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Always a pleasure to be taken back to the 70s Clive. I can smell the weed and the joss sticks as I read and listen. (I suspect there were more unwelcome smells given the numbers that turned up and judging from Keith’s comment about restrooms.) The first two songs were actually two of our favourite covers when I was playing in a band in Leeds as a student in 1972-4. It was great watching Joni Mitchell back then and listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash (great harmonies!).

    Liked by 3 people

      • I can imagine – no twenty minute drum solos or prog rock self indulgence! I was at uni 72 to 75 and the one that was guaranteed to fill the dance floor for us was BTO’s You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet – if you did that one, I hope you got the stutter right 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • My Uni years were 1972 to 1976 and a lot of it I can remember clearly but other bits are a fog (nothing to do with drugs etc). Maybe we should have done BTO but The Jean Genie always did well. We did manage to do some blues (Stones and Fleetwood Mac) and prog rock (Strawbs) so it wasn’t all dancy pop thank God.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Clive, good summary of an amazing time. I have a friend named Dave who was there and he usually repeated an email describing his experiences on the anniversary. Two of the things he mentions to make us appreciate the size of the crowd is food was hard to come by and restrooms were too few in number. He has always been a practical guy. Watching documentaries about the event I learned Jimi Hendrix went on long after he was supposed to and played to “only” about 40,000 people on Monday morning. Crosby, Stills and Nash realized they needed a louder presence, which led to asking Neil Young to join the band later. And, Santana was on acid and thought his guitar was a snake, so he played with even more abandon. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Keith. Your friend was lucky to be there, and I’ve seen observations similar to his elsewhere. The scale of it all rapidly swamped what the organisers had planned for. Hendrix wasn’t alone in being delayed, as the weather was pretty awful for a good part of the weekend. I’ve seen that story about Santana: if that had been me I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near what I thought was a snake!

      Liked by 2 people

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