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This Weekend I’ll mostly be listening to songs… from Woodstock August 31, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

50 years ago today… okay, not quite today, some months back, but we’re still in August and that’s Summer, so, let’s wind back to the first Summer of Love.

Actually I’ve mixed feelings about Woodstock. I remember seeing the film in the very early 1980s and while it was enjoyable enough, man, did it seem archaic. Now, with the benefit of another three, or is it four, decades having passed it seems to have acquired a more interesting resonance. I’d have heard the soundtrack album sometime about the same time – I seem to recall skipping a lot of tracks to get to Hendrix and the Who.

Without question the line up was fascinating. And I’ve subsequently dug deep into some of the back catalogues of those there (perhaps to the greatest extent with Crosby, Stills and Nash). But I find it telling that when I first saw it it was Ten Years After who I liked best, because they were – in truth – the loudest, the most rock-like. And even still I enjoy them. But I’ve never gone digging their back catalogue.

Arlo Guthrie (beloved of proto-proto-stoners for some reason back c. 1980 in Dublin at least), Tim Hardin, Ravi Shanker, Joan Baez, Canned Heat, Santana, Creedence, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Country Joe, The Band, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix. Then there’s the list of those who declined invitations, I like the rationale from Ian Anderson best of all (it’s on the wiki page), and you could make a pretty great compilation of those who didn’t attend.

All that said Woodstock has always seemed to me to be the symptom rather than a cause – that it reflected enormous changes taking place not just in US society but more broadly where what is understood as youth culture was coming to the fore in a way that would have significant ramifications subsequently. What is astounding is how little actually changed in the political or economic context, or perhaps for those of us who still have a smidgin of Marxism in our make up that is no surprise at all. When later there were the complaints that some counter-cultural figure or another had deftly moved into full-on capitalist mode that almost seemed inevitable (though to personalise it is to misunderstand the all-embracing nature of capitalism itself).

I can understand the idealism, but as noted before on this site for me the Ladbroke Grove crew of Hawkwind, the Pink Fairies and so on were always if not quite attractive, somehow more resonant of a cynicism and sceptical approach that I’d find more my speed. Part of that, is doubtless, the memory of hippy refracted through the utter antipathy towards it from punk.

The music? Nowhere near sufficient women on the line-up. Without question a snapshot of a particular moment and with some real stand-outs albeit not hugely edgy.

Still, I can’t listen to Wooden Ships or just about anything from Santana without feeling the tug of nostalgia for a time that I didn’t encounter in the slightest at the time (being about four or so). Would I have enjoyed being there? I do not think so, being someone who hates open air gigs and who likes my comforts. Am I sorry I wasn’t. Not in the slightest. But I’m kind of glad it took place.

Jefferson Airplane

Janis Joplin (with The Kozmic Blues Band)

Arlo Guthrie

Canned Heat


Jimi Hendrix

Ten Years After

The Who

Crosby Stills Nash and Young


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