Thursday, 05 March 2009

Rock festivals - memories of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival

The golden era of rock festivals was undoubtedly the late 1960s and early 1970s. Perhaps the greatest of these festivals was the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival which attracted a crowd of 600,000 young people. Click here for some great photos of the site and the people that were there.

No musical event has ever been staged to compare to this magnificent event which featured many of the world's most influential musicians of the time. No musical event has ever matched the huge number of people that attended.

The festival began on Wednesday August 26 and ended in the early hours of August 31.

At the tender age of 17, I purchased a ticket for the grand price of 7 and made my way from London
by train and ferry to the quiet and peaceful island festival site. The locals were mostly of a much more conservative type, and many were alarmed to see hordes of long haired hippies' wearing tie-dyed t-shirts, flared jeans or velvet pants, long dresses, Afghan coats and beads streaming across the island.

Armed with little more than a sleeping bag, the five days of summer were dry and the nights were warm. All around were people. The air was rich with the smell of hashish. LSD was readily available for those that wanted to experience the event in true psychedelic style. Police maintained a low profile but there were few reasons for them to intervene.

Around the festival site were tents where Hare Krishna devotees offered food, a tent for those experiencing bad trips' or horror experiences under the influence of LSD, and other religious groups.

The technology at the time allowed for a large screen. The TV cameras were large. Between each act was a long delay while equipment was moved on and off the stage.

The festival was truly five days of peace music and love.

Amongst the musicians that performed was Jimi Hendrix, just three weeks before his untimely death. Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, The Who and The Doors were just a few of the acts that graced the stage. The complete festival programme is characteristic of the era and well worth seeing.

One of the highlights was the Miles Davis who featured his controversial Bitches Brew composition. Miles Davis' band included such luminaries as Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul and Larry Young. Bitches Brew ushered in a new era of avante guard and fusion jazz.

The world has changed in many ways since then. The Hippy generation have turned straight, many nearing retirement. But the ideals and hopes of that generation expressed in the experience of the rock festivals of the day will never be repeated.

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