The 400,000 people at Woodstock were still antsy, high and loud after Santana’s starmaking performance, but the crew didn’t dare put another electric band on stage till the weather settled down. That upstate New York weather. John Sebastian was hanging around back stage just tripping on the acid he’d dosed somehow, when Chip Monck—that’s his voice, introducing him—told him he needed to play. John, way too buzzed, said no. He hadn’t even brought a guitar with him. Not even an autoharp. Someone handed him Tim Hardin’s guitar. (Tim didn’t make the cut for the movie so his guitar is as close as he got to Woodstock movie stardom that day.) Darling Be Home Soon is one of Lovin’ Spoonful’s classics, a hit you don’t hear on the classic rock stations, one of those earnest folkie things, like a Simon and Garfunkel tune, overly arranged, a loud horn section, perfect grammar and sweet melody, rhyming dawdled with toddled and with an unforgettable hook in the melody. He begins the song and the crowd cheers, like they’d been hoping that he’d sing it, and within a few seconds the vast throng is hushed, swaying slightly with the rhythm, quiet as a church, listening to the words, just John Sebastian and a guitar and a melody and the 400,000 people not making a sound. Go, he sings, and beat your crazy head against the sky, the melody somehow soaring like a big rock band, try and see beyond the houses and your eyes, it’s OK to shoot the moon, which a half century later sounds a little clumsy, but in the summer of 1969 in a sea of 400,000 heads and hippies it must’ve sounded like pure poetry, and it wasn’t until he sang the last few words that you can hear the sounds of 400,000 stoned people again, their cheers like waves rolling in from the deep to inundate the stage.
Tag Archives: Woodstock
A lotta freaks
Watched an old Dick Cavett show from August 1969 and the Jefferson Airplane, fresh from Woodstock, were fierce. The discombobulation of going from a festival bigger than Buffalo and back to Manhattan by helicopter as they came off the acid was noticeable only for a few minutes and by the time Grace sang motherfucker on national television all was well again. David Crosby and Stephen Stills showed up mudspattered and David talked and talked (coming up on the crowd by helicopter, he said, was like viewing the Macedonian army, the acid in his brain turning the vast throng of hippies into invincible hoplites and horsemen of Alexander the Great….) Stills was mostly mute, as if still overwhelmed but when handed a guitar played brilliantly and I remembered it was he and not Mike Bloomfield on Super Session’s Season of The Witch (another of those free form FM standard long since purged from Classic Rock radio). Joni Mitchell, clean and windblown from the canyon and kicking herself for not going (her manager said go on Cavett instead….amazing how many idiot managers kept their bands off the bill, booking them elsewhere) sounded great but sang too many songs, but then I’ve never been a fan. (It’s a minority opinion, I know….) The Airplane hit the studio stage again with a very tough Somebody To Love, Jorma’s lead stinging and psychedelically hostile, followed by a hard jamming Other Side Of This Life, and as the studio audience began breaking out in frantically groovy dancing Cavett waved the camera off and the credits rolled and the Airplane just got fiercer and fiercer and who knows how long they played past the commercials.
Big TNT Show
Speaking of Boomers, we watched the Big TNT Show at our neighbor’s pad last night. Never seen it before. My faves were Bo Diddley (who I saw open for the Clash a zillion years ago), The Lovin’ Spoonful (who were incredibly loose and high and actually fucked up and had to start over again, giggling, it was beautiful), Donovan, and Roger Miller, tho’ it was nearly all great, and judging from his conducting chops, David McCallum didn’t have a musical bone in his body.
I sprained my pinkie sleeping yesterday (my lamest injury ever, a big man with a sprained pinkie) which could give me the excuse to watch Monterey Pop, Don’t Look Back, Gimme Shelter, Woodstock and A Film About Jimi Hendrix in one long pseudo acid trip on TCM today. Some of the same acts as the Big TNT Show, though much, much higher. Tina Turner was in the Big TNT Show (with a big bruise on her arm), but I remember seeing her in Gimme Shelter at the Wilshire Theatre when I was sixteen and thinking I wanted a girlfriend just like that, or even a school teacher.
I had no idea I used my pinkie to hit the tab key until just now.
Wow. Yet another spontaneous celebration last night. In lieu of live music we watched the 27 hours long Director’s orgy of Woodstock, followed by the concise Gimme Shelter. A whole night spent in the last months of the 1960s. Sure I’ve seen both a zillion times, but never as a sixty year old. Noticed: music was way loose back then. Way. Also, people were way thin back then. Way. And septuagenarians now were once beautiful hippies. Beautiful. And also: weed was less strong and people rolled enormous bombers. And also as well, fat naked people on LSD, though that was Gimme Shelter. (Note to self, avoid LSD, or least keep clothes on.) Thin gorgeous people on LSD in Woodstock, pulchritudinous even. (OK, you try spelling pulchritudinous on a hungover Sunday morning after a couple hours sleep.) And you can tell where all this paranoia came from, though people are infinitely more paranoid now than then. Still, the two dudes yelling about the government seeding the clouds, man, was perhaps the only part of either movie that seemed like today. Finally, the Jefferson Airplane were one awesome band in 1969. Seriously. The extended 98 hour cut of Woodstock gives them more songs than any other band, they were that good. Damn.
Off to loll about in the flowers. Acid, incense and balloons. Figuratively speaking. I can’t stand incense. Punk rockers, you know, we just don’t appreciate nothing.
Also, think I’ll stay away from red wine for a while.
If that cat don’t stop it man.
Watched Woodstock last night on TCM. Hadn’t realized it’d been so long since I’d last seen it…I hadn’t even seen this Director’s cut yet. All those crazy 18 years old running through the mud are 65 now. Anyway, forgot how beautifully shot that flick was, amazed they pulled it off. You wonder what became of all the interviewees. And if everyone hawking their wares in the drug super market scene wound up in prison. If the Porto-San man’s kid got back from the DMZ ok. Or who wound up with Pete Townshend’s guitar. Just what that glop was the Hog Farm was feeding everybody? And whatever happened to those intricately beautiful hash pipes all the serious freaks seemed to have back then. It’s a long flick, endless, and you have time to wonder about these things. And about how everyone got home. And the psychedelics no one talks about anymore, like DMT, and how mesc was short for mescaline. And how fit everyone was back then. Trim and beautiful. I can’t imagine camera crews spending so much time on skinny dippers at a festival today. There’s a lot of beautifully shot scenes in the flick. There’s one night time scene and someone is on stage, a folkie, alone–maybe Joan Baez–and the shadows through behind on the stage are gorgeous and one of the camera men, no doubt stoned, focused on it for a luxurious several seconds, and it still fills my mind’s eye 24 hours later.
Amazing how different the mood is from Gimme Shelter–another extraordinary concert film–which was only four or five months later. Or from the Isle of Wight flick, less than a year later. Or from Monterey Pop, a mere two years before. Or from the contemporaneous Wattstax, which seemed a world away. And how vastly different it was from Jazz on a Summer’s Day, shot eleven years earlier, or The Decline of Western Civilization, ten years away. That’s a twenty year span, packed full of cultural revolution. Things seemed to move so fast then. They seem so slow now. If not slow, perhaps it’s just that the old never really goes away anymore. It always hangs around. Digitalization makes the dead seem completely alive. Long dead movie stars seem to walk and talk still. People love the Beatles like they never went away, or Miles Davis like he walks among us. Old releases are repackaged and released as if brand new. The long dead comment on new events–I just saw Kurt Cobain predicting Donald Trump; a lie, but that seemed not to matter–and we seem to live our lives shifting between eras as if we were there for all of them. But we weren’t. We only are where we are, and once were where we once were. And I can’t figure out it it’s good or bad that we can conceptually shift between eras like that–imagine how the tripping freaks at Woodstock would have loved the idea–but I do think the long dead should remain dead, the long broken up remain broken up, and we should live in the now, but that’s just me. I mean I love Hendrix and Coltrane and Monk and the Jefferson Airplane, but not they are still here. Meanwhile I’m watching hippies cavort half a century ago, and Jimi Hendrix frozen forever at 27 and the YouTube I’ve been listening to in the background flits through the jazz decades as if time itself was completely irrelevant. Time free like whatever that Albert Ayler thing just was, before this ancient Louis Armstrong thing or the brand new Ben Wendel thing I heard before. A hundred years of music randomly thrown together. Each video sets a mood, each brings out a feeling. Each make me feel like I am elsewhere, and this computer is a pad a paper and these letters my cramped, impenetrable scrawl that no one will ever see.
Joe Cocker’s performance at Woodstock was so freaking outrageous, his live act was so demented that when I first heard he’d been a working man I didn’t believe it. I thought he must be mad. And what a band he had, that Grease Band, one of the great forgotten bands of the time. They are so hard and so on, that crunching guitar is so gigantic, those ridiculous backing vocals are so perfect, and when Joe says Baby it sounds like a hurricane, a tornado, a volcano blowing itself to pieces. That silly little nothing of a Beatles song rendered rough and Wagnerian by a band you could have seen in a bar. Nothing but dynamics, loud guitar, cool organ, falsetto, a hard ass rhythm section and a voice like a really angry god. Joe loved his Ray Charles, obviously, but, Ray never hurled a Baby into the void like that, this wasn’t soul, it was Götterdämmerung. Joe was on that day. And if there was one day you wanted to be on, it was that one, in front of all those people and all those movie cameras. I doubt he was ever that on again. Some things come only once in a lifetime, you do it, and spend the rest of your life wondering just what got into you that day.
I remember seeing Woodstock back in the early seventies when I was impressionable and fragile and sitting in a dark, dank movie theatre full of hippies and freaks and weed smoke and thinking uhhh, wow. Still, my experience was nothing like my pal Richie, rest in peace, who spent a wintry New Jersey afternoon smoking hash and wandered into the local cinerama dome to see Woodstock feeling three feet tall and the light was vibrating and like a little kid he decided to sit in the very front row and melted into the seat and the music and images surged over and around him and Joe Cocker was like some enormous monster, Godzilla sized, destroying the city. Richie was frozen, wide eyed, terrified, exultant, and when Joe let loose that Oh Baby to the gods above Richie thought it was the end of the world.