Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More
On May 11, 1970 the soundtrack to the Woodstock film was released as a triple album, but only covered a fraction of the performances. My favorites from this “condensed,” initial release are performances by Canned Heat, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Sly and the Family Stone, CSNY, Santana, Joe Cocker, and Ten Years After. Obviously this was one of the cultural events of the 20th century U.S. if not the biggest. It introduced the masses to the likes of Richie Havens, Santana, and Canned Heat (whereas some of the others had previously had their coming out parties in places like Monterey two summers earlier). I think the one aspect of it all that sticks with me is the sheer nerve these folks had to have to get up on that stage in front of so many people, especially those who were better known locally in places like the Bay Area (Santana) or the East Village (Havens). Santana drummer Michael Shrieve had just turned 20, and he gave one of the more incredible performances of any musician there in my opinion.
Someone posed the question on an online music forum I visit, if you could go back and attend either the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 or Woodstock in ’69, which would you choose? If I’m honest with myself, it would probably be Monterey. Woodstock was great and significant for all the reasons we’ve seen and heard over the years, but if I were to have plunked down on that hillside in the actual conditions they dealt with at Yasgur’s farm, I would’ve been miserable. Hendrix at dawn when I’m sitting in a muddy landfill and probably haven’t slept in a couple days? No thanks. I’m content to watch that on TV with a clean bathroom nearby. I would’ve made a lousy hippie when it comes down to it. and judging by the garbage left behind, many of the attendees made lousy hippies as well.
Hendrix at Monterey? Absolutely. The overall lineups for both events had their pros and cons looking back, but they were both unique. For example, the Association would not have fit into the Woodstock vibe (I know, I know, but somehow Sha Na Na did?), but they were still relevant enough to make sense at Monterey. From my perspective it seems there was a vast difference between 1967 and 1969 as seen in the documentaries of both events. At Monterey a hint of innocence could still be seen. The Counter Culture was just starting to explode, but in a way people seemed to maintain a little more individuality than a couple years later when it came to their appearances and attitudes. For most, the scene was still new and full of possibilities. There wasn’t quite the ubiquitous hippie uniform and attitude. Also, not as many people – musicians and fans alike – were as strung out at Monterey as at Woodstock. I’m not articulating this very well. Maybe it’s none of that. Perhaps it’s my perception that in 1967 there was more optimism for a better world: for the war to end, for racial harmony, etc. The year 1968 created much disillusion, and by the time Woodstock happened the first of the Manson murders had occurred less than a week earlier, Altamont was just a few months away, and Kent St. not far behind. All that said, I realize Woodstock couldn’t have been pulled off without positivity and optimism, so maybe this is all hindsight from someone who wasn’t even there. Perhaps somebody who was alive at the time can set me straight on this.
2 thoughts on “May 1970, Pt. 2 – The Woodstock Soundtrack and Thoughts on the Festival”
I have to say I greatly enjoyed watching the director’s cut of the Woodstock festival on the big screen last year. But while there were amazing performances like Santana and Joe Cocker, I’m also less sure whether I would want to have been there.
The conditions were dreadful, and frankly it’s a miracle the whole thing overall ended up being as peaceful as it was!
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I would pick Monterey also- I have watched the Woodstock movie a number of times no way could I stand it being in that big of a crowd. Last fall we went to the Woodstock site- they have a nice museum there. It was worth going to. I think after being there the concert was so peaceful due to the very rural setting and the people of the community at the time.
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