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Trivia / Wood Stock

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General trivia:

  • Country Joe McDonald actually played Woodstock '69 twice: on Saturday afternoon as a solo acoustic act, and Sunday evening with Country Joe & The Fish. He did "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" in both sets.
  • Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" was performed three times at the 1969 festival, by Joan Baez, Joe Cocker and The Band. "With a Little Help from My Friends" was done twice, by Cocker and Richie Havens (though Havens admitted he was still learning the song, and resorted to Scatting most of the vocal).
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  • Walter Cronkite's college-age daughter Kathy phoned him to say she was going to a concert. Walter and Betsy assumed she meant something like the New York Philharmonic. Walter reported on Woodstock all weekend, with an "oh my god" attitude as the attendees rolled in the mud. Then they realized that was the concert Kathy meant... right before she used one of those phones to tell them she was fine.

Specific trivia:

  • Academy Award: The movie won the Best Documentary Feature laurel in 1970.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Wavy Gravy did not say "don't take the brown acid." It was Chip Monck who made the announcement, and it actually went:
    To get back to the warning that I’ve received, you might take it with however many grains of salt you wish, that the brown acid that is circulating around us is not specifically too good. It's suggested that you do stay away from that. Of course it’s your own trip, so be my guest. But be advised that there is a warning on that, okay?
    • Wavy came on a minute later to explain that the brown acid wasn't poisoned, it just wasn't very good. Erowid contributor OCRocker said the brown acid was *too* good; it was so smooth you didn't realize you were tripping, you'd take a little more... A Hog Farm medic said both could have been true as there were actually several batches of acid with a brown color. Neil Young remembered brown acid being offered to the musicians backstage.note 
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    • There was "flat blue acid" that coordinator John Morris announced really was poison. Fifteen or so people got sick.
  • Colbert Bump:
    • Most everyone who played the '69 festival at the very least has gained some form of immortality just for being there. Santana and Joe Cocker were probably the purest examples of previously obscure artists who were able to launch solid careers from their Woodstock performances. Sha Na Na's unlikely success also gave them a huge boost. Richie Havens, Melanie and Mountain not only got a bump from being at Woodstock, but the festival was a cornerstone of their careers.
    • At Woodstock '94, Nine Inch Nails, while already solid underground favorites, gained their first major mainstream attention with their acclaimed set. Green Day had already scored a couple hits from Dookie going into the festival, but their set gained huge attention (partly for a mudfight between Billie Joe Armstrong and the audience, and an odd incident where Mike Dirnt got mistaken for a stage-crashing fan and was tackled by security, breaking some of his teeth).
  • Demand Overload: Woodstock was provisioned for less than 50,000, but they sold 100,000 tickets. Then 400,000 more people showed up. The promoters begged the locals to make sandwiches so the concertgoers wouldn't starve and the U.S. National Guard airlifted food in.
    • On the original album, you can hear an announcement by coordinator Wavy Gravy about a hamburger guy who had his stand burn down the night before. This wasn't vandalism. His stove overheated and caught fire. Food for Love, the official concession, turned out to be a cult who jacked the prices way up — and did get their stand burned down on purpose, likely by the Motherfuckers anarchist group, who had also cut the fences.
  • Doing It for the Art: The original '69 festival stuck to its message of peace and love, with cooperation from locals and the American armed forces, all of whom pitched in when the festival was oversold. The crowd famously made light of the many shortcomings, such as late acts and bad weather, and the bands all sang songs of change and optimism, if they didn't outright rock!
  • Franchise Killer: Woodstock '99, which forever tragically tarnished the name of Woodstock forever for its actions and going against what made the original so memorable and a classic.
    • Tellingly the original festival's 40th anniversary was marked by a much smaller concert than the '94 and '99 festivals. It featured several bands that had performed at the original festival like Jefferson Starship and Canned Heat ...but by 2009 all of them only had one or two musicians that had actually played at Woodstock.
    • The planned 50th anniversary concert at Watkins Glen was total mess production wise and was canceled on July 31, 2019, only weeks before it was supposed to take place. The festival's richest financial backer, Dentsu, pulled out of the festival on April 29 and declared Woodstock 50 canceled, although a judge later ruled they had no right to do so. On June 10, they lost their venue and their replacement production company. Not only were they unable to get necessary permits and start work on the venue early enoughnote , not only did the company hired to produce the event insisted on limiting attendance to 75,000 for safety reasons (the original event on the Yasgur farm had over 500,000), but there were many criticisms of the lineup, including by longtime concert organizer Randy Phillips. Instead of signing up Imagine Dragons, Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus and The Killersnote  the festival should have focused on the Woodstock veterans and filled out the rest of the lineup with classic rock acts and newer groups that fit Woodstock's aesthetic better. According to a Rolling Stone post-mortem on the festival, Michael Lang had wanted some of these artists, and had sought out everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Bruno Mars to Phish to Stevie Wonder, but none of those artists said yes. Joan Baez refused because the plans kept changing and seemed "too complicated to even get involved in."
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Thanks mostly to Screwed by the Network, Screwed by the Lawyers and Old Shame, only a limited amount of music from Woodstock '69 got released in the first few years after the festival. Eventually some bootleg tapes of the artists not on the Woodstock soundtrack and Woodstock Two started circulating, but a good chunk of the festival was believed to be lost. One act (The Keef Hartley Band) reputedly didn't even get recorded because their manager wanted the organizers to pay him for the privilege (eventually some tapes surfaced). But the discovery and restoration of the complete tapes in the early 2000s and the ultimate release of the Back to the Garden complete set in 2019 rectified the situation for good. Still, it wasn't actually "complete": the Jimi Hendrix estate asked for two songs from his set not to be included,note  and Sha Na Na had one song not recorded and another that only had the last few seconds recorded. And, the extremely limited edition and exorbitant price of the set guarantees that this will remain in place in the future (The WXPN marathon mentioned below marked most people's first chance to hear the complete set).
  • Marathon Running: On August 15-18, 2019, WXPN radio in Philadelphia aired (and streamed) all of the 50th anniversary "complete" box set (minus the last CD, which was all spoken word material). They played each artist's set at the exact date and time they played in 1969. Since there were usually long gaps between sets, they played other music from 1969 during the intermissions.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Unlike the original, however, Woodstock '99 was sponsored by banks and web services, a big reason everything was infamously overpriced.
  • Troubled Production: The original festival was actually better planned than legend has it, but there were some foretaste of the later disasters:
    • Michael Lang, who with his partners at Woodstock Ventures wasn't trying to create the defining experience of a generation, just make enough money to build a recording studio, got the idea from some of the small folk-rock concerts held in fields around Woodstock, NY, where he was living at the time. The original plan was to hold a modest, one-day event in them with about 25,000 fans expected in those fields. Lang had helped organize and promote the Miami Pop Festival, one of many that led up to Woodstock and had for the most part pleasantly surprised observers for the low amount of violence and general tidiness kept by attendees.
    • However, the owner of the farm outside Woodstock that Lang had hoped to site the festival at made it clear he had no intention of renting the land to Woodstock Ventures. The promoters began booking acts anyway, as they needed to do so months in advance. A new site was tentatively secured at a former farm in the town of Wallkill, NY, outside Middletown, but vociferous local opposition, including death threats against the landowners, ended those plans.note  But by this point they were expecting at least 100,000 attendees over a multi-day event, so canceling wasn't an option.
    • With just three months to go before the festival, Max Yasgur agreed to lease the promoters some of his dairy farmlands near Bethel, NY, some distance from Woodstock. They had to plan the site and set it up in much less time than they had expected to. Due to unclear jurisdiction, they didn't receive formal approval from the Bethel town planning boardnote  until just a month before the festival date.
    • Only one caterer, Food for Love, was willing to provide food. They insisted on keeping all their profits, threatened to pull out the week of the festival, and served up offerings so unappetizing and overpriced that the generally peaceful hippies who attended the festival actually tried to burn some of their stands down. (It finally did get torched, probably by the Motherfuckers More about this gutsy art/anarchy group here..) If it had not been for the Hog Farm, the Wavy Gravy-led New Mexico commune that had arrived a few weeks earlier to help prepare the site and run a kitchen, the food shortages at the festival would have been much worse.
    • The Hog Farm also provided security. Coordinator Wavy Gravy called it the "Please Force": "please don't do that, please do this instead". When asked by the press what kind of tools he intended to use to maintain order at the event, Gravy, a professional Non-Ironic Clown, replied "Cream pies and seltzer bottles." The Hog Farm is the oldest active hippie Commune, and Hugh Romney, Mr. Gravy himself, is still alive and kicking in 2017.
    • Granola was not invented at Woodstock, but vast numbers of young people were introduced to it there. Melanie Safka memorialized the incident in her prelude to "Lay Down/ Candles in the Rain" with the line "Fed the world on oats and raisins."
    • That week was when things really did start to go haywire. Attendees, about 25,000, not all of them with tickets, started arriving and setting up tents six or seven days beforehand ... before the spaces designed for them had been finished, or the festival site fenced off as originally intended. Thus, on the first day, with all those people there literally tearing down the fences (the Motherfuckers likely cut the wires) that had been set up to get in, the promoters basically kissed their likelihood of any profit goodbye by declaring the concert free ... thus attracting even more people to it, up to 300,000.
    • That larger-than-expected crowd was the source of many of the festival's problems. Abandoned/parked cars effectively blocked the roads to the site, and the traffic even forced New York State to close a few Thruway exits. Sanitation also became problematic as not only had no one expected so many people and thus not planned for them in that department, no one had had any good idea how many portable toilets to provide, and even if they had it was hard to get a hold of even the ones they did decide to have.
    • Water, at least, was not a problem as one of the nearby ponds had been tapped for it and provided abundantly during the festival. However, they got more than they bargained for as the last two days of the festival were beset by torrential storms that aggravated the existing issues and forced the promoters to shuffle the lineup around almost constantly. The Grateful Dead especially suffered from the effects of the rain as their lighting and sound were subpar; some of the band also got electric shocks.note  A turntable underneath the main stage, meant to allow one act to play while the next one was setting up, also failed, exacerbating these issues. (Richie Havens wasn't supposed to open the show, but since he was there and Sweetwater was not, he was asked to; after he'd run out of his planned material he improvised "Freedom" right there on stage; it became one of his signature songs)
    • There were also several holes in the schedule because of issues with some of the performers booked to play: The Moody Blues and The Jeff Beck Group backed out of the festival a few weeks beforehand, and Iron Butterfly couldn't make it because they were stranded at the airport. One of those holes was filled by Havens' long set. Another was filled by moving British folk group The Incredible String Band from Friday to Saturday, because they didn't want to play in the rain (Their spot on Friday was filled by Melanie). John Sebastian of The Lovin' Spoonful was only at the festival as an attendee, but was coaxed to play in order to fill an empty space following Santana's set.
    • Legal wrangling over the film and recording rights, plus the artists' personal decisions, also ensured that those records of the event are incomplete. Creedence Clearwater Revival gave what many people present considered to be one of the best sets of the festival, but since John Fogerty didn't think so, he refused to allow them to be filmed or recorded. note  Neil Young had just joined forces with Crosby, Stills & Nash, but refused to give permission for filmingnote  and famously threatened to El Kabong anyone who got near him with a camera. Neil wasn't alone. Several others felt that the filming was inappropriate and at least one artist, Bert Sommer, was cut from the film by Warner, as he was a Capitol Records artist note  The Grateful Dead hated their performance and declined its inclusion in either the film or album. Pete Townshend had no issues with the film or the album, but was horribly cynical about the whole "peace, love and music" thing, at one point coldcocking Abbie Hoffman off the stage when he came on to berate the crowd about its perceived political detachment.note The Band also did well by the crowd, but didn't let their performance be used in the album or movie because their manager thought they weren't getting paid enough. Ravi Shankar played at the festival but was displeased with his performance and later recreated it in the studio with clips from the concert edited in for a live feel. As a result, the tapes of his performance along with Melanie which were on the same reel are lost. It wasn't until 2019 that a largely complete box set of the entire festival was released (including the performances of all artists above, but excluding one track by Sha Na Na for which recordings have been lost, and two songs from Jimi Hendrix's set sung by rhythm guitarist Larry Lee that Hendrix's estate asked not be included).
  • What Could Have Been: The organizers of the festival asked pretty much every major rock, pop and folk act of the day to perform at the festival. Acts who missed, declined or were unable to perform at the first Woodstock when the offer was made include:
    • Led Zeppelin, whose manager believed they would be just another band on the bill instead of a major headliner, and advised them to stick to their scheduled show in New Jersey.
    • The Beatles, who, contrary to popular belief, were asked. But the members were too busy working on Abbey Road, couldn't coordinate their schedules and weren't interested anyway, not as a collective.note 
    • John Lennon was in Canada in the spring of 1969, doing his famous Bed-In for Peace, when he was contacted by the promoters in one of many attempts to get the Beatles to perform at the festival. He wanted to play at Woodstock but could not get back into the U.S. due to immigration problems. Talks also broke down because the festival organizers also only wanted either him alone or the Beatles, and he wanted to perform with the Plastic Ono Band.
    • James Taylor was under consideration due to his Beatles connection. When the request for the Beatles to perform at Woodstock was sent to Apple Records, the label asked the promoters whether Taylor, their latest signing, could perform as well. When it looked like the Beatles were definitely not going to happen, Taylor's appearance fell apart too.
    • The Moody Blues were supposed to play, and were listed on the original poster, but backed out after being booked in Paris the same day.
    • The Byrds were tired of the festival circuit and believed Woodstock wouldn't be any different from any of the other festivals they turned down that summer.
    • Tommy James And The Shondells were told by their secretary that "a pig farmer wants you to come and play in his field" and assumed it was small local event.
    • Spirit kept to their promotional tour plans.
    • Simon & Garfunkel declined because Art Garfunkel was the in middle of filming Catch-22 and they wanted to start writing songs for what would become the Bridge Over Troubled Water album as soon as he finished.
    • Iron Butterfly were booked to play and were on the original poster, but they got stranded at LaGuardia airport. Their manager rudely demanded impossible amenities and he was literally told "fuck you" by the organizers. Had they played, they would have made more money off their performance than the Grateful Dead, Santana and Joe Cocker did combined.
    • Jethro Tull turned down a spot because Ian Anderson reportedly hated hippies and didn't want to see a lot of naked women on drugs.
    • The Beach Boys were also contacted, but there's never been a specific reported reason why they turned it down. However, 1969 was a terrible year for the band all around. They were badly in debt and manager Murry Wilson had just sold the rights to their song catalog behind their backs, devastating his son and band mastermind Brian. They may have just wanted to take a break from the spotlight.
    • Joni Mitchell turned down a spot after her manager and agent David Geffen talked her into keeping scheduled appearance on The Dick Cavett Show instead.note  She's spoken ever since about how much she regrets listening to Geffen. She later wrote the song "Woodstock" about the festival, based on what her then-boyfriend Graham Nash had told her about it.
    • The Rolling Stones turned down a spot because Mick Jagger was busy working on the film Ned Kelly.
    • The Doors thought it would be a cheap imitation of the Monterey Pop festival. Also, Jim Morrison disliked playing outdoor shows. John Densmore actually did go, though.
    • Bob Dylan thought about turning up, and the festival was specifically held in upstate New York because his home was literally in the town of Woodstock. However, he ultimately declined and performed at the Isle of Wight Festival in England one week later instead.
    • Free declined the offer and, like Dylan, played the Isle of Wight festival instead.
    • Lighthouse initially said yes, but backed out shortly thereafter
    • Blind Faith turned down the gig to work on new music and their live act, only to break up just a few months later
    • The Jeff Beck Group were actually signed on to play...but Beck broke up the band right before the festival
    • It's a Beautiful Day lost out on a spot due to pure chance. Famed music promoter and manager Bill Graham demanded that Woodstock book another one of his bands if they wanted the Grateful Dead to play. The promoters loved both of the bands Graham suggested - Santana and It's a Beautiful Day - so much that they couldn't decide. So they flipped a coin, and It's a Beautiful Day lost.
    • Chicago wanted to play, but the aforementioned Bill Graham, who was also their manager, moved around the dates on their tour so Santana could take their slot. Although the festival proved to be Santana's breakthrough moment and rightfully made them superstars, one wonders how much the history of music would have changed had It's a Beautiful Day and Chicago taken their slot instead.
    • Love turned down the gig, largely because they were in the middle of breaking up
    • Procul Harum said no because they were exhausted after a long tour, and guitarist Robin Trower's wife was about to give birth to their baby back in England.
    • Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention said no because Zappa hated hippies and he never regretted turning the gig down.
    • Blues Image were convinced to turn a spot down by their manager, who told them it was going to rain and there was only one road out of the festival (both of which were true). The band really wanted to go anyway, but ultimately acquiesced to their manager and played a show in nearby Binghamton, New York instead.
    • The Rascals thought about going, but turned down the offer and used the weekend to work on their upcoming See album instead.
    • Roy Rogers was to have concluded the festival by singing "Happy Trails", but declined.
    • One artist who wasn't supposed to play was John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful. He was sitting backstage taking LSD with friends and was asked to perform to fill in a gap between scheduled performers who hadn't arrived yet. His voice is the first one you hear on the original Woodstock record album, with his gentle ballad "I Had A Dream".
    • An artist who didn't know what she was getting into was Melanie Safka. Primarily known in England and Europe, not the U.S., she was invited to the "Woodstock Music and Art Fair" and pictured playing for 500 people in folding lawn chairs at a relaxed arts and crafts show. Terrified by the actual size of the crowd as she was flown in by helicopter, she wondered how she could captivate so many people. But she did, and as the rain fell and she saw the people holding up candlesnote  she understood what was happening. The memory of that night became "Candles in the Rain", her first U.S. hit. She was the first solo female artist to play at the festival. Her seven-song set started at 11 p.m. on the first night, replacing Incredible String Band who didn't want to play in the rain. They went on the next evening, around 6 p.m., right before Santana.
    • Many people came because they heard rumors the Beatles would reunite and/or that Bob Dylan would play (the name Woodstock came from Woodstock Ventures, the company that financed the festival, but since Dylan's home — near the originally planned site — was in the town of Woodstock, everybody naturally thought...). During The Band's set, someone in the audience shouts "Where's Dylan?" A few months later, Dylan left his Woodstock home for good, saying it was constantly surrounded by "druggies".
    • Laura Nyro was asked and declined, citing severe, crippling stage fright.
    • Donovan was asked and declined — no one seems to know why, perhaps for personal reasons.
    • Other Woodstock festivals also had artists who canceled or declined a slot on their lineups. Guns N' Roses were asked to perform at Woodstock '94, but declined due to their interband turmoil. Alice in Chains were listed on the initial Woodstock '94 lineup poster, but pulled out due to Layne Stayley's drug problems. Before the Woodstock '94 lineup was announced, Rolling Stone reported that Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots were among the artists in talks to appear, but ultimately neither band performed. In fact, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil had harsh words about the festival, saying "I think we'd much rather play for the twenty-somethings than have to do a little nostalgia bit for the forty-nothings." Neil Young was offered $1 million to be a headliner at Woodstock '94, but turned the offer down because he felt the festival was too commercialized. The Smashing Pumpkins turned down Woodstock '99 a few years later for similar reasons, and because frontman Billy Corgan was suspicious of the concert organizers' motives for holding the show. Sugar Ray, Foo Fighters, Al Green and Aerosmith all had to cancel their appearances at Woodstock '99 due to various conflicts, with Sugar Ray being replaced in their slot by G. Love & Special Sauce. Jeff Beck, who also canceled on the original Woodstock, wound up also dropping out of '99. The Black Keys were announced as part of Woodstock 2019's lineup, but canceled just a few weeks afterwards. Joan Baez and Paul McCartney were also sought for Woodstock 50 and both turned the event down. Woodstock 50 lost John Fogerty, Jay-Z and Dead and Company after organizers moved the festival to Maryland, and they ultimately released its entire original lineup of over 60 artists because the relocation voided their contracts. The entire festival was canceled on July 31, just a few weeks before it was to start.


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