Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive

Will the snake people please meet Peggy at the Information Booth

Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive
[unintentional LOL at the overlay]

Because I like to set these massive challenges for myself, back in early June, I proposed to write a review of the massive, 38-CD complete box set from the Woodstock Festival in 1969. The box set is out today and my review was published this morning, and since I’m fielding a bunch of questions on Twitter and I could have easily written 20,000 words on the box set, I thought what we generally call a “notebook dump” might be interesting.

I assume if you are reading this you will have read the above-linked article because otherwise nothing here will make any sense.

joan baez was PREGNANT and went on at 3am AND yelled at people to sit down (also who are these people standing up for joan baez at 3am)
it’s one thing to get up on that stage in front of half a million people with a full band behind you, but it takes some kind of insane moxie to do that with JUST AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR.

(I believe that comment referred to Melanie’s impromptu set.)

it’s a free concert from now on was a conversation that took place at approximately 1:40am, and not in the middle of the afternoon as you might have thought

On Sweetwater, who were on second, right after Richie Havens, who went on first because everyone else was stuck in traffic:


45 minutes of a “theatrical jazz-rock” because they were signed to promoter Michael Lang’s Woodstock Ventures! (But their closing number, “Waiting For You,” straight up bangs...at least until it gets extended out to 12 minutes long with multiple cowbell interludes)
“Will those of you who have taken up residence on the towers,” Chip Monck takes up the torch from John Morris just before Country Joe’s Saturday set. “No, not up, down.”
If you know anything about Country Joe McDonald, you probably know that he got 500,00 people to yell “FUCK!” at Woodstock. But the reality is that he played a perfectly pleasant 30-minute folk music set, of which his “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag” was but one part of.

You can literally hear the audience’s delight as they realize what they’re spelling after the “U”
After Country Joe’s set, Chip Monck is back at it

“We could use your help if you’re going to be so fucking determined; come and work with us then, instead of just… taking.”
If all you know about Carlos Santana involves Rob Thomas, their standout set is even more incendiary than the (highly edited, as per Zax -- the original is 8:06, here 13:03) “Soul Sacrifice” from the original. It’s disc 11, not even ⅓ of the box, and the number of quality performances far exceeds expectations
the keith hartley band’s 17:57 “Halfbreed Medley” on disc 13 is an example of something - it’s easy to write these things off but given what they were, they are all executed surprisingly well. sure, 17:57 would seem overindulgent now, but

let’s remember the Grateful Dead played a FORTY MINUTE “Turn On Your Love Light”

Disc 14: Puppet theater will be going on at the Hog Farm at 6:15
The Incredible String Band -- described in the liner notes as “psychedelic acoustic favorites of the UK counterculture--sound like if the Stonehenge scene in Spinal Tap was delivered seriously. The liner notes note that they “never built an American audience” and yet, they chose to perform all new material--”I just want to acknowledge all of the requests that are being shouted, thank you very much, we thought it would be nice to do all new songs today, which haven’t been recorded yet, because it’s nice for us to play them, and we hope you don’t mind that. Thank you for asking for the old ones!”
“People are saying that some of the acid is poison. it’s not poison, it’s just bad acid, it’s manufactured poorly. …And if you feel like experimenting, only take half a tab”
2:20 / track 7 disc 16 - Chip finally loses his shit at the guy in the towers; TK chimes in “get down the tower, we don’t want you to kill yourself”

It takes Chip until 8:30 on Saturday night before he finally loses his shit
track 9: “if your determination was the same as your selfishness, we’d be able to have gatherings like this every week” - track 2:40
String Band’s making a charter flight, we’d like to get them there on time, though it’s gonna be a bitch
Disc 17:

1:40: There are more announcements looking for the electrician--the hospital needs helicopter lights for a flyout, advising then there is a large, vocal group shout from the audience.

“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you man”

“As soon as I find out, we will advise you whether the Mets won or lost.”

From a pitch I tried to work out about the above exchange:

The Mets shut out San Diego, with a final score of 2-0. Tom Seaver was the winning pitcher,

At a mid-August point in the season, the daily progress of the Mets was of great interest, as the Mets were contenders, coming up second in the standings against the Cubs. Chicago had a 9.5 game lead on August 14, which they lost to the Mets over the next two weeks. The Mets won the division by eight, one of the biggest pennant race collapses in history.
If there are any other bulletins like that that are important to you, please let us know, Chip states, dripping sarcasm.
3:40 - you hear a lot of stage technicians talking to each other which is really only audible with headphones
6:13: they’re going to cut the fence down

(this is the fence that was in front of the stage; they did not end up cutting it down)

Disc 23: the abbie hoffman incident is recreated to provide a STEREO EXPERIENCE of Pete throwing Abbie Hoffman off the stage
one disc is literally the grateful dead playing one song. just one. a 40+ minute version of “turn on your lovelight.” which is 1) not the longest version of this song they have played 2) kind of a ballsy move to do this in front of half a million people 3) why punk rock happened
Disc 20:

2:50: Will the young lady who is carrying a silver Scandinavian Air Service bag, flight bag, please take a look in your silver Scandinavian Air Service flight bag. You’re carrying Janis’ wah-wah pedals and we’ve got the keys to your house. So we’ll trade!
disc 21: Janis is the largest cheer so far.

“how are you out there? are you okay? you’re not - you’re staying stoned, you’ve got enough water and a place to sleep and everything? what does that mean?”

IT IS THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING! “Sly, then the Who, then the Airplane”
the medley - it’s 22 minutes

the album edits it into a 13 minute chunk but it’s not that they made it shorter, they just edited out different parts of each of the three songs - 2 minutes of Dance to the Music, 7 minutes of music lover, 4 of I want to take you higher. And it’s a neat trick, and for many listeners, was early exposure to - but it’s doing the act a grave disservice. I can understand the Dead opting out of the album just because there would be no way to compress the thing that the Dead do, and still convey some semblance of tactile emotion.
you have to respect Sly Stone for expecting people to throw the peace sign in the air and sympathize that some people might feel too subconscious to do this in the middle of the night… way up on the hill

“Could we take this opportunity to welcome this new day with you, with our greatest appreciation,” says Chip Monck. It is now just after 6am on Sunday morning, and after that brief moment of contemplation, with the next breath he asks the men on the follow spot towers to please come down.

it is actually refreshing to learn that Woodstock had occasional problems
DISC 26: By the time the Grease Band commences the introduction to “Rockhouse,” opening Joe Cocker’s set at 2pm Sunday, it is as bright and jarring as though I had been up for 22 hours, and I would have gone back to my tent if I was not there already.
10 minutes of rain might be viewed as a brave and bold inclusion, but the actual rainstorm track -- credited to “John Morris, Barry Melton (Country Joe & the Fish), Audience & Rainstorm” -- the same attention that was paid to the musical mix is also lavished upon this 10 minute real world soundscape. You hear the concern in John Morris’ voice as he urges the audience to move away from the towers, tells stagehands to get off the stage. You can hear the raindrops fall, and the wind blow through the mic screen. There are a couple of rain chants, but it’s not the artificially sweetened experience of the movie or the album.
DISC 29: Chip is still trying to get the guys off of the lighting towers.
DISC 32: “It’s really annoying to have to constantly make this announcement” track 1

“After a short intermission, and another scaffolding announcement, we’ll continue” :26 track 12
DISC 35: Holy incongruity to find out that Sha Na Na went on at 7:30 on Monday morning, between the Butterfield Blues Band and Jimi Hendrix.
track 13: 7:35 - “It’s been a long one, but it’s been outstanding” - Chip, who is still trying to get the guys down from the lighting towers, this time because the mud they are rooted in has questionable stability

‘WHAT ABOUT HENDRIX,’ yells a jamoke in the audience
The remaining stragglers who hung around to the bitter end because they were there or because why not or because Hendrix respond with more enthusiasm than one would expect after three days of rain and mud and poorly manufactured acid and macrobiotic food.
DISC 36: “1:40 - “JIMI, ARE YOU HIGH?’
DISC 38:

track 15, where we hear one of the first “You wouldn’t know them, they’re from Australia”: 2:35

“For the first time really ever, I didn’t dig the music, honestly. I never listened, once. I contemplated my life’s future, the future of my own personal life. I think I’m going to turn naturalist.”

“If you’d seen the Who, you’d know what I mean. They came on, like, at 4 o’clock in the morning, and they came out and played their new album that they must have played 100 times by now in 100 different places. and they did the exact same thing, Peter Townshend did the exact same moves, Roger Daltrey did the exact same moves, they’ve done for a year and a half, two years. And they weren’t giving anybody anything new. They weren’t contributing anything to music, man. They weren’t making anything. At all. you dig? They weren’t, man. They just weren’t.”

(I’m really sorry I didn’t have enough word count to talk about the random field recordings on disc 38, they were amazing)

track 29: 15 minutes before show time on friday, one of the first announcements: All you people climbing up that scaffolding, please come down immediately, that’s extremely dangerous. This is a matter of life and death. Dig it.


Part 2 of my Woodstock coverage in two weeks, on the actual 50th Anniversary.

Peace out.