I wasn’t at Woodstock. In August of 1969, I was more into Rocky & Bullwinkle than Neil Young. That, however hasn’t prevented me from being a bit of a geek on the subject of Woodstock, as only someone who never had to endure the traffic, the rain, the filth, the cold, the lack of food and water, the insect bites, and the many subpar performances could be.
As such, I’ve been looking forward to the release of “Woodstock: 40 Years On, Back to Yasgur’s Farm,” by Warner Rhino, a 6-CD set with a greatly expanded roster of bands and songs presented at the celebration of “3 Days of Peace and Music.” The set, “sequenced in chronological order of performance and featuring 38 previously unreleased recordings” should represent a significant improvement over Warner’s lackluster and weirdly joyless 4-CD set released in 1994, if only because it restores and expands the contributions of stage announcers Chip Monck and John Morris, as well as the Rain Chant and other crowd chatter. It will be interesting, after all these years, to hear Woodstock renditions of songs by Quill, Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, The Incredible String Band, and Ravi Shankar (among others).
The ’80s, the decade that encompassed my late teens to early twenties, wasn’t a prime decade for big music festivals. The trend had pretty much exhausted itself by then. The music changed, too, as anyone who has seen clips of the US Festival (Los Angeles, 1982 & 1983) can attest. There was nothing very inspiring about watching MTV-launched New Wave bands (Missing Persons, Quarterflash, Men At Work, a fledgling and awkward U2) flail tinily on a battleship-sized stage. The music wasn’t about community, after all. It was about fashion. Fashion and marketing.