Isle of Wight Festival 1970


The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was held between
26 and 31 August 1970 at East Afton Farm an area on the western side of the Isle of Wight. It was the last of three consecutive music
festivals to take place on the island between 1968 and 1970 and widely acknowledged as the
largest musical event of its time, greater than the attendance of Woodstock. Although estimates vary, the Guinness Book
of Records estimated 600,000, possibly 700,000 people attended. It was organised and promoted by local brothers,
Ronnie, Ray and Bill Foulk. Ron Smith was site manager and Rikki Farr
acted as compere. The preceding Isle of Wight Festivals, also
promoted by the Foulks, had already gained a good reputation in 1968 and 1969 by featuring
acts such as Jefferson Airplane, T. Rex, The Move, The Pretty Things, Joe Cocker, The Moody
Blues, The Who, and Bob Dylan in his first performance since his 1966 motorcycle accident. The 1970 version, following Woodstock in the
previous year, set out to move one step forward and enlisted Jimi Hendrix. With Hendrix confirmed, artists such as Chicago,
The Doors, Lighthouse, The Moody Blues, The Who, Miles Davis, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell,
Jethro Tull, Sly & the Family Stone, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Free willingly
took up the chance to play there. The event had a magnificent but impractical
site, since the prevailing wind blew the sound sideways across the venue, and the sound system
had to be augmented by Pink Floyd’s PA. There was a strong, but inconsistent line
up, and the logistical nightmare of transporting some 600,000 people onto an island with a
population of fewer than 100,000. Political and logistical difficulties resulted
in the organisers eventually realising that the festival would not make a profit and declaring
it to be “a free festival”, although the majority of the audience had paid for tickets in advance,
and the event was filmed contemporaneously. The commercial failings of the festival ensured
it was the last event of its kind on the Isle of Wight for thirty-two years. Planning difficulties
The opposition to the proposed 1970 Festival from the residents of the Isle of Wight was
much better coordinated than it had been in previous years. The Isle of Wight was a favourite retirement
destination of the British well-heeled, and a haven of the yachting set, and many of the
traditional residents deplored the huge influx of ‘hippies’ and ‘freaks’. This led to the introduction of the “Isle
of Wight County Council Act 1971” designed to control any further happenings of this
kind. Renting a few acres of suitable farmland to
hold a music festival had in earlier years been a simple commercial matter between the
promoters and one of the local farmers, but by 1970 this had become subject to approval
decisions from several local council committees who were heavily lobbied by residents’ associations
opposing the festival. As a result of this public scrutiny, the preferred
ideal location for the third Festival was blocked, and the promoters in the end had
no choice but to accept the only venue on offer by the authorities – East Afton Farm,
Afton Down, a site that was in many ways deliberately selected to be unsuitable for their purpose. One unintended result of the pick of location
was that, since it was overlooked by a large hill, a significant number of people were
able to watch the proceedings for free. Performances Wednesday 26th
Judas Jump: A heavy progressive rock band featuring Andy Bown and Henry Spinetti of
The Herd and Allan Jones of Amen Corner. Kathy Smith: A Californian singer-songwriter,
signed to Richie Havens’ label, “Stormy Forest”, was well received. Rosalie Sorrels: Another folk musician, accompanied
by David Bromberg on guitar. David Bromberg: Bromberg was not on the bill,
but he performed a popular set. Redbone: Native American pop/rock outfit. On the bill, but did not perform. Kris Kristofferson: Performed a controversial
set. Due to poor sound, the audience was unable
to hear his set, and it appeared that they were jeering him. He was eventually booed off the stage. Mighty Baby: psychedelic rock band. Thursday 27th
Gary Farr: The brother of Rikki Farr, Gary had been the front man of the T-Bones, an
R&B combo that featured Keith Emerson on keyboards. By this time, he had become a solo artist,
and his only album, “Strange Fruit”, for Columbia Records, had been released in 1970. Supertramp: Their debut album had just been
released a month prior to the festival. Andy Roberts’ Everyone
Ray Owen’s Moon: ex- Juicy Lucy vocalist Howl: Scottish hard-rock band formerly known
as “The Stoics”, featuring Frankie Miller Black Widow: a British band that wrote songs
about Satan worship in their 1970 debut LP, Sacrifice
The Groundhogs: English blues rockers Terry Reid: The English singer performed with
David Lindley. The set was released on CD in 2004. Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso: Brazilian
musicians, playing Tropicália to a frenzied audience. Gracious! A British progressive rock band. Friday 28th
Fairfield Parlour: They had recorded a single called “Let The World Wash In”, released under
the name I Luv Wight, which they hoped would become the festival’s theme song. They had also previously recorded as Kaleidoscope. One song available “Soldiers of Flesh” on
a bootleg vinyl record called “Coca Cola Bullshit” Arrival: Their set, which included a Leonard
Cohen cover, was well received. Lighthouse: This popular Canadian act performed
two sets at the festival. Taste: Legendary guitarist Rory Gallagher
had a blues trio from 1968 to 1970. This was one of their final shows, which was
filmed and recorded. An album, Live at the Isle of Wight, was released
of their set in 1971. Tony Joe White: Performed hits including “Polk
Salad Annie”; his drummer was Cozy Powell. Tony Joe’s entire set was released in 2006
on Swamp Music, a Rhino Handmade collection of his Monument recordings. Chicago: Their set, including “25 or 6 to
4,” “Beginnings” and “I’m a Man,” was a highlight of the night. Family
Procol Harum: frontman Gary Brooker commented that it was a cold night. Voices of East Harlem: Their set received
several standing ovations. Not actually a band, but a bunch of singing
school children from Harlem. They had one studio album. Cactus: Two songs from their set were featured
on the LP The First Great Rock Festivals of The Seventies. Mungo Jerry were there but decided not to
play Saturday 29th
John Sebastian: Performed an 80-minute set, during which former Lovin’ Spoonful guitarist
Zal Yanovsky made a surprise guest appearance. Shawn Phillips: American folk musician performed
an impromptu solo set following John Sebastian. Lighthouse
Joni Mitchell: Played a controversial set; following her performance of “Woodstock”,
a hippie named Yogi Joe interrupted her set to make a speech about the people at the festival
in an encampment built of straw bales known as Desolation Row. When Joe was hauled off by Joni’s manager,
the audience began to boo until Mitchell made an emotional appeal to them for some respect
for the performers. [1].[2]. Contrary to popular belief, Joe was not the
man who was ranting about a “psychedelic concentration camp”. That was another incident that took place
the previous day. After the crowd quieted down, Mitchell closed
her set with “Big Yellow Taxi” Tiny Tim: His rendition of “There’ll Always
Be an England” can be seen in the film Message to Love. Miles Davis: A DVD of his complete set was
released in 2004. Ten Years After: British blues rockers performing
what was basically a reprise of their famous Woodstock set. Highlights included “I’m Going Home” and “I
Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes,” which was featured in Message to Love. Emerson, Lake & Palmer: This was their second
gig. Pictures at an Exhibition, which featured
the Moog synthesizer was the centerpiece of their historic set. Commercially released as Live at the Isle
of Wight Festival 1970 in 1997. The Doors: Their set was shrouded in darkness
due to Jim Morrison’s unwillingness to have movie spotlights on the band. Their performances of “The End” and “When
the Music’s Over” are featured in Message to Love. As described in Morrison’s biography, No One
Here Gets Out Alive, wind, bad weather, and the cold made their performance even harder. Bootleg recordings of the performances and
audio do exist. The Who: Their entire set, including the rock
opera Tommy, was released in 1996 on CD. Three years later their set appeared on DVD
with significant cuts from Tommy and a few other songs missing. In addition, the DVD song set order was radically
altered to present Tommy as if having been performed at the second-half of the concert,
when, in fact, Tommy was performed in the middle of their lengthy set, and the closing
title was “Magic Bus”, which concluded some Who concerts at that time. A 2006-reissued DVD of the concert retains
the altered order, despite having been personally “supervised” by Who guitarist and songwriter
Peter Townshend. Sly & the Family Stone: The showstoppers of
Woodstock performed to a tired audience on the early morning of Sunday. However, the audience woke up for spirited
renditions of “I Want to Take You Higher”, “Dance to the Music” and “Thank You”, which
featured Sly on guitar. Prior to their encore, another political militant
decided it was time to make a speech, and the booing audience started to throw beer
cans onto the stage. Freddie Stone was hit by a flying can and
an angry Sly decided to skip the encore. He did promise a second appearance, but this
never occurred. Melanie: This Woodstock veteran played a well-received
set as the sun rose. Prior to her set, Keith Moon of The Who offered
her some moral support and encouragement. Not until afterwards did Melanie realise who
he was. Her performance of her own song, ‘What Have
They Done to My Song Ma’ was included in a 2010 French documentary, spanning the 1970
and 2010 I.O.W. festivals, called ‘From Wight to Wight’ and first shown on TV station ARTE,
on 30 July 2010. Sunday 30th
Good News: American acoustic duo. Kris Kristofferson
Ralph McTell: Despite an enthusiastic reception from the audience, he did not play an encore,
and the stage was cleared for Donovan. Heaven: English answer to Chicago and Blood,
Sweat & Tears Free: Their set list consisted of “Ride on
a Pony”, “Mr. Big”, “Woman”, “The Stealer”, “Be My Friend”, “Fire & Water”, “I’m a Mover”,
“The Hunter”, their classic hit “All Right Now”, and concluded with a cover of Robert
Johnson’s “Crossroads”. Donovan: He first performed an acoustic set,
and then an electric set with his band Open Road. Pentangle: British folk combo. A German woman interrupted their set to deliver
a political message to the audience. The Moody Blues: A popular British act and
veteran of the 1969 festival. Their rendition of “Nights in White Satin”
can be seen in Message to Love : Their set is featured on Threshold of A Dream Live at
the Isle of Wight 1970. Jethro Tull: Their set is featured on Nothing
Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970. During Sunday morning the audience were entertained
by a rehearsal/sound-check by Jethro Tull. Jimi Hendrix: The star of the festival performed
in the early hours of 31 August with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass. His set has been released on CD and video
in various forms. In the beginning Hendrix had technical problems,
which at one point during “Machine Gun” involved the security’s radio signal interfering with
his amp’s output. Joan Baez: Her version of “Let It Be” can
be seen in the film Message to Love. Leonard Cohen: Backed by his band The Army,
his tune “Suzanne” can be seen in the film Message to Love. In October 2009 audio and video recording
of his set, Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 was released. Richie Havens: The musician who opened Woodstock
closed this festival with a set during the morning of 31 August. As Havens performed his version of “Here Comes
the Sun”, a cloudy dawn broke, so he changed the lyrics to “Here Comes the Dawn”. Havens’ set, which is available as an audience
recording, also included “Maggie’s Farm” by Bob Dylan, “Freedom”, “Minstrel from Gault”
and the Hare Krishna mantra. Canvas City performances
Hawkwind Pink Fairies
Filming All the performances at the festival were
professionally filmed by award winning film director Murray Lerner. with a view to releasing
a documentary film but due to financial difficulties, nothing was released until 27 years after
the event. Lerner distilled material from the festival
into the film “Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival” which was premiered at a San
Jose film festival in 1995 and released in 1997. The film puts a negative slant on the 1970
event by splicing in footage of violent incidents preceding the festival itself. Chief Constable, Hampshire Constabulary, Sir
Douglas Osmond emphasised the peaceful nature of the event in his evidence given to the
Stevenson Report, 1971, “…By the end of the festival the press representatives became
almost desperate for material and they seemed a little disappointed that the patrons had
been so well behaved.” A second film directed by Lerner, Leonard
Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight, 1970, was released in 2010. A number of other performances have been released
on DVD including: Jimi Hendrix – Blue Wild Angel – Live at the
Isle of Wight 1970 The Who – Live at the Isle of Wight Festival
1970 Jethro Tull – Nothing is Easy – Live at the
Isle of Wight – 1970 The Moody Blues – Threshold Of A Dream – Live
At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 Miles Davis Miles Electric: A Different Kind
of Blue Emerson Lake & Palmer – The Birth of a Band
– Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 Free – Free Forever – Disc 2 in concert – Video
content: Be My Friend, Mr Big, All Right Now – Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970
Influence The founders/main instigators of the Glastonbury,
Windsor and Stonehenge Free Festivals were all at IOW 1970, respectively Andrew Kerr,
Ubi Dwyer and Wally Hope, inspired by the anarchistic nature of the breakdown of control
by the original organisation and the subsequent freedom of the last days of the event. References External links
The Isle of Wight Festival 1970 Official 1970 festival history from isleofwightfestival.com
Le Festival de Wight 1970 – En Coulisse Theothea.com
Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 Isle of Wight Festival Veterans – Facebook
group