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Friends Magazine Sept 1970- Part 1.
By Richard Neville
When Bob Dylan left the Isle Of Wight last year, I drifted with the crowd towards the free bus area. Carrying rucksacks, sleeping bags and in some cases, each other. This exhausted mob by -passed the free lift and continued plodding towards the port . Unwittingly , with people who had a;ready suffered several sleepless nights, inadequate food and challenging lavatories- I had become involved in a quite unnecessary four mile route march. It was then I flashed , as we homeward trod our weary way, that British hippies are a race of masochists . Hedonism , implicit in the festival concept , is apparently unacceptable unless laced with discomfort , pain and misery . So last week, when Woodstock came to the Isle Of Wight, the busiest organisation were Civil Aid, Simon Community, Salvation Army and their hip descendant Release.... Bad trip specialists all. The typical Woodstock nationals, British variety, were those who chose to sleep in the bogs. The contented UK festival goer: curled inside a paper sleeping g bag, overlooking a 6ft by 30ft trench of shit, dozing to the continuous hiss of piss upon corrugated troughs. It was surely this similar masochistic tendency which led people flocking g to join an infinite , immobile and premature bus queue on Saturday morning - 24 hours before the best acts had appeared. It is true that throughout the week hundreds found their way to the beach to perform exhilarating pantomimes of liberation . But the final ecstasy must have been their discovery that the water was punishingly cold .
When I arrived on Wednesday the island was thick with confusion and self -justification. Fiery explained that they had spent a year battling bigots to "bring pop to the people "( and profits to themselves. ) . Now the White Panthers ( actually that should be singular , but no one dared reveal that Mick Farren is a one man tribe ) wanted the fences ripped down . FieryÕs inability to comprehend even the arguments for such a move shows the isolation of the Foulks form the Movement , of which rock is a part and its search for a socio-cultural autonomy. Did the Foulks ever stroll through the lien of dwellings known as Desolation Row , a communal village established weeks before ( and even now flourishing )by people who came not to dote on superstars, but on each other ? Smashing the fences is a logical philosophical progression of underground lifestyle and it also represents a maturing of a collective insight. People have power. Culture belongs to those who created it. Last year the internal wire barrier between the public and the press was threatened,,this year it was ripped asunder. If there had been no Desolation Hill safety valve , surrounding fences would have been similarly demolished . (note : up until the weekend Fiery were still attempting to clear the hill.)
For the last decade, rock music , through its lyrics style and energy has symbolized and promoted personal anarchy . It is marketed by an entrenched profiteering establishment. "Revolution now "shriek the Jefferson Airplane " of course" ,say RCA, counting the receipts . So while rock has been a useful unifying force, its relevance to the Movement any longer is currently being reappraised . Pop stars may yet have to dance tot their own music . Meanwhile, to insulate us form such discomforting metaphysics, there is always dope. Acid trippers abounded, soaring over all the fences. Judging from the turnover in the Release Trip tent there wee remarkably few collisions . One or two confused by an overdose ,some bummers caused by the inevitable counterfeit product. One German marched up to Release clicked his heels saluted and commanded "I want to be taken off zis trip immediately ".
Personally I had chosen Jimi HendrixÕs bracket for my obligatory whiff of euphoria . Previously I had seen him single handedly control crowds with a neo Roman symbol of authority. But tonight he was messy and uncertain. The crowd remote, tense , waiting till Hendrix could release their energy , waiting ,.It turned out for Godot. "I ain't come yet "moaned Hendrix,. "I just ain't came "The set continued. Worried looking officials scurried backstage ; amplifiers were piled on top of each other - to make up in decibels what was lacking in artistry. "Motherfuckers" mouthed Hendix and moved into Hey Joe .Yes, yes bathe us in the past and weÕll forgive you the present . "Thanks for being so patient "he fairwelled ," next time we will try to get it together "the acid had taken but Jimi had'nt . Jeff Dexter returned on-stage to call for help. "We seem to have a fire , could someone help us "and we admired the smoke , gently edging towards the exits , suppressing fear. Jeff began inviting contributions to the Friends bust fund, but one seemed to sense a tension in his voice. Panic was surfacing now . Several people clambered dangerously over the fences. I was flushed out to the side of the stage , where two drinking water trucks pulled up and men began to fumble with bulky , stiff and hopelessly short hoses. Now a man rose above the stage gesticulating with flares., "Fuck the White Panthers "some one mumbled and I flew home to the Friends tent. Outside I met Charles, who had worked on the School Kids Oz. He was crying and shaking "Everything I ever believed in has finished ... don't you see that Hendrix was saying good-bye... he failed because we all failed.... we gouge each other with coke cans and have created nothing ."
Hours later ,at dawn I returned to the arena for the last time . Leonard Cohen had been singing endlessly through the night and was now braving a fifth encore , barely able to stand. Thousands in the audience were asleep , others half awake clutching blankets, some in cubby holes built from corrugated sheets from the fences, frozen , exhausted - it was the morning after the three nights before.
"And he wants to trade the game he plays for shelter . Yes he wants to trade the game he knows for shelter . You hate to watch another tired man , Lay down his hand . Like he was giving up, a holy game of poker ."Again Cohen tried to leave the stage , but the audience reached out for him like a straw . More then anyone else , Leonard Cohen with his orgasm of despair, represented the mood of the crowd , hands outstretched for more laments of alienation , loneliness and suicide and thought . Yes a race of bloody masochists, but maybe they're right.
"You find he did not leave you very much, not even laughter."Richard Neville.
Isle of Wight 1970 festival menu
updated March 2019
The Underground press- NB: opinions expressed in these articles do not represent our opinions of the organisers or any other people involved in the running of the festival, it is possible that they may be innaccurate in some details or facts.
Reports from the "Straight "press
updated March 2019
The White Panthers
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