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Last updated 2-25-03



The Great South Coast Bankholiday Pop Festivity. August 31st -1st Sept 1968.
Hell Field , Ford Farm, nr. Godshill, 
Isle of Wight, UK


      A SMALL bronze medal should be struck and presented to all the survivors of the Isle of Wight Pop Festival. They're the brave men and women who trailed across the wild hinterland of that cursed isle on Saturday to see Jefferson Airplane, the Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Move and many more migratory groups.
      The Festival wasn't badly organised. It wasn't organised at all. Until a few days before hand when Portsmouth promoter Ricky Farr was called in to make a few essential arrangements like mowing the field of barley where it was due to be held. And digging a trench which was to be the latrines for 7,OOO people.
      At least Ricky made sure there WAS a festival and the Airplane and a bargeload of equipment did, in fact, turn up. And they roused cheers from an unbelievably patient and well-behaved crowd sitting at 2 am on the damp, cold ground. They played a lengthy set, and while their tons of equipment did not make them a loud group, it ensured each instrument had maximum separation and clarity. Like most American groups who visit us, they proved touchingly unprofessional, vague and timid towards their audience, but played with feeling and obvious musical involvement. Grace Slick tended to mumble her thoughts aloud to nobody in particular, but sang beautifully. The two-guitar lead ensured an exciting sound.
     Other highlights were drummer Twink's hilarious and brilliant performance with the Pretty Things , Fairport Convention's contribution at 4 am, Carl Palmer's solo with Arthur Brown and Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation playing on during an 8am cloudburst, with what remained of the audience who hadn't fought their way on to a bus to town crowded on the stage with the group.
               


It really was hell at times at Godshill.
but Jefferson got a BIG RECEPTION.

Onward , onward onto the plateau called Hell came the 10,000. Never had the rural slumbers of the picture postcard village of Godshill , plumb in the centre of the Isle of Wight, , been so rudely distrurbed as they were last weekend when 10,000 pop fans invaded the centuries old community for the Great South Coast Bank Holiday Festivity ... and the British debut of Jefferson Airplane - who got a great reception despite difficulties .

On a 40 acre field of barley stubble appropriately named Hell field , the all nighter publicised as one of the biggest pop festivals ever staged in this country got under way early on Saturday morning .
After weeks of planning the supposedly highly organised , precision planned gig turned out to be 16 hours of make do , make shift and hasty improvisation .

    The Move's road manager settled for the five word description: "It's a great louse-up!", after the group blew nine speakers during their appearance on a stage made of two trailers covered by seaffolding and canvas.
It wasn't much fun for the pop fans either, for the promised transport from all ferry services turned out to be merely a special bus service from Shanklin, nine miles from the principal arrival point at Hyde, 17 miles from Cowes and 20 miles from the Yarmouth ferry.

     Early on Saturday the 114 group members arrived on the Isle of Wight in three specially chartered hovercraft to avoid them being mobbed by fans on the ferries.
Special signs
    Special signs directing the pop fans, who came from all over Britain to the festival, were switched .round (or removed altogether) and technical difflculties meant often as much as half-hour breaks between groups.
The festival seemed dogged by trouble even before it started. Organlsations and sponsors associated with it disclaimed responsibility for anything that happened "on the night." The Island's Magistrates hit out at the organisers for advertising bar facilities before they had applied for a licence! Even the local branch of the National Farmers' Union were worried about livestock on surrounding land.

    So the scene was set . . . it was obvious that almost everyone had corne to see Jefferson Airplane the group from America's West Coast and playing this country for the first tlme. In Britain for a few concert dates as part of a European tour, which has already taken them to Brussels and Stockholm, the Jeffersons brought an entourage of 30 lighting technicians and sound experts and five tons of electrical equipment !

The Airplane's lightshow

Not too happy

    Jefferson's Spencer Dryden was, like other group members, none too happy with the festival. During their 90 minute performance none of the group could hear each other and were constantly forced to stop and re-tune in an attempt to get a uniform sound. Coupled with this, the group's psychedelic screen show had to be cut right down: in case the field's thick covering of dust damaged valuable lenses.

   Despite this, the Jeffersons continued with a static light show and got easily the best reception of any of the 14 groups. Bill Thompson said after their act the group will return to the States later this month, and, after making a 90-minute spectacular for TV, take a month's rest to " think things over."

    If the fans had come to see the Jeffersons, they came to gape at Arthur Brown of Crazy World fame. With gold mikes and gold mask he came, as fearsome but as an exciting personality as any on the pop scene today. He has dropped his act incorporating the flaming headgear and is working on two new acts, one called " Magician " and the other "Machines Unite ", which will be ready in a couple of months.It seems that Arthur Brown just isn't having a great deal of luck with his pre-performance publicity stunts recently. He had decided to arrive at the Bank Holiday festival by balloon from Porlsmouth. But things went amiss and it was cancelled at the last minute. Anyway he would have had to wait years for the necessary north-westerly Wind! Said Arthur: " lt's a great atmosphere here!", an atmosphere he rapidly polluted with the smoke bombs at the conclusion of his " Fire " act.

Fairport's task

    It was left to the Fairport Convention to take on the hardest job of the night. They followed Arthur Brown, but at the end of Arthur's phenomenal act the fans drifted away in their hurndreds. Those who stayed slept. So the Convention found themselves playing to a huddled audience of sleeping bags resembling a musical refugee camp.
   The Pretty Things, fresh from the studio where they have been recording material for their new LP" S. F.Sorrow," got a rave welcome, which heightened when they began climbing the scaffolding on the stage.
Radio 1 deejay John Peel made a brief appearance before Tyrannosaurus Rex finally arrived to keep the show moving. Smile also went down well, playing their first live date, and revealed that their next record will feature Bob Dy}an number, 'Please Mrs, Henry' as the 'A' side - if the Manfreds don't step in first. On the flip will be 'Sleepy Time Waltz' penned by Lead singer Denis Couldry.
Dwindled

   Making up the programme were Plastic Penny, Orange Bicycle, Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, Mirage and Nice, but by the time the Island's own Cherokees, who were well worth a listen, came on early Sunday morning the 10,000 had dwindled to the faithful few and those who had nothing better to do.

   Of course, no pop festival would be worth the name unless the Beatles were going to put in an appearance, They are corning, probably to see Jefferson, Airplane said the organisers — but of course they never did,
Despite the fact that weekend leave was cancelled for all the Island police and guard dog patrols were out, the only trouble came over a few burnt chairs and the only casualties were those who were treated for exposure.


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