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||The view from the Dust.|
Recollections of festival attendees
I stumbled across your site almost by accident; I'd just downloaded "Wild Mountain Thyme" from the 69 concert from Napster, and out of curiosity, I searched Google for some more references. I was 19 that year, and travelling through Europe, as middle-class North American kids did then in the summer. Airfares were cheap for students, and you could go almost anywhere, including Algeria and other places I wouldn't dream of going now. I met Australians who were taking the "overland route" home; I doubt that that route still exists.
I got to the site on the Isle of Wight about, I don't know, 5 days or so before the concerts, with something like ten pounds in my pocket, and got a job digging toilets and putting up concession tents. All the good jobs, like building the stage, for instance, had been taken by Americans (and, yeah, by guys with carpentry skills). I met a bunch of people working there and we all lived in a small encampment we called Desolation Row. What else were we going to call it?.
© David Kohn
We even got semi-famous, and had a "journalist" from The People stay overnight who then went back to London and wrote a nasty piece about us. We got our pictures in various local and London newspapers and on the telly smashing up an old piano that the farmer gave us. I don't know why he gave it to us or why we smashed it up. It made some kind of sense at the time. Later, we got mentioned in Scaduto's bio of Dylan, although he got it wrong: I was the only North American in the group, which included a guy from the Midlands, some middle-class London kids, and a genuine Scottish tramp.
After the concert, that Monday morning, we were all going to stay and make some money helping with the big cleanup. Except that it was so truly desolate with the concert over and everyone just gone away and mountains of garbage all over that we just went home and forgot about it. Later, when I was back at UBC, I got a letter from one guy who was actually promoting a rock show of his own . He must have learned something while he was there, I guess. I have no idea what happened to the tramp. I don't have the pictures that appeared in the papers any more, or the Moroccan wallet that I kept for years with that "Help Bob Dylan Sink the Isle of Wight" thing pasted into it. Anyway, sorry to ramble on, thanks for putting up the web site.
Pentangle © Colin Seftel
a Friday night gig in Bristol my mate Bruce and I, respectively Guitarist and
Vocalist of Birth (a pretty nifty, though I say it myself, acid rock outfit
from Bath who did alright )and two girls, Caroline and Linda, drove overnight
to Southsea and took a very early morning ferry to Ryde. We only had tickets
for the Saturday and the only band I can actually remember were the Moody Blues
- turgid, but maybe also Joe Cocker - good. We had no interest in Dylan, slept
Saturday night on the beach, were awakened by morning rain and left.
This was about the least interesting festival I ever attended out of some 20 or so. Nothing sticks in my mind about it at all except the sight of a very tall man who loomed up at us suddenly through the mist and scared us as we walked down a lane to the beach at about 1 am.
When we returned to Southsea we were quite surprised to find Bruce's ancient Ford still in the car park as it didn't lock. When we'd left it, Bruce had remarked philosophically that if it did disappear it had only cost him £20.
We then drove to the New Forest, had a few drinks in a pub and camped for the night amid the trees on our way home.
I came across your site having done a search for IoW festivals. I am meeting up with someone this weekend that I lost touch with thirty years ago, and I was trying to refresh my memory of the IoW in 69 and 70 as we went to both of those together. We arrived at Southsea in 69 too late for the last ferry, and kipped on the seafront and could hear (we thought) The Who playing on the island. I can't work out what night that would have been - we saw The Who live (that must have been on Saturday) but we also saw Bonzo Dog (and the wonderful VS RIP), but your listing shows them performing on the Friday. Do you know if anyone performed on Thursday evening? Did Bonzo Dog perform later in the weekend as well?
thing has always stuck in my mind about Dylan's set - one of the newspapers
said that the crowd booed and threw bottles at Dylan because he was so
late on stage. The booing and bottle throwing was aimed at the people
in the press compound at the front who stood up when Dylan came on stage,
so none of us paying punters behind them could see anything. "Peace
and Love" was one thing, but we still wanted value for money. The
fact that Dylan was late didn't matter at all - he was there and that
was all that mattered.
Liverpool scene at IOW 69
Dusk © Tim Brighton
have any pictures but i was there at the isle of wight to see Bob Dylan,its
the best concert i've ever been to.
We found out where Bob was staying and out of all those people there was just 4 of us who knew where he was.
Every night we would listen to Bob rehearse the show in a converted barn on the property where he was staying,we had our very own concert,it was amazing,he came out and caught us one night and had a chat and gave us autographs,I still have mine to this day.
© David Kohn
I was at the concert all three days in 1969. It was right after they landed men on the moon. I was curious if there is any video available of those concerts? I am now an artist and jazz pianist and live in the wine country of northern California. Those days live fond in the memory all though not all of it is clear, we know it was quite a party. I had been visiting my dad's parents in the north of England (St. Annes-on-Sea) and wassupposed to go to the lake district with them. Instead I found a girl who was interested in going and we spilt on the train to points south. From London we hitchhiked to the south coast and took the hovercraft to the island. We found a barn to camp in and then headed to the festival. I couldn't believe all the people. I forgot that in London we had stopped off for the tribute to Brian Jones given for the Stones in Hyde Park. That was outrageous!
From London one of our rides was in a Mini Cooper which had five people in it. It went out of control at one point and hit a side guard so we stopped (of course). I remember a beer truck stopped and two burly guys pulled our fender back in place so we could continue on. The Isle was really something else. Never have been to a better concert ever!
© Francis Spada
© Francis Spada
This was my first festival but perhaps the best and most memorable.I had just turned 18 and some of my favourite groups were to be performing - The Nice, The Who, The Bonzo's, Julie Felix, Tom Paxton, Moody Blues, Family - I had albums by all of them. And of course the greatest songwriter of the 20th century was headlining - this was unmissable. The tickets were ridiculously cheap by today's standards - £2-10s for the full pass (though my wages were only £8 a week as a trainee draftsman). But cost was unimportant; I would have sold my soul to be there. People had started gathering at the site more than a week before the concert began and the newspaper articles and TV reports on the aptly named Desolation Row only served to excite me further - I knew this was where I belonged. The week leading up to the concert I was holidaying with my family and cousins in Cornwall so I only had to catch the coast train to Portsmouth and from there it was a quick ferry ride to Ryde, with it's more than mile long pier. It was almost an homecoming for me as I had spent 3 years growing up on the IOW at a boarding school in Ventnor run by nuns for children with severe asthma (country air and all).
I arrived at the site on the Thursday in the clothes I wore, no tent or blanket and the remains of my holiday money in my pocket - so I spent a bit of it buying a large plastic sheet and a mexican blanket, found a couple of sticks and draped the plastic over it to form a makeshift tent. Luckily it never rained and wrapped up in my blanket I was actually quite warm and comfortable for the duration. I don't actually remember eating anything much at the site, though on the morning of the Saturday I took a bus into Ryde and had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. I didn't stop long in Ryde as I didn't want to miss a minute of the stage activity, but I do remember seeing Nashville Skyline on sale for the first time and wondering if Dylan would be performing any tracks off it.
from Dylan and the Band there were some very memorable performances and
this is where I heard and became an instant fan of Third Ear Band
(one of the most underrated bands of the era in my opinion). Other
acts I have great memories of were the Bonzo's with their inimitable stage
performance, the Moody Blues, and the Nice (who I was a great fan of).
I was also a great fan of the Who at the time and their set just blew
me away. Apart from a few songs at the start and end the main body of
the concert was given over to an almost complete performance of Tommy.
© David Kohn
I was pretty close to the stage for the final evening. (one of your other correspondent's mentions the bottle throwing incident, and yes, the target was not the stage but the plebs in the press area around the front of the stage) I was really looking forward to seeing Richie Havens as I wasn't very familiar with his music, but someone had told me that his appearance was one of the conditions laid down by Dylan before he'd agree to come. Whether there was any truth in this I have no idea but it was a great performance either way. I had just struck up a bit of a friendship with an American couple who had come across on a charter flight just to see Dylan and this is where I had my first taste of Cannabis (which I took to like a duck to water). The Band followed Richie Havens and then suddenly it was time for the culmination of 3 great days of music, fun and festivity. An hour or so later and it was all over and I was left with this overpowering feeling of what now? Suddenly my home-made tent didn't seem so appealing and I just wanted to get home to a warm bath and bed.
© David Kohn
I abandoned my plastic sheet, wrapped my blanket round my shoulders
(I still have it) and joined the great mass of humanity wending it's way
to Ryde pier. Ryde pier is so long that there is a train station at both
ends of it. I was told that people were queuing the entire length
of the pier but I decided to see for myself so caught the train to the end.
Sure enough, for as far as I could see the pier was just jammed. The
word was going round that it was going to take over 24 hours to clear even
though ever ferry available was running. Some people from the train
tried to jump the barriers to the head of the queue and were unceremoniously
turfed back out. I had just decided to walk back into Ryde and find somewhere
to doss when I was asked to help a girl back out over the barrier as she
was about to faint. To my eternal shame, while helping her I managed
to get one leg over the barrier. I stood straddling the barrier until ten
minutes later someone else needed helping out and in the process my other
leg made it over. I didn't get on the next ferry, but the one after
I just made . From there a quick train ride to London where I slept on the
platform along with about a thousand others until the police woke us and
the first train to Derby saw me safely home.
I emigrated to Australia the following year so missed the Hendrix concert. I must have been to around 30 open air concerts since then, but Isle of Wight 69 was my first, and to my mind, still the best one ever.
Derby - England
I was a shy young lad from West Wales just starting an apprenticeship in Plymouth and this was my first festival and first trip to the island. Memories? Well, there I have a problem - I remember the journey there, and . . . . part of the journey back, but the bit in between is a bit of a haze to say the least!! This was due, I am sure, to what I smoked and drank and, of course, the lack of sleep (sic!). I was only 16 and a half and some of my favourite groups, household names these-days, were performing - Moody Blues, The Who, Julie Felix, Joe Cocker, Free - among others. Then, of course, there was Bob Dylan, I was so looking forward to seeing him.
From memory, a number of us, all around the same age, got a train from Plymouth to Lymington (I believe) on the Thursday and then a ferry to the island - and that's where it gets hazy!!! We were new friends and looking forward to what was a totally new experience for us all. I know that I carried a few spare clothes and a sleeping bag and that we shared an improvised tent of sorts - more like a big plastic bag!! We walked and hitchhiked to the site; the tickets were just under half a week's wages at the time, but worth it to see the line-up and remember, this was my first time away. Spent all the weekend on site, eating, drinking & smoking what was available. I remember being wet at some time over the weekend, so either I ended up in a ditch or it must have rained!!! I remember a huge canvas dancehall of sorts and overall, the event seemed to be quite well organised. The music? Well, a lot of it went in one ear and out the other I'm afraid, but I do remember bits of the Who and Moody Blues. Dylan? Must have been "asleep" at the time!!!!
trip back was uneventful except for arriving back at Plymouth station,
dirty and tired and thinking I was one of the "flower people"!
That lasted a day until I was able to remove all the grime in a hot bath
and catch up on some quality sleep; then it was time to get back to work.
Ah, happy days!!!!!!
© David Kohn
My mate and I had finished 6th form and were 18 - waiting to start Uni at Reading and York respectively. The line up looked too good to miss – so many of our favourite bands in 3 days for a few quid. We left our home town in the Midlands on Thursday morning to hitch to Portsmouth. Slow progress meant we had to split up, but met up again in Pompey – we were pretty lucky because the cool people I was riding with were happy to pick up Steve (who was walking the last couple of miles) when we passed him. They took us to a pub near the ferry where a guy in flying jacket offered us acid. We stuck to pints.
© David Kohn
Late ferry to the IoW and a bus ride to the site – all very well organised. But then a problem. We had been told there would be marquees to sleep in and sure enough there were. But they were full already – the day before the festival started. So there we were, no tent and a weekend of sleeping in the open to look forward to. Luckily in the 4 nights we were there I think it may have only rained a little on one night. This was late August and things could have been so much worse.
The first afternoon session in the arena began (as someone else has pointed out) with a band called Marsupialami. Never heard of before or since. No idea why I even remember the name, but the whole event was so mind blowingly good that the opening is still vivid in the memory. Each day’s gig began with an instrumental version of Amazing Grace at full volume on the huge WEMS PA (I’d never seen or heard anything like it) and I can still hear it now. Then Ricky Farr coming on – obviously well up for it but even to a naïve 18 year old seeming a bit too 'Woodstock' for an English audience.
Only a few thousand people were there for the first day and we were pretty near the front. By the Friday there were many more and we were further back but still in a good position. By the Sunday Dylan was a dot in the distance. Highlights of the music for me – The Nice (may have headlined Thursday?) The Who (on Saturday afternoon and absolutely brilliant;) the Bonzos; Julie Felix trying to be Joan Baez but eventually giving up and responding to crowd demands for Going to the Zoo. Too many to mention but just looking at the line up after all these years brings it all back.. Dylan – he was a let down, but by then it had all be too awesome to be a problem.
Other memories – Going swimming in the bay nearby one morning – mainly for a wash. The crowd - so varied, from youngsters like us, hippies by the thousand, a couple of mad older guys from London (looked and sounded like builders) who sat near us getting totally pissed who wandered off separately into the crowd in the dark. Pretty cold on the Saturday evening session – glad we’d kept a couple of bottles of wine to warm us up. Someone calling out 'Wally' in a very loud voice after every song to attract someone they’d lost – eventually most of the crowd were joining in.
also recall wandering through my home town on the Monday afternoon on the way
home. There was some sort of minor carnival on which, after the IoW experience,
looked so flat and boring. Life for me had changed and moved on a lot in just
One footnote. On a recent break on the IoW I found a strange little shop in the middle of West Cowes that has all sorts on rock memorabilia – including a 1969 ticket with the line up listed. I’d completely forgotten that Indo Jazz Fusions. What were they all about? I must have been asleep.
Aug 69 I was barely 20 yrs old and had been wandering around the the UK, Paris, and finally Amsterdam for a month after a less-than-wonderful experience working on a kibbutz earlier in the summer. It was toward the end of Aug and I had to get back to London to catch my charter flight back to Chicago the first week in Sept. No sooner had I gotten back to London than I began to see all sorts of notices about the IOW festival in Ryde. I got on a train and headed down there. One of the people in my compartment was a reporter for the Montreal Gazette, and he suggested that he would get me press credentials as his photographer. We got off the train, got on the ferry, and headed straight to the place Dylan was to be having his press conference (where he didn't say much of anything).
After it was over one of the other people in the press room offered to let me crash for the evening in his hotel. In the middle of the night I'm awakened by this guy making some sort of pass at me. I'm a naive kid from the suburbs, so this kind of stuff I was only vaguely aware of by rumor. I just got out of there fast and headed over to the concert area where I met up with some kids from Scotland who were building a little shelter out of hay bales and tarps. I helped them finish and we had a nice comfortable house.
© David Kohn
The first morning of the concert things were fairly sane in the little press section in front. I think we had two or 3 rows of seat and some space between the seats and the stage for taking photos or sitting on the ground. I was wearing my press pass in a full top hat I'd picked up at the Amsterdam flea market. I remember some celebrities up there in the press section -- Jane Fonda with Roger Vadim a few seats down from me. Keith Richards further on.
© David Kohn
Into the afternoon the press section got ever more crowded. Evidently quite a few people (like me) who were not formally members of the press had managed to get passes. The event managers then decided to stop honoring our passes and reissue new ones on a much more selective basis. It looked like I was going to be shit out of luck until I saw Dylan's manager Albert Grossman standing off to the side. He happened to be the brother of one of my mom's best friends, so I walked over to him, introduced myself, and mentioned that I had spent some time with his nephew in the East Village just before I'd left New York a few months back. Although he didn't seem all that interested in the family small talk, he was gracious enough to make sure I got one of the reissued press passes.
the most part the concert was kind of a blur. My clearest memory is looking
up at Marsha Hunt's thick legs which were hanging out of her black leather
shorts. The Band was great, Dylan less so. Other high points were the
Who, Joe Cocker, and Bonzo Dog Band.
hitch-hiked to the festival with three 17 year-old friends, arriving in the
field on the Wednesday. We found space in one of the dormitory tents and unrolled
our sleeping bags before we set off to explore the area. When we got back, at
about 7 pm, we found that this was also the disco tent with John Peel playing
records and showing a "light show". The light show was a projector
with a small glass ring filled with different coloured oils rotating in front
of the lens. To us it was magical. Our sleeping bags had been neatly rolled
up to make room for the music fans but our stake was made and no-one tried to
We had tickets for the three days and used them, almost going without sleep for a week. We lived off fish and chips, burgers and music. I remember Jethro Tull, Dylan (of course), the Who, and all the others who just took it in turns to thrill us. I also remember the naked girl, who happened to be right next to us. It was no big deal, everything seemed so natural.
At the end of the festival we made our way down to Ryde and spent the night in the doorway of a chemist shop. The chemist woke us up in the morning without any compaint, he needed to sweep the doorway before opening for the day.
I lived as an army brat, all over the world until 1969 when we retired. I had a sense of restlessness that was part of my genes by that time and a strong energy for Bob Dylan. I left work in Wiltshire early that Friday Aug 29, and made it to the Festival along with a number of people who were fellow Fest-goers who I had met on the ferry. I was 16 then. I lay down on my sleeping bag in campsite 1 and listened to The Nice etc through the night. Saturday was cold but surreal. All the bands had an impact. The Moody Blues were great but a little too perfect. I met up with some homeboys, though that wasn't a current phrase then. We got stoned together and shared a campfire later.
Sunday was warm and later in the day there were hundreds , as I remember, of square feet of foam pumped onto an area of grass. I waded around blissfully and of course got soaked so stripped down to skin and laid my clothes on the ground to dry, there were many of us naked or nearly so but we were generally ignored. A photo showed up on the front page of the Daily Express of a couple of bare bodies but too distant to see if one of them was me.
I wished for more from Bob but was happy and made my way to Ryde to sleep in the parking lot of the ferry building until the first Monday morning boat took us back to the mainland. The trip over the Solent was more than just physical. I felt like I was leaving a place where for maybe the first time I'm my life I was home. Walking from the bus stop to our house in the Army camp of Tidworth, where we still lived during the last army year, I felt very transformed from two days before when I had left walking in the opposite direction.
© David Kohn
went to the following festival in 1970, a different me and another story. For
28 years now I have lived in Sonoma California and it was so long ago but still
an energy that comes back to me when I relive that weekend in '69.
David Ian Robbins
The empty arena © Tim Brighton
remember being at the Isle of Wight in 1969 about half way back and centre in
I got chatting to a girl about my age, 18 at the time, and we talked about this, that and music. Slowly she began to drape herself over me, which was nice, but then the Band came on and I can still remember thinking, "I wish this woman would bugger off before Dylan comes on" Well, I was a young Welshman from the valleys travelling further from home than I ever had up to that point and I really needed to hear Dylan without interruption! As the Band set ended she explained that she was the daughter of a hotelier on the IOW and a few of the bands were staying at her dad's hotel, hence her freebie ticket ! She was hoping to interview some of the musicians at the hotel in order to try and break into journalism and, not being a Dylan fan was going back and did I want to come? I was now torn between going off with her and missing Bob or staying for Bob and missing out on a bit of an adventure.Bob won and his set was mediocre (but it was still this Welsh boy's first festival and I wanted to savour each bob moment !!!).
I am happy to say that I never really regretted staying!
walking along a lane and met this guy with a big hat. He said, "Do you
want a job"
So I was on stage crew. Under the stage when the Band practices. The only two people in the arena.
Saw Tom Paxton stuffing money into his jerkin
Told to keep people away from climbing over the picket fence
Tried to stop a big bloke from coming in No Room - Al Grossman! as there was no room and then saw who was behind him. God How embarrassing
Stepped on Pattie Boydes??? hat by mistake and got a dirty look. Ringo Starr was sitting in front of me.
Used the money to make a record and went travelling ended up as a radio producer
© Francis Spada
went to i.o.w.69. i went with 2 pals of mine, we were all 18 years old from dublin.our trip began dublin to holyhead by boat, holyhead to euston by train,euston to waterloo,waterloo to portsmouth,and then ferry to i.o.w.some journey .
we arrived on the island around 11pm and pitched tent along with thousands of other kids.i remember the tickets cost a fiver for the weekend.my pals were into a lot of the bands that were playing ,but i had come to see dylan.i remember the weather was great.unlike woodstock.
on the sunday morning hundreds of us went to the beach which was over the hill ,everybody went in naked which was very daring for 3 innocent irish lads. the compere of the show was a fella called richie farr,who all weekend said that the beatles were in the crowd ,and maybe they would play with dylan at the end. dylan was supposed to come on stage at 8 pm sunday to close the festival .he came on at 11 - 3 hours late . he played for 40 minutes and was gone . the crowd assumed he was taking a break,but he never came back.the crowd went nuts,and breaking up the fence around the site.
© Francis Spada
© Francis Spada
myself and my pals decided to try and reach the stage,which we eventually did by crawling under the canvas.we found richie still on the stage and had an argument with about how let down we felt with dylan and all all the bullshit from farr himself all weekend.he asked us where we were from and counted out 15 quid which he gave us to cover our outlay for the weekend and told us to go into the tent backstage and have a drink. the only person we recognised was jack bruce from cream.
the next day the site was like a bomb had hit it. we were asked if we would help clear it for a few bob,and we were not in any hurry we helped clear up.apart from dylan the gig was brilliant and we met loads of great people.we returned in 1970 to see hendrix in what would be his last gig.thats my story of a great time in my life .
of Wight 1969
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Bob Dylan play. Neither did my friends who were trying to live the 60’s dream, but without the "bread" man. Lemmy did the deals, Tony had the wheels and I was born to follow. I can’t remember anything in any detail, but there were some snapshots that I have kept in my head to this day.
© Colin Seftel
The car, which was a clapped out Standard 10 filled with hippies, sleeping bags, camping equipment and a two sleeper tent, went downhill at over 70 mph and uphill at barely more than walking pace. But it made it to the ferry and we bought a ticket to Ryde , and had to sing the song, of course! On the ferry was a groovy white car painted over in pop art fashion with pictures, symbols and on the front it said "Dylan or Bust". I really hope they made it to see Bob.
I like to think my first single was "Like a Rolling Stone", though in all probability it was probably something embarrassing to admit to today. I played it endlessly on my radiogram trying to write down the words and reckoned I’d cracked it and recited it to anyone who would listen. Many years later a kind friend let me know, between fits of laughter, that "Once upon a time you dressed so fine, you did the monkey time in your prime .." wasn’t what Dylan wrote. For decades I thought she was a great dancer and the "monkey time" was some hip dance.
I listen to Dylan more now than I did then. For us, the big attraction was The Who. Although we were freaks (we preferred to be called heads), it wasn’t that far back when we were Mods. The movement from Mod culture to Love & Peace was accompanied by our change from speed and mandies and alcohol to cannabis and acid. At the I.o.W we couldn’t get any "shit" ... but we did have a supply of black bombers! During this time I worked in a dairy and lived in "digs" with a milkman called Geoff and his overweight wife Anne. In her medicine cupboard there was a large bottle of amphetamines prescribed by her doctor to make her more lively, less hungry and lose weight. Lemmy emptied the capsules into a handkerchief, replaced the contents with flour and put the bottle back. We huddled over the opened hankie in a marquee, provided free for those who didn’t have a tent, licked our fingers and dipped into the pile of powder until it was all gone.
image remains of a beautiful young hippy chick smiling and gliding by
with "FUCK ME" written across her forehead.
Richie Havens © Colin Seftel
Next problem was to get in without a ticket, or the means to buy one. We walked round the whole perimeter looking for a way in for free. Lemmy collected some cash and gave it to a "guard" who turned a blind eye while we went under the fence. I can’t honestly remember much about the Saturday evening or even any of the songs, but I do remember seeing the finale of the set by the Who and Roger Daltry in his iconic fringed, brown suede jacket.
Later on things started to turn really weird. The high from the speed wore off and we started experiencing anxiety and paranoia as we came down to the ground. Later we found ourselves wandering aimlessly outside the fence between huge generator trucks that I’d seen before at fairgrounds. The thrum of the throbbing trucks mixed with the music fading and gaining in the wind was punctuated by announcements to the effect that there was some "bad acid" out there man, and if you were having a bad trip then go to the medical tent. BAD TRIP, BAD TRIP ! The effect of this magnified our paranoia, and probably thousands of others too. The last thing anyone wanted to hear was "bad trip". It took an eternity to get our heads straight and then the announcements started again. I wonder how many peaceniks had their serenity broken and their trip spoiled by this idiot. I imagine the medical tent filling up with freaked out heads and this spurring him to believe there was even more bad acid than first imagined and further cranking up their nightmare. We couldn’t find the medical tent. We were lost and remained so.
The OOO © Colin Seftel
By Sunday evening we were hallucinating. What made it worse was we saw the same figments of our collective imagination. It had to be real, didn’t it ? The fiery cross fifty feet high in the cliff, the man in a cape with a cat on his shoulder? Was it a full moon, the lights from the arena and/or the sun low on the horizon that cast surreal shadows over the camping area? Somehow we managed to score some black, the quality and strength of which we rarely see nowadays, and sat cross legged in the small tent and smoked it all. Not a good idea! The shadows got more sinister and we could feel vibrations from the earth approaching the tent from all sides.
Memories for me tend to be visual or auditory, but what happened next was physical. Our backs were tight against the outside of the tent when I felt a hand press down on me from outside. Sheer panic propelled me to dive out of the tent. So did everyone else. The tent pole buckled and the canvas belly nearly burst with us inside screaming and scrabbling to get out. That horror moment of being trapped inside the tent like kittens about to be drowned is my most vivid memory of the summer of ’69.
could hear the music from the stage clearly from where we finally pitched ourselves
on Sunday , but I can’t remember a single song, except for one. In the
evening we bumped into some beautiful Taunton chicks, one of whom took pity
on me and I spent the rest of the evening in her sleeping bag in a platonic
state of bliss. The sweetest moment, and final memory of the decade, was feeling
peaceful and safe, listening to "Lay Lady Lay" phasing , swirling and curling away into the night.
David S Halstead
(from a laptop near you)
I was there. I live on the Island but was in the Army at the time. The festival was in Wooton, which always seemed a strange place to have it but much more convenient than the 1970 one at East Afton which was miles away from anywhere. As a local I got a day pass and slept at home; I got paid for sleeping under canvas as a soldier so did not want to do it for free. The next year I was out of the army and working for Southern Vectis, the bus company, taking folks to the 1970 festival. I made an amazing amount of money working overtime ferrying punters to the site at East Afton but I never did get the time to go to the gig: so 1969 was my only experience of an Isle of Wight Festival. Bob Dylan plus the rest was good enough for me.
Pete © Mac Colton
I had the unforgettable pleasure of attending the 1969 IOW festival along with my good friend Pete. We travelled down from Chesterfield in Derbyshire the night before, on the train to Southampton and then the ferry to Cowes. We got there very early and I remember looking at the festival posters on the station taking in all the fantastic bands...and even Bob Dylan! What made it funny was a poster next to it saying "Jesus Christ is coming" and Pete saying "Wow I thought Bob Dylan was hard to get!!
We arrived at the site and set up the tent and noticed an the upturned burned out wreck of a Fish and Chip van that has been selling fish and chips at outrageous prices. But what really struck me was the quiet in the arena before the start. There must have been a few thousand people there and everyone spoke in whispers out of respect for the rest of the audience. A huge crowd in the field and before the music started there was hardly a sound! We felt proud that everyone spoke with great respect to each other and we all felt comfortable in each other’s company as if we were all part of the same society. I saw one guy running after another who’d just dropped his wallet and the “theft” of a leather jacket when announced on the PA concluded with the jacket being returned and a large cheer from the crowd.
Even though we got into the arena fairly late in the morning, we still had time to choose a spot fairly close to front (the picket fence) and later even closer, where I got some great shots of the Who, Blodwyn Pig and Marsha Hunt. The available festival food was basic, reasonably cheap and sustaining. Sadly the toilet facilities were let’s face it, basic! During Pentangle’s performance a helicopter circled ,drowning out the their music and everyone stood up giving it the “V” sign – it could have been the Who arriving but there were many planes sightseeing that afternoon too. Halfway through their set there was someone who had decided to start evangelising at the back of the arena with a megaphone much to the crowds disdain. When I went to the wall/toilet later, I passed by the spot where he had been shouting. All that was left was a crumpled megaphone a few banners and a large depression in the ground. A case of people voting with their feet then?
The "missing page" one of your correspondents has eluded too, is a loose leaf page in between The Who and Fat Mattress and on the first side is a list of the contributors to the festival Fiery Creations and the other is a promo ad for Track records. This was loose on my copy and looks as if it was an insert rather than a fixture!
We all enjoyed the "Swizzprick" inflatable and I remember thinking how clever the organisation was to get people to stretch their legs and join in the carnival spirit. In front of me, to the left of the stage, a young lady decided to lose all her clothes and dance around, which all added to spectacle of the event. Suddenly all the press photographers were looking away from the stage!
The music was amazing and virtually nonstop. Highlights for me were The Moodyblues, the Bonzos, Gypsy,(I think Gypsy performed twice and I remember their song (Ringing the Dong”) The Who, Bob Dylan, The Band, Tom Paxton - who provided some great comic relief in his songs and knew exactly how to work the crowd. Sadly Marsha Hunt did not appear topless, as was rumoured. The Who arrived by helicopter and the unpredictable Keith Moon shouted “Ricky Farr’s an old queen” offstage! Then they played the whole of Tommy that afternoon and I heard later that their co-manager Kit Lambert told them after the performance they had played it even better live than on record.
They were very happy cos Charlie Watkins of Watkins Electric Music had put together the largest PA system known to man at the time – 4000 watts I believe, I remember Ricky Farr ( "OK people, here's a band that blew my mind, I know there gonna blow yours" ), berating the press by reading out the Sunday paper headlines concerning the IOW residents furore over hippy invasion etc. and throwing the screwed up papers into the press enclosure saying something like “You do write some **** !” Following that outburst and obviously feeling hurt at the attack on their talents they Fiery Creations allowed one of the press on stage to play some amazing classical guitar ( could have been a piece called "Romance") he was brilliant and the audience loved it. Ricky Farr also announced that because of the sheer body mass of the audience we were keeping the rain away - apparently it was raining in Southampton. Such was the power of the festival. We were pioneers and indestructible, we all cheered! Overlaying everything was that haunting version of Amazing Grace by The Great Awakening. That was our anthem.
Bob Dylan was worth the wait and the crowd loved the older material Mighty Quin etc., even though the music press had criticised his Johnny Cash white suit and National Skyline voice! At the end, we caught the bus back to the ferry where the local residents couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful. What a fabulous festival.
All the very best to you all
Mac Colton. Bournemouth.
You can view many great photos of the acts at IOW 69 here at Robert Ellis's photo site
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