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Articles from Friends Magazine Oct 2nd 1970- Part 5.
The Concerts

The Music .

    The Concerts.

   The Fiery Concerts started on Wednesday 26th and were free for the first two days ; after people refused to pay the extra one pound per night , which Fiery were asking above the advertised festival ticket price of three pounds. But come Friday, they cleared the arena and demanded tickets for admission , which entitled one to squash on a spot on the grass , often as much as 400 yards from the stage. Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies gave free concerts outside Canvas City and in other parts of the site, mobile discos churned out continuous music for over100 hours. People in the press enclosures complained that amplifiers were too loud and poorly balanced, but the banks of WEM speakers pushed the sounds well onto Devastation Hill making the free festival possible for hundreds of thousands, who watched in relative comfort compared to those squashed in the enclosure.

   Most performers seemed crapped off by the overbookings which resulted in artists having to wait hours backstage . There were long delays between sets filled with endless muzak , seemingly designed to lull people into a submissive state. Ricky Farr and Geoff Dexter shared the announcing and provided a clear demonstration of two different lifestyles. Farr continually ranted against the people and sided with Fiery. Dexter kept a common sense level in order to cool the crowd , continually stirred up by FarrÕs vindictiveness, mellowed by a continuous spiel of bullshit hype. When the roof of the stage caught fire , Dexter stayed cool ,which contrasted with Farrs melodramatics in solving the problem of a leaning tower. The stage management was chaotic, causing long holdups between sets ( why doesn't some one hire a revolving stage for festivals ? ) and failed to contain the filming operations which interfered with the audience.


    Beginning at the beginning is difficult. Sleep interrrupted occasionally and boredom made it difficult to genrate enough enthusiasm to stay glued to the stage for all of the twenty five or so bands and people who came to sing and play for us. After Saturday the press enclosure was almost impossible to get into and certainly uncomfortable to be in once you had fought your weary way through the four security checks. Devastation Hill ,was a nice place to be on Sunday and I heard Donovan and Miles Davis from up there amongst some of the grooviest people at the festival . Miles Davis came on , blew up a storm and walked off , he must have at least succeeded in mystifying a good percentage of the audience , although the few thousand who got into his immaculate set were appreciative enough. The strangest set of the festival , but definitely the most musically satisfying .Demystify progressive jazz and we'll all be happier and wiser.

      From the hill Donovan was disappointing, but his personal music needs an equally personal atmosphere as a vehicle and half a million people doing their various things makes quiet communication hard work. Especially nice to see him though . Left the hill to the sounds of Tiny Tim making every one uncomfortably happy to the sound of "Land of Hope and Glory " backed by two of the happy freaks from one of the best bands around, Quiver. Nice one. The days became one after awhile but earlier Mighty Baby had played an excellent set , probably around Wednesday. Still earlier Kris Kristofferson had played two sets, the last on Thursday ending with the crowd jeering him offstage after his version of "Blame it on the Stones "At that stage the crowd were exactly that Ð a crowd . Nothing more . They proved it. Keith Reed played a set that wasnÕt to be bettered until The Who took to the stage . Superlungs stretches every note from down around his feet somewhere but heÕs always so incredibly in control its almost impossible . Young Man Blues was a revelation .

   The first gig in England by Canadian band Lighthouse was a fair winner , they sound very like a number of other bands, notably Chicago , but came over well with guts and enthusiasm making up for the obvious lack of originality. Happy little vibraphone player made my day with his exuberance at the reception the audience gave the music. Very good band. 

    Chicago played a faultless, powerfully energised set that doubtless sent Chicago freaks into ecstatic convulsions,, but I have to admit that after the initial burst of excitement their brash music relies far too heavily on similar trucking riffs to turn me on too much . Almost impossibly fast guitar work at times from Terry Kath. Musically they are taut and very , very professional. Possibly it is that very professionalism that deprives the group of the necessary soul injection. Something is missing but I'm not exactly sure what it is. They played two encores and obviously made a lot of people very happy and as such deserve recognition , but like Blood . Sweat and Tears in large doses they are a drag.
    " Ay up " yelled Roger Chapman as Family walked out on stage. breaking up the crowd , they roared through what was obviously a hugely popular set and proved themselves as one of our finest and often strangest bands. You get the impression that one day something is suddenly going to snap inside Roger Chapman and fleshy bits of him are going to fly out over the unsuspecting photographers at the front. What you might describe as tense singing . One of the funkiest sets of the weekend. 

   Rory Gallagher and Taste were a gas. Their music is strictly limited but infinitely exciting if you dig blues. Not once in their set did they do anything that came over as having a spark of originality, but the attraction is not in the bands inventiveness or in their musical ability. Gallagher snorts, rips and tears his way through the same old riffs with such ridiculous panache that after a while you find yourself waiting for the next guitar break to see how far the usual 12 bar can be stretched before it becomes a bore. With Taste somehow it never does. Two encores again .

    Somehow I haven't worked out the difference between Taste and Ten Years After. There certainly is one . Ten Years After despite Alvin Lee's elaborate histrionics, are a bore. Chick Churchill 's organ playing is unimaginative and inaudible for most of the time . It hardly seems worth it for his few moments of funk. They werenÕt the only band by a long way but certainly the most noticeably smashed of that afternoon. Ric Lee seemed to be having trouble staying on his drum stool.: it was unwise of him to attempt the obligatory drum solo in that state and of course he didn't get it finished. Blame it on the PA .. And he did . They depress me , but seem to keep the audiences happy . Maybe its my fault.
    Emerson Lake and Palmer grooved onto the stage after an hour of watching their equipment being set up, looking so typically like Speakeasy hipsters it was painful. Why they chose to try so hard to look like superstars is a mystery , who are they trying to alienate themselves from ? Their music turned out to be technically brilliant , definitely the most proficient band IÕve seen in months , shades of King Crimson in the constructions of Greg Lake , neither good or bad as such, just similar. Emerson, not content with the organ , played two organs, a piano, electric piano and moog synthesiser ,sometimes simultaneously , always with his usual picturesque flair. The groups "piece de resistance "turned out to be a version of one of the finest classical compositions a I know, Mussorgsky's incredible "Pictures from an exhibition " . As their model they used Ravel's orchestration of the work and amongst any criticisms of their efforts it has to be noted that they performed on stage . the most convincing and excellent version of any classical piece that any rock band has ever done . Try listening to the Berlin Philharmonic doing the same piece and you'll probably see why in comparison ELPÕS version of "Pictures At An Exhibition " was, to me anyway , unconvincing . The finest orchestra in the world easily makes one of the finest bands in the world sound like a weak fart. As usual precise and faultless drumming from Carl Palmer . The clothes and aura of the band were less entertaining than their music , Pity.

   Jethro Tull were easily the funniest and most entertaining band to play . Ian Anderson whips his freaky little body about the stage like a comic dervish, scowling and grinning by turns he made very sure that the crowd were his from the first number . Miming his apprehension that it was about to rain and continually about to tell a joke about a free festival he really does have the whole stage performance bit tied up. Somehow Jethro Tull's music is becoming rather negative, nothing has happened for what seems like years and the addition of an organist/pianist seems to have done little for the band as far as a direction is concerned. I love them though cos Ian Anderson is such a funny cat.
    The Doors were abysmal. Since watching them drag their weary way through that embarrassing set , people I've rapped to often tell me what I missed and how good Manzarak was and how well they did Light My Fire and how foxy Morrison looked. It must be fucking hard work for people who dug the band in the past to keep these pretty little illusions floating around . They were bored and apathetic , to them it was just another gig to keep the charisma going , but this time they blew it. 

      Probably the most magnificent set I have ever seen was perpetrated by The Who. Townshend ambled on stage throwing off waves of channeled energy that were probably just a tiny bit more apparent to those at the front of the stage . Certainly the best little band ever, they were happy , they were together and they were amazing . From two o'clock to after five in the morning they stormed their way through Tommy, some new numbers and the prodigious rock medley that wound the whole thing up. Sometimes you really do come across an experience that will not allow itself to be said in just a few words on paper . For me The Who played what could only be the best set that they've ever done , but that's only for me .

     I can't even begin to be objective about Joni Mitchell , that lady and her music mean a lot to me. She can move me to tears without being more than a voice on a record and that's really all I've got to say about her effect on my head . On stage she was beautiful, dealing with all of the idiots who seemed intent on making her unhappy as she put everyone in some sort of place with a gentle story. .She told of going to a Hopi Indian ceremony the previous week and noticing how some of the thousands of tourists got into the thing like real Indians and how some of the Indians got into it like real tourists "you people are getting into it like tourists" she said quietly and went into another song. Nice lady.

     Sly and the Family Stone started out roughly but soon got down to the gut and began sending out some hefty , happy music and then prematurely left the stage for what looked like a short rap. When they returned , some cat was burbling nonsense over the PA , so they split , despite rumours to the contrary , never to return . Free were predictably very popular. It didn't really make too much difference whether they played well or badly, in fact they did get some nice things going. Paul Kossoff's guitar work is starting to stretch its possibilities and besides heÕs fascinating to watch. Paul Rogers sings well, he sound more like a spade every day. He does mean it doesnÕt he ?. IÕm glad for their sakes that they didnÕt have to follow The Who. So were they.

     I wonder whose fault it really was that Hendrix and the Experience were so bad. The whole stage amplification went splat the moment they walked on stage , everything made the wrong noise , including Hendrix. I watched Billy Cox very hard to see exactly what this supposedly phenomenal bass player was into. Decided eventually that he was into playing background music to a disappointing lead guitarist. It looked to me like Hendrix was either nervous or extremely stoned, thinking about it , certainly both. Everybody was on his side from the moment his multi coloured body made it onto the stage, so its odd that he never got one thing going worth remembering. Mitch Mitchell might be one of the flashiest and friendly drummers around, but its doubtful that he is one of the best. His solos were a bring down. Vowing that "IÕll stay here all night till you move" didnÕt help Hendrix too much either, cos he didn't , neither did they.

    Have to admit that Joan Baez sent me to sleep , probably because I was enveloped in the womb of a sleeping bag. What I did hear was quite soulful and worthy of a very late Monday morning . In a beautiful way . Sometimes wish she'd stop singing Joe Hill so meaningful though. Heard later that she was gentle and excellent . Leonard Cohen created a chapel from the stage and held his own communion , surrounded by his own band , The Army and some singers. He sang strong and soft and told us a lot about his head. Very personal but satisfying music . A poet is a writer is a musician is the same thing isn't it ? John Sebastian is so near a perfect entertainer and person that he made very single soul who watched his act feel very, very good. Lots of memories in his poignant little numbers. Zal Yanovsky joined him and played and shared all that groovy emotion . Suddenly its becoming very evident what AmericanÕs have been raving about these last months . Very pure funkÉ Apart from the almost magical Who the real music stars of the festival were the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind. Not content with playing horrifyingly good sets inside Canvas City and finding .their attempts to let the people into the tent being met with devious opposition, they played between them quite a few free sets outside the huge blown up tent. One afternoon I passed Canvas City at least ten or twelve times during a period of about three hours and on each occasion I just had to stop and watch Hawkwind or the Fairies thrashing stonily into yet another crashing orgasmic crescendo. Happiest stoned freak of the festival was without doubt Hawkwind's Nick . Face painted silver , brandishing his flute , he entertained more people than all the bands put together. Hendrix even dedicated a number to him.

John Coleman .

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.


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updated March 2019

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