It was 62 years ago today Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play, so that makes this the summer of 2009 the 40th anniversary of the original Woodstock. A lot of boomers (hate that term, sounds like something you'd name a dog. "Come here Boomers, come here girl.") Take two: many members of the Woodstock Nation, i.e., middle-aged folk, have romantic yet foggy memories of the event, but in truth the original was not exactly three days of peace, love and music either. A lot of people over 50 seem to have the actual festival confused with the poster that advertised it. Look, I like a good myth the same as the next guy (I'm still waiting for Walt Disney to be defrosted. "Pretty Woman was about a what!?"), but in fact, the original Woodstock was a horror.
Myth has it that Woodstock was a mystical and cosmic gathering of the tribes that ushered in the age of Aquarius, and altered the course of history. The facts are: a group of incompetent businessmen put on a concert. They presented the music, but provided hardly any other amenities for the audience. Parking was in the mud three miles from the site. It rained. A lot of kids showed up and got smashed out of their young minds. They didn't riot. They didn't overthrow the government. Hell, they were so stoned they could hardly stand up.
All there was to eat was that horrid organic rice the Hog Farmers passed out in Dixie cups. There wasn't one sign in a Port-O-San saying, "Hog Farmers must wash their hands before serving granola," if you smell what I'm cookin'. The only thing that would have made the meal perfect would have been a tall glass filled with ANYTHING TO DRINK!
Abbie Hoffman was the only guy who had a realistic handle on things. Upset that John Sinclair was in prison, he grabbed the mike during The Who's set and announced, "This festival is a bunch of shit." Pete Townshend kicked him in the groin and off the stage. This moment of peace, love, and understanding never made it to the movie.
Woodstock wasn't even in Woodstock, it was in Bethel. After the locals realized that The Grateful Dead and Joe Cocker were involved in this "Arts Fair" they figured the whole deal would frighten their cows, corrupt their daughters, and in general, ruin their weekend. So they had a judge issue a court order blocking the entire event.
"Wake up Andy! This is big!"
"Can't this wait till tomorrow Barney? It's 3 o'clock in the morning."
"No Ange! I just looked at these surveillance films that the FBI sent to Mt. Pilot. These hippie promoters are planning to bring in this fellow Jimi Hendrickson! They say out in Monterey he actually set his instrument on fire and led the youth in a satanic voodoo ritual."
Shut out of Woodstock, the producers moved down the road to Max Yasgur. A year earlier he had leased his farm out to The Boy Scouts of America for their National Jamboree.
"Max, imagine the Boy Scout Jamboree only instead of campfire songs, Ravi Shankar!"
"I'm not sure. Last year my pasture got pretty messed up. I don't want the crowd to ruin my grass."
"Don't worry, they'll bring their own."
"Hey Max, did we tell you that we'll be presenting a new opera?"
"Who's performing it?"
"That's right! Wow! That's so far out that you knew that. Now listen Max, here's the bottom line, fifty grand and a guaranteed spot in the movie. Joplin won't even be in the flick."
Most of the stage announcements were made by a guy named Chip Monck. He had that voice of God thing happening. It wasn't, "HEY! HEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON THAT LIGHT TOWER? ARE YOU NUTS? GET THE HELL OFF OF THERE!! Some guy on acid hears that, becomes the diving horse and takes out the medical tent and the fat guy from Mountain.
Chip was mellow, "IF I MAY HAVE A MOMENT OF ATTENTION FROM THE LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WHO ARE FORNICATING ON THE LIGHT TOWERS. KINDLY PUT IT AWAY AND CAREFULLY DESCEND TO THE GROUND. THANK YOU."
"Oh wow man, who was that?"
"I think it was Charlton Heston."
"No man, I think it was God!"
"Maybe it was Charlton Heston playing God."
"Oh wow man, maybe it was God playing Charlton Heston."
"WILL THE COUPLE ON THE LIGHT TOWER KINDLY REFRAIN FROM STONED OUT PHILOSOPHICAL CONVERSATIONS AND CAREFULLY CLIMB TO THE GROUND. THANK YOU."
The only person who wasn't stoned at the festival was the Port-O-San guy. The funny thing is the kids who were there would never use a Port-O-San if they weren't stoned out of their minds. Imagine, you're in a Port-O-San on a bad acid trip and the aroma has a face. I never understood LSD. Acid was very strange because when you took it sometimes it was a good trip and sometimes it was a bummer. Sort of like visiting your parents on Thanksgiving.
Here's a suggestion for keeping your kids off drugs, rent the Woodstock film. Show the kids a family photo and say, "These are your parents." Then turn on the film and say, "These are your parents on drugs." The truth is Woodstock was what being young in 1969 was all about a disorganized mess, a horror show with a great soundtrack and a few laughs.
As Country Joe once said . . . "Gimme an F . . . ."