There is still a light that shines on me

When Apple Records released The Beatles’ “Let It Be” album in May 1970, the world was still reeling from Paul McCartney’s public announcement the previous month that the band had broken up. (John Lennon had told the group privately six months earlier that he “wanted a divorce,” and George Harrison had already begun sessions for his solo debut, but the public had only just learned that the end had come.)

As a loyal fan, I bought the LP right away, but not with the excitement and eager anticipation I’d had with “The White Album” in late 1968 or “Abbey Road” in autumn 1969. “Let It Be,” apparently, would be The Beatles’ last album, which forever tainted it in the minds of many.

It was a strange record. Two of the songs (“Get Back” and “Let It Be”) had already been released as singles; four others seemed to have been recorded in some sort of live setting; two tracks (“Dig It” and “Maggie Mae”) were pretty much inconsequential filler; one tune (“One After 909”) was a Lennon-McCartney chestnut resurrected from their teen years; and sprinkled throughout were weird tidbits of verbal outbursts (mostly from John Lennon). The album’s ragged nature seemed a letdown after the astonishing, polished work on “Abbey Road.”

There was mention of a “Let It Be” film that documented the making of the album, but it saw only limited release and was soon pulled from distribution, evidently because it was roundly panned and The Beatles themselves didn’t much care for it either. So I never saw it until years later. In fact, I went with my friend Barney one day in 1978 to a small Cleveland theater that was showing “Let It Be” in a double feature with “Magical Mystery Tour,” another neglected Beatle film project. (We never saw either film that day because theater personnel threw us out after I mischievously fired up a joint as the movie was just beginning!)

When I finally saw “Let It Be” a couple days later, I agreed with the critics who found it to be a dreary, uncomfortable, ultimately depressing look at my favorite band on the verge of dissolution. They all looked so glum and serious, with no sense of fun or even shared creativity. They sat in silence or bickered, and there was a clear sense that things were collapsing, and no one seemed to care. Sure there were a few entertaining moments, mostly the rooftop concert sequences, but I concluded they were right to bury the film in the archives.

What I never knew until about a year ago is that the film’s director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, had shot nearly 60 hours of film, and sound crews had captured 150 hours of music and conversational recordings. Peter Jackson, the award-winning filmmaker behind “Lord of the Rings” and a huge Beatles fan himself, had always wished for the opportunity to review those source materials to see what was there, and four years ago, Apple Records gave him the green light to delve into them.

Beatles fans worldwide should thank their lucky stars that a talent like Jackson was selected for the task. In “Get Back,” his triumphant, seven-hour documentary released on Thanksgiving on Disney+, his efforts paid off handsomely, with grainy film images digitally restored and enhanced, and the sometimes unintelligible audio cleaned up to such a degree that what we see and hear is a thrilling revelation. True, it may be a bit long and sometimes tedious for the casual fan, but for rabid Beatles fans and professional musicians, it’s Shangri-La.

Most notably, we learn that the prevailing myth advanced by the “Let It Be” movie — that the sessions were nothing but ugliness and toxicity — is simply untrue. Granted, things started off shakily when they first convened in the cavernous Twickenham film studio, a cold environment hardly conducive to conviviality or productivity. The guys seemed understandably self-conscious about the cameras and microphones recording their every move, and they often showed up late, or not at all. However, once they moved the proceedings to the new studio set-up in the basement of the Apple Records office, the mood improved significantly, thanks in large part to the arrival of their old friend Billy Preston, who had only stopped by to say hello while in London but ended up staying for a week and contributing enormously to the vibe and the musical recordings.

It was mesmerizing to me to be a fly on the wall, witnessing the resilience and raw talent of John, Paul, George and Ringo, these four men I had idolized my whole life, as they coped with the absurd circumstances: They had reluctantly agreed to be filmed writing, rehearsing and recording an album’s worth of new songs in preparation for a live performance three weeks ahead, location still undecided. Talk about pressure.

We get to see several of The Beatles’ classic tunes transformed from rudimentary sketches to finished product, particularly “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down.” It’s the arduous process of songwriting and track recording, and while it may go on all the time for rock bands everywhere, it rarely happens with cameras rolling, and here it’s the bloody Beatles, for crying out loud!

As one young songwriter put it in a Washington Post article the other day: “You never get to see someone in that moment of making something up, especially a song like ‘Get Back’ that you know so well. That was totally incredible… Watching Paul do it that way, where he’s just plugging and plugging and plugging until he gets it, that’s how it actually happens.”

Said another musician: “This whole endeavor — writing songs — is filled with failure. Most people think, ‘Oh, the Beatles, everything they did turned to gold.’ Wrong. You’re always trying and discarding things and searching for the right thing. There’s a lot of sitting around, a lot of screwing around, a lot of playing nonsense music. Then there’s also a lot of slogging away, trying to get what you’re actually working on to be great. The reality is it often has to sound bad before it sounds good. These eight hours reaffirm that.”

“Get Back” offered many other discoveries, most of them pleasant, even exhilarating. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that McCartney, Harrison and Lennon seemed to have new songs just pouring out of them at this stage. (Even Ringo Starr debuted the beginning of his song “Octopus’s Garden” during these sessions.) In addition to the amazing McCartney songs that would end up on the “Let It Be” album, including “Two of Us” and “The Long and Winding Road,” we also hear him toying with early drafts of tunes that would end up on “Abbey Road” (“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” “Oh Darling,” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Carry That Weight”) or his first solo albums (“Teddy Boy,” “The Back Seat of My Car”).

Lennon’s output included “Dig a Pony” (then known as “All I Want is You”) and “Across the Universe”; early previews of “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” destined for “Abbey Road”; and “Gimme Some Truth” and a tune known as “Child of Nature,” which would later be recast as “Jealous Guy” on his “Imagine” album.

Harrison, meanwhile, brought “All Things Must Pass,” which The Beatles seriously considered but ultimately set aside, and it ended up the title track of his solo LP nearly two years later. In addition to his songs “I Me Mine” and “For You Blue,” which made the cut for the “Let It Be” album, Harrison also presented the rollicking “Old Brown Shoe” and perhaps his finest ever composition, “Something,” which Lennon later called “the best song on ‘Abbey Road.'”

How fabulous it is that we’re given the opportunity to watch and listen to all these eventual masterpieces played in their earliest forms. It makes me appreciate the finished recordings all the more.

The best part of the original film was, without question, The Beatles performing live on the rooftop. The same holds true in Jackson’s documentary, where we get to watch, for the first time, the entire 43-minute performance uncut, during which they play “Get Back,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “One After 909,” “Dig a Pony” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” some more than once. Running parallel to this excellent footage is the hilarious storyline of the ineffectual London bobbies trying to shut it all down and being stymied by clever Apple staff who hold them at bay as long as they can.

I mustn’t forget to mention how much I really enjoyed the moments in the studio when, as a way of cutting through the lethargy, the band broke into vintage rock oldies like “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and “Kansas City,” reminding us that, down deep, The Beatles were just a great little rock ‘n’ roll band who became larger-than-life icons — icons that we’re still interested in watching and learning more about, 50-plus years later.

A few other observations:

Paul still comes across as the true workaholic of the group, continually pushing the others to get to work in order to meet deadlines. He acknowledges that he could be overly controlling, but without the late Brian Epstein around to be “the Daddy figure,” someone had to step up. It seems likely the project would’ve fallen apart without his “C’mon, boys” approach, and he deserves credit for that.

John was a listless, unenthusiastic, even disruptive presence at first, clearly showing the effects of his recent dabbling with heroin in the off hours. In the later sections of the documentary, he seems far more engaged, performing the material with renewed purpose, and even joking around with the others.

Yoko Ono, whose influence on John has been widely accused of breaking up the band, rarely left his side, but in her defense, she barely said a word in the sessions, at least in the film sequences we see. (Well, there’s one bit where the band is jamming chaotically, and she pitches in with her signature caterwauling, but that’s an isolated instance.) Paul, George and Ringo may have been less than welcoming to her, overall, but Paul is on record here at one point saying basically, hey guys, they’re in love, give them a break. “If we force him to pick between Yoko and us, he’ll pick Yoko,” he warned. And he was probably right.

George, let’s face it, was tired of being disrespected by Paul and John, and was tired of being a Beatle in general at this point, which led to his five-day departure that caused no small amount of concern among the others. But they coaxed him back, and he showed a more professional, congenial attitude and some fine musical chops on the ensuing recordings, both in the studio and on the rooftop.

Ringo? Well, frankly, he looked bored, tired and unhappy through most of the documentary. I imagine he was thinking, “This used to be so much fun. What the hell happened?” But he still offered occasional moments of levity as well, and was always ready to play when the time came. He had a well-deserved reputation for being a drummer who played to the song, contributing exactly what the arrangement called for. The chugging train beat he came up with for “Get Back” is a perfect case in point, as is the understated work on “The Long and Winding Road.”

The other important characters who show up in the documentary show their true nature, good or bad:

Billy Preston, as mentioned earlier, was a godsend, bringing a calming amiability precisely when it was needed, especially in the studio.

Producer George Martin, so pivotal to The Beatles’ recorded legacy since their beginning in 1962, is reduced almost to a bit player here, but he handles it with aplomb as the cool professional we’ve known him to be.

Engineer/producer Glyn Johns, who would build his own legacy working with The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Eagles and many others, seemed to be grateful just to be asked to participate, sitting amongst the band during playbacks and even during tense conversations. It was Johns, evidently, who solved the problem of where the band should perform the new songs to conclude the film by suggesting the rooftop of the Apple building.

Mal Evans — personal assistant, roadie, friend, all-around good guy — was all of those things for the band before, during and after these sessions. What a hoot to see him procure and then bang on an anvil for a run-through of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

My impression of Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg is that he was a rather annoying presence throughout. He chastised the band when they needed nurturing instead, and he kept pushing to stage the performance in Egypt or Libya when it was clear they weren’t interested. Perhaps he was just trying to do his job in a very trying situation, but I’m guessing The Beatles wondered if they’d made the right decision in bringing him in to direct the project.

Lastly, a heartfelt thanks to Peter Jackson for the time and tender-loving care he put into this extravagant undertaking. Beatles fans around the globe are eternally grateful.

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Here’s a Spotify playlist of the songs that comprise The Beatles’ “Let It Be” 1970 album, and a few of the early drafts heard in Jackson’s documentary.

Everywhere was a song and a celebration

So here we are again at another “50 years ago” milestone — August 15-18, 1969 — the weekend that 350,000 people went to the countryside near Bethel, NY, for “three days of MPW-41582peace and music” at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair.

There have been hundreds of articles and essays written about the event’s epic status as “the apex of the counterculture” and so forth.  There have been critical stories about the mud, the traffic tie-ups, the drug overdoses, the insufficient number of toilets, the mess left behind.  There have also been positive stories about the enormous communal effort, the can-do spirit of the many volunteers, the great vibes, the absence of violence.

Here at Hack’s Back Pages, I’ve got another approach in mind.  I’ve been intrigued that, as far as I can tell, there hasn’t been a truly comprehensive look at Woodstock’s raison d’être — the music!

My research over the past week or so has surprised me.  There were SO many more (nearly 15 times more) songs performed during the event’s nearly 72 hours than most people realize, and there were at least a dozen bands who were nowhere to be found in either the original “Woodstock” film or the triple-album “Woodstock” soundtrack.

The film was a box office smash, and the album soared to #1 on the charts in 1970.  But they included performances of only 21 songs as performed by 17 different artists. 220px-Woodstock_Original_Soundtrack_1970Among them are the tracks most often associated with the festival:  Jimi Hendrix‘s astonishing reconfiguration of “The Star Spangled Banner,” Joe Cocker‘s cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Santana‘s “Soul Sacrifice,” Crosby Stills and Nash‘s “Suite:  Judy Blue Eyes,” The Who‘s “See Me, Feel Me,” Ten Years After‘s “I’m Going Home,” Sly and the Family Stone‘s “I Want to Take You Higher” and Richie Havens“Freedom.”

(Subsequent albums — “Woodstock Two,” released in 1971, and the 4-CD “Woodstock 25th Anniversary Collection,” released in 1994 — included a few more of the festival’s performances, but they gained only a fraction of the attention that the original album received.)

I’d love to know the selection process used by film director Michael Wadleigh and the decision makers at Cotillion Records regarding which songs and artists made the cut, but I’ve been unable to find much information about that.  It’s been said some artists (or their managers) asked for too much money.  Others in the lineup were little known and Unknown-53apparently not of much interest to the film director or album producer.  Obviously, Wadleigh chose performances for their visual impact, and the record producer selected a healthy cross section of rock- and folk-oriented bands that more or less accurately reflected the festival lineup.

How strange that Creedence Clearwater Revival, who was hugely popular that year, stormed through an 11-song set but then refused to give permission to include their songs in the film or album.  The Grateful Dead also declined to participate in the film and album, allegedly because of a ragged performance.  Blood Sweat & Tears, another chart favorite that year, played 10 songs but are glaringly absent from the film and album.  Same goes for The Band, who performed 11 tunes.

But I’m here to report that, if you were there from roughly 5:00 pm on Friday until 11:00 am Monday of that landmark weekend, you heard an incredible 310 songs performed by 32 different artists!

I thought my music-loving readers might share my interest in seeing a complete listing of every artist who performed at Woodstock, and the specific songs they played, in the order they were performed (along with some commentary, of course!).

So here we go:

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The Friday lineup included eight folk-based artists:

Richie Havens

Pushed into the opening slot because of Sweetwater’s late arrival, Havens valiantly Unknown-56stepped in and proved to be a welcome surprise.  Havens was told to continue playing for nearly two hours because many artists scheduled after him were delayed in reaching the festival venue.  Having run out of tunes, he ended up improvising on the old spiritual “Motherless Child” that became one of the festival’s anthems, “Freedom.”  Said Havens later, “I’d already played every song I knew and I was stalling, asking for more guitar and mic, trying to think of something else to play – and then it just came to me.  The establishment was foolish enough to give us all this freedom and we used it in every way we could.”

“From the Prison,” “Get Together,” “I’m a Stranger Here,” “High Flying Bird,” “I Can’t Make It Anymore,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “Handsome Johnny,” “Strawberry Fields,” “Hey Jude,” “Freedom/Motherless Child”

Sweetwater

A little-known L.A.-based band in the psychedelic folk tradition, Sweetwater’s music was reminiscent of early Jefferson Airplane.  I’d never heard of them, and their participation at Woodstock was news to me, as was their music, until I found it Spotify.  You won’t find them in the film nor album.  A couple samples of their music are included in the playlist below.

“Motherless Child,” “Look Out,” “For Pete’s Sake,” “Day Song,” “What’s Wrong,” “My Crystal Spider,” “Two Worlds,” “Why Oh Why,” “Let the Sunshine In,” “Oh Happy Day”

Bert Sommer

Again, I’d never even heard of the guy nor his music.  It turns out he’d been in The Left Banke (of “Walk Away Renee” fame) in 1966-67, and then released a few solo LPs, none of which charted.  He doesn’t appear in the film nor any version of the album.  On Spotify, there’s a 2010 album but nothing from the Woodstock period, so I didn’t include it on my playlist.

“Jennifer,” “The Road to Travel,” “I Wondered Where You’d Be,” “She’s Gone,” “Things Are Going My Way,” “And When It’s Over,” “Jeanette,” “America,” “A Note That Read,” “Smile”

Tim Hardin

Something of a cult favorite in folk music circles, Hardin recorded several albums on different labels in the mid-’60s but had no chart success.  Two of his songs, “If I Were a Carpenter” and “Reason to Believe,” were recorded by multiple artists like Bobby Darin, The Four Tops, Rod Stewart and The Carpenters.  Hardin is seen in the director’s cut of the film wandering backstage chatting and strumming his guitar, but otherwise, he’s absent from the film and album.

“How Can We Hang On to a Dream?” “Once Touched By a Flame,” “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Reason to Believe,” “You Upset the Grace of Living When You Lie,” “Speak Like a Child,” “Snow White Lady,” “Blues On My Ceiling,” “Simple Song of Freedom,” “Misty Roses”

Ravi Shankar

Shankar, the Indian music guru who had been introduced to American audiences at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and through his association with The Beatles, also performed at Woodstock, but I never knew that until recently.  I find it puzzling that a short sampling of his 45-minute set couldn’t have been included.

“Raga Puriya-Dhanashri,” “Gat in Sawarital,” “Tabla Solo in Jhaptal,” “Raga Manj Kmahaj”

Melanie

The Queens-based folk singer had a modest career playing Greenwich Village clubs and had released one album before her Woodstock appearance helped boost her visibility.  She’s best known for two post-Woodstock hit singles, “Lay Down” (1970) and “Brand New Key” (1972).  She is not included in the film or the original LP, but her performances of “Beautiful People” and “Birthday of the Sun” surfaced on “Woodstock Two.”

“Close to It All,” “Momma Momma,” “Beautiful People,” “Animal Crackers,” “Mister Tambourine Man,” “Tuning My Guitar,” “Birthday of the Sun”

Arlo Guthrie

Folk legend Woody Guthrie’s son had achieved fame through his epic story-song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” in 1967.  He made an appearance in the film, walking with the crowd as he arrived, and making a comment or two from the stage later on.  The album and film include his whimsical drug-smuggling tune, “Comin’ Into Los Angeles.”

“Coming Into Los Angeles,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Walkin’ Down the Line,” “The Story of Moses,” “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep,” “Every Hand in the Land,” “Amazing Grace”

Joan Baez

images-56Baez was one of the two or three biggest names in the folk music scene beginning in the early ’60s, which earned her the spot as headliner on the first night.  I’ve never been too fond of her warbly voice, but she is widely admired for her earnest performances of civil rights anthems and traditional folk songs, two of which are featured in the film and on the original album (and a third on the “Woodstock Two” album).

“Oh Happy Day,””The Last Thing On My Mind,” “I Shall Be Released,” “Joe Hill,” “Sweet Sir Galahad,” “Hickory Wind,” “Drug Store Truck-Drivin’ Man,” “One Day at a Time,” “Take Me Back to the Sweet Sunny South,” “Warm and Tender Love,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “We Shall Overcome”

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The Saturday lineup (which spilled well over into Sunday morning!) featured 14 mostly rock-oriented acts:

Quill

This regional favorite of the Northeast U.S. secured a slot as opening act on Saturday.  To their misfortune, there was a glitch with the video and audio recordings being out of sync for the duration of their brief set, rendering their footage unusable.  They ended up disbanding after releasing just one LP after the festival, which is long out of print and unavailable on Spotify.

“They Live the Life,” “That’s How I Eat,” “Driftin’,” “Waiting For You”

Country Joe McDonald

images-58McDonald had been in the vanguard of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement since the mid-’60s and had formed a band to spread the message through psychedelic folk music.  I can’t figure out how he managed to get not one but two slots in the festival lineup, first by himself and the next day with his group. His film appearance, performing the notorious “Gimme an F” shout leading into the dark humor of the anti-war protest classic “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” (using a “follow the bouncing ball” gimmick), is memorable.  I could find only the original studio version on Spotify for my playlist, which lacks the festival crowd’s participation and spells “F-I-S-H” instead…

“Janis,” “Donovan’s Reef,” “Heartaches By the Number,” “Ring of Fire,” “Tennessee Stud,” “Rockin’ Around the World,” “Flyin’ High,” “I Seen a Rocket,” “The Fish Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag”

Santana

At the time, Santana was unknown outside the Bay Area and hadn’t even released an album yet, but promoter Bill Graham made sure they landed a slot at Woodstock.  Their sound, incorporating Latin and African polyrhythms into blues-rock structures, ignited hqdefault-16the throng and made them one of the biggest sensations of the festival.  Carlos Santana confirmed he had taken mescaline only an hour beforehand, thinking he wasn’t due to perform for another 12 hours.  Instead, the band was told to take the stage at 2:00 pm, and he said, “I clung to my guitar like you hold the hand bars of a roller coaster, and then said a prayer and just held on and enjoyed the ride!”  Their performance of “Soul Sacrifice” is a high point of the film and the original album.

“Waiting,” “Evil Ways,” “You Just Don’t Care,” “Savor,” “Jingo,” “Persuasion,” “Soul Sacrifice,” “Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries”

John B. Sebastian

The man behind The Lovin’ Spoonful was there as a member of the audience, but he finagled his way onto the stage for a quick 30-minute set that included tunes from his soon-to-be-released solo debut.  His tie-dyed clothes and bare feet made him a memorable sight in the film, which used “Younger Generation” over footage of children playing on the festival grounds and stage.  

“How Have You Been,” “Rainbows All Over Your Blues,” “I Had a Dream,” “Darlin’ Be Home Soon,” “Younger Generation”

The Keef Hartley Band

This loose aggregation of British musicians adopted an old-timey music hall feel mixed with blues that alternately charmed and puzzled the festival crowd doing their five-song set.  They did not appear in the film nor any version of the album.

“Spanish Fly,” “She’s Gone,” “Too Much Thinking,” “Believe in You,” “Halfbreed Medley”

The Incredible String Band

This eclectic West Coast band declined their original lineup slot on Friday night because of the light rain that would play havoc with stringed instruments.  Their Saturday afternoon six-song set was received with a collective shrug, and was not included in the film nor album.

“Invocation,” “The Letter,” “Gather ‘Round,” “This Moment,” “Come With Me,” “When You Find Out Who You Are”

Canned Heat 

Canned Heat emerged from Los Angeles in the mid-’60s, touring relentlessly with their unique brand of blues and boogie music. Their major debut at Monterey and the druggy single “On the Road Again” got them a slot at Woodstock.  Their latest single “Going Up the Country” was used during the film’s opening sequence and on the original album, and a live performance of “A Change is Gonna Come/Leavin’ This Town” appears in the director’s cut of the film.

“I’m Her Man,” “Going Up the Country,” “A Change is Gonna Come/Leaving This Town,” “Rollin’ Blues,” “Woodstock Boogie,” “On the Road Again”

Mountain 

Guitarist Leslie West and former Cream producer/bassist Felix Pappalardi collaborated to form Mountain in June 1969, finding an enthusiastic response from the Woodstock audience, which was only their third gig.  They are absent from the film, but two tracks made it onto the “Woodstock Two” LP.

“Blood of the Sun,” “Stormy Monday,” “Theme for an Imaginary Western,” “Long Red,” “Who Am I But You and the Sun,” “Beside the Sea,” “Waiting to Take You Away,” “Dreams of Milk and Honey,” “Southbound Train”

Grateful Dead 

You can see Jerry Garcia early in the film, chatting backstage about how the event is “some kind of biblical, mythical, unbelievable scene.”  Later, he holds up a joint to the camera and says, memorably, “Marijuana:  Exhibit A.”  But The Dead does not perform in the film, nor appear on any version of the album.  Their 90-minute, jam-oriented set included only five songs (“Turn On Your Love Light” was, by itself, 38 minutes long!).

“St. Stephen,” “Mama Tried,” “Dark Star,” “High Time,” Turn On Your Love Light”

Creedence Clearwater Revival

John Fogerty and Creedence released three classic albums in 1969 (“Bayou Country,” “Green River” and “Willy and the Poor Boys”) and were riding high, but they felt their performance was subpar and subsequently chose not to participate in the film or original album.  Years later, they reconsidered and their live recordings were made available, revealing strong, spirited renditions of 11 of their best tunes, four of which appeared on the 25th Anniversary Collection.

“Born on the Bayou,” “Green River,” “Ninety-Nine and a Half Won’t Do,” “Bootleg,” “Commotion,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Proud Mary,” “I Put a Spell on You,” “Night Time is the Right Time,” “Keep On Chooglin’,” “Susie-Q”

Janis Joplin

Joplin was one of the sensations of the Monterey Pop festival, and she was still a force to reckon with at Woodstock, but curiously, her performances were not included in the original film or album.  Her version of “Work Me, Lord” appears in the director’s cut of the film, and three songs were included on the 25th Anniversary Collection.

“Raise Your Hand,” “As Good As You’ve Been to This World,” “To Love Somebody,” “Summertime,” “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder),” “Kozmic Blues,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” “Work Me, Lord,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Ball and Chain”

Sly & the Family Stone 

Unknown-55Widely regarded as one of the highlights of the festival was the energetic R&B set by Sly Stone and Company.  The 15-minute medley of “Dance to the Music,” “Music Lover” and “I Want to Take You Higher” kept the audience on their feet despite the 3:30-4:30 a.m. time slot.  The performance is pivotal to the film as well as the original album.

“M’Lady,” “Sing a Simple Song,” “You Can Make It If You Try,” “Everyday People,” “Dance to the Music,” “Music Lover,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” “Love City,” “Stand!”

The Who 

47510-the-who-woodstockLargely unknown in America before their explosive debut at Monterey, The Who had greatly broadened their audience through the recent release of the “Tommy” LP and “Pinball Wizard” single only months before the festival.  They performed at 5:00 am, doing most of “Tommy” in their 90-minute set.  The “See Me, Feel Me” portion of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was a prominent moment of the film and album, and “Summertime Blues” appeared in the director’s cut.

“Heaven and Hell,” “I Can’t Explain,” “It’s a Boy,” “1921,” “Amazing Journey,” “Sparks,” “Eyesight to the Blind,” “Christmas,” “The Acid Queen,” “Do You Think It’s Alright,” “Fiddle About,” “Pinball Wizard,” “There’s a Doctor I’ve Found,” “Go to the Mirror,” “Smash the Mirror,” “I’m Free,” “Tommy’s Holiday Camp,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Summertime Blues,” “Shakin’ All Over,” “My Generation”

Jefferson Airplane 

Slated as the headliner on Saturday night, The Airplane didn’t go on until 7:00 a.m. Sunday and were consequently not exactly on their best game.  They’re not in the original film and were limited to one performance (“Volunteers”) on the original album, but they appear in the director’s cut doing “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon.”  Five songs were later included on the 25th Anniversary Collection box set.

“The Other Side of This Life,” “Somebody to Love,” “3/5ths of a Mile in 10 Seconds,” “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon,” “Eskimo Blue Day,” “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “Wooden Ships,” “Uncle Sam Blues,” “Volunteers,” “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,” “Come Back Baby,” “White Rabbit,” “The House at Pooneil Corners”

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The Sunday lineup (which lasted until nearly 12:00 noon Monday!) featured 10 artists from across the spectrum of rock-folk genres:

Joe Cocker 

Joe-CockerCocker opened the third day’s lineup with a 90-minute set, climaxed by the epic cover of The Beatles tune “With a Little Help From My Friends,” which is a highlight of both the film and the original album.

“Rockhouse,” “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring,” “Dear Landlord,” “Something Coming On,” “Do I Still Figure In Your Life,” “Feelin’ Alright,” “Just Like a Woman,” “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” “I Don’t Need a Doctor,” “I Shall Be Released,” “Hitchcock Railway,” “Nothing to Say,” “With a Little Help From My Friends”

Country Joe and The Fish

Following the huge thunderstorm that soaked the crowd and delayed the show for more than an hour, McDonald returned with another set of different songs, one of which, a forgettable ditty called “Rock and Soul Music,” appeared in the film and on the album.

“Rock and Soul Music,” “Love,” “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine,” Sing, Sing, Sing,” “Summer Dresses,” “Friend, Lover Woman, Wife,” “Silver and Gold,” “Maria,” “The Love Machine,” “Ever Since You Told Me That You Love Me (I’m a Nut),” “Crystal Blues”

Ten Years After

Alvin-LeeAlvin Lee had established himself as one of the fastest guitarists in the business, and his 60-minute set with his band Ten Years After didn’t disappoint.  The 10-minute performance of “I’m Goin’ Home” is a key moment in both the film and the original album.

“Spoonful,” “Good Morning Little School Girl,” “Hobbit,” “I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes,” “Help Me,” “I’m Goin’ Home”

The Band

Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm and the boys were residents of the burgeoning music scene in the actual community of Woodstock (60 miles from the eventual festival site in Bethel), and had been Bob Dylan’s backing band for a few years before going out on their own in 1968.  Their one-hour set was strong, but they felt slighted when the director offered them only half their standard fee for the rights to use the concert footage.  They didn’t appear on the album either, although three tracks did appear on the 25th Anniversary Collection.

“Chest Fever,” “Don’t Do It,” “Tears of Rage,” “We Can Talk,” “Long Black Veil,” “Don’t Ya Tell Henry,” “Ain’t No More Cane,” “This Wheel’s On Fire,” “I Shall Be Released,” “The Weight,” “Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever”

Johnny Winter 

Blues guitarist Winter emerged from Texas in 1968 just in time to catch the attention of the folks at Woodstock.  Winter performed a sizzling eight-song set with help from younger brother Edgar (who went on to greater fame in the early ’70s), but he was not featured in the film or the album. Winter’s manager had opted for a flat fee rather than be in the movie because, as Winter wrote in his autobiography, “he thought it was gonna be a drag so he didn’t want us to be on it.  Of course, it helped a lot of people’s careers.  I wish I could have been in it.  Later on he admitted he fucked up.”

“Mama, Talk To Your Daughter,” “Leland Mississippi Blues,” “Mean Town Blues,” “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now/Mean Mistreater,” “I Can’t Stand It,” “Tobacco Road,” “Tell the Truth,” “Johnny B. Goode”

Blood, Sweat and Tears

The band was riding high on the singles and album charts at the time, yet the group’s manager decided not to allow the band to be filmed, partly because the horn section was having trouble staying in tune because of the humidity that night, so they’re not in the movie.  Nor does BS&T appear on the original LP, but some of the songs from their one-hour set surfaced many years later on other releases.  

“More and More,” “Just One Smile,” “Something Comin’ On,” “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” “Spinning Wheel,” “Sometimes in Winter,” “Smiling Phases,” “God Bless the Child,” “And When I Die,” “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

The group, performing for only the second time (“We’re scared shitless”), won the hearts 91v64R3QP4Lof the crowd, even at 4:00 am Monday morning.  They performed without Neil Young for a half-dozen songs, and “Judy Blue Eyes” (complete with out-of-tune acoustic guitar but on-the-money harmonies) became a film and album highlight.  Young joined them for the electric numbers but refused to be filmed, so he’s absent from the movie.  A few tracks with Young appeared on the original LP (“Sea of Madness” in its only version), and additional songs showed up on “Woodstock Two.”  The studio version of “Long Time Gone” is used in the film’s opening sequence, and CSN&Y’s rocking rendition of Joni Mitchell’s haunting song “Woodstock,” released in March 1970 on their “Deja Vu” LP, was used over the closing credits.

“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Blackbird,” “Helplessly Hoping,” “Guinnevere,” “Marrakesh Express,” “4+20,” “Mr Soul,” “I’m Wonderin’,” “You Don’t Have to Cry,” “Pre-Road Downs,” “Long Time Gone,” “Bluebird Revisited,” “Sea of Madness,” “Wooden Ships,” “Find the Cost of Freedom,” “49 Bye Byes”

Paul Butterfield Blues Band

The Chicago-based blues band played for an hour as the sun was coming up Monday.  Their performance of “Love March” appears on the original album but they’re not in the film, although Butterfield is interviewed at one point about what makes a successful festival (“Organization”).

“Born Under a Bad Sign,” “No Amount of Loving,” “Driftin’,” “Morning Sunrise,” “All in a Day,” “Love March,” “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”

Sha Na Na

Simultaneously reviving and parodying Fifties music was this NY-based band’s calling card from the get-go.  Appearing as the second-to-last act of the festival, Sha Na Na’s silly but energetic rendition of “At the Hop” appeared in the movie and on the original LP.

“Get a Job,” “Come Go With Me,” “Silhouettes,” “Teen Angel,” “Marie’s the Name (His  Latest Flame),” “Wipe Out,” “Book of Love,” “Teenager in Love,” “Little Darlin’,” “At the Hop,” “Duke of Earl”

Jimi Hendrix

The festival’s best paid and most revered performer went on so late — 9:00 am Monday Jimi-Hendrixmorning, when the exhausted crowd of 350,000 had dwindled to only 30,000 — that his set was almost anticlimactic.  But his incendiary take on our National Anthem, in which he made his guitar mimic the screaming sounds of warfare, became perhaps Woodstock’s most memorable performance of all.

“Message to Love,” “Hear My Train A-Comin’,” “Spanish Castle Music,” “Red House,” “Lover Man,” “Foxy Lady,” “Jam Back at the House,” “Isabella,” “Gypsy Woman/Aware of Love,” “Fire,” Voodoo Child (Slight Return)/Steppin’ Stone,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Purple Haze,” “Villanova Junction”

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The playlist below is not as comprehensive as I would like because some tracks I was looking for weren’t available on Spotify.  For some reason the original “Woodstock” LP isn’t there in its entirety, although many tracks could be found elsewhere.  Sometimes, I had to substitute another version of a crucial song.  But I did the best I could!