Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rant #1,010: Woodstock

When I was on vacation, one of the things I did was listen to a lot of music from my collection of albums and 45s.

I hadn't listened to the Woodstock three-LP set for years and years, and since I had the time, I decided to listen to it again this past week.

The album, on the Cotillion Records label, chronicles the multi-day concerts that took place at that upstate New York location--or somewhere near it--during the summer of 1969, right about 44 years ago, from August 15-19.

The soundtrack album is the companion piece to the more than three hour film that was culled together from all of the concert performances that took place during the festival, which went on to become probably the most famous set of concerts to come out of that era.

It signified the change of the guard, if you will, for the music scene, with the two and a half minute song about boy meets girl moving over for music about peace, love, and vehemently against the Vietnam war.

A real cornucopia of artists appeared at the festival, including Richie Havens, John Sebastian (without the pop-leaning Lovin' Spoonful, of course), Joan Baez, Canned Heat, Sly and the Family Stone, Country Joe and the Fish, and Jimi Hendrix.

Just about every act rode the coattails of their association with the festival as long as they could, and some even ride it to this day.

Listening to the recording more than four decades later, yes, my copy is well worn, with skips and stutters throughout, but it is still highly listenable, bringing me back to a time when I was much younger and much more naive than I am today.

As were most of the concert goers. Peace and love can only go so far, and drugs can only take you higher for a time.

I mean, you do have to pay the bills.

Yes, the music is as dated as all heck. Most of it doesn't hold up at all in this age of technology and Justin Bieber.

After listening to the set once again, I can say that this is definitely a period piece, very little more.

Yes, it documents a very important period in history--when people actually believed that the younger generation and its music were game changers--but upon listening again, it simply signified a generation and what it believed in back then.

How many of the people that attended this series of concerts eventually became the "suits" that they so rebelled against at the show?

How many needlessly died because they thought that drugs were their salvation?

Did the concerts really everlastingly change anything, except maybe to bolster the arising FM radio band and to get other acts on the air that wouldn't be played by Top 40 stations?

Ultimately, were these concerts overrated in their scope and significance as the years have gone by?

I can say yes to probably all of these things.

Heck, the album was put out by a division of Atlantic Records, one of the largest music conglomerates in the world.

Putting it out on subsidiary Cotillion simply was a ploy to make the records seem "cooler," and Cotillion was a label that put out several rock and roll soundtracks at that time, so it worked to Atlantic's advantage to put it out under that banner.

Anyway, the recording techniques used back then were primitive by today's standards, but even though I do like many of the acts that performed there, to me, there was one standout above the rest: Sly and the Family Stone.

Here was an act that was for the time, an act that burned out seemingly as quickly as they emerged from San Francisco in 1967.

Somehow, they were one of the few acts at the festival that was equally welcomed by both AM and FM radio, no small feat during this period of time.

They gave their all at these concerts, and listening to them on the record, their power comes across even more than 40 years later.

When they sing "I Want To Take You Higher," you really believe them.

Hindsight is a great thing to have, and certainly, when you listen to this recording, you really get the benefit of 44 years of hindsight when you judge this recording.

Yes, I could have gone to the festival, but I know my mom would have not been too happy.

Based on a lot of the stuff that went on there, my father probably wouldn't have been as unhappy as my mom, but I did have a friend whose older sister went, and she wanted to take her brother and me there, but I politely declined.

Listening to the thing on record is on thing, as is watching the movie.

Actually being there was another, and while I wouldn't have taken any drugs there, I certainly would have probably overdosed on all the peace and love that supposedly transpired during this festival.

It probably was one of the most surreal events in the nation's history, but I don't regret missing it.

The LP stands as a worn musical document about what went on there, and I can live with that.

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