August 30, 2009


Filed under: Lobster Tales — admin @ 9:49 am


My ticket was left in the mud.  No one was at any gate to collect it when we arrived at Yasgar’s Farm, and we didn’t know we were making rock history at the time.  Like my Marvel Comic collection that included the very first issues of Spiderman, etc., it is worth much more than face value now.

In an article in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal, WOODSTOCK: BUT HOW WAS THE MUSIC by Jim Fussili, the writer takes an angle that focuses on the musical flaws of the festival. The story mentioned that actors had been added in the studio to crank up the “Higher” cheer and other revisionist ideas, like Michael Shrieve’s drum solo in “Soul Sacrifice” was added from another show and what a substandard concert it was because of the bad technical sound production problems and the drug sodden performances.   The article can be read by clicking on ”link” on this page at the bottom right.

This prompted a comment from your friendly local Crustacean/DJ that was printed in the Wall Street Journal Online.
Fascinating reading. At least Country Joe’s “Gimme an F” cheer was real…yet please allow me to slightly debunk the debunking of the “live” recording and the enhancements for the movie and soundtrack.

From a position next to the first light tower in front of stage left, my fellow teenagers from NYC and I camped out from before dawn on Saturday till slightly after Ten Years After. One thing I had brought with me, in addition to food items like cans of Dinty Moore beef stew and bottles of Sangria, was a portable Sony TC100 cassette recorder.

Sony TC100

Being a college radio type from WCCR at the City University of New York in upper Manhattan, I made six hours of tape. I’ve used them to create radio features, and they ran on CBS Radio Networks as “Wavy Gravy’s Woodstock Flashbacks” nationwide during the 25th Anniversary.

When Alvin Lee was doing “Coming Home,” we were carrying out two mud-filled sleeping bag wrapped around an umbrella to my Dad’s ’65 Buick Skylark, which I had managed to park right across the road next to the field. Coming back to our spot to pick up some other items, I stuck the then bent and broken umbrella in the ground…where it was photographed in the aftermath of the festival for Life Magazine.

As much as I admire Jim Fusilli’s writing, not all his revisionist points are fact. Yes, the technical problems were many and several of the bands did far from their best in the water soaked and chemically sodden conditions they played in. Yet, in many instances, artists are critical of their shows even when the crowd experienced a transformational performance. Such was Woodstock.

With the evidence of my recording from the crowd perspective, “I Want to Take You Higher” reverberated louder and more enthusiastically during the crowd’s call and response with Sly on “Higher” than any attempt to augment it in a Hollywood studio. Another point made about Michael Shrieve’s drum solo, the cassette of their entire set I made needed no overdubbing. It was there.

The “three days of fun and music” as Max Yasgur said, is also on my tapes, as well as the stage announcement Wavy Gravy said early Saturday morning before the famous “breakfast in bed for 400,000” mess call. It was a welcome to the crowd that expressed the need for us to pull together in the “mud puddle.”

Although it was a disaster in many ways, Woodstock in 1969 will always remain for me as a fond memory of a once-in-a-lifetime event. Music aside, in a “city” of a half-million people, which was the third largest city in New York State for three peaceful days, we touched the sky.

Paul Wells
Flow Communications
aka “The Lobster” host of Lobster’s Sunday Brunch

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