Concerts 1968, 1969, 1970
I like the Isle Of Wight. It’s a really nice place for a holiday ! I’ve visited the Island many times and I’m planning another visit in July 2011 ! Who knows what surprising discoveries I might make or what snippets of information I might stumble across.
My previous visits there sparked an interest in the Isle of Wight concerts – Not the ones held in recent years featuring contemporary bands, but the original concerts of ’68, ’69 & ’70 with the classic progressive and underground bands of that time.
Prior to my first attempts to locate the three concert venues, I had bought a secondhand book from a shop in Ryde entitled ‘Message to Love’ by Brian Hinton. The book is a source of fairly detailed information on all three concerts and turned out to be a very useful guide in tracking down the concert venues. I subsequently bought the DVD of the same name, which has footage from 1970, showing highlights from a varied selection of bands. I also got my hands on the Moody Blues DVD of their 1970 concert, when it came out in 2009. As they are one of my favourite bands, it was a ‘must have’ !
So where were these concerts held, when did they happen and how did the whole concert thing come about ? Well, let’s start at the beginning with the first concert in 1968.
The 1968 Concert
Venue : Ford Farm, Near Godshill
Date : 31st August ’68
The first Isle Of Wight festival in 1968, started out as a fund raiser for the IOW Swimming Pool Association to raise money for a new public swimming pool on the island. It was organised by island residents as the Isle Of Wight Council had refused funding for the swimming pool. As a result, the legendary festival of ’68 ensued and was followed by the’69, and ’70 concerts !
The ‘Message To Love’ book, which I mentioned earlier, and which I hoped would guide me, appeared rather vague as to the exact location of the ’68 site. The book does imply that much of the facts surrounding what actually happened regarding events of the 1968 festival in particular, are unclear as accounts have always been rather hazy. Even to this day, I still haven’t seen a definitive location in print anywhere. However, I knew I was in the right general area. The location information I had managed to extract from the book was that the concert took place in front of a 10,000 strong crowd on forty acres of of barley stubble known as Hayles Field, translated into “Hell Field” by the press, on Ford Farm, somewhere between Godshill and Niton, just off the main road from Newport to Ventnor. This was just about the only information I had at the time which, although fairly vague, did point me in the right direction ! I thought I had located the site of the ’68 concert on my 2006 visit to the island, although I was never quite sure if I was in the right place.
However, upon my return in 2008 and again in 2009, using the information from the book, in conjunction with an Isle Of Wight map, I managed to find what is almost certainly where it all happened in ’68. Having located Ford Farm Lane, a very countryfied thoroughfare, Ford Farm House was a hundred yards or so down the lane, on the left, with “Hells Field” running the entire length, and more, of Ford Farm Lane !
Publicised as one of the biggest pop festivals ever staged in this country, the event began at 8pm on Saturday 31st August and ended at 8.30am on Sunday 1st September. It was supposed to have run from 6pm to 10am. Tickets cost 25 shillings each, that’s £1.25p in decimal currency !
The location of the 1968 festival is not the only aspect of the event that seems shrouded in mystery. Even the participants and the order of their appearances would still seem to be the subject of debate. However, it is believed that the ’68 festival featured, possibly in this order : Tyrannosaurus Rex, John Peel, Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, Plastic Penny, Smile, The Move, The Pretty Things, Jefferson Airplane, Arthur Brown, Fairport Convention and The Cherokees.
The 1969 Concert
Venue : Woodside Bay, Wootton Creek
Dates : 29th to 31st August ’69
As a sort of dry run for the 1969 festival, bands were put on at ‘The Manor House’ pub in Lake, situated between Sandown and Shanklin. Some of the bands to appear at this venue included Free, The Pretty Things, The Nice and Marsha Hunt. The 1969 festival featured these bands and got under way on the evening of Friday 29th August. The running order was : Marsupilami, Eclection, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and The Nice. Saturday 30th August : Gypsy, Blodwyn Pig, The Edgar Broughton Band, Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, Marsha Hunt, The Pretty Things, Family, The Who, Fat Mattress, Joe Cocker and the Grease Band and The Moody Blues. Sunday 31st August : Liverpool Scene, Third Ear Band, Indo Jazz Fusions, Gary Farr, Tom Paxton,Pentangle, Julie Felix, Richie Havens, The Band and Bob Dylan.
In fact, it was Dylan who topped the bill, closing the festival on the Sunday evening. Dylan stayed at Forelands Farm in the North East of the island spending some time rehearsing his set and was joined for some of his stay by ex-Beatles John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. During his stay on the island, Dylan found time to pay a visit to Osborne House and also visited Quarr Abbey to listen to the monks chanting. A rumour has it that Dylan and friends dropped into the local pub ‘ The Crab & Lobster’ and started an impromptu jam session. However, this rumour is unsubstantiated !
Having completed his festival performance, he left the stage, returning a couple of minutes later to do another couple of numbers before finally leaving the stage to cries of ‘more’ from the crowd. However, Dylan made a swift exit, which somehow seemed to signal the end of the 1969 festival. So the tent pegs were pulled out, sleeping bags rolled up and packs packed up and the crowd dispersed away from the site, between the hundreds of smouldering bonfires, to start their journeys home.
The 1970 Concert
Venue : Afton Down
Date : 27th to 31st August ’70
The 1970- festival featured an ‘All Star Cast’. The running order was as follows. Wednesday 27th August : Judas Jump, Rosalie Sorrels, Katy Smith, Kris Kristofferson and Mighty Baby. Thursday 28th August : Supertramp, Gilberto Gil and Caentano Veloso, Black Widow, Groundhogs and Terry Reid. Friday 29th August : Fairfield Parlour, Hawkwind, Arrival, Lighthouse, Taste, Tony Joe White, Chicago, Family, Procul Harum, Voices Of East Harlem and Cactus. Saturday 30th August : John B Sabastian, Shawn Philips, Lighthouse, Mungo Jerry, Joni Mitchell, Tiny Tim, Miles Davies, Ten Years After, Emerson Lake & Palmer, The Doors, The Who, Melanie and Sly and the Family Stone. Sunday 31st August : Good News, Kris Kristofferson, Ralph McTell, Heaven, Free, Donovan, Pentangle, The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen and the Army and Richie Havens.
Despite hosting such a varied and star studded line-up, the 1970 concert was not without its difficulties. There was an under-current of resentment and anger from some sections of the crowd who felt that they were being ripped off. Joni Mitchell for one, suffered heckling from protesters. They demanded that the perimeter fence should be torn down and that the concert should allow everyone in free of charge.
Despite charging for the concert, money needed by the organisers to pay the bands, who were not amateurs but professionals playing for their livelihoods, eventually ran out. Some of the bands though, did agree to waive their fees.
Official figures of visitors to the 1970 festival have been recorded as 250,000 however, unofficially, the figure was possibly as high as 600,000 ! Many of these would have witnessed Jimi Hendrix making his final appearance, shortly before his untimely death. His now legendary rendition of ‘Star Spangled Banner’ is considered one of the highlights of his set. Hendrix stayed at Dimbola Lodge, in Freshwater Bay where a statue has been built in recent years as a lasting tribute to him. Rather like Beatles tributes on the walls at Abbey Road studios in London, many fans visit the Dimbola Lodge statue and add their personal graffiti tributes to one of rock’s all time great guitarists, who came to the island and graced the 1970 concert.
Related Media :
Message To Love – The Isle Of Wight Festival 1968-1969-1970 : A book by Brian Hinton
Message To Love – The Isle Of Wight Festival – The Movie on DVD
The Moody Blues – Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 – CD
The Moody Blues – 1970 Threshold Of A Dream – Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival – DVD