As someone who wasn't there but who saw the movie more than once, I'm obviously as qualified as at least half the people who have written about this "legendary" mudfest. As someone who hates camping, long lines for the toilet, cold food and large masses of unwashed people, I wouldn't have gone even if someone had paid me to be there. I'm sure I would've pretended to be there if it meant picking up a paycheck. But let's get real people, something that advertises itself as "Three Days Of Peace And Music" isn't likely to deliver on any of it. People who want peace don't want to hear your music--and vice versa. In the end, they didn't even get the "Three Days" part right, as anyone who sat around Monday morning listening to Jimi Hendrix can tell you.
But it was 40 years ago. And people are celebrating it the way all good capitalists do, with plenty of crap to buy to commemorate. When my Keef Hartley Band Limited Edition Personally Engraved Plates get here, I'm going to put them right next to my Satin-Baseball Jacket that says "Arrowsmith World Tour '75." It's a good thing I got a ton of storage around here or else who knows what would've become of that guitar strap I stole from the bass player of Ned's Atomic Dustbin all those years ago!
Since this is List Of The Day, I've ranked all the performers in the hypothetical order that I think I would've enjoyed them if I had actually been at the festival. Considering that Iron Butterfly didn't even make the gig, "getting stuck at the airport" instead, this is truly an exercise in lunacy. But loyal readers of this blog--all three of you!--know to expect this lunacy as a natural byproduct of nothing in particular.
Besides, there's a "Comments" section right below where you can re-order the entire list any way YOU want to. Contrary to popular--or even random, unsubstantiated--belief, I enjoy reading your take on how you would rank things. Due to the high volume of comments (well, sometimes), I can't always get back to you personally, although if you leave your sister's phone number and a pretty picture, there's always a chance someone will call.
I especially enjoy when you say mean things about the performers I like. Because, in reality, I don't know them either. So it's not like you're insulting my mother. That would be uncalled for. But if you want to take a pot shot at Melanie or John Sebastian, go for it. Like I said, I don't know them.
Now that's what I call democracy in action.
35) Sha-Na-Na: These 1950s "revivalists" eventually got their own TV show, which included bringing on the Ramones, so they weren't all bad. But if I want to hear someone do "Duke Of Earl" and "At the Hop," well, I don't in the first place, so that's why they're here at #35. According to what I've read, they ended up playing on that Monday morning before Hendrix. Can you imagine Jimi standing around waiting for them to end?
34) The Grateful Dead: I know they're legendary. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. Millions of people enjoy Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and I still think it takes like full-fat milk dunked in Scope.
33) Country Joe McDonald And The Fish: Give me an F! Give me a U! Give me a....never mind. Spelling lessons involving half a million stoned teenagers is never going to be a good thing. Deal with it.
32) The Band: I've never really understood the appeal of "Americana." I like country music. I like blues. I even like some folk music. But civil war re-enacters? What next? A dramatic read of the Bill of Rights? The Revolutionary War performed by the cast of Star Wars?
30) Ravi Shankar: I know this makes me culturally shallow, but I don't like sitting in a "lotus" position and the most boring parts of all those Beatle albums are the ones where George starts tinkering away on his sitar. Sitar music sounds great when you're eating in an excellent Indian restaurant, not when you're shoving your neighbor's brown rice into your mouth because nobody remembered to bring real food.
29) Arlo Guthrie: I read online that Arlo performed "Amazing Grace" during his set. I have attended more than my share of open mic nights where some earnest teenager sings an a capella version of this overplayed piece of "Lost And Found" piety and it's never qualified as entertainment. At one point Arlo says "Far out man, New York State Thruway's Closed, man." Obviously he didn't have anywhere else to be that day.
28) Graham Nash: For public safety reasons, I decided to separate the various members of CSN&Y. Nash is my least favorite because he sings about "Our House" and teaching children and basically comes off like a creepy camp counselor who thinks if you leave the children unsupervised they'll come up with something brilliantly creative and reach the deeper recesses of their soul and not end up hitting each other with hammers and tree limbs.
27) David Crosby: Crosby's the guy who makes a big deal about "almost" cutting his hair. So nowadays we still have these horribly old guys who insist on taking every pathetic wisp of hair and turning it into a "ponytail." It's a nub, you idiot!
26) The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: If you're going to subject yourself to a blues band it might as well be one from Chicago.
25) Canned Heat: I've always had a soft spot for "Going Up The Country." The lead vocal alone is so odd that you know these guys would never get a recording contract today. Which could be why the industry is in the toilet.
24) Mountain: I've always read that these guys were really loud. Everyone knows loud is better.
23) Joan Baez: I've come to really like the elder Joan Baez. She's the best interview in that whole No Direction Home Bob Dylan propaganda film. But her performances do tend to be rather solemn, like a church mass. Most of us were always looking for ways out of going to church. Why would we willfully submit?
22) Bert Sommer : I'm not going to lie. I have no idea who this guy is. Brett Sommer's husband? He played on Day One and might've been pretty good. I figure I would've been interested in checking him out. I just found a website and heard a song and learned that he died. Talk about a quick study. (http://www.bertsommer.com/)
21) Johnny Winter: As far as blues acts go, Johnny Winter is pretty wild. Sure, I've heard the chord progressions a million times and I'd rather see Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf, but guys from Texas are usually pretty reliable with this stuff, so why not?
20) The Keef Hartley Band: Another one of those guys who most people act as if he wasn't even there. You'd think playing at this "legendary" festival would guarantee you something. I mean, Richie Havens still gets to charge $35 bucks for his local performances.
19) Stephen Stills: I would've preferred Stills to have kept the Buffalo Springfield together than the "supergroup" he thrust upon us all. But then he probably lives in a mansion and I'm just happy to have running water.
18) Santana: The only problem with Santana is that their music encourages people to dance. Jammed in the mud with half a million people, I don't want people moving that mud. Besides, most people can't dance.
17) Sweetwater: Another band who weren't able to translate their performance at this "legendary" festival into anything more than a footnote. Do people really hate them this much? Or is it part of a greater conspiracy? I think it has something to do with people not liking flute music.
16) Quill: Nowadays you can't even find these guys but instead come up with some band that records for Steamhammer Records. Much like what happened to that first band who called themselves Nirvana!
15) Richie Havens: Havens has managed to milk his performance at Woodstock better than just about anyone. I don't think NYC Public TV is allowed to have a fundraiser without him showing up to sing a few songs. I enjoy his records. But $35 to see him at a "dinner theater" indicates to me that I'm going to be expected to wear socks, shoes and pants to the venue. No dice.
14) Iron Butterfly: They didn't even play. They got stuck at the airport and since the "New York State Thruway" was closed, according to Arlo Guthrie, Iron Butterfly were doomed to not play "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" for the masses. So there went 20 minutes of the festival right there.
13) Ten Years After: Alvin Lee could play really fast. Which believe it not is not the reason I like him. Somehow I "grew up" listening to Cricklewood Green and even Positive Vibrations because the kid who lived around the corner from me collected their albums and eventually sold them to me for beer money. Thanks, Tom!
12) Janis Joplin: Ah, Janis. She could make your ears bleed without amplification with those pipes. She also looked like she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, which is always pure entertainment for the rock n' roll crowd. If we wanted well-adjusted performers we'd hire Norah Jones.
11) Melanie: I assume I'm in the minority here, but I've always really dug Melanie. Not really her original tunes, but her covers of "Ruby Tuesday," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Wild Horses," "Lover's Cross," "I Think It's Going To Rain Today." Sure, she comes across as a clueless hippie, but again "well-adjusted" isn't among my requirements for musical performers.
10) Sly & The Family Stone: What was that I just said about "well-adjusted" performers? Sly ended up pretty drugged out and paranoid within just a few years, but here he's on top of his game and while again I don't really like the idea of music that encourages people who can't dance to do so in the mud, I like his tunes enough to forgive the ill-suited dance moves they unfortunately inspire.
9) The Who: Roger Daltrey called it the worst gig they ever played. Figures. But my chances of seeing them in Leeds would've been even less likely, so we take what we can get. Bonus points for Pete Townshend kicking Abbie Hoffman off his stage.
8) John Sebastian: Sebastian was tripping and looking like a complete parody of a "hippie" in all that fringe and tie-dye. Where did these people learn to speak with all that "far out" and "groovy" speak? You figure sure years later and this guy would've been performing in parachute pants.
7) Jefferson Airplane: The Jefferson Airplane were always more a punk band than they let on. Nearly every live performance I've heard from them has sounded like a garbage truck stuck in between gears, which is a good thing, in case you were wondering.
6) The Incredible String Band: Just another sign of how the public is sometimes completely wrong. I mean, these guys should've been at least as big as Foreigner or Giuffria or Ashley Tisdale! Maybe they were--at one time. But no one will admit to it anymore.
5) Joe Cocker: Without Cocker's over the top performance John Belushi would've had to imitate Donovan?
4) Creedence Clearwater Revival: Moved up on the list because unlike most of the performers at this festival, CCR had mostly short tunes that didn't need to go on for an hour and a half to make their point.
3) Neil Young: It would have been preferable if either he'd still been a member of Buffalo Springfield or there as a solo performer with Crazy Horse in the wings. But then being frustrated is just something that all Neil Young fans deal with on a regular basis.
2) Tim Hardin: I can't imagine how all these folk performers could've done so well at a festival with hundreds of thousands of people milling about. A concert hall that seats 2,000 would seem to be too big to handle the "intimacy" required of such music. But then again, this was before dry ice and levitating drum risers were the norm. Tim Hardin live was probably a lot like hearing Korn unplugged!
1) Jimi Hendrix: If you stuck around long enough you got to watch Jimi Hendrix close out the show on Monday morning. Hopefully you had a better view than the camera guy who shot the footage who determined that the sky was as equally important as Hendrix's head to the cinematic excitement of the moment.