69ers: a summary

I’ve now completed 69ers. Here’s a summary.

The novel is set (predictably enough) in August 1969, at the UK’s first great rock festival on the Isle of Wight. Bob Dylan is due to break a long spell of introversion by performing there, just a couple of weeks after the groundbreaking events at Woodstock, near his home, which he chose to avoid. Men have just landed on the moon, Charles Manson’s gang are terrorising Hollywood, troops are on their way to Northern Ireland, and Scott Rayner, a 16-year-old grammar school boy and would-be progressive rock star, is setting off over the Solent with his charismatic but abusive pal Gerry to seek work at the festival and make the bootleg tape which will earn them the admiration of their peers.

Life in Woodside Bay is however very different to the cloistered world of the Isaac Watts Grammar School for Boys. The festival proves to be more of a challenge to Scott than he anticipated, especially when he falls for radical army child Jayne, whose commitment to a communal lifestyle draws out a conservative side to Scott he barely realised existed.

Meeting a colourful array of characters from all corners of the world, experimenting with dope and magic mushrooms, celebrating and debating the music and its relevance, Scott is taken on a journey which will change him forever – especially when a disastrous sexual encounter leads to the theft of his prized tape recorder, the end of his friendship with Gerry, and an intensification of his bond with Jayne, who offers to help him face his fears in order to recover his possession.

69ers is a unique take on an unique event in UK history, the issues raised by which still reverberate today. The author, Jon Blake, is the son of the electrical contractor for the festival and has many unique insights arising from his experience there, together with a lifelong interest in music history. He is the author of over fifty books for young people including the critically acclaimed young adult thriller The Last Free Cat.