Amid the euphoria of the UK’s first great rock festival, there were cynical voices who believed the organisers were just a bunch of young businessmen on the make. Over forty years on, Ray Foulk sets the record straight with his account, selling at £22.95 and published by a leading advocate of friendly relations with Saudi Arabia.
It is important not to judge a book by its cover, but the title is a bit of a baffler: Dylan did not want to play Woodstock, nor were the two festivals in competition, at least not in the eyes of the punters. Both were seen as important counter-cultural events, though IOW 69 was to end in massive disappointment on that score as Dylan sought to distance himself as far as possible from his radical young image.
I hope to review Ray and Caroline Foulk’s book in due course: I’ve looked forward to reading Ray’s memoirs for five years since Caroline first mentioned the work in progress. She was emailing to question whether my father was festival electrician in 1969 as Ray had no memory of him.
Lambert & Stamp, the documentary film celebrating the lives of The Who’s managers, is now out on release across the UK – and the archives on this site have played a small but significant role in the production. I’ve previously mentioned that my dad (festival electrician Ken Blake) took some unique cine film of the 1969 Isle of Wight festival, including footage of the Who arriving by helicopter. That footage appears in its full glory in Motocinema’s new film.
The Who’s arrival – after a tense standoff over money with the festival organisers – is also celebrated in a slightly fictionalised form in When Dylan Sank The Isle of Wight (formerly 69ers):
“The arrival of Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon was certainly epochal, but that happened on television, in grainy black and white, whereas the Who were coming in full colour, up close and personal, and their arrival would be followed by something a lot more exciting than a few slow-motion bounces.
No-one anticipated that impending appearance more keenly than Maurice. More than once he checked the integrity of the plywood H, conferring with none other than Bill Foulk, long-haired sibling of Ron and Ray and according to Maurice the one guy who really knew his stuff about the progressive music scene, not that he seemed that keen to impart much knowledge to Maurice. There was a palpable anxiety amongst the waiting throng, such had been the brinksmanship exercised by Kit Lambert, the Who’s whizz-kid manager, so that the moment a flying speck appeared on the horizon was one of high drama, a drama intensified as the red copter came close enough for the words TRACK RECORDS to be read on its side. Here was an image to daunt the afficianandos of the folk movement: an alternative new world of blatant self-aggrandisement, the aggressive, tech-savvy, whirling force of the go-it-alone independent label come to blast the stuffed shirts out of the record business. Down it squatted, like a capitalist arse onto the face of the festival, its downwind fearsome, till the plywood H began to shake, then suddenly disintegrate, fence panels flying upwards like blown litter. Maurice’s face turned ashen as wood smashed into the rotor blade, staggering the copter and threatening to turn the world’s loudest band into a flaming fireball. Somehow the pilot got the monster down safely, but it was a scowling Daltrey who climbed out amongst the circle of onlookers, followed by an equally glowering Moon, Townshend and Entwistle.
Maurice Moss silently slid his autograph book back into his pocket.
“Good one, Maurice” said Scott.
“Shut up, Rayner” hissed Maurice. The downforce of the helicopter had swept his hair back into an impromptu short-and-sides, and suddenly he was once more that short-trousered firstie with his hands jammed into his pockets to protect his crotch from that ancient tradition known as knackering.”
Either paperback or e-book of When Dylan Sank The Isle of Wight can be found here.
Joe Cocker, who died yesterday at 70, was not one of the big hits of Britain’s first great pop festival. Playing before the Moody Blues on the Saturday night, he was not blessed with an audience attuned to his brand of soul. For me, however, Joe Cocker was one of the standout artists at Wootton. Three songs dominate my memory of the event: the Great Awakening’s guitar instrumental “Amazing Grace”; Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay”, and Cocker’s “Delta Lady”. All three singles possessed a magic, but Cocker’s urgent and heartfelt delivery elevated it above anything else coming over the PA. It was some feat for Cocker to take a song written by Leon Russell for Rita Coolidge and make it his own.
I saw Joe Cocker again about twelve years ago – still as modest and genuine as he had been in his heyday. He’ll always be remembered for his air guitar and marble-gargling voice, but hopefully Delta Lady will still be around when a certain song from a cheesy romantic film is long forgotten.
On November 20th this year I’ll be celebrating two things: turning 60 (hooray), and 30 years as a published writer. To commemorate these historic anniversaries, I shall be offering, for one week only, the ebook of When Dylan Sank The Isle of Wight
(formerly 69ers) for just 99p. To take advantage of this one-off offer, go to Amazon
between Nov 20 and Nov 27.
My second offer is a completely new novel for junior-age children, Insect Day, which will be COMPLETELY FREE for five days from Nov 20, and thereafter just £1.49. This again will be an e-book available on Amazon.
With Christmas in mind, if anyone is interested in a signed copy of any of my many other publications for children, I shall make these available at the price on the book cover plus postage – just drop me a line.
As the Island Slowly Sank is an invaluable addition to the history of both Bob Dylan and the first Isle of Wight festivals. As author Derek Barker (editor of Dylan fanzine Isis) acknowledges, these subjects were well covered by Brian Hinton’s Message To Love, which Barker draws upon for his booklet, but there is much new material here. First-hand interviews with key figures and research based on little-known publications has filled some important gaps in our knowledge of a hugely significant period in the history of popular culture.
I certainly gained some new insights into Dylan’s motivation for playing the Isle of Wight. Having withdrawn from the spotlight to concentrate on bringing up a family, the imposition of a major festival (Woodstock) down the road from his home, cashing in on his fame, was not something to which he took kindly. There’s plenty of detail about this period, and the process by which Dylan agreed to appear in England instead – although we also learn how the IOW was not quite how Dylan had romantically imagined it.
Barker is very thorough and level-headed on a number of key issues: how much Dylan actually got paid, why the huge delay before his performance, and indeed how good that performance actually was. There are plenty of interesting details about life at his residence at Forelands Farm and even the significant absence of a toilet in his backstage caravan – a matter of huge importance to his friend Al Aronowitz, whose ability to remember the conversations of 40 years ago verbatim must surely be taken with a pinch of salt.
For a short book, As the Island Slowly Sank does attempt to cover a lot of ground, and in doing so flies off at a few tangents to give incidental information which might better have been relegated to footnotes. While almost everything in the booklet was interesting to me, it might not appeal widely beyond Dylan fans or festival veterans, but then there are plenty of them! I certainly recommend it, not just for the read but also as a stimulus to further discussion of the subject, to which I am now inspired to contribute at http://www.dylan69.com.
69ers, the novel of the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival of Music, has finally been released as an e-book. Retitled When Dylan Sank the Isle of Wight, and with a new cover, the book is retailing at £3.59 (less than six dollars) and can be purchased here.
For reviews of the book, check out the paperback version, while you can find extracts on this site, along with a host of original archive material about the groundbreaking event around which the story is built. It’s a story about another age, but one which takes a hard look at those times (and hopefully an entertaining one) rather than wallowing in nostalgia. I really hope the e-book’s going to be read by people of all ages, and more reviews are welcome, even in the unlikely event that you do not enjoy it!
I am indebted to photographer Chris Dorley-Brown for unearthing a video from the BBC archives proving (once again) how wonderfully objective Aunty Beeb really is. The scathing tone of this news item about the 1969 IOW festival may come as a surprise to some, but not to those of us who remember just how hostile the British establishment once was towards pop festivals. But it was this hostility which made the festivals of the time – Woodstock, IOW69 and 70 – so interesting and politically charged.
Chris is the grandson of the man my Dad knew as “DB”, who employed him as electrical contractor for the Island Industries Fair, indirectly leading to him becoming the contractor for the IOW festival.