Today marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. It’s worth mentioning in passing that Lennon was also at Woodside Bay in August 1969, sitting on one of those wooden chairs in the VIP area as his friend Dylan took the stage. Rumour had it that the Beatles might actually be up there with Bob (Dylan mischeivously stoked that expectation).
Here is the opening passage of 69ers, which also features JL:
“Standing in the dock at Southampton,
Tryin’ to get to Holland or France,
The man in the mac said, you got to go back,
You know, they didn’t even give us a chance”
The Ballad of John and Yoko was widely derided as the worst Beatles single to date, but Scott liked it. Not only did it feature two misunderstood outsiders against the system, but it also namechecked Scott’s home town, unaccountably overlooked by composers despite its evident charisma as Britain’s greatest passenger port, the city of Spitfires, first and only port of call of the Titanic, original departure point of the Pilgrim Fathers and unwitting harbour of the Black Death.
Yes, Southampton had a lot to answer for, besides the scowling handsome boy at Scott’s side whose Dansette tinnily blared the Beatles’ recent charttopper. Gerry was still fuming at Scott’s idiocy, buying an old-fashioned canvas tent from the Army and Navy which weighed so much that Gerry was forced to carry both the haversacks, also canvas, frameless, and themselves backbreaking, all the more so because of the Philips EL3302 cassette tape recorder within, the key to Gerry’s future, one of sufficient wealth and fame to net the girls of his frequent wet dreams.
Not that Scott saw it like that. He was merely concerned with posterity and spreading the messages which would surely change the world, just as the target of their flimsy microphone had predicted.
Meanwhile the old world stubbornly held out, in the shape of an endless stream of Minis, Cortinas, Imps and Heralds cutting off the grammar school fugitives from the Red Funnel terminus and their ultimate destiny.
The senseless oppression of the Jesus-like Lennon at Southampton Docks was apparently caused by the fact he wanted to travel on the France ferry without a passport. His wait was finally ended by the arrival of a private jet.
Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday is on May 24, 2011. With that in mind, I’ve made a radical decision: after 56 titles published by publishers large and small, I am going to self-publish. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the outstanding one is that publishers’ lists are planned so far in advance these days that I’d be lucky to see 69ers out before 2013. The whole process of self-publication, on the other hand, can take less than two months, i.e. in plenty of time for Bob’s birthday, when interest in the 20th century’s most celebrated singer-songwriter will undoubtedly be intense.
As I’ve had such a great response to this site, I’m keen to involve visitors with each stage of publication. For example, I’m currently designing a cover: I’ve enquired about the rights to Roger Jackson’s iconic image from the 1970 Isle of Wight festival. I don’t believe there is a better image to immediately alert potential readers to the content of the novel – maybe someone disagrees?
My initial plan is a print run of just 1000, with the aim of selling most of these online. That’s well short of the numbers my books usually sell, but as I have to pay for all the costs up front, and I am not a millionaire, I am erring on the side of caution. Again, I’m interested in everyone’s opinion, particularly that of writers who’ve taken the self-publication route.
I’ll also be honest about costs. In the spirit of 69 – or some of it – I don’t want to rip people off. I want them to read this book.
The news that China has banned Bob Dylan from playing concerts in Beijing and Shanghai may well be greeted with rueful smiles from those old enough to remember IOW 69.
Dylan may be considered too dangerous for the former Stalinist state, but the great minstrel had decisively rejected the role of political figurehead by the time the sixties came to a close.
Dylan’s appearance at the Isle of Wight, clad in a country-style white suit, mollifying his once radical-sounding songs, was a key turning point in his development and is central to 69ers, the novel I shall shortly (belatedly) complete. Check out the archives for much more about the UK’s first great rock festival. Comments welcome.
I’m now about half way through my novel set in the Isle of Wight festival of 1969 – more discussion of that to follow. The work’s been considerably slowed down by the fact I’m moving house and (see article below) the death of my dad, festival electrician Ken Blake. However, sorting out his house and mine has unexpectedly thrown up two rare mementos of the sixties event: an arena pass modified to include all areas (i.e. backstage) and a second pass which I think was probably used to gain access to the VIP area in front of the stage – I was in that area for the Who’s performance (fingers jammed in ears due to the ear-splitting volume). As you’ll see the pass is actually a redundant ticket from the much smaller first IOW festival at Godshill in 1968 – I imagine these must be pretty rare.
I’ve been asked to do a podcast by Ventnor Blog so may visit the island again shortly – when I do I’ll donate the passes to the festival museum at Dimbola Lodge.
Let’s hear it for Martin “Mark” Woodnutt, Tory MP for the IOW from 1959-74, fan of Enoch Powell, member of the far-right Monday Club, hanging enthusiast, and the man whose Isle of Wight County Council Act put an end to the first festivals and paved the way for further anti-festival legislation affecting the whole of the UK.
Sadly Mark got his hands a little dirty lining his pockets in the development of Bembridge Harbour and was summarily dumped by the island electors in 1974, dying before the end of the year.
By 2002, when festivals no longer had anything to do with undermining capitalism – quite the opposite – the IOW County Council voted to continue the tradition of large campsites, expensive refreshments and loud music. But you can bet there are still a few retired colonels and admirals hankering for the days when their champion smote the hippie menace.
nb the picture of Woodnutt above is merely an impression; mysteriously, no photos of the legendary MP exist in cyberspace.
Stop Press: till now!
. . .was the slogan of the 1969 Isle of Wight Pop Festival, the UK’s first great outdoor music festival, featuring Bob Dylan, The Band, The Who and Richie Havens. I’ve created this site while researching and writing a novel about the festival. I was there, wiring up lights as a 14-year-old, but I’m keen to hear from anyone else with a story to tell about the event – or from people who weren’t there but have some link to it.
I’m putting up weblinks to anything I can find about IOW 69, and I’ll discuss the progress of the novel, provisionally called “69”.