More rare footage of IOW 1969 unearthed

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.

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Isle of Wight Festival 2012

There’s no mistake, I smell that smell, it’s that time of year again – though this year’s IOW festival line-up indicates that we are steadily moving to the stage when it will be indistinguishable from a Radio One roadshow. Still, money talks, punters are prepared to pay for it, and the idea that festivals offer some kind of gateway to a new way of life has long been put to bed. When Paul McCartney and co can so easily be drafted into the service of the establishment for a Jubilee concert, the transformation of popular music from scourge of the elites to their willing bedfellows is almost complete.

69ers looks back to a different era. If the thought of Gary Barlow consorting with Prince Charles and the military wives curdles your coffee, you will surely enjoy re-experiencing the hope and idealism that lay behind the first great UK festival, when Bob Dylan emerged from exile to appear at Woodside Bay, Isle of Wight, in August 1969. But the novel does not go in for simplistic nostalgia: it dissects the naive idealism of the hippy project and explores the contradiction in capitalism which would eventually end in the triumph of a more permissive form.

It’s also a coming-of-age story, a love story, a review of the the 1969 music scene, and contains some of the most excruciating sex scenes ever committed to print. Just click on the book to the right and a signed copy could be yours in a couple of days. The novel is also available close to the festival site at Newport Waterstones.

Upcoming appearances

Now that 69ers has been successfully launched, I’ll be making some personal appearances to promote the book. On June 4th (2.30pm), I’ll be at the Hay Festival in the Hexagon: though this session is devoted to one of my recent books for children, I’ll have copies of 69ers with me and will be happy to talk about it informally afterwards – and sell it of course!
On June 27th I’ll be over on the Isle of Wight for what promises to be a great evening at Newport Waterstones (starting 7pm). I’ll be giving readings from the book, then it’ll be over to some local talent to give us some Dylan songs. I’m hoping to arrange a couple more events in the area and will advertise them if and when they happen.
It wasn’t an easy choice to publish this book myself after twenty-seven years being published by the likes of Hodder, OUP, Penguin and Heinemann, so I shall be most grateful to my readers for getting reviews online and spreading the word that this is a well readable book, which of course it is!
To buy a copy from me at Amazon, click on the cover to the right. It will be available in bookstores also: the Welsh Books Council has agreed to distribute it within Wales, and all other stores are able to order it. I see it is even available in India, at a very reasonable price, and am happy to have had fan messages from Alaska, where an enterprising library got hold of it before I did!
There is a facebook page for 69ers, though I haven’t done much to promote this yet, so please join if you like the book.

STOP PRESS: Waterstones Southampton West Quay is now confirmed for Thurs 30 June. I’ll be signing books there from 12 to 2pm.

69ers launches on Dylan’s 70th

69ers will be launched, as promised, on Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday, Tues 24th May. The launch will take place at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, at 7pm. I should have copies by Friday 20th, however, so it’s worth putting in an order now by going to my bookstore on Amazon. Check out extracts from the book here. Unfortunately the horrendously embarrassing sex scenes aren’t suitable for posting, so you’ll just have to buy the book to read these!

Check out the archives here if you’re new to the site, and have a look at the videos – especially the French tv documentary which gives such a unique insight into the 1969 event.

If you know anyone who may be interested in 69ers, don’t forget to send them a link!

IOW69: the Welsh connection

I recently heard that I’m on the shortlist for the 2011 Tir Na Nog award for best English language children’s book with a Welsh connection (Mutiny on the School Ship Bounty). There’s also a Welsh connection to the Isle of Wight festival of 1969 – besides the fact that Bob Dylan took his name from Wales’s most famous poet, Dylan Thomas.

Tommy Farr of the Rhondda, considered by many the greatest British heavyweight boxer, was the father of the 1969 MC, Rikki Farr, the most prevalent voice in Woodside Bay, and Gary Farr, one of the performers on that famous weekend. Tommy fought Joe Louis at the height of his powers, and in many people’s minds was cheated of victory. Rikki, who gets a fair few mentions in 69ers, emigrated to the States after his moment in the IOW sun, while Gary sadly died of a heart attack in 1994.

The next article I post will give the publication date of 69ers and details of how you can get the book.

69ers is on its way

69ers is now in production and should be ready for sale in about a month: I haven’t decided the exact launch date yet, but it will certainly be before Dylan’s 70th birthday as planned. The cover is shown here (click for larger image) and I’ll post details of where the book may be purchased shortly.

30 years since Lennon’s death: another IOW veteran

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.