Hollywood Music Festival
|Location(s)||near Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, UK|
|Date(s)||23 and 24 May 1970|
|Genre||rock and folk, including hard rock and psychedelic rock styles|
The Hollywood Music Festival was held at Leycett in an area called Hollywood on the grounds of Ted Askey's Lower (pig) Farm at Finney Green, between Madeley Heath and Leycett, near Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England, on 23rd and 24 May 1970. It was notable for the first performance of Grateful Dead in the UK and also for the triumphant performance of the band Mungo Jerry (of "In the Summertime" fame) and featured such notable bands as Free, Ginger Baker's Air Force, Colosseum, Family, Black Sabbath and Traffic. The company responsible for the festival was Onista Ltd, who promptly went bust not paying festival staff. Onista was an offshoot of Eliot Cohen's Red bus company, with Ellis Elias and Elliot Cohen as the promoters.
This was the first of the major festivals held in the summer of 1970 and part of the festival was to have been filmed by the BBC but the crews were rendered incapable of filming, possibly due to accidental LSD dosing by persons unknown. Andrew Burgoyne of Burgoyne Film and Audio Services also filmed and recorded audio of some of the festival and was rumoured to be putting a final edit of it together some years ago. Film crews can be seen on 8 mm footage of bands taken by fans at the festival on several occasions, notably during Quintessence and the Dead's performances. A DVD and CD set was issued in 2010 featuring archive material from the Grateful Dead's set, and one number each from Free, Family, Screaming Lord Sutch, and Radha Krishna Temple along with a beautiful biographical booklet of the event.
Wild rumours circulated in the music papers about the supergroup that Lord Sutch was supposed to be fronting, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, and others were supposed to join in a super jam, but none of these luminaries showed up, nor did scheduled acts such as the James Gang and The Flying Burrito Brothers which tended to dilute the overseas offerings. Former Tyrannosaurus Rex percussionist Steve Peregrin Took was billed to debut his new band Shagrat (featuring Larry Wallis on guitar) at the festival but this also fell through. Shagrat would eventually play their first - and only - gig at the Phun City festival that July.
Although the festival has generally tended to be eclipsed by the larger, better known festivals of 1970 such as the Isle of Wight Festival and the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music 1970, it deserves to be remembered for its excellent organisation and lack of hassle as well as a great deal of memorable music. Traffic, José Feliciano and Air Force more than made up for the no-shows and, overall, around 40,000 went to Leycett to hear some great music by some of the era's best UK and US bands.
Across the road from the festival site is a farm called Highway Farm, where the bands waited until they were required. Free were among these bands. In the December of 1970, Free released an album called Highway, the title track of which ("Highway Song") is about being on a farm and carrying out tasks and being involved with the farmer's daughter.