Isle of Wight Festival 1969
Official festival poster
|Location(s)||Woodside Bay, Wootton, Isle of Wight|
|Founded by||Ronnie Foulk, Ray Foulk|
|Date(s)||29–31 August 1969|
|Genre||Rock, folk, country, blues, jazz|
The 1969 Isle of Wight Festival was held on 29–31 August 1969 at Wootton, and attracted an audience of approximately 150,000 to see acts including Bob Dylan, The Band, The Who, Free, Joe Cocker and The Moody Blues. It was the second of three music festivals held on the Isle of Wight between 1968 and 1970. Organised by Fiery Creations, aka brothers Ronnie and Ray Foulk, it became a legendary event, largely owing to the participation of Bob Dylan, after the "minstrel to a generation" had spent the previous three years in semi-retirement. The event was well managed, in comparison to the recent Woodstock Festival, and trouble-free.
The 1969 festival was considerably larger and more popular than the year before due to Dylan's inclusion on the bill. He had been little heard of since his allegedly near-fatal motorcycle accident in July 1966. Shunning the Woodstock Festival, held practically on his doorstep in upstate New York, Dylan was initially reluctant to perform his comeback show on this little-known island. After weeks of negotiations, the promoters showed him a short film of the Island's cultural and literary heritage; this appealed to Dylan's artistic sensibilities, as he was enthusiastic about combining a family holiday with a live performance in Tennyson country. Prior to the festival, Bob Dylan and The Band rehearsed at Forelands Farm in Bembridge, and were joined there by George Harrison, the only "outsider" to have been permitted into his enclave in the Catskill Mountains. On Saturday, 30 August, the day before Dylan was to take the stage, fellow Beatles John Lennon and Ringo Starr arrived on the island, along with Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton. Also seated in a sealed-off VIP area in front of the stage would be Beatle wives Pattie Harrison, Yoko Ono and Maureen Starkey, together with Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Jane Fonda, Françoise Hardy, Roger Vadim, Donald Cammell, Syd Barrett, Elton John and others.
Bob Dylan's performance
Thanks to rumours that one or all of The Beatles would be joining him on stage, Dylan's comeback show had now been, in the words of music journalist John Harris, "inflated into the gig of the decade". On 31 August, a nervous Bob Dylan arrived on stage in a cream suit recalling Hank Williams, with a haircut and a short beard. Backed by The Band, he performed recent pieces from his Nashville Skyline and John Wesley Harding albums as well as countryfied versions of earlier songs such as "Maggie's Farm", "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Like a Rolling Stone" − much to the surprise and consternation of the audience and the throng of journalists. Levon Helm later commented: "Bob had an extra list of songs with about eight or ten different titles ... that we would've gone ahead and done had it seemed like the right thing to do. But it seemed like everyone was a bit tired ... the festival was three days old by then."
John Lennon opined that Dylan's performance was reasonable, though slightly flat; and that the audience was "waiting for Godot or Jesus". Eric Clapton was mesmerized, however, having already been inspired back to blues and country post-Cream by Dylan's change of musical direction and by The Band's album Music From Big Pink. "Dylan was fantastic," Clapton later said. "He changed everything ... [The audience] couldn't understand it. You had to be a musician to understand it." Another vocal champion of The Band and avowed Dylan fan, George Harrison wrote a country song inspired by the event and dedicated to Dylan, "Behind That Locked Door", later released on his All Things Must Pass triple album. Folk singer Tom Paxton has referred to the "negative reaction in the British press", including "downright fabrications: like saying he had run off stage half-way through. ... I went with him and The Beatles to the farmhouse where he was clearly in a merry mood because he had felt it had gone so well ... The Beatles had brought a test pressing of Abbey Road and we listened to it and had quite a party."
Dylan's setlist was as follows:
- She Belongs to Me*
- I Threw It All Away
- Maggie's Farm
- Wild Mountain Thyme
- It Ain't Me Babe
- To Ramona
- Mr. Tambourine Man
- I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine
- Lay Lady Lay
- Highway 61 Revisited
- One Too Many Mornings
- I Pity The Poor Immigrant
- Like A Rolling Stone*
- I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
- The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)*
- Minstrel Boy*
- Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35
Three performances from this concert were included on Dylan's 1970 album Self Portrait: "Like A Rolling Stone", "Minstrel Boy" and "She Belongs To Me".
The Who's performance
The Who presented their standard set at that time, which included the rock opera Tommy, as they had recently released that album and were touring in support of it. The band had just returned from a tour of the United States, where they had performed at Woodstock about two weeks earlier. Keith Moon looked depressed. They opened with "Heaven and Hell", followed by "I Can't Explain", "Fortune Teller", "Young Man Blues", and then performed the opera nearly in full, finishing up with "Summertime Blues", "My Generation" and "Shakin' All Over".
- The Band
- Blodwyn Pig
- Blonde On Blonde
- Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (see Bonzo Dog Band)
- Edgar Broughton Band
- Joe Cocker
- Aynsley Dunbar
- Bob Dylan
- Fat Mattress
- Gary Farr
- Julie Felix
- Richie Havens
- Marsha Hunt & White Trash
- Indo Jazz Fusions
- King Crimson
- The Liverpool Scene
- Mighty Baby
- The Moody Blues
- The Nice
- Tom Paxton
- The Pretty Things
- Third Ear Band
- The Who
- Isle of Wight Festival 1969
- Ray Foulk interview on The History of the Isle of Wight Festival
- Isle of Wight Festival History
- Isle of Wight Festival
- Early Isle Of Wight Festivals Forum - 1968 - 69 - 70
- 2010 audio interview with Ray Foulk
- Alan Clayson, George Harrison, Sanctuary (London, 2003), p. 274.
- Levon Helm with Stephen Davis, This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of The Band, A Cappella Books (Chicago, IL, 2000), p. 198.
- Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Doubleday (London, 2001), pp 248−51.
- John Harris, "A Quiet Storm", Mojo, July 2001, p. 69.
- Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Doubleday (London, 2001), pp 236, 251.
- Alan Clayson, George Harrison, Sanctuary (London, 2003), pp 242−43.
- John Harris, "A Quiet Storm", Mojo, July 2001, p. 68.
- Barry Miles, The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years, Omnibus Press (London, 2001), p. 351.
- Bill Wyman, Rolling with the Stones, Dorling Kindersley (London, 2002), p. 342.
- Chris O'Dell with Katherine Ketcham, Miss O'Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Women They Loved, Touchstone (New York, NY, 2009), p. 87.
- Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Doubleday (London, 2001), p. 251.
- Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Doubleday (London, 2001), p. 252.
- Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Doubleday (London, 2001), p. 253.
- George Harrison, I Me Mine, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA, 2002), p. 206.
- "Another Self Portrait Press Release". expectingrain.com. July 16, 2013. Retrieved September 12, 2013.