Wherein I relate odd bits of trivia I’ve either stumbled on or couldn’t fit into my posts. (But found too interesting not to share.)
—-You know about Woodstock and perhaps even the anti-Woodstock, Altamont. But have you ever heard of the woefully misnamed ‘Celebration of Life’ festival in tiny middle-of-nowhere McCrea, Louisiana? A better name for it might have been the Satan’s Descent Into Hell Festival.
According to an article, “the organizer promised acts such as the Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, BB King, Ike and Tina Turner, and Sly and the Family Stone. The only well-known musicians who actually performed were Chuck Berry, Stephen Stills, WAR, John Sebastian, and Delaney and Bonnie.” Many acts were either never really booked or refused to play.
In late June of 1971, sixty-thousand people showed up for what was supposed to be an eight-day festival. But lack of shelter, legal problems and oppressive heat turned this concert into somewhat of a disaster. The bands played at night but festival goers “spent their days in misery seeking food, drugs, and shelter on the treeless, mosquito-infested grounds.” (As to why they didn’t just say the hell with it and go home, I can’t say.)
The heat and humidity were so devastating that people sought relief in the swift-moving Atchafalaya river in which four people drowned. There is actually a documentary about this fiasco which, if you’re so inclined, you can watch for two bucks. (Failing that, Google it and you’ll actually find some interesting “I Was There” stories.) For the record, the festival shut down after its third day and the promoter disappeared.
—-In February of 1964, the then-unknown Jimi Hendrix was looking for a band to play with. The Isley Brothers needed a guitarist and so hired him. On February 9, 1964, they all sat down to watch The Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan’s show. On February 10, 1964, Sam Phillips – discoverer of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins – sold his Sun Studios. So, one era ends, another begins.
—-In the 1979 No Nukes movie, Tom Petty is interviewed. Since he went on before Springsteen, he was told that if it sounds like people are booing they are actually yelling “Bruce.” Said Petty, “What’s the difference?”
—Speaking of festivals, many concertgoers at Woodstock were daunted by the idea of working their way through the masses to see the show. Some were more resourceful than others. In his book about Woodstock, Michael Lang tells the story of three guys, two dressed in the standard Sixties denim outfit, the other one dressed more by chance in what one might call rock star finery. So, easily mistaken for a rock star and his roadies.
Stumbling on the area where helicopters were taking bands to the show, they figured what the hell, got on one of the copters and flew over to the site. They got to the venue and when a couple of hippie-types ran up to them, they were sure they were going to get caught.
Instead these guys came up and – thinking they had to be with some band or another – said, “Do you need anything?” and showed them around the backstage area, where the food tables were, etc. So, lesson learned. Dress and act the part and you can get away with some shit.
—Dick Rowe of Decca Records is the guy who chose not to sign the Beatles and supposedly told Brian Epstein that guitar groups were “on their way out.” Later, seeking a band to sign, he went to the Crawdaddy Club, saw the Rolling Stones and signed them. On George Harrison’s recommendation.
—–In May of 1985, after Mick Jones had left the band and long after they had become worldwide stars, The Clash went on a busking tour of England. For 2 1/2 weeks, armed only with acoustic guitars, The Clash “popped up under railway bridges and in subways to entertain [fans] with Monkees(!), Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, and Cramps songs.”
“We survived by our wits,” Paul Simenon says. “I remember we were in Leeds, it was 2 a.m., and it was outside this black club, and people were coming out and really digging us.” The group slept on fans’ floors and in cheap B&B’s. They survived on money thrown into their hats. Joe Strummer described it as “the best tour we ever did.”
Sources: The Road to Woodstock: From the Man Behind the Legendary Festival. Michael Lang with Holly George-Warren; Passion Is A Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash, Pat Gilbert.