I Suppose That You Had To Be There

August 18, 2009

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo regarding the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and there’s been no shortage of fascinating stuff to read and view. Personally, I wasn’t even walking, yet, when the boomers threw that bash.

Until I was nine or ten, Woodstock was a bird, a Sundance Kid to Snoopy’s Butch Cassidy.

It was in the late ‘70s – maybe on the 10th anniversary – that I saw the documentary of the festival. I was only beginning to care about music, but I had little knowledge of the performers. I might have known the name Jimi Hendrix.

(and, given that admission of ignorance I am inclined to not belittle the cops in Jersey who had no idea that they had apprehended Bob Dylan, but, then again, what kind of cultural vacuum do you have to be living in to not know who Bob Dylan is?)

Anyhow, I do remember coming across Woodstock (the film) surfing through the half-dozen or so channels one Saturday night as a kid. Like Soylent Green, it was tagged with some kind of “mature audiences” disclaimer which, to state the obvious, made it must-see viewing.

(I suspect that whoever thought that those disclaimers would protect the children from potentially perilous material most likely wouldn’t be able to pick Bob Dylan out of a line-up)

So, I watched the movie and I might as well have been watching a National Geographic special on the indigenous people of New Guinea. No one really looked like anyone I knew and the music was equally inscrutable to my young ears. Through the years that followed, I learned more about the lore of Woodstock and the acts that performed that weekend.

But Woodstock never really connected to me. As for the legacy of the festival and what it all meant, there are folks far more qualified to comment on that subject.

I suppose, like most things in life, Woodstock was something for which you had to be there (and I wasn’t).

Here are a few songs by acts that were invited to perform but, for various reasons, weren’t there, either.

The Doors – Break On Through (To The Other Side)
from The Doors

The Byrds – So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
from Younger Than Yesterday

Bob Dylan – Maggie’s Farm
from Bringing It All Back Home

Joni Mitchell – Woodstock
from Ladies Of The Canyon