Sunday, 16 August 2009

Woodstock or Woodlark

Sunday was always going to be a difficult choice, did I slake my addiction and get to Ferry Bridge at dawn or stay up late to watch a lifetime classic featuring The Heat, Arlo, Airplane, Havens, Alvin Lee et al. The later stole it by a mile, as a 'one off' occasion, swamping myself with nostalgia from 40 years ago. It was well worth it, even if only to relive the genius of the much underrated Marty Balin. With a quality of blues vocal, usually only assiciated with 'black men', he knocked out his signature Uncle Sam's Blues, while Grace Slick looked on in awe from the wings. In addition, I felt sure the legendary Les Paul will settle comfortably next week when they lay him to rest, in the knowledge that Balin honoured his lifetimes work having mastered that 'trademark' Gibson. I have always held Woodstock in high regard, mainly because I wasn't there, but in the same year (1969) I was to experience, at least as far as musical content was concerned, a far more important event. Just 6 weeks earlier had seen the first, of what was to become an annual 'happening' , the Bath Festival of Blues. With the likes of Zeppelin (playing their first 'outdoor' concert, having already turned down the invite to Woodstock), Mayall, Taste, Fleetwood Mac, Nice (later to become E.L.P.), Hiseman's Colleseum, Keef Hartley Band, Chicken Shack, 10 Years After, Blodwin Pig etc, etc I was surely on the right side of 'the Pond'. However, on the music theme and with the strains of Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) still ringing in my ears from last night, only a year later I was to suffer one of only 3 real regrets of my life. On the 26th August 1970 accompanied by 2 submariner mates we boarded the Isle of Wight ferry to experience what attendance wise would put both Woodstock and Live Aid in the shade. Again, this was programmed to be a feast of live acts, but as the legend tells, if you can remember it, you weren't there. One thing I do remember clearly, as we wandered through the 'purple haze' of early Sunday morning, our boat, HM Submarine Alcide, was sailing for patrol at 04-00 the next morning. With more than a second thought we climbed aboard the Red Funnel back to Pompey, and almost at the same time as we walked through the gates of HMS Dolphin, Jimi landed on the island to, as the press reported later, blow every other band attending out of the water. My all time hero, as much for the attitude as the music, returned from Sweden mid-September, played an impromptue jam at Ronnie Scott's and died in still unexplained circumstances early morning 18th September 1970 - I never did see my man!

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