We seem to be celebrating a lot of 50 year anniversaries right now, which tells you that the late 1960s was a great and historic time for culture of all types.
Next year, 2019, is 50 years since the Woodstock festival.
Now, remember, there were no mobile phones in those days, no web, and the UK had three television channels and a few radio stations. I do remember, I was 15, hearing about it and I certainly remember seeing the film. It was an 18 certificate, at the Capitol in Scarborough. A group of us went, and the only one not admitted was the only one old enough to actually go.
The lengthy film recorded the three days and peace, drugs and music very well. There is now a nearly 4 hour director’s cut available. It was shot using 16mm cameras, but the presentation (in some places) was on 70mm, using all kinds of fancy optical tricks to have multiframed parallel events on screen. And the sound was good, for the day.
Estimates seem to vary about attendance, which soon became a free-for-all. 400,000 is a popular number, but it’s only a guess I think. It was notable for the generally good, well-behaved atmosphere. More than anything, it was an anti-Vietnam war protest.
But what is interesting is who played, mostly American of course, some largely forgotten, here in the UK at least, and many dead as you would resonably expect after 50 years (Cocker, Hendrix, Garcia, Joplin, half of The Who, Havens and so on). Some are still going unchanged, Crosby, Stills & Nash for example.
Ah, happy times, and a moment in cultural history. However, it is sobering to realise that the even was closer to World War II (25 years) than it is to now (50 years). Could it happen now? No, for financial reasons, and because we are more cynical and more restless.