Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Woodstock, then and now

Woodstock?

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That Woodstock?

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That’s the feature this week?

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But there’s no special anniversary going on. The 50th was last year.

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So what gives?

Jeffrey A. Tucker is the Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages. Sounds like he’s pretty sharp.

In a nutshell, Tucker brilliantly observes that we practically made nothing of the filth and germs that surrounded the masses at Woodstock, and survived …during a pandemic.

This month Tucker wrote:

The flu spread from Hong Kong to the United States, arriving December 1968 and peaking a year later. It ultimately killed 100,000 people in the U.S., mostly over the age of 65, and one million worldwide.

Nothing was closed by force. Schools mostly stayed open. Businesses did too. You could go to the movies. You could go to bars and restaurants.

Stock markets didn’t crash because of the flu. Congress passed no legislation. The Federal Reserve did nothing. Not a single governor acted to enforce social distancing, curve flattening (even though hundreds of thousands of people were hospitalized), or banning of crowds. No mothers were arrested for taking their kids to other homes. No surfers were arrested. No daycares were shut even though there were more infant deaths with this virus than the one we are experiencing now. There were no suicides, no unemployment, no drug overdoses attributable to flu. 

Media covered the pandemic but it never became a big issue. 

There’s more in his column that I strongly encourage you to read, whether or not you were around back then. One more Tucker point:

If we used government lockdowns then like we use them now, Woodstock (which changed music forever and still resonates today) would never have occurred. How much prosperity, culture, tech, etc. are losing in this calamity?

One of my all-time favorite bands played Woodstock on the final day. But you probably  wouldn’t know or remember. Blood, Sweat, and Tears, jazz-rock pioneers, performed for about 60 minutes, but like many groups that weekend were not paid at all because the concert organizers had no money.  Management for BS & T presumed the band would be getting $12,000, a lot of money for 1969. David Clayton-Thomas, the lead singer, said they had no idea the magnitude of Woodstock.

“No, we didn’t much keep track of the itinerary or where we were going,” Clayton-Thomas said. “If you’ve ever been on the road, you wake up in the morning and you look at the telephone book beside your bed to find out where you slept last night and ask the road manager where you’re going next. And of course on the road the most valuable thing is trying to get enough sleep. You go to bed at midnight after a show. You have a 3 o’clock wake-up call to get to the airport, so you get your sleep an hour or two at a time.

“So no, we didn’t really know where we were going; we just knew there was a gig in New York. We didn’t really understand what was happening until we landed at LaGuardia Airport. And the road manager said, ‘I don’t think the show tonight’s going to happen. All the traffic is jammed. Nothing is moving. There are 600,000 at this concert.’

“There were 600,000 people and maybe six cops and a couple of state troopers for the little local surrounding towns. How do you control 600,000 people with six cops? And if the artists didn’t show up, there might be a riot. So, we got about a third of the way there before the traffic completely stopped and we went to a little motel and they brought in a National Guard helicopter and flew us into the site.”

Here was a band that peppered its set list with pieces containing lots of jazz solos. How could that possibly go over?

“Everybody there knew us, said Clayton-Thomas. “I would say 70 percent of the people in that audience were from New York, and we were a New York City band. That was our base. They’d seen us play in clubs and colleges around the New York area.”

You won’t find BS & T in the “Woodstock” movie. How come? Clayton-Thomas answered  it was all about the money.

“Backstage there was a lot of controversy going on. The managers were in a trailer with the promoters, going, ‘How does my band get paid?’ They [the promoters] said, ‘They broke down the fences. We don’t have any money.’ So some of the managers, in particular Albert Grossman, who managed Dylan, the Band and Janis [Joplin], said, ‘OK then, no pay, no filming.’ The headliners, in their contracts, had a percentage of the film rights. Since there was no money to give them [the bands], they simply just edited us out of the film. I think they actually recorded only one song at Woodstock. But the quickest way to not pay the headliners is just edit them out of the film. I’ve got to live with that, with my daughter going, ‘Dad, I thought you were at Woodstock. I saw the movie and you weren’t in the movie.’ The managers felt that was the only leverage they had to get their bands paid. And it’s not just greed. I mean, it was financial reality. We had airfares to pay, we had musicians to pay, we had road crew to pay and we weren’t going to get any money for this gig. Normally, if we we’re doing a concert and the promoter didn’t come up with the money you just don’t put the show on. It’s his problem. You can’t do that with a half a million people.”

Yes, things were a lot different during the late 1960’s pandemic as compared to today. Just listen to this BS& T Woodstock performance of one of their biggest hits, their last song before their encore.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text that says 'WOODSTOCK MUSIC & ART FAIR PRESENTS AQUARIAN EXPOSITION IN WHITE LAKE, N.Y. Hendrix 3 Days of Peace & Music AUGUST 1969 Janis Joplin Music Starts at 4:00pm Fri. and 1:00 & Sun. Friday 15th Saturday 16th Sunday 17th Joan Baez Canned The Band Arlo Creedence Clearwater Jeff Beck Grateful Dead Blood, Sweat Havens Sly and The Stone Tears Tim Benes Jefferson Airplane Cresby Stills Nash Santana Jimi Hendrix Who Iron Butterfly Harrison Ten Jonny Winter HUNDREDS OF ACRES TO ROAM ON Ticket Prices, One Day $7.00 Two Days $13.00, Three $18.00'

“That generation approached viruses with calm, rationality and intelligence. We left disease mitigation to medical professionals, individuals and families, rather than politics, politicians and government.”
Jeffrey Tucker

One thought on “Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Woodstock, then and now

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (05/25/20) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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