My Woodstock

It’s fair to say that there are many people who see 1969 as one of the most important years in history.

They will point to Richard Nixon being sworn in as the President of the United States, British troops arriving in the North, the Stonewall riots and, of course, the first moon landing. But there were other events that year which some would see as being far more important.

For example, The Beatles played their last ever live performance on the roof of the Apple building in London on January 30.And then, between August 15 and 18, the Woodstock Festival, the absolute epitome of all things Sixties, took place in New York state. There are lots of plans to mark the event.

But, in a way that seems utterly appropriate those plans are mired in as much chaos as the original event was. The festival emerged from weeks of rows and uncertainty. The major acts asked to appear turned down the chance until American band Creedence Clearwater Revival signed up. And so Joan Baez, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and, most famously, Jimi Hendrix joined in and helped to make musical history. 

Those who turned down the chance to appear could have had a festival of their own. They included  Bob Dylan, who actually lived in Woodstock and was, the stories go, put off by all the hippies he saw arriving early for the festival. Led Zeppelin, The Moody Blues and, allegedly, the Rolling Stones said no.

So too did Joni Mitchell who eventually wrote the song Woodstock about the three, or was it four, days of music and mayhem. But even after some big names signed up, the venue was moved several times, due to protests by residents, local restrictions until it finally located at Sam Yasgur’s farm at, not Woodstock, but Bethel, in upstate New York. Organisers promised an attendance of no more than 50,000.

But they sold 186,000 tickets and actually expected 200,000 to attend. Twice that number turned up. And so the historic event was afterwards marked with albums, a movie and that song by Joni Mitchell. Sadly, plans to mark the 50th anniversary with a high profile festival have, much like the original, fallen asunder.

Rival events are planned. One on the original site and another 150 kilometres away at Watkins Glen. But will there be the same enthusiasm, in two years’ time, to mark the Golden Anniversary of Ireland’s first big outdoor rock music festival, our Woodstock?It’s doubtful. Because that festival took place, not on a vast tract of farmland, but in a small public park in the south Dublin Suburbs.

On Sunday, August 8, 1971 slightly fewer than 400,000 music fans, possibly not even 2,000, gathered in Blackrock Park for Rock in the Hollow. It was a stellar line up of Irish talent: Thin Lizzy, Horslips, Elmer Fudd, Mellow Candle and Supply, Demand and Curve were on the bill. And unlike Woodstock two years earlier, it didn’t rain.

There was no mud. But there may have been the odd puff of sweet smelling smoke from a joint or two here and there.

Dev may never have actually talked of “comely maidens dancing at the crossroads,” a quote entirely made up, but he would have made of a rock concert across the road from his old alma mater, we can only imagine.

There may not have been much in the way of Free Love at Rock in the Hollow, but neither did anyone die – there was one confirmed death at Woodstock, nobody gave birth – there were rumours of three births at Woodstock and John Sebastian was captured on film saying that “some cat’s old lady just had a baby”, and there were no arrests – there were 80, for drugs offences, at Woodstock.

But there is always a downside.Sorry about this lads, but it’s part of the story!

Unbeknownst to them, an advertising agency filmed Horslips’ set and, so impressed were they, that they later approached the band asking them to front an ad for a mineral called Mirinda. (That’s Eamon Carr in the Mirinda at up top!!)

They agreed after being told they could select some other bands to take part in a “festival” at Adrmore Studios where the ad would be filmed.

They did, it was – and Horslips mimed to a jingle written by the advertisers and recorded by German session musicians, Horslips are still on the road and still occasionally reminded of the Mirinda experience which began at the Rock in the Hollow.

It wasn’t Woodstock. For a start, it was better organised. And everybody kept their clothes on.

And when it was all over, most of us were able to walk out of the park and get the bus home.

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