ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL 26th August 1970

Posted: August 26, 2016 in FESTIVALS, MUSIC
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In 1970 the festival had grown significantly to the point where it actually outgrew itself; for 32 years after this the Isle of Wight did not see another large scale music gathering. It’s estimated that the crowds were well in excess of half a million. Fans were drawn to what was one of the most ambitious line-ups ever put together for a festival on British soil, with artists from both sides of the Atlantic.

Even before the festival officially opened there were some bands that played for free on Wednesday and Thursday, including, Mighty Baby, Kris Kristofferson, Supertramp, The Groundhogs, Terry Reid and Gilberto Gil.

At the festival proper on  the Friday it was the band Chicago topping the bill with support from Family, Taste, Procol Harum and James Taylor as well as bands that have largely been forgotten, including Arrival, Fairfield Parlour, Cactus and Lighthouse.

Also on the bill on Saturday was Miles Davis who had reinvented himself as a jazz rock artist in the wake of his Bitches Brew album that was released in April of 1960; Davis’s band included Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett. Other acts included, Tiny Tim, ELP (set included ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’), and John Sebastian. The tye-dyed one was the first of the Woodstock alumni to play the festival.

Sebastian’s appearance, along with the others who starred in the film, which had recently been premiered in the UK, as well as having Matthews Southern Comfort’s version of ‘Woodstock’ topping the charts a few weeks earlier, all significantly added to the draw of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. It was as though people could not risk missing the next Woodstock.

Sandwiched between these acts and the notional bill-toppers was supposed to be Cat Mother, but they didn’t show, Sly and the Family Stone and Joni Mitchell. Third top was Ten Years After; their Woodstock appearance had turned them and in particular, Alvin Lee, into box office gold. Joint top were the Who and the Doors – it was not by all accounts the latter’s finest hour and less than a year later Jim Morrison would be dead.

If Saturday was impressive, Sunday was stellar. With Melanie, Free, The Moody Blues, Donovan, Leonard Cohen, Richie Havens Joan Baez and Jethro Tull among the big names with Jimi Hendrix topping the bill. It really was an extraordinary coming together of talent. Less than three weeks after he walked off stage at the Isle of Wight, James Marshall Hendrix was dead.

Jimi Hendrix

 

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