WOBURN MUSIC FESTIVAL 6th-7th July 1968

Posted: July 8, 2018 in FESTIVALS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , ,

Image may contain: text

Woburnwas one of the first rock festivals including the inexpressibly wonderful Jimi Hendrix.. At the time the British blues bands such as John Mayall and Fleetwood Mac were riding high. Organised by the UK music magazine the Woburn bash advertised in the Melody Maker with Mayall, Fleetwood Mac , Hendrix , over two days.The Woburn Music Festival was one of Britain’s first large scale, open-air rock music events. Staged by brothers Richard “Rik” and John Gunnell, who were well respected individuals in the burgeoning London music scene where they were heavily involved in many aspects including band managed, show promoters and club owners. Rik in particular, who owned three fashionable 1960’s London nightspots—the Ram Jam Club, Flamingo, and Bag O’ Nails presented authentic, first generation American icons like John Lee Hooker and Otis Redding and some of the brightest examples of a swelling wave of emerging British talent such as The Rolling Stones, Jack Bruce and Georgie Fame.

People standing in their gardens two miles away from Woburn Abbey could hear strains of pop music floating on the air… As dusk fell along with the temperature, the Festival attendance reached a peak of over 14,000. Emperor Rosko compered the evening session and swung things along with records and tapes in between sets from Little Women, New Formula, Geno Washington, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Family, and Jimi Hendrix Experience blasting his way into the midnight hour. Already fires were being built and lit all over the field. With [the] end of Jimi’s set everybody headed for homes, temporary or permanent. On the Sunday morning many of the fans had spread out into the sur*rounding district in search of food and drink. At the Swan Hold. Woburn Sands, landlord Chris Collier dished out pints like there was no tomorrow and the regular customers stood looking amused and bemused by the inrush of long-haired customers….

The line-up for the Saturday afternoon session was as follows. Alexis Korner, Shirley and Dolly Collins, Al Stewart, Roy Harper and Pentangle. It was a very pleasant sunny day, the area was not particularly full. Roy Harper – who in those days was relatively smooth looking , minus most of his hair and facial adornments, He ambled through most of the tunes from his album. Folkjokeopus – Sgt Sunshine, She’s the One ,Exercising Some Control , all great songs. Unfortunately he then decided to finish the set with the very lengthy McGoohans Blues, which although a good song, is 18 minutes long and was just not up-tempo enough for a festival setting. 

Pentangle were the last band of the afternoon session the crowd were knocked out by their on-stage act. They really were not the ideal sort of band for a large festival. For a start, folk bands were often not really amplified loudly enough in those days. All it needed was a reasonable breeze and the wind blew the sound away  and Pentangle’s rather soft sound suffered badly at an outdoor venue. The individual members, each in their own ways masters of their craft Bert Jansch and John Renbourn were just too quiet to capture the attention in this least intimate of settings.I’d love to hear their set again just to pick up on Danny Thompson bass. I wasn’t aware of how good this guy can be until I heard him on John Martyn’s Solid Air a few years later, pure  genius .

New Formula were a bleeding awful sweet soul group and NOBODY liked them. You have to feel sorry for this band , they were given an awful reception . Slow hand clap, whistles, shouts of piss off  I have a vivid memory of some tousle haired Marc Bolan clones down the front throwing toilet rolls at the lead singer, and after a while the band retired hurt. So much for the generation of love. 

The next band on were Family and they were phenomenal they were something out of this world.  Frontman Roger Chapman was so frigging MANIC on-stage, grabbing the mic stand so tightly that he might have been strangling it, cords on the neck strained so tight that it was a wonder he didn’t burst a blood vessel, the sounds issuing forth floored the crowd Chappo was unique.

And the rest of the band! Jim King blowing his brains out on sax, John Whitney on searing lead and steel guitar, Ric Grech on bass and occasional violin and the excellent Rob Townsend on drums , simultaneously elegant and threatening. This was the best line up of Family, and they had a great range of songs, most from their first highly under rated albumMusic from a Dolls House, songs like – Hey Mr Policeman, Me My Friend,  Old Songs New Songs – they were BRILLIANT and many in the audience thought so too.

Tyrannosaurus Rex were fun, if slight. Bolan strummed and churned out his fey little songs with predictable charm and Steve Took provided nice little edges with his bongos. Tyrannosaurus Rex were the staple of many festivals at the time , archetypal hippies, they enjoyed a certain sort of vogue . Bolan and Took went down very well with the audience, so I am probably  in the minority here – but after the concentrated madness of Family it seemed anticlimactic. 

The bill was a pretty eclectic one, veering wildly into the realms of pseudo soul , far out psychedelic rock, psychedelic folksy rock and back to genuine, get down and dance-to-the -music SOUL – in the form of Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band.

  • Geno Washington – vocals
  • Pete Gage – guitar
  • Lionel Kingham – saxophone
  • Buddy Beadle – saxophone
  • Jeff Wright – organ
  • John Roberts- bass guitar
  • Herb Prestidge – drums

These guys laid it down in the alley and, in contrast to the ill fated Little Women, the crowd loved every note of their act  . This was the real thing , but above all , it was dance music and it meant that the crowd could get loose and enjoy themselves.  The use of a good gutsy horn section to punctuate vocal chorus’s  also really pushed the music out there and the fact that Geno was a damn good front man also helped more than somewhat. The band were all gussied up in over the top stage clothes – this was an ACT in every sense of the word and it set the stage more than nicely for the top of the bill,Mr James Marshall Hendrix. Now almost everything that can be said about Jimi’s performance has been said on the excellent Univibes pages on the Woburn festival, Whether the inclusion of Geno Washington on the bill was a deliberate act by the promoters to give the crowd an idea of the sort of bands that Jimi used to play with , I don’t know, but whether it was or not, it certainly put  the audience into a great mood and they were more than enthusiastic about the Hendrix set , which was the only Hendrix concert in the UK in 1968. 

Although the Univibes site rates the show as average ,they are not able to see what went down on-stage , which was pretty outrageous, with Jimi playing the guitar with his teeth , grinding his axe between his legs and generally doing all the things that got the girls horny for him . Given all of that it was a fantastic visual experience and the music certainly seemed great too ,there was rapturous applause as he left the stage and as the crowd streamed off into the night. 

At Woburn, Jimi skipped songs from Axis: Bold As Love altogether, electing instead to ‘jam’ as he called it—kicking off his set with a spirited “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The trio followed with “Fire,” and despite beset with buzzing, crackles and otherwise unwanted noises throughout their set, The Experience continued to persevere doing their best to surmount the technical problems that hampered an otherwise animated set.

Although opting to bypass music from Axis: Bold As Love, Hendrix did foreshadow his next album at Woburn, stretching out a marvelous 10+ minute version of “Tax Free;” an early contender for Electric Ladyland and a favorite Experience vehicle for improvisation. Hendrix followed up with another extended improvisational rendition of “Red House” before closing the show with a trio of live concert stalwarts “Foxy Lady,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and “Purple Haze.”

In launching into “Purple Haze,” Jimi kicked off a boisterous feedback opening, buttressed by Mitchell and Redding and complete with tremolo bar swoops, wah-wah pedal shadings and soaring dive bomb styled bursts that transitioned seamlessly into the song’s unmistakable opening notes. At its conclusion, the audience roared with approval. While no microphones were positioned to fully capture the intensity of their reaction, their enthusiasm and calls for more can be easily heard through Jimi and Noel’s stage microphones.

The Experience’s performance at Woburn Music Festival would mark the trio’s last performance in England until the two celebrated concerts in February 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall.

Jimi Hendrix July 6th & 7th 1968, Woburn Music Festival, Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire.

Apparently Fleetwood Mac did not turn up, due to other commitments, and the whole Sunday show was wet and badly attended,Apparently there is a sound board recording of the HendrixFamily and Geno Washingtonsets from the Saturday which may be released as a CD sometime.It is even rumoured that theHendrix show was filmed using three cameras. Who knows ,perhaps both of these precious artefacts will be released one day. 

The soundboard recordings have been SOLD ! A rare 1⁄4 inch reel-to-reel master soundboard tape recording of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and others performing at the Woburn Music Festival, Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, England, 6-7 July, 1968, was offered for sale at Christies. The price realise was £48,050, which probably means that either the music will disappear into a collection or be eventually offered for sale commercially . However since apparently the Hendrix estate were not previously keen to release the Hendrix set (and this may be why the owners have decided to sell the recordings) there would have to be a policy change before this happened.

Recordings and Setlists Woburn Music Festival, 6th July, 1968

Family (29:13 minutes)

  • Me My Friend
  • Old Songs New Songs > How Many More Years (You Gonna Wreck My Life)
  • Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
  • Hey Mr. Policeman
  • Observations (incomplete)

Geno Washington (18:05 minutes)

  • Mony Mony
  • Funk Broadway
  • Rock Me, Baby
  • I Get So Excited
  • Holding On Baby (With Both Hands)
  • Baby Come Back
  • Jumping Jack Flash


The Jimi Hendrix Experience (48:22 minutes)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (0:42)
  • Fire (3:18)
  • Tax Free (10:10)
  • Red House (10:17)
  • .Foxy Lady (4:12)
  • Voodoo Child (6:05)
  • .Purple Haze (8:00)

 Woburn Music Festival, 7th July, 1968 

Taste (23:21 minutes)

  • Summertime
  • Blister On The Moon
  • I Got My Brand On You
  • Rock Me,>Baby Bye Bye Bird >Baby Please Don’t Go >You Shook Me Baby

This is the earliest professional live recording of this Taste line-up known to exist. After finishing the first song of his set, Rory Gallagher says Thank You 16 times!


Tim Rose (8:57 minutes)

  • I Got A Loneliness
  • Long Time Man (incomplete)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience show at Woburn was professionally recorded on a 7.5 ips, 2-track, mono, reel-to-reel tape. It is not known who actually recorded this tape but the master tape was stored in a small studio in London, where it sat on the shelves among a wall of tapes. In the early 1970s, the studio went bust and an employee rescued some of the tapes before they were destroyed. Additionally, a film crew was present to record the event. Nothing is known of the whereabouts of this footage, but if such footage were to surface it would be an incredible find and a wonderful companion to the recording.

So. the festival come [sic] to an end. unfortunately rather a damp one. How ever a bright note was struck by a message from the Abbey saying that the Duke thought the Festival had been very well organised and he would be happy to see it happen again. A sigh of relief was given all round…. [ attendance of] nearly 8,000 people [on the Sunday for Donovan’s set and more rolled in for the final blues session played in pouring rain.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.