Ian's Reflections on the Isle of Wight 1970
Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the downfall of the Hippie Days. The clash of cultures between sleepy Isle Of Wight residents and the great unwashed hordes who descended on the Island’s green and pleasant pastures was a sight to behold. Well, the music fans may not have been unwashed when they left for the long weekend but by the end of the Festival, there was something in the air……
I personally had a good soap and scrub before climbing aboard the Trislander – a small commuter aircraft with an unlikely three, even smaller, engines – for the brief flight from somewhere in the South of England.
We were joining Jimi Hendrix to close the three day festival and things were getting out of hand for Rikki Farr and the organisers of the event. The demands for free entry and a general grumpiness on the part of the disillusioned hippies had brought about chaos and violence on the fringes of the crowd. Tiny Tim had wanted the money up front. Joni Mitchell had broken down in tears on stage. Jimi wasn’t a happy bunny. I don’t know if we were ever paid but it wasn’t important.
Having done a few shows with Jimi during the last couple of years, we were well aware of his highs and lows as a performer. The Hendrix crew and our roadies had the (by then) customary battle to set up their respective band’s gear first since neither act wanted to follow the other and close the show. Our roadies, with perhaps a little less equipment to wrestle with, won and we took to the stage amidst much tuning up and kerfuffle. Not the best show of our lives but a landmark gig in terms of just BEING THERE.
This was England’s Woodstock – but with the unravelling of the ideals of the last few hippie years. Our manager, Terry Ellis had pleaded for calm backstage. Rikki Farr pleaded for calm at the back of the enormous crowd and beyond the rapidly disintegrating barriers. I silently pleaded with the Gods of Tunefulness that Martin and Glen could align themselves with the grand piano and agree, if temporarily, on the precise nature of a concert C.
Murray Lerner’s cameras were rolling as they had been from the beginning of the event. The whole documentary of the Isle Of Wight Fest is a magnificent treat. A brilliant snapshot of the time. Get a copy while you can. It is a perfect companion piece to this Tull set. We were just a tiny part of it all.
Funny how a drum solo could seem so fleeting in 1970. Funnier still how time flies except when you are listening to the same drum solo 34 years later……. Not to mention flute solos, piano solos and guitar flights of energetic and electrical fancy. Boy, did we drone on. But there are some magical moments, nonetheless. Largely unedited for this record and DVD, the music stands as a testimony of the good, the bad and the noisy - all of which defined the early period of Jethro Tull. No Prog Rock here: just the frantic and enthusiastic roaring of Gibson, Fender, Marshall, Ludwig and whatever brand name passed for a flute at the time.
Like the Who, Tull gave out the white heat energy
which overcame occasional technical imperfections. Like the Moody Blues,
Tull gave hints of more
sublime and classical alternatives. Like Tiny Tim, Tull provided a hint
of vaudeville and music hall vulgarity and foppishness. But there was
no one like Jimi……… His last major gig on planet Earth
began shakily and I could see he wasn’t having a good night. With
a new band and determination to find new beginnings to his music, Jimi
had to bow to the crowd pressure to play his usual hits.
I left after two or three songs for the mainland and the rest of my life. Jimi left us for good a few days later. So let’s dedicate this record and DVD to the man who wasn’t exactly my pal, but would certainly have become one if he were alive today.