Isle of Wight — “I think,” said one knapsacked decamper, “the movie will be better.” She was trudging through ochre dust to the end of a half-mile queue of bedraggled refugees waiting for double-deckered buses to take them from the third Isle of Wight Festival.
The first Isle of Wight Festival, in 1968, was just “a do in a field,” originally organized to raise funds for an Isle of Wight swimming pool. Real estate agent Ray Foulk, then 22, and his brother Ron, then a 23-year-old printer, longtime island residents, carried on when the pool idea was abandoned by other locals and carried off the profits brought in by the 12,000 kids who came to see Jefferson Airplane and Arthur Brown.
With a stash from that bash large enough to finance bigger dreams, five-foot-five Ray Foulk and master of ceremonies Rikki Farr, one-time Congo mercenary turned boutique owner, went off to New York with a film of the ’68 Festival to induce Bob Dylan to appear at the ’69 Festival. For 35,000 pounds he agreed, and, with the help of Joe Cocker, the Who, the Moody Blues, the Pretty Things, Family, Fat Mattress, attracted about 200,000 people. The Foulks, however, claim only 70,000 tickets were sold.
The Foulks were reticent indeed about the profits of 1969. They were, they said, “modest.” They were reckoned by outsiders at 10,000 pounds. But this year they moved out of the two tiny rooms and converted bathroom that were their offices and into Inglefield House, a 25,000 pound mansion with lawns and tennis courts on view through the red velvet drapes, to organize the biggest, best and most profitable festival of all. By mid-summer, their company, Fiery Creations, was a 60-man operation.
Meanwhile, the residents of the island — heretofore known as a Sunset Village for the elderly rich with military and naval connections, and a seaside resort for chips-with-everything families — were freaking out.
Yes, there were hippie plans afoot, declared 70-year-old Commander Rees-Millington, to disrupt Anglo-Saxon civilization with the wholesale peddling of drugs to young people. An onslaught of drugs, nudity, property damage, trespassing and indescribable filth was thrillingly contemplated. Epidemics would sweep the island. Conservative MP Mark Woodnutt headed a Select Committee of the Isle of Wight County Council that devoted three months to getting the Festival banned or legislated upon by Parliament. In July, the government said it was not interested in passing any kind of “festival” legislation, partly because it would be impossible to isolate pop festivals from other open-air gatherings such as agricultural shows or motorcycle scrambles.
Not to worry. Ray Foulk was busy wheeling and dealing with the pop stars: Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix, Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Leonard Cohen, Richie Havens, Sly & the Family Stone, the Who, Ten Years After, Joni Mitchell, Doors, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Free, Miles Davis, John Sebastian, Mungo Jerry, Cat Mother, the Everly Brothers, Heaven, Pentangle, Donovan, Tiny Tim, Ralph McTell, Good News, Cactus, Family, Taste, Voices of East Harlem, Chicago, Procol Harum, Melanie, Arrival, Light house, Fairfield Parlour, Tony Joe White, Howl, Groundhogs, Everyone with Andy Roberts, Black Widow, Supertramp, Mighty Baby, Kris Kristofferson, Red-bone, Kathy Smith, Judas Jump, and Rosalie Sorrels.
By Tuesday, August 25th, an estimated 40,000 hippies had moved into the 165-acre East Afton Farm site on the West Wight, for which Fiery Creations had reportedly paid farmer David Clarke 8,000 pounds after first being turned down on two other sites on the East Wight, near the grounds of the ’69 Festival.
But as late as the last week in July, after the East Afton Farm had been agreed upon, the Foulk Brothers were still trying to hustle up another location. They were worried that their arena ticket sales would suffer because a National Trust (which preserves the English countryside) hill overlooking the farm would provide a free grandstand view of their affairs. They had reason to worry. It did.
Further, the hillside afforded better listening. Up went the hippies, right past the 30-acre fenced-in-arena for which the admittance was three pounds for three days, and down came the men of Fiery Creations with more fencing material, to cut off the hill. This, they piously announced, was costing them another 27,000 pounds in material and labour. Unhappily for the Foulks, the fence was never erected. As soon as a section went up, the hillsiders tore it down and carted it off to build shelters.
The ringleaders of this effort were variously described as French anarchists, French Maoists or French Algerians, who were also supposedly the leaders of a break-in attempt on the arena itself. Cherubic Ron Foulk was sufficently worried that he rapped with them for two hours. He came back alive to report that they were a politically-organized group of 500 Frogs dedicated to wrecking the capitalist festival, as they had done with two French festivals earlier this year. They wanted a free festival.
But finally, yes, the music started. Not to worry that the sound system was so rotten that it was audible only in the front half of the arena. Fat Rikki Farr, with excited flourishes, announced that Neil Young was to be a surprise guest on Saturday. At no cost to Fiery Creations, he neglected to say. Young did not appear, however. His manager, Elliott Roberts, was busted for dope while driving by White Rolls Royce to the Festival from London. When Young heard that there would most likely be nobody to look after him when he arrived, he jumped the next plane back to the US.
Nor did the Everly Brothers show. They refused to budge until they received transportation fees in advance. They never got them. Mungo Jerry, surprise show-stoppers at the earlier British Hollywood Festival, turned up but never got further than backstage. “Basically because things were so chaotic backstage,” said manager Elias Elias. “We put our gear on stage twice and somebody shifted it. Because of the crowds we wanted to go on bread or no bread. We were then rescheduled for 4, then 8, on Sunday. By then it was so disorganized that we couldn’t see any point in staying. So we left.”
Countless groups complained about the backstage chaos. On Sunday, according to Fiery, most of it was caused by Leonard Cohen doing a prima donna freak-out about billings and just about everything else.
Fiery Creations also announced that the first two days of the five-day Festival would be free for those holding season tickets. This ploy was designed to stimulate sales of season tickets and forestall more hippies scrambling up the hillside. According to the Foulks, who had originally planned a 10 shilling admission charge for both Wednesday and Thursday, this gesture was a 20,000 pound sacrifice by their company.
Throughout the Festival the emphasis was on money. As soon as it became obvious that the event might go bust, a week before it started, frequent attempts were made to salvage the profits by appealing to British fair-play. Several times it was announced that as soon as enough tickets had been sold to pass break-even point (170,000 according to Ray Foulk) then the gates would be opened to all. In fact, this didn’t happen until 4:00 PM Sunday, by which time the ticket office had been abandoned and thousands of kids were streaming home. Backstage the Foulks post mortems were held with the press. Losses of anything up to 90,000 pounds were hinted at.
The first two days’ free admission was not a notable bargain. Not that many people would have been willing to cough up one pound for the groups corralled: Rosalie Sorrels, Judas Jump, Kathy Smith, Kris Kristofferson, Mighty Baby, Supertramp, Black Widow, Everyone with Andy Roberts, Howl, Groundhogs, Tony Joe White. Many of them had been slung onto the bill through disagreeable agreements between the promoters and various brass backscratchers; the managers with more than one “interest,” the record companies with an “interest,” the bigtime reporter with an “interest.”
The psychedelic muzak of the first two days was shattered twice, by Terry Reid and by Brazilian musicians Gilberto Gil and Gaentano Veloso, who had been on a European tour with Sergio Mendes, and came to the Isle of Wight tourist-tripping. A tape of their Devastation Hill harmonies was sent up on stage and they were invited to play. With 13 pals, 11 of whom clapped and sang along, from within a gargantuan party-sized red plastic dress, they beat half an hour’s beautific bossa nova. One by one those in the red dress shed it, naked, but coyly avoiding full fronted exposure as they swayed off stage, leaving behind a delighted audience.
Seventy-three drug arrests, so far, were announced. The police were disarming and de-wheeling Skinheads and Hell’s Angels at mainland ports, and on the site, looking for an evil pusher operating under the nom-de-drogue “Acid Man.” The locals were complaining that the music was a disturbance five miles, away in Yarmouth, the promoters were worrying to anyone who would listen that they had sold only 80,000 tickets and that the Festival might have to be canceled unless the supposed 10,000 campers on Devasation Hill paid the three-pound price of admission. Inside the corrugated iron fence, the hippies burrowed into sleeping bags, outside they shuffled through the mounting litter, past the rickety hot dog stands, dust on their teeth.
The dirty hippies were the new Jews. Eyes squinting from the grit they were kicking up with their own bare feet, wandering through their own desert of candy bar wrappers, fruit rinds, kleenex, beer cans, milk cartons, socks, newspapers, looking for godhead in music and dope, the good Christians drawing their curtains and closing the doors to their minds.
They’re not clean, don’t you know. The British government gave 18-year-olds the vote this year and promptly ignored them except as statistics. No British politician could have been accused of pandering, much less appealing, to the newly-enfranchised voters in last June’s general election. There were no splinter groups standing young activist candidates to define the issue. There are no young radicals standing for local government offices, there is no body of student volunteers actively working for political candidates. The right-thinking trendies occasionally skip off to the American Embassy to do the Vietnam Vaudeville Tap-Dance but the situation in Britain’s own Vietnam, Northern Ireland, has provoked negligible reaction.
Hippie economic leverage in minimal. They either conform outwardly to the pyramidal system or accept the state’s below sustenance-level dole, and their consequent purchasing power is limited to joss sticks, hit records and tie-dyed T-shirts.
The British communications industry, aware that they are impotent both politically and economically, has no place for them save as top-of-the-pops-watchers and readers of music-as-a-hobby newspapers. Their own alternative press, hassled both by printers and police, perpetuates the trend of the month ideals of their groovy editors who hash-chatter among themselves about the “revolution.”
As the editors of the “underground papers” see no reason to educate their readers, their readers, unlike students around the world, see no reason to demand an education more relevant to their own ideals.
And it took the ultimate outsider, the weirdo-creep who’d been sneered and jeered at for a longer time than most of the Isle of Wight audience had been alive, to pierce the heart of this Festival. Tiny Tim, it was announced when he as-pie in between getting the acts on noon, had been invited “to bring a little comedy.” He trilled through his standards to the boredom of children asked to pin the tail on the donkey when they wanted to spin the bottle. Miss Vicki stood with the crowd behind the grand piano, erect and impassive, pretty as a picture in a long pink dress, hands clasped.
Then Mr. Tim went into a medley of rock and roll classics, starting with “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Rock Around the Clock,” and Miss Vicki bit her lip, hard. A twirling, whirling madman, this middle-aged outcast rocked and rolled his triumph at finding his own humanity at last and a vast field of young people rose from the earth in as waying, arm-waving, cheering mass. He closed the medley with “Great Balls of Fire,” caught his breath, and went into “There’ll Always be an England,” “White Cliffs of Dover,” “Land of Hope and Glory,” and he made them believe it. British flags poked through the multitude and thousand upon thousands of V-ed fingers fanned the horizon in time to this holy fool’s urgency. As if on signal … a red, white and blue piloted balloon came floating through the sky from behind stage right, its tiny high-in-the-sky passengers waving blessings on strong and happy young men and women celebrating to the strains of canned “Rule Britannia” in a farmer’s field on the last Saturday in August.
But as the sun was going down Friday evening to the amphetamined blues of Taste, coke cans started to fly into the stage-front areas reserved for the press and VIPs.
Although the head electrician was fired Friday evening (as was the security chief; they both cracked up) another bank of speakers had been erected, boosting the power to 6,000 watts and hopes for a more emphatically musical evening. Indeed, the piercing brass of Chicago started the campfires on Devastation Hill.
Which didn’t unduly please Ron Foulk, nervously calculating there were twice as many people outside his arena as were inside. “I wish,” he said, dejection and betrayal smeared across his face, “we’d never started all this.”
So, undoubtedly, did the mod Sophie Tucker, Mr. Rikki Farr, well into the first of a series of dramatic nervous collapses. He was carried off and sedated with a hot water bottle.
The stage was left to alternating MC Jeff Dexter, a go-go-pixie and London disc jockey who sprawled on stage cute-as-pie in between getting the acts on and off stage. Shrilly demonic Family; rarely-seen American residents Procul Harum, playing in the shade of their past save for a rousing encore of “High School Confidential” and “Lucille” (yes, Fred, Procul Harum); the funkadelic watermelon camp of the Voices of East Harlem, self-assured that too much of a good thing was hardly enough.
At noon on Saturday John Sebastian bounced onto the stage in the same jacket he’d worn at Woodstock, for a two-hour reprise of his entire repertoire. To his and everyone else’s surprise, he was publicly reunited with Zal Yanovsky. “I hadn’t played with Zal since the group broke up,” said Sebastian afterward, “except in hotel rooms and living rooms. He’s been touring with Kris Kristofferson, you know, and a message was passed up to me on stage twice before I understood it, asking me why I didn’t ask Zal to come up. It was really weird doing those old Spoonful numbers.”
But it was a pleasant surprise for those waking up to a beautiful day and still believing in magic. Sebastian, singing a city boy’s rural tunes, the hick born and raised in Manhattan, also perculiarly refracted the spirit of this gathering of city children down on the farm. His showbiz folksiness was as spurious as the audience’s urban fantasy that they were returning to nature, but his conviction shored theirs.
“You plumb wore my ass out,” he told the audience who’s demanded three encores. “Be beautiful, take care of yourself … share with your neighbor … smoke a joint for me.”
Although Fleet Street spit and polished its fantasy of drug-crazed syphilitics, dope was not, in fact, all pervasive. Nor was all the dope, in fact, dope, as was discovered by those who’d bought curry powder advertised as hash at 15 pounds to 40 pounds an ounce, and saccharine pushed as ups at one pound each.
Although the Acid Man, described by police as “dangerous and … being shielded by the hippies,” was never apprehended, one of the few violent trippers heard from during the jamboree smashed into the Saturday afternoon performance of always-on-the-edge Joni Mitchell. Please help … please help … is it for real … Yes … God … Get him a doctor, and the folk singer looked everywhere but where it was happening until her eyes locked on the stage floor and, as he was led away, she started singing “Woodstock:”
I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going.
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock and roll band.
I’m going to camp out on the land
And try an’ get my soul free … “
Barely had she regained her delicate balance when a fat little beatnik came thrashing on stage to bellow that he had a few things to say about Desolation Row. He was grabbed by the stagehands. He got free. He grinned. And flashed the V. He was hustled off stage. Miss Mitchell tinkled her piano keys. Shouts from the audience. The singer, exasperated, told the shouters they were coming on like tourists. “My heart is just going thump – thump – thump,” she doughtily confessed at the end of her mangled set.
So, too, was Miss Vicki’s during Mr. Tim’s following set. At dusk, Miles Davis cold-shower calmed with his six-man Anglo-American band, a last-week addition to the festival.
Ten Years After, who’ve been practicing, came on honest but veered back to saucy savagery, Alvin hanging ten with his oral sex singing, “I’m Going Home,” a Frankie Avalon on acid into “Blue Suede Shoes.”
It was then announced from the stage by chirpy Jeff Dexter that passing the hat had collected 400 pounds for Release, the voluntary social welfare organization, to provide bail money for those busted for dope. By Festival’s end, the audience had contributed some 1500 pounds for the total 110 dope arrests. (The money, “in pennies and half pennies,” was still being counted by hard-pressed Release staff on Thursday, four days after the festival ended.) On the first day, 34 were arrested on drug offences, but only 20 made it into court after analysis showed that some of the over-eager dope fiends had been conned. But within 24 hours of being charged, 64 had been processed through the instant court set up on the island, and for the first time ever the island’s magistrates court sat on a Sunday to keep the fines flowing. A rule of thumb system of penalties emerged. 40 pounds for possession and 90 pounds for pushing. Those unable to pay the 40 pounds fine were given 30-day sentences. Offenders under 17, however, were offered “free pardons” if they willingly handed over their dope.
“On the whole they were just people with joints,” said a Release worker. According to Douglas Osmond, Chief Constable of Hampshire, the police were only after the “big fish.” Release’s bail fund, he said, was “deplorable … it cuts across everything we are trying to do.” But he declared the anti-dope measures — which involved sending hippie-wigged detectives to mix with the fans, and using a helicopter to catch one man running across a field — “reasonable successful.”
What Keith Emerson was flying on during the second-ever public performance of mini-supergroup Emerson, Palmer and Lake, late of Nice-Atomic Rooster – King Crimson, was undetermined. But it was a pretty heavy trip. In a sequinned blue and green bolero jacket and matching tights, Mr. Emerson, armed with Moog synthesizer, attacked Mussorgsky’s “Pictures At An Exhibition” as the Roy Lichtenstein of 1970 rock. Palmer and Lake supported him sturdily, if sheepishly, as he tossed his piano about, stabbed his piano, climbed and rode his piano. As Emerson was playing the Kremlin Bells on the Moog, you’ll never guess who he did next. Two assistants marched forth with flaming torches and stood dramatically over two small cannons which had been onstage the while. Bang.
No business like show business, baby, on through the night. The Doors, shut into their own past, dispiritedly knocked off a technically perfect tabulation of their Johnson-administration classics.
The group had chosen to play the festival, their first-ever, as the first stop on a European tour which was subsequently cancelled because of Morrison’s trial in Miami. Morrison, his eyes burned hollow, was fatigued from the previous night’s flight from Miami and under the strain of having to return to trial on Wednesday. A little assistance from Jose Feliciano would have been welcome.
The Who did a replay of Live At Leeds and sounded superb. No wonder, as their own speakers were used to boost the festival’s sound equipment. At the conclusion of their two-hour set, Keith Moon introduced Melanie, who pleased as best she could in her extroverted Laura Nyro fashion. Finally, in the early morning haze, Sly the Family Stone, wont to be the show-stopping show-closers, trooped on — minus Sister Rose, who had missed the plane — for what amounted to little more than rehearsal. Tuning up during their first numbers, they got it on with “Stand” but the exhausted audience mostly stayed put. After 45 minutes, Family Stone was overruled, left to the announcement that the arena had to be cleared and cleaned up. Booing, and an empty can plonked off Brother Freddy’s guitar.
Sunday morning the police, pushed by kids streaming out of the encampment, started to snap. The cracks in the earth under a jerry-built ferris wheel of pop culture were widening.
Although the newspapers had joyously reported that a massive invasion of special “task force” police had been imported from the mainland, the police had the last laugh, when, at festival’s end, it was revealed that at no time had there been more than 500 uniformed cops, including traffic policemen, on the island.
Chief Constable Osmond remarked to disappointed journalists that “There has been far less violence from the great majority than you get at an ordinary English football weekend.” There was also a corresponding lack of energy, even from the Hell’s Angels. Although most of the early arrivals were stripped of bikes, helmets and weapons before they got on the island, by Sunday some 40 of them built up their corporate image sufficiently to terrorize a few kids and concessionaires. This, of course was reported as a looting rampage; in fact, it was quelled in short order by the police.
But if their eruption was factually misrepresented, it was true to the paranoia prickling the gathering. At four on Sunday afternoon, the organizers announced it was now a free festival, and still the hill dwellers tore the fences down. Please, implored Jeff Dexter to those he addressed as anarchists, stop tearing town the fences, it’s free now. Yes, and they knew it, but they were only taking the iron sheets to build shelters against the encroaching winds. From the stage, however, the hippies, were huns sweeping across the plain.
Despite the well-publicized rumors of trouble on Devastation Hill, on Sunday the scene up there was a peaceful picnicking one. Thousands gazed lazily down at the panorama of the arena, getting an excellent earful of the day’s music drifting upwards. Others picked their way up the hill, past the 30 yards of jagged iron fencing (all that remained of Fiery’s attempt to close off the hill) and over the trim greens of the adjoining golf course to join the hundreds nude-bathing on the beach, and, a little self-consciously, to do their Woodstock thing.
The stage had been abandoned to Dexter some hours before, following Farr’s last freak-out, inspired by the onstage appearance of the Rev. Robert Bowyer. The priest, coordinator of the voluntary welfare services, had intended to outline a plan for broke kids stranded on the island. Fiery had agreed to provide them with enough work site-clearing to earn food and fare money, and the Rev. Bowyer wanted to tell the kids to meet in front of the stage after the festival had closed. He met catcalls and boos which provoked Farr to storm off the stage, after yet another tirade which ended: “To all the good kids who came here I say goodbye. To the rest of you, go to hell.”
An hour before, backstage, Farr, the festival’s heavy-handed fairy godfather, had rapped: “I had mixed feelings about the whole thing from the start. I just wanted to do a festival. Looking back, I guess that somebody with more self-control might have kept it together. But what really fucked me up was when all these silly pricks started calling me capitalist. When they start laying that capitalist sort of bitch on you, I see red. And then they try and couple it with the fact that three pounds for this festival is a rip-off. Well, I say they are assholes, fucking assholes. I get angry. They are just screwballs. The system doesn’t allow us to be any other way the moment. There’s no point in saying record companies will pay for it. They won’t. Groups won’t play for free. We’ve tried every way. Groups won’t even give a five percent reduction. Look, Cohen originally agreed to play for $9,000 but that was increased later. He ended being paid between $20,000 and $30,000 and he wanted most of that in advance. He puts on this trippy thing about love and peace and all that bullshit. I think Leonard Cohen is a boring old drone, and he’s overpaid, and should fuck off back to Canada. And it pisses me off that I’ve gotta introduce this … I’m full of shit and at times I haven’t been cool. I’m an incredibly emotional person. Cool people are the most insincere fuckers I’ve ever met. This was to be my fantasy and it just didn’t work out.”
Sunday’s opening acts, Good News, Kris Kristofferson — again, after being booed off the first time because of the bad sound system — Ralph McTell, Heaven, and Free, built up to the day’s first authentic star, Donovan. Resplendent in Sunday Best knee-high boots, cream linen trousers, velvet jerkin and frilled shirt, his fantasies were still in fact.
He sang of how-silly-the-politician-looks and with three blond tykes, of how-much-you-pee-when-you-wee. Joined by Mike Thomson on bass and 12-string and Jon Carr on percussion, he did what was suspected of him.
The pretty-ditties quota had evidently been reached, because following act Pentagle raised a finger to the cold wind. First they couldn’t find a sound balance, and to occupy themselves, those behind the press enclosure again went to work on the fence surrounding it. When the Algerian FLN flag was hoisted onto a speaker tower, Pentangle took the hint and split. Their manager, Joe Lustig, vowed this would be the last festival Pentangle ever played. “The damage to their reputation,” he said, “just doesn’t justify the extra bread.”
Off-again on-again Moody Blues and their imitative but never imitated symphonic rock, ushered in the dark to hardy veterans determined to see the night through. Jethro Tull and his cocktail bar flute and theatrical cacophony pleased the crowd, and sent the other musicians and the press unto the food fend backstage. Jimi Hendrix, emerging from his trailer into a barrage of light, cameras and action to escore him to the stage, put down familiar density with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass. Impassive, bored, he chewed gum throughout. Joan Baez talked about David, reported that the baby had grown six inches since she’d last seen him, and did her sweet thing. British favorite Leonard Cohen and his five-man band, the Army, tonelessly soothed the flaked-out multitudes.
Richie Havens, who opened Woodstock, closed the Isle of Wight. With Paul Williams on acoustic lead guitar, Eric Oxendine on bass and Emil Latimer on percussion, his gutsy crooning softened the dawn. He sang “Freedom” with poignant power that raised the survivors of the third Isle of Wight Festival on tip-toe. With thunderous applause, they brought him back to do “Run Shaker Life” and he sent them home. That was the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, it was announced, “You’ve all been beautiful. Even those of you who tore down the fences.”
It felt good.
It felt good the way it feels good to walk home down a quiet street after a nasty party.
At two o’clock Monday morning, immediately after Jimi Hendrix and before Joan Baez magnesium flares shot through the sky from the top of the stage. They had been carried there and set ablaze by an unidentified freak, and the entire stage looked to be burning into destruction.
In the cold and desolation, it was eerily warming and comforting. There was no fear, no panic. Maybe it would all just go up in flames. And be done with.
The golden calf of post-Beatles pop music, wounded and bleeding, had once more been worked over by the scavengers. In the beginning, its beauty for all of us was that it was the only arm of the media for us and by us. It spoke for us and we spoke through it, articulating a new order, defining our power. But to exploit, much less maintain this power, we did need those who followed us, the agents, the managers, producers, the publicity men, the promotion men, the journalists, the salesmen, the disc jockeys, the promoters, who efficiently have been picking the carcass clean.
The question is whether the Foulk brothers, sharp-toothed minnows swimming through a sea of lip-licking sharks, had bitten off more than they could chew.
Midnight Sunday, Ray Foulk paced through the loose dirt behind the stage, his eyes empty, his mouth trembling. His Brylcreemed hair was starting to coagulate into lumps, his thin tie to unknot. “I’ve lost,” he snarled with quaking voice, “faith is everything.”
What else he lost or gained, will be the key to any plans for any future “festivals.” Fiery Creations double-dealt from the start. To pacify the Isle of Wight County Council, the site’s facilities were based on the understanding that attendance would be around 100,000. If only that number of tickets had been sold. Fiery would have, by its accounts, lost 200,000 pounds, being as 50,000 pounds was claimed as the total expenditure.
By the end of the festival, but before all their returns were in Fiery said 150,000 tickets had been sold, realizing 450,000 pounds. According to Ron Foulk, the bill for the artists totaled 250,000 pounds. Hendrix fee was cited as the highest at 20,000 pounds. Sebastian, Havens, Cohen, Jethro Tull and Donovan were each said to have been paid 15,000 pounds. Baez, Miles Davis, Tiny Tim and the Who were put in the 10,000-pound bracket by Fiery. Spot checking with the artists or those involved in their management, however, revealed another set of figures. 6,000 pounds for Havens, 5,000 pounds for Sly, 5,000 pounds for the Who. Indeed all the fees Fiery claimed to have paid would be 100 percent above the individual musicians usual rates, as well as being exorbitant. But convenient to shore up their claims of heavy losses when facing creditors.
The rest of the outlay, all borrowed money, some of it hastily grabbed in the nick of time, comprised preparing the site (140,000 pounds), wages (40,000 pounds), legal and insurance expenses (30,000 pounds), and incidentals, bringing the total of 250,000 pounds.
Ron Foulk put the deficit at 50,000 pounds, but this does not take into account the proceeds yet to come in from late off-site ticket returns and Exhibition Catering, the firm “closely linked with Fiery Creations,” which supplied most of the food and drink on the site. The Foulks claim the profits from the catering concesions will be “minimal.” But the monopolistic food setup offered the 500,000 mouths little alternative to a five-day diet of Exhibition Catering’s soggy offerings.
But Fiery’s proclaimed loss may only be academic. The real bread may be hidden in 300,000 feet of film, shot by their seven camera crews. From the start it was anticipated that the big payoff could come from a film of the Festival. Directing and nominally producing is Murray Lerner, creator of Festival, the film culled from the Newport, Rhode Island, folk festivals of 1963-66. Fiery did not originally intend to make the film itself. No takers. Then Fiery tried to set up a co-production with major distribution companies, 20th Century Fox for one. No deal. So Lerner was hired and the production costs, about 100,000 pounds, was raised from Fiery funds, from Rikki Farr and local businessmen. Another 150,000 pounds will have to be spent acquiring the OK of the artists. No distribution deal has been set up, and Lerner is afraid that Woodstock will cast a heavy shadow over the film’s future.
As a major part of the film is footage shot around the island taking the temperature of the local population, the Foulks went to great lengths to disassociate themselves from the financing of the film, believing that locals would refuse to co-operate if they were indirectly lining the pockets of the “enemy.” Similarly, they were afraid that if word got around to the direct-action faction of hippies, then the camera crews might face hostility.
Another source of income could be the festival soundtrack albums taped by CBS with Teo Macero as on the spot producer. He came to the Isle of Wight under the impression that only Chicago and Miles Davis’ sets would be taped. But ended up recording the lot.
The Foulks’ trip has turned into an uneasy ride. At the moment they are in a better position than the Woodstock organizers, whose festival reportedly closed $500,000 in the red. The celluloid Woodstock has grossed over 20 million dollars at movie box offices.
Whether the Isle of Wight Festival will emerge with its own monument or with a movie memorial to all “Festivals” remains to be seen.
Whatever, the early-leaving lady was probably right when she sighed, “I think the movie will be better.”