Recalling Three Days of Peace, Music - and Merchandising
August 02, 2009
By Rick Chase, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa
She stood in front of the stage, wearing flower power sandals and a
pseudo tie-dyed maxi dress with fringed vest.
Reflected in the colored lights were her peace sign earrings and
necklace under a floppy hat. From the speakers came a song
reminiscent of a time 40 years ago, when more than 400,000 people
gathered in a cow pasture in New York state for the seminal musical
event of the 1960s.
The young woman I saw had not been born at the time of the original
Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Her fashion statement, called
"rebellious casual" by today's designers, was a powerful reminder of
the historic impact Woodstock and the 1960s continue to have on
music, fashion and pop culture.
The Woodstock Music Festival was billed as "3 Days of Peace and
Music." Now, 40 years later, the slogan might read "3 Days of Love,
Music and Merchandising."
Tie dyes, peace symbols, paisley and peace signs are emblazoned
everywhere -- along with fringe and anything else that can be lumped
under the umbrella of "hippies, late '60s and Woodstock."
Beyond fashion, there are Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix paper dolls,
psychedelic origami project kits and an explosion of T-shirts. Text
of Wavy Gravy's vow to feed 400,000 for breakfast and warnings about
bad acid pop up on anything that can be screen printed.
The "three days" slogan can be found on paper plates at family
reunion picnics this summer as well as poster reprints and the mug
filled with your morning coffee.
Arnold Skolnick's logo of the dove on a guitar is commonplace,
adorning products from the T-shirts to an infant's Onesie, bookmarks,
magnets and 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles.
Merchandisers and marketers have jumped en masse on the Woodstock
bandwagon, much in the same way crowds trampled security fences
around the festival site on Max Yasgur's farm so many years ago.
At first, it may seem strange that what turned out to be a free
concert event would spark such a flood of products, but remember
Woodstock began as a for-profit event. The eventual soundtrack album
and theatrical movie release were ways for investors to attempt to
recoup their losses.
Surprisingly, 40 years ago there was no official merchandise or
festival marketing. No T-shirts, flying discs or Sly Stone bobble
heads. Memorabilia eventually traded and sold on the collectors'
market from the festival were actual artifacts.
Original tickets, in several versions, sell for $35-150. Vintage
posters, depending on whether for the original canceled locales or
the eventual site, can sell for $150 to $2,250. First-run movie
posters can fetch $20-$150 or more. The festival programs -- which
didn't make it to the site until after the festival ended because of
traffic jams -- fetches more than $100.
Life and Rolling Stone magazines are valued at $10-$60. Those
fortunate enough to have official staff T-shirts, parking passes or
identification cards can easily sell them to collectors. Even Max
Yasgur milk bottles have found a place in collectors' curio cabinets.
Times change. Today, marketing is a self-perpetuating beast. If you
can't slap an official logo on it, you might as well use a peace
sign, originally used by the movement for British nuclear
disarmament, or the two-fingered "V" sign that originally meant
victory before being adopted by the antiwar movement.
There are dozens of Woodstock-related books on the shelves. Everybody
wants to record their take on history or rewrite somebody else's views.
New volumes include "The Road To Woodstock," by festival organizer
Michael Lang. This book, along with "Back to the Garden: The Story of
Woodstock" by noted disc jockey Pete Fornatale, present the festival
from multiple perspectives.
If pictures and splashy graphic treatments are your bag, check out
"Woodstock: Three Days That Rocked the World," edited by Mike Evans
and Paul Kingsbury, with forward by Martin Scorsese. Full of
excellent photography, quotes and performer timelines, it can be
opened to any page and enjoyed.
The pot at the end of the rainbow of the Woodstock marketing blitz
has to be reissues of the original music and film.
The original three-album audio set has been expanded and reissued. In
fact, there are two-, six- and 10-CD sets on the shelves boasting
previously unreleased material. Artists who balked at making money
from their efforts 40 years ago have seen the light at the end of
their checking account's routing codes, and are allowing inclusion of
The two-tape, VHS version of the 1970 theatrical film ran 184 minutes
with 13 performers. The new reissued DVD set has thankfully been
remastered as a four-hour release with at least 20 performers.
With an additional three hours of footage, the set is housed in a
groovy, leather-fringed box filled with booklets and other goodies,
available in either DVD or Blu-Ray formats.
For a few extra dollars, a set limited to 25,000 copies with even
more extras is sold in a storage drum. Go figure!
There is still plenty of unreleased music and video from Woodstock in
the vaults -- so we can do it all over again for the 50th anniversary in 2019.
Various Artists - 'Woodstock Generation: A 40th Anniversary Trip'
July 29th, 2009
As the name implies, Woodstock Generation is a collection of tracks
celebrating the artists who helped make Woodstock the music festival
of all music festivals. This 10-track sampler does not include any of
the original 'Stock performances, but rather a set of alternate takes
and live performances from other shows. Canned Heat's "Going Up The
Country" could be the definitive Woodstock song, but is presented
here as a studio outtake, and lacks the grit of the Woodstock and
Canned Heat Cookbook versions. The sitar wizardry of Ravi Shankar
always dazzles, and "Peace Descends (Raga Yaman Manj)" is a sparkling
foray into that wondrous instrument. Roger Daltrey goes orchestral,
performing The Who's classic "See Me, Feel Me" with the London
Symphony Orchestra. This string-laden take won't be everyone's cup of
tea, but it demonstrates Daltrey's vocal prowess beyond the 100-watt
bludgeoning of Marshall stacks that made The Who so loud and lovable.
A live version of Santana's percussion tour de force "Soul Sacrifice"
makes sense here, but including the Grateful Dead's "Touch Of Grey"
a song that wasn't recorded until 1987 doesn't really fit the vibe
or the time. Top billing here goes to Johnny Winter, who unleashes a
positively furious "Black Cat Bone," belting out blistering slide
licks and making his guitar scream like a cat thrown into water. John
Sebastian And The J-Band take some liberties on their cover of
"Statesboro Blues," but it's a stompin' back-porch effort that would
make Blind Willie McTell smile. Wavy Gravy's "Basic Human Needs,"
backed with a children's choir, is a utopian bloom of folk idealism
that ran through the lifeblood of Woodstock and that generation, if
only for a brief couple of years.