The Significance, or not, of Woodstock

Well, seeing as how this year is the 35th anniversary of Woodstock (do I really need to put “’69” in there?) it is interesting to read the yearly tributes and debates about what Woodstock really meant. Was it a blessed out hippie utopia or a drugged-out, youth-culture rip-off or just a really big concert? I am certainly not debating the significance of the event as I believe it was a watershed rock and roll event but it is interesting what Rolling Stone magazine wrote about the Woodstock triple album when it was released in their July 9th, 1970 issue. Check this out courtesy of the Bomp Refugees List and obviously not reprinted courtesy of Rolling Stone Magazine:

Bill hadn’t been to Woodstock that August weekend the summer before,
although Plattsburgh, his home, was less than 300 miles due north on
the Northway. He’d gone drinking at Filion’s Friday night, and when
he awakened terribly hungover the next afternoon, as did most of his
18-year-old buddies, it was too late to make the trip down to Bethel.
You couldn’t have convinced anyone in the months that ensued,
however, that not only was Bill not *at* the Music and Art Show in
the alfalfa fields, but that he hadn’t also played some integral part
in the whole proceeding – a dope runner for the Airplane, perhaps
(“Hey, Bill, you got a bomber?” Grace, resplendent in white, tits
high and firm, asked him standing behind the giant platform as the
Who finished up their set with the sun edging orange up the mountain
from its resting place), or a candy bar for Jerry Garcia. Bill
believed, too, and if pressed he had a whole Abbie Hoffman Rap about
the “actuality” of being there not actually being the important
thing, but only a minor side trip.

“I *live* in the Woodstock nation,” Bill told people when the topic
came up, “If you can dig it. I mean how many were actually there. You
don’t know. We’ll never know. But it doesn’t make any difference. The
Woodstock actuality has become a media trip. That’s where it’s at.
More cameras, writers, and that kind of shit than at Kennedy’s
funeral. Like the people on the outside probably knew more than those
who were actually there. What it’s come down to is Woodstock Nation,
and Woodstock Nation, man, is in your head if you want it to be.”

Probably. But Bill still knew a whole lot about the Music Show
itself, and took great pains to seek out said information. he had
clippings, articles, ads, the illustrious *Life* Magazine Special
Edition, *Rolling Stone’s Woodstock,* the *Village Voice* issue, and
now in late spring had seen the move three times at four bucks a
throw, and also had the album committed to memory. His head, in fact,
was a living monument to the whole Woodstock thing, even down to the
little things. Somehow Bill had found someone who had some of the
infamous “brown acid.” He paid ten bucks for the tab so that he could
find out “what was going down.” True to form, he took it the second
time he saw *Woodstock.*

“Man, that brown acid at Woodstock was a real bummer,” he told
assorted freaks at assorted gatherings. “A real bummer. Knocked me
out for hours. Paranoia personified.”

As time passed, Bill became more assertive in such situations. No one
now bothered to question him directly as to whether he had been
there, but merely what it was like. Bill went along with them because
he felt he really knew what it was like.

“Cocker was crazy, man, beautiful. And Alvin Lee, wow.”

“Were there really a lot of naked people,” a far out chick asked
handing him a joint, “like cunt and cock and everything?”

“Well,” Bill would smile, “you saw the movie didn’t you?”


“What else do you want to know?”

“Far out.”

Woodstock was now the new American Dream, a pipe dream, how it had
been those three glorious days of sun and rain, mud and music, and
the 500,000 patriots whose ranks were growing day by day, patriots of
Woodstock “flying their freak flags high,” Groupies, the Dope, and
good ol’ Rock & Roll, and the national anthem, understood for the
first time by Hendrix and his buzz saw guitar. It was all coming home
to rest now, and Bill, like many, was proud to stand up and be
counted, for his own People, for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of
Happiness, for his Country. Woodstock Nation was a reality.

So it was, until one night at a party in West Chazy when the
conversation once more found its way to Woodstock as it always did
whenever Bill happened to show. Bill dropped facts and recollections
amidst the circle of listeners who sat rapt about him like Leary
dropped acid. They all shook their heads at the good dope being
passed and at the general incredulity of the whole Woodstock affair.
But they believed. That is, all but one believed, and this one hairy
ragamuffin of hipdom lay back against a sofa, hitting on his own
kief, and cooly taking in Bill’s polished exposition. He listened for
a long time. At some point, indiscernible to the rest of the
gathering, he apparently had head enough.

“Hey man,” he said, leaning his well-coiffed head into the
circle. “Did you ever understand what happened down front just before
the Band went on?”

Bill looked up and smiled.

“No, I wasn’t there when that happened. I must have been somewhere
else. What happened?”

“I don’t know. I was sitting about 50 yards out.” The kid leaned back
out again.

Bill eyed him for a moment and then continued on from the point where
he had disengaged. He had his stuff down.

Seconds later however, the kid again poked his head inside the circle.

“What happened, man, when that weird rumor…”

“About Dylan showing up?” Bill cut him off in stride.

“No, man, that was a media hype. No, the rumor just before Creedence
Clearwater went on about the latrines?”

Bill looked at the kid again and didn’t answer for the longest time.
And then it was only a reticent shrug.

“Well, where, man, did you take a dump after that? Where’d you spend
most of your time?”

Everyone turned and looked at Bill, but Bill had nothing to say, no
one to look at, nowhere to go.

“I mean,” the kid went on, driving his point home, “when I arrived,
the can situation, and that strange tale, well, it was weird. Right?
You do remember that, don’t you?”

“Sure, but…”

“Did you fork out any bread to get in?”

“No,” Bill answered, looking down at the flickering candle, “but…”

“Did you get back to Leon’s down the…”

“Groovy Way?”

“Wrong direction, man, wrong direction.”

There was a silence, a certain moment of embarrassment because now
everyone knew. Bill didn’t look up.

“You’re right, though,” the kid finally said, “the movie was pretty
far out. But it wasn’t like being there. Nothing was like being
there.” A second silence followed, and then the kid turned to the far
out chick. “Hey, you got anything to drink or eat, man? This is your
place, isn’t it?”

“Yeh,” someone echoed, and in seconds the crowd was on its feet,
eager to be up and away. Everyone but Bill. He was still on the floor
staring into the flame. The rest of the gang trooped into the kitchen.


“Look, man, it was clear he hadn’t been there if you’d been there.”

“And you’d been there,” the girl said.

“Yeh. Anyone who had would have known immediately he was shucking us.
It was obvious, if you knew.”

“Sure, maybe, but dig where it’s at. Two wrongs don’t necessarily
make a right, as my grandmother used to tell me, if there were even
two wrongs. You know what I mean?”

“But look. He’d been sold a bill of goods, man, a product that had
little to do with anything except money, and that’s what he was
selling. What, I’m supposed to feel bad for coming down on him for
fucking around with us? He’s an asshole, it’s that simple. I mean,
like he really believes it, and that’s weird.”

“Apparently you believe it too. Perhaps more so than Bill. But then
you *were* there. You are Woodstock Nation, and if it’s come down to
this, then that’s sad. That’s why there will never really be a
Woodstock Nation. You won’t let anybody live on your land. You were
there. Bill wasn’t. Bang bang. Sad. It’s too bad you didn’t remember
what Dylan said.”


“‘Those dreams are only in your head.'” She turned and walked away.
At the door she paused and looked back at the kid, and smiled. “‘I’ll
let you be in my dreams, if I can be in yours.'”

By J.R. Young

Groovy huh?