“Take Off to Woodstock” takes a look back at the enduring symbol for a generation and its dream

By on April 22, 2019

“For three magical days in 1969, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair was a ‘rock ‘n’ roll city’ half a million strong,” says Night Flight’s Pat Prescott in our flashback to an ’80s-era “Take Off to Woodstock,” which we’ve found embedded in this syndicated 1992 episode of “Night Flight,” now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

“Woodstock became an enduring symbol for a generation and its dream,” Ms. Prescott continues in what we think just may be one of the headiest retro-television experiences you’ll ever see.

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Before we forget, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, and tickets go on sale today, Monday, April 22nd, for the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair 2019, which will be held later this year — August 16, 17 & 18, 2019 — at Watkins Glen, New York. (Oops, officially canceled as of July 31st).

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This three day event is being put on by Michael Lang, one of the co-founders of Woodstock and Night Flight’s friend, who recently said this:

“Woodstock 1969 was a reaction by the youth of its time and the conditions we faced. We proved that it is possible to live together in harmony and with compassion…with only our best selves represented. Woodstock gave people around the world hope, which is why I think it remains relevant today.”

For more info — see above, it’s been cancelled — check out Woodstock 2019’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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We begin with a psychedelicized performance of “Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix, the highest paid performer at Woodstock. He closed the festival with what we’re told was “an incandescent set which signaled the emergence of the Aquarian Age.”

Next up, we’re shown the Grateful Dead performing their rare FM radio hit “Truckin’,” an excerpt from The Grateful Dead Movie.

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We’re then shown footage of Texas-born Janis Joplin‘s “booze-soaked wailings,” singing “Tell Mama,” which Ms. Prescott tells us “secured her reputation as white soul sister number one.”

Then, the big brains at Night Flight decided to share an excerpt of the Who‘s “My Generation” from the Monterey Pop Festival instead of Woodstock.

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“The Woodstock roster was a ‘Who’s Who’ of countercultural icons,” Ms. Prescott continues, “but it also made superstars of a new generation of rock heroes. One of those new stars was Joe Cocker, who got a little help from his friends.”

We’re shown a newer video, Cocker’s “Shelter Me,” the lead-off track from his tenth studio album, Cocker, released in April 1986.

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We’re also treated to John Fogerty’s “Change in the Weather,” CSNY‘s “American Dream,” and Robbie Robertson’s video for “Showdown at Big Sky.”

Ms. Prescott tells us that Robertson became the Band‘s “biggest star” (personally, he’s our fifth favorite member of that group).

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We’re told Santana were paid “a mere seven hundred dollars” to play Woodstock, and are shown their version of “Black Magic Woman,” which was written by British guitarist Peter Green back in 1968.

You can read more about Santana at Woodstock in this previously-published Night Flight blog.

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Read more about the Woodstock Arts & Music Festival below.

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The original 1969 Woodstock festival was held some 43 miles away from the original planned site on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskills, near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, NY.

Several years ago, we posted a blog (“By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong: August 15, 1969“) about the festival’s many delays and problems.

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Here’s an excerpt:

Word was by now spreading out across the country that this wasn’t just going to be a concert, this would going to be a cultural event: “Head north on the New York State Thruway, get off on Exit 16, take the Quickway west , and look for the signs to the show.”

Literally thousands of mostly teens and twenty-somethings across the country began making plans to meet up; no self-respecting member of the counter-culture wanted to miss this one, it was going to be epic.

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The corporation — with an on-scene staff of 346 — still had a lot of work to do, scrambling to figure out where people were going to park their cars.

They also continued working with NY State police to figure out what they were going to do about crowd control (helping to get a 1967 regulations against “moonlighting” for police overturned so they could have enough cops on-hand), dealing with the local Hog Farm Commune, who agreed to assist with security.

The commune had originally planned to have their own “please force” (a pun on police force), and run a free food stand, as well as have an on-sight treatment center for concertgoers who had bad acid trips.

The Hog Farm were devout followers of the free love movement, and their peaceful and brotherly manner helped to set the tone for what happened, right from the beginning.

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By now, just days before the concert, young people started to arrive from all over the country, in cars and pickup trucks and station wagons and buses and motorcycles and moon buggies and hearses.

Townspeople stood on the curbs in the surrounding villages and watched as a veritable army of semi-naked hippies and bearded freaks rolled into their town in the rolling hills of the Hudson River Valley.

It is estimated that about 500,000 people actually made it to the Woodstock Festival, but police had to turn away thousands of cars, so who knows how many made the attempt but didn’t actually get to attend.

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Read more here.

Watch Night Flight’s “Take Off to Woodstock” on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.