On this day in 1970, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix (in his last ever UK appearance), Donovan, Jethro Tull, Miles Davis, Arrival, Cactus, Family, Taste, Mungo Jerry, ELP, The Doors, The Who, Spirit, The Moody Blues, Chicago, Procol Harum, Sly and the Family Stone, and Free all appeared over three days at the third Isle Of Wight Festival. Weekend tickets cost £3.
What a lineup!
At the height of the Flower Power era, hundreds of thousands of music fans came from all over the world to chill out in the fields of the Isle of Wight.
The 1970 event was by far the largest and most famous of these early festivals; indeed it was said at the time to be one of the largest human gatherings in the world, with estimates of over 600,000, surpassing the attendance at Woodstock in 1969.
The lineup captured the music of the moment with established acts as well as new breaking acts. It was the British Woodstock. But the event wasn’t all pot and peace. There were punch-ups, fires broke out, and the police had to take action when Hells Angels tried to impose their own brand of law and order.
The IOW festivals which still continue today was originally held from 1968 to 1970. These original events were promoted and organised by the Foulk brothers (Ron, Ray, and Bill) and originally were held to raise funds for the local swimming pool association.
The first IOW festival was a modest affair held in late August 1968 to a gathering of roughly 10,000. The Move, The Pretty Things, The Crazy World Of Aurthur Brown, Orange Bicycle, Jefferson Airplane, Smile (later to became Queen), Fairport Convention, and Tyrannosaurus Rex were among the acts that appeared at the first Isle Of Wight Festival held over two days. Tickets, 25 shillings, ($3.00).
The 1969 IOW (which was held 11 days after Woodstock) was notable for the appearance of Bob Dylan and The Band. This was Dylan’s first paid performance since his motorcycle accident some two years earlier, and was held at a time when many still wondered if he would ever perform again. Dylan fans from across the world made the pilgrimage to the Isle of Wight. Estimates say between 150,000 and 250,000 attended.
Dylan had planned to take a leisurely cruise from New York to England on board the QE2 but this plan was scrapped when his son injured himself boarding the ship, resulting in the Dylan family flying to the UK instead.
The lineup for 1969 was also strong – The Band, Blodwyn Pig, Blonde On Blonde, Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band, Edgar Broughton Band, Joe Cocker, Aynsley Dunbar, Family, Fat Mattress, Julie Felix, Free, Gypsy, Richie Havens, The Moody Blues, The Nice, Tom Paxton, Pentangle, The Pretty Things, Third Ear Band and The Who. Tickets 25 shillings, ($3.00). Celebrities who attended included Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Charlie Watts, John and Yoko, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Jane Fonda, Liz Taylor, and Richard Burton.
During the ’69 and ’70 events, the island struggled to cope with the extra population. Some of the more conservative residents were initially none too pleased at having their tranquil pace of life upset; there were even threats that acts would be shot when on stage.
Luckily for the artists performing, no shots were fired in the direction of the stage.
The event was revived in 2002 at Seaclose Park, a recreation ground on the outskirts of Newport. It has been held annually since that year, progressively extending itself northwards beyond Seaclose Park along the fields of the eastern Medina valley. Many notable artists have performed since its revival including The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Muse, Stereophonics, Donovan, Ray Davies, Robert Plant, David Bowie, Manic Street Preachers, The Who, R.E.M., Coldplay, The Proclaimers, Bryan Adams. and The Police.
The Isle of Wight Festivals were landmark moments for a generation – they sit alongside Glastonbury and Woodstock in the annals of festival history.
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