The Archive: A History of UK Rock Festivals
updated November 2009 : Hendrix performance finally made available
setlists and recording info
For information on today's festivals see eFestivals.co.uk
The Woburn Music Festival.
July 6-7th 1968.
Fleetwood Mac ( non appearance )
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.
Champion Jack Dupree.
was my first rock festival and the first time I saw the inexpressibly wonderful
Jimi Hendrix. At the time I was a total fan of the
British blues bands such as MayalI and Fleetwood
Mac. I and most of my mates were into the blues in a BIG WAY, so when
we saw the Woburn bash advertised in the Melody Maker it was an instant flash
that we HAD to attend, Mayall, Fleetwood Mac , Hendrix , over two days , what
red blooded blues freak could resist the pull of such a bill ?
Well , as we were only 16, the parents of any red blooded blues freak could resist for one thing. I was supposed to go with my friend Andy, and we had both bought tickets, but for all that he wore a Raymond Chandler style trench coat 30 years before it had any significance- he got cold feet , or his mum got cold feet for him ,so I ventured alone into the wilds of deepest Hertfordshire. Somehow I persuaded my parents to let me go alone , with the proviso that I stayed overnight at my Uncle Jack's place in Letchworth - which was a good 30 miles away. Well the ad said there would be buses too and from the site didn't it ? So it would be a snip for me to get back 30 miles after the show and then return the next day wouldn't it mum ? Or so the line went which I sold to my parents , god knows why they bought it , but consent they did and I was soon Woburn bound , by a combo of bus and train and on my lonesome .......
It was on the train that I met Gunter the German. For some
reason he decided to pick me as a companion , I suppose I might have looked
harmless or something. I certainly wasn't much of a hippy at the time , parental
suppression having curbed the extent of my hair length and I believe I may have
still been wearing those god awful heavy rimmed tortoise shell glasses that
they foistered on us poor bespectacled geeks in the 60s . I hope I wasn't ,
but since there are no photos of me from that era I may well have been.
Anyway, Gunter, - who definitely was somewhat geek like too, with heavy glasses and a tweed jacket or something similar- took a shine to me for some reason and introduced himself to me in broken English So , to the festival you are going ? he declared , Jimi Hendrix, he is the king , yes ? Or along those lines anyway.
Unfortunately I -due to my innate British reserve, or just perhaps due to the fact that I was an opinionated teen who, even though I was not any sort of Jim Morrison , at least thought if myself as less nerd-like than this guy , who was barely able to communicate with me - was not really overwhelmed by his overtures of friendship and though we made some sort of communication on the train and afterwards on the bus to the site, I determined to ditch him as soon as was deemed polite, as talking to him was a bit of a strain. Now, as I look back, I consider I was a low scumbag, who could have been a hell of a lot more hospitable to someone who was probably rather lonely - and although I looked down on Gunter, he could speak two languages, whereas I could only speak one .
Anyway, the bus ride was a long one ,but as the ancient coach chugged through the verdant English countryside, it did not occur to me that there might not be any transport back after the show finished. Nah, they're bound to put on special trains and coaches aren't they ? I reassured myself as I stepped off the bus into the crowds of long hairs and flower power hordes that thronged the entrance. See ya Gunter, I gotta go find some friends I lied to my companion as I rapidly sidled off into the protective custody of the crowd. Well, I soon got rid of him I thought smugly as I plunged headlong towards the front - little did I know , I was counting my chickens before they had hatched............
|Pentangle were the last band of the afternoon session and again I was not knocked out by their on-stage act. They really were not the ideal sort of band for a large festival. For a start, folk bands were often not really amplified loudly enough in those days. All it needed was a reasonable breeze and the wind blew the sound away and Pentangle's rather soft sound suffered badly at an outdoor venue. Although I love the individual members, each in their own ways masters of their craft - and I was a big Bert Jansch and John Renbourne fan - they were just too quiet to capture my attention in this least intimate of settings. Now of course I fully appreciate how good they are, if nothing else , I'd love to hear their set again just to pick up on Danny Thompson on bass. I wasn't aware of how good this guy can be until I heard him on John Martyn's Solid Air a few years later, pure genius !.|
New Formula !What the ...who the hell are these guys?
The next band were Family and they were phenomenal . I can't remember whether I was already a Family fan or not, I do remember rushing out to the store to get the release of the first album , so I may have already been familiar with their work, but this was something out of this world.
! This guy was so frigging MANIC
on-stage, grabbing the mic stand so tightly that he might have been strangling
it, cords on the neck strained so tight that it was a wonder he didn't burst
a blood vessel, the sounds ( and what sounds) issuing forth from his giant gob
like they were under the most intense pressure, his voice, a combination of
a throttled sheep on steroids, James Brown,
Howling Wolf and Eartha
Kitt all wrapped up in one , it just floored me
- Chappo was unique.
And the rest of the band! Jim King blowing his brains out on sax, John Whitney on searing lead and steel guitar, Ric Grech on bass and occasional violin and the excellent Rob Townsend on drums , simultaneously elegant and threatening. This was the best line up I saw of Family, and they had a great range of songs, most from their first highly under rated album Music from a Dolls House, songs like - Hey Mr Policeman, Me My Friend, Old Songs New Songs - they were BRILLIANT and many in the audience thought so too.
Tyrannosaurus Rex were fun, if
strummed and churned out his fey little songs with predictable charm and
Steve Took provided
nice little edges with his bongos. Tyrannosaurus
Rex were the staple of many festivals at the
time , archetypal hippies, they enjoyed a certain sort of vogue with a certain
sort of freak. I have to confess I was not one of them. I just did not like
their style. In this mystical , faery fey genre , I always preferred
the Incredible String Band,
who although possessing fey tendencies - had an underlying
hard core of quality to their songs which I always felt was
lacking in Bolan's work, so although I mildly enjoyed the Rex, they
were not essential listening for me.
Having said that, Bolan and Took went down very well with the audience , so I am probably in the minority here - but after the concentrated madness that was Family this just seemed anticlimactic.
These guys laid it down in the alley and, in contrast to the ill fated Little Women, the crowd loved every note of their act . This was the real thing , but above all , it was dance music and it meant that the crowd could get loose and enjoy themselves. The use of a good gutsy horn section to punctuate vocal chorus's also really pushed the music out there and the fact that Geno was a damn good front man also helped more than somewhat. The band were all gussied up in over the top stage clothes - this was an ACT in every sense of the word and it set the stage more than nicely for the top of the bill, Mr James Marshall Hendrix.
- Geno Washington - vocals
- Pete Gage - guitar
- Lionel Kingham - saxophone
- Buddy Beadle - saxophone
- Jeff Wright - organ
- John Roberts- bass guitar
- Herb Prestidge - drums
|Now almost everything that can be said about Jimi's performance has been said on the excellent Univibes pages on the Woburn festival, so I'll reserve my comments to saying that I thought this show was just exquisite. Whether the inclusion of Geno Washington on the bill was a deliberate act by the promoters to give the crowd an idea of the sort of bands that Jimi used to play with , I don't know, but whether it was or not, it certainly put the audience into a great mood and they were more than enthusiastic about the Hendrix set , which was the only Hendrix concert in the UK in 1968.|
Although the Univibes site rates the show as average ,they are not able to see what went down on-stage , which was pretty outrageous, with Jimi playing the guitar with his teeth , grinding his axe between his legs and generally doing all the things that got the girls horny for him . Given all of that , for a first time Hendrix viewer like myself , it was a fantastic visual experience and the music certainly seemed great too. The guys with me had seen Jimi before and were raving about the set , there was rapturous applause as he left the stage and as we streamed off into the night there was a nice satisfied feeling in the pit of my stomach and my head was full of his wild guitar pyrotechnics and stage act. Those images have stayed with me over these 40 odd years and are still fresh, he delivered in a big way for me and a lot of others too.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Voodoo Child (slight return)
another source that I spotted years ago also included Wild thing and Stone Free as part of the set . But this is probably not accurate.
One thing at least, it was warmer walking . We discussed the days show as much as we could given my almost total ignorance of German and Gunters minimal command of English and came to the conclusion that overall it had been a total gas ! It was a weird walk , a very calm , chill night, with lots of stars. I remember it being absolutely pitch dark as we walked under some of the oak trees that lined the road and thinking I was glad I had some company as it would have been really spooky being alone . At one time Gunter took a detour into a turnip field and dug up some of its contents and ate them raw. He offered me some but I declined. The soil on them tended to put me off. Every now and again a car passed but after an hour they too dried up completely. When we arrived at glorious Flitwick , the hamlet that contained the railway station, at around 2 am, it was to find the station closed, no place whatsoever to keep warm in , not even a bus shelter and the first train due at 6.30 am. Then the wind started to get going and the temperature dropped by a good 10 degrees ( or at least that's what it felt like)
Somehow Gunter disappeared , I know not where he went . All I know was that I spent the rest of the night alone. I tried sleeping - first in a phone box, (which is not easy when you are six foot 2 inches tall, or even when you are five foot , as the damn things are only about three foot wide ) -and then in a shop doorway. I was just dropping off when a torch shone in my face. A village policeman. He was quite nice really. He didn't fleece me for drugs ( I didn't have any , I was innocent then ) and he was polite and sympathized that I had nowhere to stay but he said I couldn't sleep in the doorway or in the phone box. However, he also intimated that as long as I moved around every now and then he wasn't going to harass me . But by that time I was thoroughly awake again anyway.
It was a long cold night.
So that was my first festival. Regarding the Sunday show - apparently Fleetwood Mac did not turn up, due to other commitments, and the whole Sunday show was wet and badly attended, but I still wish I had been there, as I never got to see Mayall live again and the Bare Wires band line-up was a particularly good one. Apparently there is a sound board recording of the Hendrix, Family and Geno Washington sets from the Saturday which may be released as a CD and it is even rumoured that the Hendrix show was filmed using three cameras. Who knows ,perhaps both of these precious artefacts will be released one day and the whole world will be free to grok to these remnant parts of my first ever rock festival.
Recordings and Setlists.
The soundboard recordings are SOLD !
A rare 1⁄4 inch reel-to-reel master soundboard tape recording of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and others performing at the Woburn Music Festival, Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, England, 6-7 July, 1968 ,was offered for sale at Christies. The price realised was £48,050, which probably means that either the music will disappear into a collection or be eventually offred for sale commercially . Now the Hendrix estate has fianlly released the Woburn set ( whoopee !) , perhaps they will see fit to get the rest of the music out into the wider arena as well.
The recording was made on a 2-track mono Ampex reel on a professional Revox deck, running time 127:58 minutes, running order:
6 July, 1968
Family (29:13 minutes)
Geno Washington (18:05 minutes)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience (48:22 minutes)
Taste (23:21 minutes)
This is the earliest professional live recording of this Taste line-up known to exist. After finishing the first song of his set, Rory Gallagher says Thank You 16 times!
Tim Rose (8:57 minutes)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience show at Woburn was professionally recorded on a 7.5 ips, 2-track, mono, reel-to-reel tape. It is not known who actually recorded this tape but the master tape was stored in a small studio in London, where it sat on the shelves among a wall of tapes. In the early 1970s, the studio went bust and an employee rescued some of the tapes before they were destroyed. Additionally, a film crew was present to record the event. Nothing is known of the whereabouts of this footage, but if such footage were to surface it would be an incredible find and a wonderful companion to the recording offered here.
I spoke to my mate who
was at Woburn festival with me, and he remembered that Donovan sang 'Preaching
Love' and 'The Retired Writer in the Sun' and said that the rest of the set
was largely the same as the 'Donovan in Concert' album recorded the same year
(for example, I seem to remember that Donovan sang 'Rules and Regulations').
My mate also thought that the band would have been the same line-up as that
record, with (notably) Harold McNair on flute.
We only saw that afternoon of the whole festival, which apparently wasn't as wet the whole afternoon as I recall!
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