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

The Woburn Music  Festival.
July 6-7th 1968.

6th July. 
Afternoon show. 
Roy Harper. 
Al Stewart. 
Alexis Korner.
Shirley and Dolly Collins.

7th July.
An afternoon with Donovan.

Evening show.
Jimi Hendrix. 
Geno Washington
Tyrannosaurus Rex. 
Little Women. 
New Formula.
Evening show. 
Fleetwood Mac ( non appearance )
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. 
Champion Jack Dupree. 
Tim Rose.
Duster Bennett. 

       Woburn 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............

Saturday Afternoon.
     The line-up for the afternoon session was as follows. Alexis Korner, Shirley and Dolly Collins, Al Stewart, Roy Harper and Pentangle. However ,I think I arrived too late to see Alexis Korner , or Shirley and Dolly Collins- although I have vague memories of seeing Al Stewart, who, I am ashamed to say, I rather liked in those days, even owning Bedsitter Images at one time , but time has changed this opinion and thankfully, has also rid me of the album .
       For a change, it was a very pleasant , sunny day , the area was not particularly full  and I found myself a little patch of vacant grass pretty close to the stage and settled down to watch Mr Roy Harper - who in those days was relatively smooth looking , minus most of his hair and facial adornments, -  amble through most of the tunes from his album. Folkjokeopus - Sgt Sunshine, She's the One ,Exercising Some Control , all great songs. Unfortunately he then decided to finish the set with the very lengthy McGoohans Blues, which although a good song, is 18 minutes long and was just not up-tempo enough for a festival setting. A couple of years later, I was to witness Roy nailing the crowd against the wall at Loughborough Uni with a superb set of later tunes and superlative, ferocious guitar playing, but not on this occasion. A nice set , but for me his time was yet to come.

   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  !.

      So overall , a pleasant  lazy, laid back afternoon, with not all that many people attending and no real high points, these were to come later on......
      They turfed us all out of the arena at the end of the session and I had to queue up again to get back in, as a consequence , because those who didn't attend the first session were at the head of the queue, by the time I got back in I could not get right down the front of the stage, so I did the next best thing and managed to secure a spot sitting on the fence on the right hand side  , about 20 feet or so from the stage. As the sides of the arena were not all that wide , this was a plumb place to be . How I actually managed to sit on the fence I can't remember , but it was comfortable and no one threw me off.
      After a while a couple of real freaks came over and began eying me on my perch seated above everyone else. They were both shaggy haired , wearing bandanas and one of them sported a cut off Afghan coat.  They asked if they could share my spot and since there was plenty of room , I said, yeah, come on up, no problems . We struck up a conversation and had quite a good rapport going by the end of the evening, with the freaks sharing their experiences of seeing Hendrix and other bands at Middle Earth and The Marquee club in Soho.

       Finally its show time and its the band we've all been waiting for.......
New Formula !
What the ...who the hell are these guys?
Well, from memory they were a bleeding awful sweet soul group and NOBODY liked them. You have to feel sorry for this band , they were given an awful reception . Slow hand clap, whistles, shouts of piss off  I have a vivid memory of some tousle haired Marc Bolan clones down the front throwing toilet rolls at the lead singer, and after a while the band retired hurt. So much for the generation of love .

       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.
Roger Chapman .
Jim King. 

       Roger Chapman ! 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 slight. Bolan 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. 

  The bill was a pretty eclectic one, veering wildly into the realms of pseudo soul , far out psychedelic rock, psychedelic folksy rock and back to genuine, get down and dance-to-the -music SOUL - in the form of Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band.
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.
    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
Tax Free
Red House
Foxy Lady
Voodoo Child (slight return)
Purple Haze
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.

       Still, after all that , there were practicalities to deal with, such as
 This last item was not going to be easy to solve, I had no tent, no sleeping bag, only a thin coat , there was no sign of any buses, very few cars were leaving the festival, all the food outlets were closed, the railway station was 12 miles away and it was getting pretty chilly. All in all typical organization that accompanied a Rock festival.( and yes I know it was June but this was a British summer, it can get cold at nights).

       I was just about to steel myself to the fact that I would have to walk 12 miles alone through the pitch black countryside , when who should materialize out of the night but my German friend Gunter ! Talk about a coincidence ! He had enjoyed the concert too and now wanted to hike back to town , as he wasn't going to the next days shows. Well, the big G was as good a travelling companion as any I was going to get that night, so off we went on our marathon walk.

  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.

    By the time the train arrived in the morning I was more than ready to catch it. Strangely , there was no sign of Gunter, god knows where he ended up. I expected to see him pop up again during the journey, but no, I had finally lost him. It was only a thirty mile journey from Woburn to Letchworth, but given the state of British public transport on a Sunday morning , by the time I actually got to Letchworth it was 1.00 pm ! Four hours to go thirty miles ! By this time the weather had deteriorated too and it was looking like rain. My uncle did not offer me a lift to get back to the festival ( of course they had all been worried sick about me , etc, etc, blah,blah.) and by the time I would have managed to get back to the festival site it would have been around 8.00 pm and quite frankly , I was tired out after the long walk and the freezing night and I doubt if I could have managed to get them to let me go again anyway. So the ticket for Sunday was completely wasted. I suppose I should just have stayed at Woburn in the first place ,but my Uncle wasn't on the phone, and I was a dutiful kid in those days and I didn't want to get them worried about me .

       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)

  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (0:42)
  • Fire (3:18)
  • Tax Free (10:10)
  • Red House (10:17)
  • .Foxy Lady (4:12)
  • Voodoo Child (6:05)
  • .Purple Haze (8:00)
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At Woburn was released on 28 July 2009 and is only available mail-order from $15

7 July, 1968
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!

Mike Godwin

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