It’s said that Woodstock was remarkable, not for what happened but for what didn’t happen, the expected mayhem. As the festival closed to Hendrix’s never- to-be-equalled free jam of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, nobody was thinking of what else didn’t happen, such as the huge bands that didn’t make it.
So, for your pleasure, Hong Kong Beat offers the Woodstock 69 MIA Festival of bands who were invited (or might or might not have been invited, some of the memories of organizers are a little fuzzy from back then) but either turned it down or didn’t make it. The song choices are of course mine, but as these were all songs in their catalogues from before Woodstock, it’s a good bet they would have been played, if they had been there. Continue reading to the end and click on Max Yasgur’s farm to go to the mix-tape.
The Young Rascals – They were big at the time and ‘Grooving’ was a summer of love anthem, but turned it down to work on their new album.
Tommy James & The Shondells – Another big summer of love band with ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’, but turned it down when they were told “Yeah, listen, there’s this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.”
Chicago Transit Authority – Were billed to play but their promoter pulled them out for a gig at Filmore West the same weekend, and substituted new act Santana instead. I loved CTA in those days, but thank you Bill Graham for pushing Santana’s breakout that weekend. I’ve seen Chicago twice, and Santana three times since then 😀
Blues Image – Another big band of the summer of love, but their manager convinced them not to play because of the rain and chaotic roads.
Jeff Beck Group – Booked but broke up week before apparently because he didn’t want Woodstock to be a memorial for the band.
The Byrds – Felt burned out by festivals already that summer and didn’t think it was going to be a big issue, together with concerns over payment. Later said they regretted their decision.
Jethro Tull – Ian Anderson had an aversion to “drugged out hippies” and was “put off by naked women, unless the time is right”, also saying he didn’t want to “spend the weekend in a field full of unwashed hippies.” Played Isle of Wight two weeks later though…
The Moody Blues – Were originally billed to play but had a clash with a gig in Paris.
James Taylor – Was considered but was under contract to the Beatles label, Apple, and his appearance didn’t pan out when the Beatles hoped for appearance fell through.
Joni Mitchell – Wanted to be there and was originally planned to play but her manager advised against it in case she missed the Dick Cavett TV show a few days after.
Simon & Garfunkel – Were invited but turned it down as they were too busy. Art was in the middle of filming Catch-22 and the duo were busy getting songs together for Bridge Over Trouble Water. They can be forgiven for missing Woodstock on both counts.
The Doors – Jim Morrison was reported to have agoraphobia and a fear of being shot. Later the band said that it was because they thought it would be a second class Monterey Pop Festival.
Spirit – They were an influential West Coast band of the 60s, who were headlining supported by Led Zep just a few months before (and who may have been the “inspiration” for ‘Stairway to Heaven’). Were invited but declined to instead launch a promotional tour.
Rolling Stones – Some reports say they weren’t invited because, when first approached, Mick said he was too busy filming ‘Ned Kelly’ in Australia. A huge mistake, on both counts.
Iron Butterfly – Billed and were on the way, but got stranded at the airport because of the roads to Woodstock being closed. Asked for a helicopter but the organizers didn’t want to pay for it, probably in case every other band wanted one (and by day one, they reportedly already knew they were in the hole for about US$1m!)
Frank Zappa – “A lot of mud at Woodstock…We were invited to play there, we turned it down.” Zappa later said he never regretted it as he loathed hippies. My selection of ‘Willie The Pimp’ was only recorded some time in July or August of 69 and wasn’t released until October that year, but it’s my bet that a raw free jam of the 9+ minutes song would have been one of the highlights of the festival, if Frank had taken the Mothers there.
Free – Turned it down for no known reason, but played Isle of Wight two weeks later instead. My theory is it might have been because they almost needed parental permission, as bass player Andy Fraser had only just turned 17 at the time!
Procul Harem – Were invited but were tired out after their own long tour, plus the impending birth of Robin Trower’s first child.
Pink Floyd – A bit of a mystery, were they invited or were they not? Accounts differ, even from reliable sources. Several reasons for not being there, first they weren’t invited (as they weren’t yet known in the USA); they were invited but were touring Europe at the time (true); they were invited but turned it down because as a band they were suffering issues, like Syd Barrett’s mental condition (also true); not invited because their kind of music didn’t seem to fit the billing, but I reckon 9+ minutes of ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ would have made some of the “bad brown acid” pretty unnecessary.
Led Zeppelin – Were invited but were also headlining at a nearby festival that same weekend, and it’s said that their manager didn’t want them to share the line up with other bands. Rock stars? Egos? Nah…
Bob Dylan – Lots of reasons given, sick son, hated the chaos near his home near the actual Woodstock, originally intended festival site, but actually he set sail for UK on Aug 15th to play the Isle of Wight festival two weeks later.
The Beatles – Were supposedly asked (through John Lennon it seems), but as they had all but broken up and hadn’t performed in concert together for 3 years, it’s unlikely in the acrimony between them, that they would have reformed just for this. Other suggestions say Lennon was invited but thought his drug convictions would get in the way, whereas another theory suggests it was because his request for Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band to perform was turned down. As Lennon might have said “Imagine nearly half a million people singing ‘Give Peace a Chance’” What a missed opportunity.