Happy birthday Woodstock. I was a kid in London when you were busy being stardust and golden. I’d never been to America – never been anywhere farther than Boulogne on the ferry – but as soon as I got home from school and out of my uniform, I’d float around in a kaftan and wish I was a hippie.
Here’s a conversation I had with Neil Young about it a while back.
Sylvie: Would you have gone to Woodstock as a punter if you hadn’t actually been playing?
Neil: No, never, no.
Sylvie: What do you remember about it?
Neil: It was like a migration – I don’t know what to compare it to. We thought it was the first time we’d seen the group of people that we kind of knew, that we met around the country – the heads, the hippies, whatever – the first time that we’d seen them all come into one area and you could feel the strength of the numbers. But corporate America was watching too. And it was a lot of confused travelling, nervous people, a lot of different people going back and forth and kind of on-the-spot plans being made.
Sylvie: And your set?
Neil: We were nervous- it was like our second show or something – and I was especially nervous because I didn’t know the rhythm section that well and we really didn’t have that much of a groove.
Sylvie: Is that why you didn’t want to be filmed?
Neil: I didn’t allow myself to be filmed because I didn’t want them on the stage. Because we were playing music – get away, don’t be in my way, I don’t want to see your cameras. I don’t want to see you. To me it was a distraction from making music, and music is something you listen to, not that you look at. So you’re there, trying to get lost in the music, and there’s this dickhead with a camera in your face. So the only way to make sure that wouldn’t happen is to tell them I wouldn’t be in the film so avoid me, stay away from my area. And that worked.
Sylvie: A bit rum coming from someone who’s just made a concert movie!
Neil: All the shooting that we did [for that], you don’t see cameras around, there’s nobody in front of us, and if they are it’s not for long.
Sylvie: You the only one in Crosby Stills Nash & Young who didn’t want to be filmed.
Neil: I was the only person in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young that was, you know, not Crosby Stills and Nash!
Sylvie: Didn’t you and Jimi Hendrix steal a pickup truck backstage and go joyriding?
Neil: You know, to tell you truth it’s been so long since it happened…
Sylvie: Hah! It wasn’t me, Officer’
Neil: [Laughs] It probably was me. I seem to remember a pick-up truck somewhere and Hendrix being nearby and something happening. Hendrix is the best, nobody can touch him. I’m a hack compared to him, a hack. That guy — it slipped off his hands, he couldn’t help himself. I’ve got to go in there and hack away with a machete to get through what he just walked through. I can aspired to be able to play that way and to approach it sometimes, so I’d get half way there sometimes; but when it comes to really playing, I mean, I’ve got a lot of emotion and very little technical ability. Jimi had them both. He was so smooth and so great and so special.
Meanwhile, here’s a band that didn’t ask to be left out of the Woodstock movie, but they were.