1969 – Woodstock
On May 5, 2017 - Uncategorized
Before we go to Woodstock, I just found a couple of things – AFTER I posted the whole Woodstock thing – from a very full day 3 months earlier…………….May 18, to be exact, so I’m slipping it in here.
They’re two ticket stubs. I remember the second one very well, but not the first one at all.
It seems I attended a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium against the Angels (the Yanks won both games) and sat in a lower level box seat for $4.00. I then went to Madison Square Garden to see Jimi Hendrix and sat upstairs for $5.00.
I don’t even know who I went with, but here’s what I remember about the Garden show:
The band was on a rotating stage in the center of the Garden, but all the sound equipment was on the stage. That meant that for 99% of each revolution, the sound was at a modest level…………….and then all of a sudden, it went BAM!!! for a second or two and this continued for the entire show – very distracting and not exactly like listening to the records.
The other thing I distinctly recall was Jimi getting annoyed at the photographers’ flashes, announcing that the band was gonna walk off the stage if it continued.
“Ooo – what power the photographers have”, I thought. “I wanna do that!”
Little did I know………….
Anyway, what an amazing day…………….and all for $9.00!
From my site:
Photo taken in 1989
Yes, I went to the first Woodstock (and no, I wasn’t shooting concerts yet).
That experience is a very long story that I may write elsewhere, but suffice it to say, as soon as I got home, I took off my muddy sandals and bagged them (always thinking historically).
As you know, our tickets weren’t needed, so I got to keep mine from Saturday and Sunday (I couldn’t go Friday, so only bought for the 2 days).
20 years later, I took the tickets and sandals out of storage and took this picture just for the hell of it. I showed my agent, who wound up selling it to an Italian (I think) magazine which did a story for Woodstock’s 20th Anniversary.
On second thought, I just found a whole bunch of Woodstock-related items and have re-written my Woodstock story from one I wrote in 2009, so I’m just gonna put it all up here.
MY WOODSTOCK EXPERIENCE – ©Bob Leafe
(NOTE: I originally wrote this in 2009 for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and have just re-worked it in 2017. After reading it, I should probably mention that the 3-day event was held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – August 15, 16, and 17 (plus the morning of Monday the 18th).
At the time, I was working on a one-year subcontract with IBM in East Fishkill, NY in their quality control chem lab and living during the week in Wappingers Falls, NY. I had to work on Friday (second shift), so couldn’t go to Woodstock that day.
An ex-girlfriend’s friend in New Jersey had let me know that she wanted to go Friday with another girl and come back to my apartment later that evening, so we could all go together the next morning.
They got back to my apartment – shell-shocked – at about 2am and we had to leave early that morning. But before we all went to sleep, she told me of her Woodstock experience that day.
She said she was lying on a blanket with her eyes closed listening to Richie Havens. When she opened her eyes, she saw some guy straddling her and dancing balls-ass naked practically right in her face. I’m guessing that she had never seen something like that at close range before. To say she was shocked is putting it mildly.
Despite that traumatic experience and now knowing that the traffic situation was not ideal, they both woke up a couple of hours later, ready to go.
We drove straight into the lion’s teeth – Route 17 (or was it 17B) – which became famous for becoming Woodstock’s parking lot.
We wound up parking about 13 miles away, walked 12, and then suddenly noticed that a lot of people were walking toward us, saying that the show was over – that the state troopers had closed it down.
The girls panicked. I said “Bullshit! We’re so close, let’s at least go and find out for sure”. They whined, “We have the car and we’re leaving – you can stay if you want”.
So near and yet…………..
I reluctantly left with them, got back to my place late afternoon and they went back to Jersey.
I was pissed. I HAD to be there. I KNEW that this was a monumental event and that I’d regret it the rest of my life if I didn’t go. I called the few people I knew up there……………no one wanted to go.
“Fuck it! I’m going!”
I packed my sleeping bag with a huge bag of creme sandwich cookies and a carton of cigarettes, which came in real handy for trading for other stuff. I went out to my car and found it had a flat tire……………and I couldn’t get the tire off!
No gas stations (or anything else) were open on a Saturday at 6pm in Wappingers Falls in 1969. I forget who I got, but someone finally showed up and got me going.
I decided to drive around the back way – out Rt 84 and up Rt 52. I parked in some little town that was about 5-7 miles away – possibly Jeffersonville (I’ve GOT to go back some day and find out) – and walked to the site. The roads were deserted with little-to-no lighting.
I found my way eventually to the site, coming in from behind the stage at around 12:30am. Creedence was on. I walked up along the stage-right fence away from the stage and finally found a spot by the fence and parked myself against it (the helicopters landed on the other side of it).
Next up was Janis Joplin. All I remember from that was some rumor spreading around me that there was a topless chick with huge tits dancing in front of the stage. I guess that’s what people do – start rumors – when they’re too far away to see if it’s true (although everyone squinted and said, “Oh yeah……..I see her………I think”).
Sly & the Family Stone was next and I’ll never forget the sheer volume of EVERYONE screaming “HIGHER!” at 4am. I was hoping it was loud enough to have woken those two princesses who were now safely back in New Jersey. It was THAT loud!
But my favorite moment was yet to come.
I was born on August 17 at exactly 5:00am. The Who came on at the EXACT moment that I turned 22. I was in my absolute glory.
After that memorable set, everybody was conking out. I really needed to use a Port-O-John. I found a bunch that had wooden planks leading to each unit because of all the mud. As I waited and worked my way closer, I noticed that each unit said “Men” or “Women” on the door. Fortunately, I happened to be in a “Men” line.
The door pops open and some chick bounces out. OK. I stepped inside to find out that these units had never been serviced. I swear – the pile in the bowl was actually higher than the seat! That girl HAD to leave with more than she went in with!
That’s OK…………I’ll hold it.
The Jefferson Airplane came on at around 7am, but people were still all zonked out. I actually walked right up to the stage and leaned on the barrier – no crowds, no pushing/shoving……………..very cool (but no camera either, unfortunately).
Sometime later in the set, I decided to leave. I had seen the bands I really wanted to see and since I had seen Hendrix 3 months earlier at MSG, I didn’t need to wait through another 24 hours.
It turned out to be a good move. The next set didn’t happen until 6 hours later after lots more rain. I got home by late Sunday morning and – realizing the historical importance of the event – I immediately took off my muddy sandals and bagged them. They’re still in that bag.
I took them out in 1989 for the 20th anniversary and took photos, which my agency sold to an Italian magazine that was doing a 20th anniversary story.
Go to bobleafe.com and find the “Woodstock I” listing.
So – I went to Woodstock twice in one day, probably walked a total of about 40 miles, was really only at the site for about 8 hours, saw Creedence, Janis, Sly, the Who, and the Airplane……………AND NEVER GOT RAINED ON!!! (and I’m not the one with lifetime regrets about going home and missing out)
(actually, there’s more Woodstock after the 3 photos)
I shared a garden apartment in Wappingers Falls with a couple of other IBM-ers, who went home on weekends. Most of the time, I did that too, but obviously not THIS weekend.
I actually DID own a camera then, but it was a cheap Polaroid camera – the kind where after you separated the negative from the print, you had to smear a tube of some smelly chemical glop all over it. The stuff had the consistency of slightly harder Vaseline. And if you forgot, were too busy or didn’t do it evenly, the print would start to get weird, as you’ll see below in the Grand Prix shot.
Here are a couple of friends and the GP. Only the first one came out OK. I guess I forgot the tube of glop when I shot the GP.
I collected whatever newspapers I could to save the stories – some of which were unintentionally funny. My parents saved the NY Daily News ones. I was kinda busy and Woodstock didn’t have any newsstands, but I did manage to get one local paper out of Beacon, NY. I’m not sure where the Newark one came from.
My favorite headline has to be the third one. If you added wood planks to the picture underneath it, it would look like the scene for the Port-O-John lines that I wrote about above.
I had almost forgotten that I had taken a Polaroid of my muddy sandals when I got home from Woodstock – just before I bagged them. I obviously didn’t do too well with the Polaroid glop on this shot.
One of my favorite finds after I cleaned out my late parents’ house was a note I had left for my mother when I was home the week before Woodstock. I can’t believe she saved it, but thank you, Mom! What an historian SHE would have made!
BEFORE AND AFTER
About a month before Woodstock, I wrote to the show’s organizers to get some more information about what would actually be going on. They wrote back to me and the envelope had the Woodstock logo and the word “Wappingers” misspelled by some buzzed hippie in the mail room.
It contained the Woodstock brochure, a notice about the fact that the Festival had to be moved from the original site in Wallkill, NY. and an ad for a bright orange inflatable tent for $5.
I don’t recall seeing very many pictures of Woodstock with bright orange inflatable tents, do you?
Like my mother, I save everything and this time it paid off. In 2009, Rhino Records decided to re-release the Woodstock 1&2 albums with new liner notes, so they put out the call for ……..STUFF.
I submitted my envelope and its contents and guess what…….
The move from Wallkill to White Lake notice is on page 14 of the Woodstock I CD booklet (with the credit near the bottom of page 15)……………
………….and the entire Woodstock envelope it came in – complete with my name and address in “Wattingers” Falls – is on page 14 (with the credit once again near the bottom of page 15) of the Woodstock II CD booklet:
So I went to Woodstock, didn’t take any pictures and still managed to get into both Woodstock CD re-issues. In a weird way, that’s very fulfilling to a music photographer.
I visited the site on November 8, 2003 and took this picture, which includes the Woodstock monument and the stage location (the not-green area just above the fence on the left), which faced the sloping land where hundreds of thousands of us were sitting.
I came across the slide and scanned it in May, 2019. If you go to my site, there’s a shot of me standing on the monument.