Saturday, 15 August 2009

Woodstock, 15-17 August 1969

This post is my dedication to the three-day Woodstock music festival at Bethel, N.Y. on 15-17 August 1969. Actually, it was more of like a 3½-day festival because by the time the last strains of music left Jimi Hendrix's guitar, it was already bright enough on 18 Aug. Anyway, the festival termed itself as the Woodstock music and art fair but as far as I could tell, there was nothing artsy fartsy about it. Then there was the rain and the cold and the mud.... Don't know how the people there could stand it but I suppose they were too spaced out to care.

Anyhow, on the occasion of the Woodstock festival's 40th anniversary, this is my own little personal Woodstock moment. In a little street called Seang Tek Road in George Town, I was far, far removed from the festival but it had never stopped me from enjoying its music.

It was just before Chinese New Year in 1970 or 1971 when my father brought home a triple record album set from Woo Hing, his regular record shop in Campbell Street, George Town. My memory is a bit bleary but I must have badgered him enough to bring this album home. So, during the Chinese New Year holidays and especially during the eve, I was spinning this album with the volume turned up high enough to annoy my grandmother (and the neighbours). While other people were letting off fire crackers to chase away the New Year monster, I was doing my part by cranking up the sound of Hendrix's instrumental solo.

My only regret was that I allowed my father to return the album to the record shop. The owner was his good friend and he always allowed him to borrow records home. So there went my opportunity to own the Woodstock triple record album set. I also missed the chance to watch the movie when it was first screened in the local cinemas. The time was inconvenient itself. When the movie screened in Kuala Lumpur, I was in Penang; when I left home for the capital, the movie opened here. Nevertheless, it must have been five or six years later that I finally caught Woodstock on the big screen. It was shown at the Choong Nam theatre in Ayer Itam, Penang. Choong Nam, before it closed down, was well known for screening second-run, third-run and even fourth-run movies.

Years later when I started buying compact discs, one of my earliest purchases was the Woodstock double CD by mail order from It was a "must have". Well, at least now, I have the music in my that I could still remember from the carefree days of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

But I could never get enough of the festival. When the movie was available illegally on videotapes in the mid-1980s, I somehow got my hands on a copy and shared it around with friends who cared to join me on an historic musical journey going through huge acts like Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Sha Na Na, CSNY, Ten Years After, The Who, Country Joe McDonald, Santana, Joe Cocker and Hendrix. Of course, the movie is available officially on DVDs today...lengthened, remastered and enhanced in many ways.

Much later, I again ordered this four CD set from For a guy who has never been to America, who has never attended a rock music concert, I could never explain why I enjoyed the music of Woodstock so much. Maybe it was the non-conformist in me to be different from the rest of my friends who were basically in mainstream pop music.

And while today marks the 40th anniversary of the music festival, what should I do on this special day? Nothing much, I'm afraid. Today, I'm still as far removed from Bethel as I was 40 years ago. So I think that I'll just put the Woodstock DVD into my player and sit back to watch the festival again on my home television set. Yes, I'll do just that. Save the celebration for the rest of the world.


stephen said...

Woodstock--- Jimi "the teeth" Hendrix,CSN and Young,Joan Baez,Santana,Afro hairstyle,LSD,Marijuana,booze,draft dodgers,vietnam war,free love,Kent State.
America at its crossroads when its youth start questioning the authorities and become a vocal force.

stephen said...

That reminds me, whilst back in Pg, my cousin managed to salvage some of my old vinyls from the thrash heap.Apparently I bought some records from Woo Hing as some of my records had their sleeves.I'm having a senior moment as I don't recall the shop.

Quah, Seng-Sun said...

You're making me prick up my ears!