Paul Krassner remembers Woodstock


31 Responses to “Paul Krassner remembers Woodstock”

  1. fergus1948 says:

    Pete Townsend – love him or loathe him, you can’t like him!
    Who was it that recounted the story of The Who at Woodstock…?
    Apparently by the time they were due to appear on stage it was obvious that the event was a financial disaster and there was no money to pay the bands with. The ‘Peace & Love’ spirit of the occasion then relied on the bands saying ‘OK, no money but hell, we’re going to play anyway!’

    And every band did play, gratis and in tune with the vibe of the event. Every band except one, that is…

    The Who, of course. No money, no Who on stage. Money was somehow scrabbled together and the band played. How very rock’n’roll, how very Chuck Berry.

    As Roger Daltry (I think it was) said in an interview recently ‘We never believed in that hippy peace and love crap.’

    (Oh, and by the way Pete, how’s that book coming along?)

  2. Keeper of the Lantern says:

    Well, it’s actually this kind of thing that for me give the Who some street cred. They came up in a very rough-and-tumble working class world so they were used to handling things.

    As for doing it for the money, well, SOMEONE eventually made tons of money on the gig. Why must musicians always be expected to play for free, “in the spirit of the gig”? How do they pay for food, by getting a day job?

  3. Day Vexx says:

    Good for him– Abbie deserved it. It’s hard enough getting across without some bozo grabbing on the mic.

  4. nosehat says:

    @#1 Fergus: Pete Townsend – love him or loathe him, you can’t like him!

    I definitely like him, especially his early solo stuff like Empty Glass. And how can you not enjoy the energy of the early Who?

    He’s not my favorite musician by a long shot–I wouldn’t say I “love” him. And I’ve certainly got no reason to loathe him. Yeah, I’d say “like” exactly sums up my feelings. ;)

  5. DaveLaFontaine says:

    The bit with the cop sounds like a punchline to some Monty Python bit constructed around shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

    In light of the continued discussion here about the intersection of staged entertainment and commerce and violence, I think there’s a business opportunity here vis-a-vis the alarmist Glenn Beck commentary on health care. He comes out to warn the audience that Nazis are about to take over welfare and put Granny to sleep.

    And then Townshend, Keith Richards and Wavy Gravy get to knee him in the wedding tackle.

    Pay-per-view rights alone will cover the single-payer option.

  6. Phikus says:

    The Who weren’t suburban pretenders. They were the real deal. Roger used to actually be the brawler of the band. KO’ed Pete during a scuffle at an early practice, for which he was fired for a bit until he apologized and agreed not to settle differences that way ever again. To his credit he never did.

    One time in the late 70′s Pete was in a pub when a few members of the Sex Pistols showed up. Pete was really drunk and confronted them for their affront to his beloved Rock ‘n Roll, saying “Who the fuck are you?” -Got a good song out of it after he’d sobered up.

  7. Phikus says:

    Oh yeah, and this Abbie incident was recorded, and released on their Thirty Years of Maximum R&B box set. From the way Hoffman sounded, I might have done the same if I’d had an axe in hand.

  8. mdh says:

    Have none of you seen “Quadrophenia”?

    The Who were not ‘peace and love’ music.

    also, thecrawnotthecraw – it’s “affected” in that usage. Since we’re being pedantic.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The performers OWN the stage. You trespass, you might get a guitar headstock (not a body, FTR) opside yo haid. Right or wrong, it’s a distinct and real possibility for the stage crasher. Hijack the mic at your own risk.

  10. TheCrawNotTheCraw says:

    @23 MDH

    Re: affected – I stand corrected.

    Thanks to you and your tapeworm/other pesonality, since “we’re” being pedantic.

  11. TheCrawNotTheCraw says:

    Whoops, “personality” – before the pedant corrects me again.

  12. Ugly Canuck says:

    Jeez, best not bug people when they’re working, eh?

    IIRC Keith Richards brained an “unauthorized on-stage fan” with his guitar once too: if there’s someone on stage who is not supposed to be there… here, Abby ( may he RIP) seemed to be more than a little… presumptuous… grabbing the mic…
    well, then, Who’s to blame?
    I think not!

  13. Itsumishi says:

    As for doing it for the money, well, SOMEONE eventually made tons of money on the gig.

    No one made ‘tons’ of money from this gig. The festival organisers had about $1.4million in losses as a result. I believe those debts were paid off with profits from the Woodstock documentary that was made.

  14. mdh says:



  15. Ugly Canuck says:

    Oh yeah, I miss Keith Moon: once he left, for me, it just was no longer the Who. And if Charlie Watts retires, for me anyway, it’s no longer The Rolling Stones.
    PS I miss Ian Stewart, too.

  16. mdh says:

    @26 – is there anyone in this thread you haven’t insulted at least once?

  17. Phikus says:

    Canuck: Indeed, no one ever filled Moon’s shoes (though they are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)

  18. Phikus says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Tom!

    My dad has been texting me about how much fun he has has this weekend listening to the Woodstock performances on Serius. He was working for NASA at the time of the event, and a lot of 60′s culture past him by while it was going on. But he’s been making up for that in his 70′s, rediscovering the renaissance that those times were. I like to think I helped show him the way back to his roots, as I discovered that generation from its significant cultural echoes emanating like the background radiation from the big bang, and felt compelled to share it with anyone who’d listen.

    There are good things from every generation, and I like to think the pendulum will swing back the other way someday and we will find that innocence again, where we dared to dream we could love the world’s problems away.

  19. Boba Fett Diop says:

    Losing John Entwistle was the real nail in the coffin. The Who’s bottom end was as much about his basslines as it was about Moon’s drums.

  20. dofnup says:

    So, the moral of the story is: if you ever need to announce some incredibly important news during a Who concert, make sure you take out Townsend first?

  21. Anonymous says:

    boba fett diop @12 – seconded

  22. TheCrawNotTheCraw says:

    People seem to be unsympathetic to Abbie, who suffered from manic depression. It is not unsurprising that he sometimes let his enthusiasms get the better of him.

    Now imagine if it had been some small woman who had grabbed the microphone? Still think it’s alright that Townshend would have probably broken her skull with the solid body guitar?

  23. Anonymous says:

    @ PHIKUS – That story is actually – Drunk Pete sees Paul Cook and Steve Jones in a pub and confronts them because he assumes they have a hate on for him, the Who and all established rock bands. Turns out the Who were one of the few bands that Steve, Paul and the rest of the Pistols actually liked – A pleasantly stunned Pete then proceeds to get extra shit faced with the two Pistols and later wakes up in a doorway the next morning by a cop.

    That respect still didn’t stop the Pistols from stealing gear from the Who.

  24. Phikus says:

    Anon@~16: That’s not the version recounted by Steve Jones and Pete himself in interviews I have seen, but it is an interesting take. I agree that Pete thought they hated him and all the old guard, when actually they had the profoundest respect for The Who.

    I hadn’t heard they had stolen gear from The Who, but the Pistols did steal gear from David Bowie, which was how they even had equipment to play to get started.

  25. SkullHyphy says:

    Steal this backstage pass!

  26. Anonymous says:

    The Woodstock Festival did not take place in Woodstock, New York but in the town of Bethel which is sixty-seven miles due west. The second day of that mythic, three-day concert coincided with my eleventh birthday (I am going to be fifty-one on Sunday. Yikes! Where did the time go?). I remember quite clearly my friend Tom Finkle and I riding our bikes up to the bridge on South Street that overlooks Route 17 – a four lane highway which snakes its way into Sullivan County where the great event took place. It looked like a long and narrow parking lot. The New York State Thruway had been shut down. To the best of my knowledge, that had never happened before and has not happened since.

    To say that it was an exciting time to be alive almost sounds redundant. Less than four weeks earlier, two human beings had walked on the surface of the moon, a technological feat that will probably out shine every other event of the twentieth century in the history books that will be written a thousand years from now. As future decades unwind, it is a certainty that the photographic image of half a million kids, partying and dancing in the mud, will not continue to sustain the cultural significance that it does for us today. The years will pass by, the people who were lucky enough to be there will one day be no more, and the Woodstock Festival will be erased from living memory; a mere footnote to a very crowded century. But what a freaking party, baby!

    This weekend I’ll be listening to my copy of the Woodstock Soundtrack LP – on vinyl, of course. The very thought of listening to it on a compact disc seems somehow sacrilegious. Although I could have done without Sha-Na-Na’s version of At The Hop, all in all it’s a pretty good collection of tunes. I have always envied my cousin, the noted falconer Tom Cullen, who was a witness to Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Can you imagine? Canned Heat’s performance of Going Up The Country is one of the great moments in rock history; and for the last forty years, whenever I heard Joan Baez singing Joe Hill, I have had to pause whatever I was doing at the moment and concentrate on it – It is one of the most moving pieces ever recorded on tape.

    “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

    Emma Goldman 1869-1940

    Dance with me, Emma!

    The last time I looked at my videocassette of Woodstock (which was well over a decade ago) I wondered about the fates of the half-a-million gathered on the fields of Max Yasgur’s farm in Sullivan County on that distant weekend. The passage of four decades decrees that a third or more of them have passed on. The average age of the attendees was about twenty-two. Today would find them approaching their mid-sixties; the age many of their grandparents were in 1969!

    There are many good people of that generation who have kept the spirit of the sixties alive – or have tried to anyway. America is not the same country it was forty years ago. 2009 finds us even more polarized than we were during the age of Richard Nixon.

    It is no longer merely a “generation gap” that is tearing America apart. The gaps today are almost too numerous to catalog: the political gap; the health insurance gap; the employment gap; the racial gap; the education gap; the class and income gaps. The world is a lot more troubled and sadder than it was in that long ago, magical summer of 1969. Sometimes I feel like a hostage to time. The truth is, for all the technological wonders of the twenty-first century, I just don’t like being here.

    No, I’m not going to kill myself. Chill.

    Where I come from, Woodstock has a special meaning to people because it happened here – or close enough to count. From where I now sit, Bethel is a mere forty-two miles northwest. According to this morning’s local paper, seventy-five media outlets from all over the world will be covering the events commemorating the anniversary this weekend. That’s enough of a reason for me to stay the hell away. I’m not as crowd-friendly as I once was. Besides, I would have preferred to attend the real thing forty years ago. That would have been too cool for words!

    Nostalgia is a permanent human condition. Each generation is nostalgic for the last. It absolutely boggles the mind to think that the year 2049 will find those of us who survive looking back on these hideous times with tender longing. Given our silly human quirks, that will probably be the case. Still, it’s hard not to reflect on the hope that was prevalent in the summer of Woodstock. We want to believe that there is a magical future where, as John Lennon once imagined, there are no countries; nothing to kill or die for. Maybe we will one day arrive at that wondrous place.


    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  27. epo says:

    Watched a bit of it on TV last night (UK), while some of the music seemed kind of timeless, some of it was dreadful. All of the talking heads seemed from eons ago.

    @#14: where did you get a probable broken skull from? and why stop there? What if it has been a blind, disabled black child and Pete Townsend had bludgeoned it to death with a maniac grin on his face?

  28. Teller says:

    Then Paul Krassner wasn’t there.

  29. Halloween Jack says:

    Hoffman claims that Townshend bumped into him accidentally; the Hoffman page on Wikipedia says (without source) that Townshend hit Hoffman in the back, not the head.

    I suspect that it may be one of those things where someone remembers something happening a certain way because they’ve heard the story so often that it’s as if they were there. I find it a little suspicious that, while one of the most popular rock groups in the world is playing at the biggest music festival in the world, and the documentary filmmakers are in the process of changing film reels, no one else there had a camera, but Krassner, Country Joe McDonald, and countless other people were watching the stage at that exact moment.

  30. TheCrawNotTheCraw says:


    My points were a) Townshend has no right to assault people who wander on stage, and b) a solid body electric guitar could definitely kill someone.

    If, for examnple, I hit you in the head with the body of my Les Paul Gibson, you won’t be getting up any time soon. It would be like getting a sledgehammer to the head, which might not effect you, but would kill most people.

    “and why stop there? What if it has been a blind, disabled black child and Pete Townsend had bludgeoned it to death with a maniac grin on his face?” Because if I suggested that, then I’d be a idiot like you, I suppose.

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