I'm so glad this exists: a “lost" slice of documentary footage by a French filmmaker, 11 minutes long, of people arriving at, and then being at, the 2nd Isle of Wight Festival of Music, in 1969: the year the performers included The Who, Richie Havens, The Band and Bob Dylan. There's hardly a moment of The Who or Dylan, but that's not the point. As so often with documents of the past, it's the footage of ordinary life that fascinates: plus, in this case, the way it catches that moment when there was, or appeared to be, a cultural gulf between “straights" and “underground" people:


  1. Anonymous18 June, 2012

    The wan of you with the fag hanging out of your mouth, posing in front of Blonde on Blonde at age 19 or so - that is VERY quaint.

    Jill Brown

  2. A fascinating social document confirming that hippydom was a middle class phenomenon, all those floppy hats and kaftans.

    in 1969 I was at the comrades summer camp darncin' to Prince Buster. I broke out in 1970 and bought some granny glasses, wouldn't be seen dead in a kaftan tho'.

  3. I don't think you're entirely right with your class distinctions. Lots of the young working-class dressed like hippies. People like Roger Daltrey, and Roy Wood, for example, and those who identified with them. There were vast numbers of Woodalikes at the Isle of Wight Festival. Whereas the middle-class Bob Dylan was the only male performer on stage that year who wasn't wearing flared trousers. And like you, I had granny glasses but never wore, or wanted, a kaftan.

    More importantly, there was a partial integration between those of a hippyish persuasion and those on the more traditionally radical left, many of whom were part of that “underground" movement. People in the International Socialists wrote for both OZ magazine and Socialist Worker. I remember staying in a house in the summer of 67 with, among others, a prominent shorthaired Doc Martens-wearing political activist who spent a lot of his time listening to Judy Collins records and knew both Tony Cliff and Richard Neville.

    And surely, looking back on it, the supposedly middle-class hippie music of the period has been hugely influential ever since, and remains incomparably richer and more interesting than that of, er, Prince Buster.

  4. Thank you for reminding me Michael, I'd completley forgotten that the Festival ended with a rousing chorus of the Internationale.

    I'll grant you Prince Buster's lyrics wont be troubling the committee that awards the Nobel prize for literature, but 'Al Capone' was a great dancing tune, and by dancing I don't mean tripping round a meadow with daisies threaded in my pubic hair.

    Without Ska there would have been no Marley, and no "Redemption song" or "Small Axe" or for that matter "I and I".

  5. Ha ha: I didn't suggest that all those working-class punters were socialists (or “comrades", if you prefer); but you avoid admitting that there were thousands of the former at the Isle of Wight, and that there was plenty of inter-connection between them and the middle classes in that period's underground culture, and between the hippie and Trot ends of its spectrum.

    As for the music, you're doing your best there, but you don't really believe Prince Buster pioneered more than Joni, Bob, Neil, Jimi, Cream and all those other "middle-class hippies".

  6. Ho Ho: where did I suggest that the Prince was as influential as your litany of "hippy" greats. But then I could ask influential on who?

    I only mentioned Prince Buster to tell you where part of my journey had come in 1969 part of me of course regrets not being at the Festival, I was driving a bus in Nottingham at the time. I was also listening to Chicago and it's Jazz influenced political message amongst others. Michael how do you know there were thousands of working class kids at the Festival ? did you conduct a survey? The cost of the ferry would have put many off.

    You Michael have a particular view of how culture develops and because Jamaican music isn't steeped in the the English literary tradition you scorn it. It is however steeped in the KIng James bible which Dylan has been known to use on occasions. Jamaican music was the inspiration for a whole generation of musicians from the Beatles to UB40 most of them working class.

    The infectiously rhythmic "O Carolina" recorded by Count Ossie which the Prince produced can't be dismissed as uninfluential "If one song can be singled out as signifying the birth of reggae, 'Oh Carolina is it'. Chris Blackwell makes this interesting comment, Count Ossie was a Rastafarian: and the main thing the Rastafarian element brought to Jamaica and to Jamaican music was a real recognition and honour of Africa" quoted from the history of Nyabinghi drum making . As I said Michael influential on whom?

    1. I don't "scorn" Jamaican music; nor have I ever underplayed the importance of the King James Bible in my writing about Dylan or blues lyric poetry; nor have I suggested that the KJB is somehow unimportant in "the English literary tradition".

      But I do say that influencing UB40 is hardly much of a credential for Prince B and that Jamaican music was not "the inspiration for a whole generation of musicians from the Beatles" etc etc.

      I also know, if it matters, that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were middle-class and that Chris Blackwell was positively posh, went to Harrow School and became ADC to the Governor of Jamaica (Sir Hugh Foot), so he's a quirky choice of authority to appeal to from the right-on side of things.

      That said, you're right of course that he knew what he was talking about when it came to Jamaican music (and indeed Jamaica: his mother owned many thousands of acres of it).

      But how does a working-class socialist like you swallow the notion that Rastafarianism "was a real recognition and honour of Africa", when it's entirely based on worshipping a very unpleasant feudal emperor/dictator, Haile Selassie, a man who did good works abroad but was highly repressive at home?

      But yes, as you say, influential on whom? That is a fair question. My answer is: on all of us who are not from the Third World, whatever class we come from.

  7. Great video, Michael.

    Starts off looking like newsreel from the 40's, then it resembles modern tent festivals. I began to think, the festivalisation of music is when rock music became a form of 'the establishment', and - as Bob once said about punk - also became a branch of the fashion industry. So many conformists on the trains, and the boat, all looking the same. Kind of like now.

    But back then, of course, something was happening. Everything being a reaction to something else, I have to think we still haven't located what that 'something' was, yet. Maybe in 50 years historians will say the 60's counter-culture was little more than an immature but understandable reaction to the war.

    Maybe they'll say it was more than that.

    Dylan, however, looks irrefutably cool and singular. I think the photo of him taken at the piano is during the H61 sessions. Was there a sharper beast on the planet back then? Gladly, he didn't get sucked in by all that hippy stuff.

    I loved the video, and yes, it's very quaint, but very fascinating, too. Thanks!

  8. Anonymous20 June, 2012

    "Gladly, he didn't get sucked in by all that hippy stuff."

    Seems a tad judgmental, as you're addressing people on here a large proportion of whom were, loosely speaking, hippies.

    Personally, I was a fire hydrant. But I wasn't.

    Playboy '66 interview:

    PLAYBOY: Did psychedelics have a similar effect on you?

    DYLAN: No. Psychedelics never influenced me. I don't know, I think Timothy Leary had a lot to do with driving the last nails into the coffin of that New York scene we were talking about. When psychedelics happened, everything became irrelevant. Because that had nothing to do with making music or writing poems or trying to really find yourself in that day and age.

    PLAYBOY: But people thought they were doing just that-finding themselves.

    DYLAN: People were deluded into thinking they were something that they weren't: birds, airplanes, fire hydrants, whatever. People were walking around thinking they were stars.

    1. I'm not going to rely for my views about LSD on this absurd rant from the speedfreak heroin addict Dylan of the period.

  9. Hi Michael
    I "swallow" things by thinking about them and trying to go beneath the surface. If your black and living in a Trenchtown yard, and you maybe start thinking about how you got there, you might well find the notion of an African country with a black king appealing, It's probably the same reasoning that many of the women round our end had a statue of the virgin mary on the mantlepiece , it gave them hope.

    My mate pete wasn' t at the festival, and he drove a bread van.


    hope we can desist now Michael i'm prepared to say it's a draw


    1. Joe - I didn't know it was a battle. I thought it was a discussion. But either way, yes, peace (man)...

  10. ps

    thanks for sharing the film

  11. Anonymous06 July, 2012

    That quote about acid isn't from 1966 and the "the speedfreak heroin addict Dylan of the period." I believe it's from later, possibly the 1978 "Dylan-about -to -become-Born Again" period. I don't think anyone in rock was putting down LSD like that, at the time, at least not in public.

    I was glad to see this clip. Thanks.