The Isle of Wight Was the UK Woodstock- But Where’s The Hendrix Footage?
YouTube / Jimi Hendrix
The Isle of Wight
The 1970 counter-culture festival was at the time, the largest human gathering in history. The attendance out-numbered (by almost double) that of Woodstock. Approximately 600 thousand hippies and rock fans showed up. Among the line-up was Joni Mitchell, Jethro Tull, The Doors, The Who, Chicago, Free, Sly and The Family Stone, Spirit, Joan Baez… and their contemporaries.
All you had to pay to get into the three day festival was £3. The 2019 equivalent to the UK currency is about $46.85. Still- an insane deal that’s puts into perspective the value of money and music then vs. now.
The Foulk Brothers (no pun-intended), Ron, Ray, and Bill Foulk, put together the festival under their company Fiery Creations Limited. The festival was filmed by the future Academy Award- wining director Murray Lerner. The director and his team filmed the entire gathering with 35 mm film. The Foulk Brothers then referred to the small print in the contract signed with Lerner, to enter a court dispute.
Both sides ended up claiming “breach of contract.” Lerner had used material from the Isle of Wight festival in his music documentary, A Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Rock Festival in 1996. Decades after the festival. Lerner also has put together full-length performances of individual concerts from the biggest headliners of that weekend.
Eventually the footage was turned over to Murray Lerner from the Foulk Brothers, along with a settlement of legal fees. Among this footage was Jimi Hendrix’s last UK performance before his untimely death months later. The film of the rowdy performances is described by Kris Kristofferson:
“It was a total disaster. They just hated us. They hated everything. They booed us, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Sly Stone; they threw shit at Jimi Hendrix. At the end of the night, they were tearing down the outer walls, setting fire to the concessions, burning their tents, shouting obscenities. Peace and love it was not.”
So where is all that footage now? Just a few years ago you could find a full-length performance of Jimi Hendrix playing “Blue Wild Angel.” The rights to the footage were passed in another dispute from Lerner to a music company along with the Hendrix estate. Not a totally unfortunate ending.
The silver lining is that you can hear one of Jimi’s last interviews in the video below. The musician was tired and a bit shaken by the lack of organization of the concert– but you can still sense his passion shine through.