They say that being a senior is just like being a teenager again, only you have more money. You have no responsibilities, don’t have to work and can stay up late and party all night, if you wish. While many of the today’s younger seniors may remember Woodstock, you definitely know you’re getting older when a local retirement home holds a Woodstock 50th anniversary night and you agree to go because your neighbor has free tickets and it would be a shame to waste a nice meal. My mother agrees to go with us, although neither of us really remembers Woodstock. My neighbor has more recollection of it, but I feel like I missed the whole hippy era, as at almost 13, I was just a bit too young and by the time I was old enough to peace out, disco had arrived. While I remember much of the music from the era, I was more into the clean-cut Monkees than the Beatles, who had by then morphed into those long haired dudes strolling across Abbey Road. My mother was a forty-something housewife back then who only listened to our music because the radio was on in the morning while we were getting ready for school, but I’m sure the station got changed as soon as we left for the bus.
For those of you younger folk who may be unfamiliar, Woodstock was a famous music festival held on a dairy farm in upstate New York in Aug 1969, which attracted almost half a million young people and which became a symbol of the hippy era. It rained over the three days, people camped and slept outdoors in the mud and listened to music and generally a peaceful groovy time was had by all. Surprisingly there was no violence, considering the size of the crowd, but then the mood was mellow-yellow.
(The couple in this iconic photo of the era, which first appeared on the Woodstock album cover, got married a few years later and are now seventy years old. In a recent interview they said they didn’t even recall the photo being taken because they had just woken up. Here’s a link to more on their story.)
Woodstock had a music lineup of some of the best rock and roll groups of the time. A friend of mine has a copy of the original festival poster, with the band playlist. She was on her way to the show with a group of friends, complete with camping gear, when for reasons she doesn’t remember, they turned around and came back to Canada. Most likely it was due to the negative publicity at the beginning – the drugs, the rain, the traffic, the lack of washroom facilities etc. As she later went on to work in the music industry, she recalls it as one of the regrets of her life. Here’s the playlist.
Of the groups who played, I only remember Creedence Clearwater Revival CCR (Bad Moon Rising), Blood Sweat and Tears (And When I Die), Janis Joplin (Me and Bobby McGee), Jefferson Airplane (White Rabbit, Somebody to Love), Santana (Evil Ways), and Sly and the Family Stone (Hot Fun in the Summer Time). While I recognize some of the others, (Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix), I don’t recall what they sang, so Linda over at Walking,Writing,Wit and Whimsy (who has a great Woodstock post), shared this link with me,where you can check out the songs each band played at the venue. https://www.woodstock.com/lineup/ The site also has some great photos and videos, and man do those kids look young, as do the performers. Of course that was in the day when we didn’t trust anyone over thirty.
Many of the musicians who were asked to play, turned it down, (The Doors, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Chicago, The Moody Blues, Simon and Garfunkel) and have expressed regret, including Joni Mitchell, who went on to write this famous song, after seeing the news clips on TV.
I was surprised to read that the music went on so late, but being out in the country there were no noise bylaws, although I’m sure the neighboring towns weren’t too thrilled about the sudden descent of half a million hippies. John Fogerty of CCR, remarked that most of the fans were asleep on the muddy ground by the time they went on at 3am, so he played to one guy way at the back, who was flicking a Bic lighter. (Wikipedia link)
Imagine hosting that kind of party today, half a million people united by music, singing in peace and harmony.
Not likely to happen – there’s too much violence in the world now. The organizers of the 50th anniversary bash ended up cancelling. (Sorry Jay Z and Miley Cyrus, no soggy fields for you, although I’m not sure why you got invited in the first place). There will never be another Woodstock. There was however a smaller anniversary gig held in Bethel Woods, with performances by Arlo Guthrie, John Fogerty and Carlos Santana, who were all there at the first one – what a trip that must have been for them to play again at the same site so many years later.
But back to my Woodstock party….
So maybe it was a good thing the retirement home stepped in to fill the void – keeping the flame alive for all us aging hippies. (I believe they are called hipsters now if Taylor Swift lyrics are correct).
This particular retirement home is a bit of a white elephant, the product of a poorly developed plan hatched by some company in Toronto where the rest of their buildings are located and fully occupied. It opened several years ago, and fewer than 25% of the units are rented. I’m not sure who it’s actually marketed for, as many in this small town could not afford the high prices, most seventy somethings would want more space (the apartments are very small), and the over-eighty crowd who might inhabit such a place, might need some medical help of which there is none available. But I give them A for effort, as they are trying hard to fill it up. One of their marketing ploys is to offer community events and free dinner tickets to anyone who might have expressed even the slightest bit of interest. (My friend went to a yoga class there. They even sent my mother a Christmas gift in the mail – a puzzle of one of her art works). They host monthly theme nights, Roaring Twenties, Casino, Neil Diamond, and while older people in the community might support the events, it seems no one actually wants to live there.
There is a big atrium, like in a fancy hotel, wasted space, but it’s supposed to be a social area. A perfect spot for a sit in or a love-in or at least a free buffet with some folk music.
I have a hard time deciding what to wear, and have to visit the basement and unearth a few old Seventeen magazines to refresh my memory of the clothes of the era. I found the magazines in the attic when my mother moved off the farm. They’re from 1970, the summer I entered high school, when I must have been worried about looking hip, although why I don’t know, as we wore uniforms, other than the first Friday of the month which was Dress Up Day.
Back then, Seventeen magazine came in the the big twelve-inch size format, like Life and Look magazines. The ads alone were a trip down memory lane. We seemed to be consumed with lightening our hair (Sun-In, Lemon Go Lightly), darkening our tans (Coppertone, Johnson’s Baby Oil, Sea and Ski, Noxzema), and wearing blue eye shadow (Bonne Bell, Yardley, Max Factor).
But back to the fashions, and the all important question, when Jupiter aligns with Mars will you be dressed for it?
That song was far out – Aquarius – by the Fifth Dimension.
In the fashion pages, we wore bell bottoms, embroidered peasant shirts and gauzy skirts, mini skirts, maxi skirts, tie-dye, leather sandals, headbands, love beads, rose or blue tinted granny glasses and anything with fringe.
And don’t forget the flower for your hair, preferably a daisy.
The song San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) was written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas,to promote the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. It also gave birth to the flower-child movement and the phrase flower-power.
At age ten, I remember being annoyed when my first pair of bell bottoms got caught in the spokes of my bike, but later being quite envious of my grade eight teachers mini skirts and especially her long black maxi coat. By high school short skirts were all the rage even in Canada, and my mother, who made our navy uniforms, made them short, but we still rolled them shorter, until the nuns caught you out. By grade eleven she had given in, but it does make me cringe now looking my high school year book that they were that short. I believe the nuns had given up by then too. One year hot pants were in, but not part of the uniform. The nuns would have fainted at that. I had a pair I wore under a matching mini dress. By grade twelve we were allowed to wear navy pants, but nobody did as jeans were in, wide and flared by then.
But back to party prep….(which as I recall was often the best part of a night out).
I found a pink cotton embroidered shirt, last worn fifteen years ago, in the back of a closet, and piled on some beads and bracelets. As luck would have it, I had also found a suede necklace with a peace symbol at an outdoor craft show the weekend before, a bargain at $10.
Finishing touch, some dangling feather earrings. I had a problem with my gold chain headband, as I have bangs and it did not sit quite right. Alas, I did not have any bell bottom blue jeans, faded or otherwise, as in this famous Cat Stevens song, so regular skinny jeans had to do. (How is it that I now own only one pair of jeans, which I admit haven’t been worn in two years, and seemed a bit snug, but isn’t that why yoga pants were invented).
The residents really got into the spirit of the evening. There were prizes for best costumes and I got some great ideas should I decide to resurrect my hippy costume for Halloween. Daisy chain headbands, flowing caftans, ponchos, embroidered jean jackets, with most of the guys looking like cool cats in their bandannas. Obviously, many of these people had lived through the era, and had a better idea than I did. Someone had tie-died some white sheets to hang as a backdrop behind the stage. As my only memory of tie-dye was a blue and white t-shirt which came out uneven, I had no idea it could be so colorful.
Unfortunately, after Bad Moon rising, the musician/guitar player wandered into the wrong decade and stayed there, as I’m sure Tequila Sunrise and Margaritaville were not played at Woodstock. His final nod to the sixties was Love Potion Number Nine, when really it was Diovol I needed, as the food was – well the polite word might be – institutionalized. Can you dig it? No I could not, and this is coming from someone who ate hospital food for years way better than that. Unlike the original Woodstock, no drugs were allowed, well at least no psychedelic ones. Although marijuana is legal now in Canada and they are even trialing it in nursing homes for pain control (don’t get me started), there was none in evidence. Thank God, smoking inside buildings is not allowed.
As parties go, it ended fairly early, but I was tired (one of the disadvantages of getting older is you can stay out all night but you don’t want to), and this hippy-chick was happy to go home to my nice comfy bed and grateful I did not have to sleep out in the mud with half a million other people. While not quite as exciting as the first Woodstock, it was a fun happening. Maybe they can do it again in another fifty years and invite the Rolling Stones – they’ll be 125 and on their final world tour.
PS. In these strange and tumultuous times, maybe we need to be reminded of those famous slogans, “Make Love, Not War” and “Give Peace a Chance.”
PS. Do you remember Woodstock and the hippy era? Do you remember any of the fashions and music?
PS. I think we had much better music back then, a lot of which is still listened to today. I may be showing my age, but I have a dislike for much of the current music scene, especially rap, which I feel is totally lacking in lyrics and melody. I listen to classic rock, oldies but goodies stations, and even the really old classics like Sinatra and the Big Band era. Younger readers, how do you feel about your generation’s music versus the older stuff? Do you think it will have staying power? I read recently that Drake has now surpassed the Beatles record of eleven number one hits in a single year/album, but I could not tell you one single song Drake song, or Beyonce or Justin Beiber for that matter – I guess I have turned into my mother and just change the station!