Forty-three years ago today Jimi Hendrix and his Band Of Gypsys closed out the most famous music festival in music history. There have been bigger, much better organized, more profitable festivals, but no concert gathering has ever captured people’s imaginations the way that Woodstock has.
Arguably the reason that Michael Lang’s and Artie Kornfeld’s brainchild endures almost half a century later is that the two young producers possessed the foresight to document the event. Engineer Eddie Kramer spent three days in a mobile sound studio behind the stage recording the show, and filmmakers Michael Wadleigh and D.A. Pennebaker roamed Yasgur’s farm, cameras rolling.
Wadleigh’s documentary went on to win a 1970 Academy Award, and the related soundtrack on Cotillion Records sold oh, let’s eyeball it at 957.4 billion copies. These two documents codified for most of us the Woodstock experience: twenty songs, some stage announcements from Chip Monck and John Morris, and the crowd chanting “No rain! No rain!”
Twenty songs over three days would be the most boring concert event ever. Obviously there’s more — 297 more, to be exact — bringing the total number of songs performed at the event to 317. Many of these missing 297 have been released over the last four decades on various official releases, bootlegs, and DVDs. A few more have been leaked onto Youtube.
There are easier ways to do this, but I’m an honest guy so I set out to put together the most complete legal Woodstock soundtrack possible, and by “legal” I mean “no illegal downloads.” You can recreate what I’ve done with much less money and effort, but: A) you’ll have shittier sound quality; B) you won’t feel very good about yourself; and C) collecting is fun.
So over the next several weeks I’m going to share with you how to put together a playlist of the thirty-two Woodstock performers and as many of their 317 songs as I’m aware of. I’m even going to point out when to find a cut on the intergooglewebtubes when no other option is available. When we’re done your Woodstock soundtrack will include over two hundred songs.
Let’s kick things off with Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” though she didn’t appear at the festival because her manager thought it was more important to appear on The Dick Cavett Show. Smooth.
P.S. Warner Music Group, do you see what I go through for you? Why don’t you throw us all a bone and put out a comprehensive box set? It’s been forty-three frigging years already.
(Update: On August 2, 2019, Rhino Records released Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary. With exception to two Hendrix tracks and one Sha Na Na cut, the massive box set contains complete sets from every Woodstock artist—even those long believed lost or never recorded. The entire limited edition of 1,969 units sold out before it was even released, though, so unless you find one on the secondary market compiling your own (kind of) complete Woodstock remains the way to go.)