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Festival poster, listing artists booked to play on the three main days

The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was held on 26 August – 31 August 1970. It was held on Afton Down an area on the Western side of the Isle of Wight. It was the last of three consecutive music festivals to take place on the island between 1968 and 1970. It was widely acknowledged as the largest musical event of its time (until Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in 1973), greater than the attendance of Live Aid, Woodstock and Rock in Rio. The Guinness Book of Records estimated 600,000 to 700,000, and possibly 800,000 people attended.

The Isle of Wight Festivals had already attracted a massive reputation in 1968 and in 1969 by attracting acts such as Jefferson Airplane, T. Rex, The Move, Pretty Things, Joe Cocker and Bob Dylan (in his first performance since his 1966 motorcycle accident) and The Who in their foundation years. The organisers Fiery Creations (apparently alias brothers Ronald Foulk and Raymond Foulk) were determined to make the 1970 event a legendary event. In this aim they enlisted Jimi Hendrix. With Jimi confirmed, artists such as Chicago, The Doors, The Who, Joan Baez, and Free willingly took up the chance to play on the island. The event had a magnificent but impractical site, a strong but inconsistent line up and the logistical nightmare of transporting 600,000 onto an island with a population of less than 100,000. The aftermath and commercial failings of the festival ensured it would be the last event of its kind on the Isle of Wight for thirty-two years.


Planning difficulties

The opposition to the proposed 1970 Festival from the residents of the Isle of Wight was much better coordinated than it had been in previous years. The Isle of Wight was a favourite retirement destination of the British well-heeled, and a haven of the yachting set, and many of the traditional residents deplored the huge influx of 'hippies' and 'freaks'. Renting a few acres of suitable farmland to hold a music festival had in earlier years been a simple commercial matter between the promoters and one of the local farmers, but by 1970 this had become subject to approval decisions from several local council committees who were heavily lobbied by residents' associations opposing the festival. As a result of this public scrutiny, the preferred ideal location for the third Festival was blocked, and the promoters in the end had no choice but to accept the only venue on offer by the authorities: East Afton Farm, Afton Down, a site that was in many ways deliberately selected to be unsuitable for their purpose. One unintended result of the pick of location was that, since it was overlooked by a large hill, a significant number of people were able to camp out on the hill and watch the proceedings for free.



Wednesday 26th

Thursday 27th

Friday 28th

  • Fairfield Parlour: They had recorded a single called "Let The World Wash In", released under the name I Luv Wight, which they hoped would become the festival's theme song. They had also previously recorded as The Kaleidoscope.
  • Arrival: Their set, which included a Leonard Cohen cover was well received.
  • Lighthouse: This popular Canadian act performed two sets at the festival.
  • Taste: Legendary guitarist Rory Gallagher had a blues trio from 1968 to 1970. This was one of their final shows, which was filmed and recorded. An album was released of their set in 1971.
  • Tony Joe White: Performed hits including Polk Salad Annie; his drummer was Cozy Powell.
  • Chicago: Their set, including "25 or 6 to 4," "Beginnings" and "I'm a Man" was a highlight of the night.
  • Family:
  • Procol Harum: Frontman Gary Brooker commented that it was a cold night.
  • Voices of East Harlem: Their set received several standing ovations. Not actually a band, but a bunch of singing school children from Harlem. They had one studio album.
  • Cactus: Two songs from their set were featured on the LP The First Great Rock Festivals Of The Seventies.

Saturday 29th

  • John Sebastian: The showstopper of the Festival performed an 80-minute set, during which Zal Yanovsky, former Lovin' Spoonful guitarist, made a surprise guest appearance.
  • Shawn Phillips: American folk musician performed an impromptu solo set following John Sebastian.
  • Lighthouse (second set)
  • Joni Mitchell: Played a controversial set; Following her rendition of "Woodstock", a hippie named Yogi Joe interrupted her set to make a speech about Desolation Row. When Joe was hauled off by Joni's manager, the audience began to boo until Mitchell made an emotional appeal to them for some respect for the performers. [1]. Contrary to popular belief, Joe was not the man who was ranting about a "psychedelic concentration camp". That was another incident that took place the previous day. After the crowd quieted down, Mitchell closed her set with "Big Yellow Taxi"
  • Tiny Tim: His rendition of "There'll Always Be an England" can be seen in the film Message to Love.
  • Miles Davis: A DVD of his complete set was released in 2004.
  • Ten Years After: British blues rockers performing what was basically a reproduction of their famous Woodstock set. Highlights included "I'm Going Home" and "I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes," which was featured in Message to Love.
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer: This was their second gig. Pictures at an Exhibition, which featured the Moog synthesizer was the centerpiece of their historic set. Commercially released as Emerson, Lake and Palmer Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 in 1997.
  • The Doors: Their set was shrouded in darkness due to Jim Morrison's unwillingness to have movie spotlights on the band. Their performances of "The End" and "When the Music's Over" are featured in Message to Love.
  • The Who: Their entire set, including the rock opera Tommy, was released in 1996 on CD (Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970). Three years later their set appeared on DVD with significant cuts from Tommy and a few other songs (such as "Naked Eye") missing. In addition, the DVD song set order was radically altered to present Tommy as if having been performed at the second-half of the concert (with "See Me, Feel Me"/"Listening to You" as the conclusion), when, in fact, Tommy was performed in the middle of their lengthy set, and the closing title was "Magic Bus", which concluded some Who concerts at that time. A 2006-reissued DVD of the concert retains the altered order, despite having been personally "supervised" by Who guitarist and songwriter Peter Townshend.
  • Melanie: This Woodstock veteran played a well-received set. Prior to her set, Keith Moon of The Who offered her some moral support and encouragement. Not until afterwards did Melanie realize who he was.
  • Sly & the Family Stone: The showstoppers of Woodstock performed to a tired audience on the early morning of Sunday. However, the audience woke up for spirited renditions of "I Want to Take You Higher", "Dance to the Music" and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", which featured Sly on guitar. Prior to their encore, another political militant decided it was time to make a speech, and the booing audience started to throw beer cans onto the stage. Freddie Stone was hit by a flying can and an angry Sly decided to skip the encore. He did promise a second appearance, but this never occurred.

Sunday 30th

  • Good News: American acoustic duo.
  • Kris Kristofferson (Second set)
  • Ralph McTell: Despite an enthusiastic reception from the audience, he did not play an encore, and the stage was cleared for Donovan.
  • Heaven: English answer to Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears
  • Free: Their set list consisted of "Ride on a Pony", "Mr. Big", "Woman", "The Stealer", "Be My Friend", "Fire & Water", "I'm a Mover", "The Hunter", their classic hit "All Right Now", and concluded with a cover of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads".
  • Donovan: He first performed an acoustic set, and then an electric set with his band Open Road.
  • Pentangle: British folk combo. A German woman interrupted their set to deliver a political message to the audience.
  • The Moody Blues: A popular British act and veteran of the 1969 festival. Their rendition of "Nights in White Satin" can be seen in Message to Love.
  • Jethro Tull: Their set is featured on Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970.
  • Jimi Hendrix: The star of the festival performed in the early hours of 31 August with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass. His set has been released on CD and video in various forms. In the beginning Hendrix had technical problems, which at one point during "Machine Gun" involved the security's radio signal interfering with his amp's output.
  • Joan Baez: Her version of "Let It Be" can be seen in the film Message to Love.
  • Leonard Cohen: Backed by his band The Army, his tune "Suzanne" can be seen in the film Message to Love. In october 2009 came out audio and video (both DVD and Blu-Ray) record of his show, Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 (Leonard Cohen album).
  • Richie Havens: The musician who opened Woodstock closed this festival with a set during the morning of 31 August. As Havens performed his version of "Here Comes the Sun", the morning sun rose. Havens' set, which is available as an audience recording, also included "Maggie's Farm" by Bob Dylan, "Freedom", "Minstrel from Gault" and the Hare Krishna mantra.
Canvas City performances


External links


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