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Isle of Wight Festival 1970

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

The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was held between 26 and 31 August 1970 at compere.

The preceding Isle of Wight Festivals, also promoted by the Foulks, had already gained a good reputation in 1968 and 1969 by featuring acts such as Jefferson Airplane, T. Rex, The Move, The Pretty Things, Joe Cocker, The Moody Blues (performed at the 1969 festival), The Who, and Bob Dylan in his first performance since his 1966 motorcycle accident.

The 1970 version, following Woodstock in the previous year, set out to move one step forward and enlisted Jimi Hendrix. With Hendrix confirmed, artists such as Chicago, The Doors, Lighthouse, The Moody Blues, The Who, Miles Davis, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Jethro Tull, Sly and the Family Stone, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Free willingly took up the chance to play there. The event had a magnificent but impractical site, since the prevailing wind blew the sound sideways across the venue, and the sound system had to be augmented by Pink Floyd's PA. There was a strong, but inconsistent line up, and the logistical nightmare of transporting some 600,000 people onto an island with a population of fewer than 100,000.

Political and logistical difficulties resulted in the organisers eventually realising that the festival would not make a profit and declaring it to be "a free festival", although the majority of the audience had paid for tickets in advance, and the event was filmed contemporaneously. The commercial failings of the festival ensured it was the last event of its kind on the Isle of Wight for thirty-two years.


  • Planning difficulties 1
  • Performances 2
    • Wednesday 26th 2.1
    • Thursday 27th 2.2
    • Friday 28th 2.3
    • Saturday 29th 2.4
    • Sunday 30th 2.5
  • Filming 3
  • Influence 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

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'. This led to the introduction of the "Isle of Wight County Council Act 1971" designed to control any further happenings of this kind. 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 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 Kaleidoscope. One song available "Soldiers of Flesh" on a bootleg vinyl record called "Coca Cola Bullshit"
  • 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, Live at the Isle of Wight, was released of their set in 1971.
  • Tony Joe White: Performed hits including "Polk Salad Annie"; his drummer was Cozy Powell. Tony Joe's entire set was released in 2006 on Swamp Music, a Rhino Handmade collection of his Monument recordings.
  • Chicago: Their set, including "25 or 6 to 4," "Beginnings" and "I'm a Man," was a highlight of the night.
  • Family: Their set included "The Weaver's Answer," which had become their signature song.
  • Procol Harum: Frontman Gary Brooker commented that it was a cold night.
  • The 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.
  • Mungo Jerry were there but decided not to play

Saturday 29th

  • John Sebastian: Performed an 80-minute set, during which former Lovin' Spoonful guitarist Zal Yanovsky made a surprise guest appearance.
  • Shawn Phillips: This American folk musician performed an impromptu solo set following John Sebastian.
  • Lighthouse (second set)
  • Joni Mitchell: Played a controversial set; following her performance of "Woodstock", a hippie named Yogi Joe interrupted her set to make a speech about the people at the festival in an encampment built of straw bales known as 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 reprise 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 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. As described in Morrison's biography, No One Here Gets Out Alive, wind, bad weather, and the cold made their performance even harder. Bootleg recordings of the performances and audio do exist, alongside a 2015 remastered release by Doxy Records which has been made available on Spotify.[7] A live version of "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" was featured in the soundtrack for When You're Strange.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Melanie: This Woodstock veteran played a well-received set as the sun rose. Prior to her set, Keith Moon of The Who offered her some moral support and encouragement. Not until afterwards did Melanie realise who he was. Her performance of her own song, "What Have They Done to My Song Ma", was included in a 2010 French documentary, spanning the 1970 and 2010 I.O.W. festivals, called From Wight to Wight and first shown on TV station ARTE, on 30 July 2010.

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 : Their set is featured on Threshold of A Dream Live at the Isle of Wight 1970.
  • Jethro Tull: Their set is featured on Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970. During Sunday morning the audience were entertained by a rehearsal/sound-check by Jethro Tull.
  • 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 "Midnight Lightning" 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 audio and video (both DVD and Blu-ray) recording of his set, Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 was released.
  • 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", a cloudy dawn broke after four days of cloudless sky, so he changed the lyrics to "Here Comes the Dawn". 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


All the performances at the festival were professionally filmed by award winning film director Murray Lerner.[8] with a view to releasing a documentary film but due to financial difficulties, nothing was released until 27 years after the event. Lerner distilled material from the festival into the film "Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival" which was premiered at a San Jose film festival in 1995 and released in 1997. The film puts a negative slant on the 1970 event by splicing in footage of violent incidents preceding the festival itself. Chief Constable, Hampshire Constabulary, Sir Douglas Osmond emphasised the peaceful nature of the event in his evidence given to the Stevenson Report, 1971, (submitted to parliament as evidence in favour of future Isle of Festivals) "...By the end of the festival the press representatives became almost desperate for material and they seemed a little disappointed that the patrons had been so well behaved."

A second film directed by Lerner, Leonard Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight, 1970, was released in 2010.[8] A number of other performances have been released on DVD including:

  • Jimi Hendrix - Blue Wild Angel - Live at the Isle of Wight 1970
  • The Who - Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970
  • Jethro Tull - Nothing is Easy - Live at the Isle of Wight 1970
  • The Moody Blues - Threshold Of A Dream - Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970
  • Miles Davis - Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue
  • Emerson Lake & Palmer - The Birth of a Band - Live at the Isle of Wight 1970
  • Free - Free Forever - Disc 2 in concert - Video content: Be My Friend, Mr Big, All Right Now - Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970
  • Taste - What's Going On - Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 (Released 18th September 2015)


The founders/main instigators of the Glastonbury (1971), Windsor (1972–74) and Stonehenge (1974) Free Festivals were all at IOW 1970, respectively Andrew Kerr, Ubi Dwyer and Wally Hope, inspired by the anarchistic nature of the breakdown of control by the original organisation and the subsequent freedom of the last days of the event.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Judas Jump at AllMusic
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b

External links

  • 1970
  • Official 1970 festival history from
  • Le Festival de Wight 1970 – En Coulisse
  • Isle Of Wight Festival
  • 1970 Isle of Wight Festival Veterans – Facebook group
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