Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Beginning of the End

By January 1969, the Beatles had almost completely fallen apart. The concept of Let It Be was to record the Beatles writing and practicing new songs that would then become an album of new material as a soundtrack to a film about the recording of new music. (I wrote that sentence and realized that what I had written was as convoluted as the concept itself.) It's easy to see why things went awry. We've talked in the past about when George Harrison left the Beatles after a particularly uncomfortable row with Paul McCartney on how Harrison should play the guitar for "Hey Jude." As the conversation deteriorates with Paul essentially bullying Harrison, George responds that he'll play it however Paul wants him to and goes on to say that if Paul doesn't want him to play at all, he's fine with that as well. While the content itself of the conversation isn't enough to suggest that George quit the band the exasperation in Harrison's demeanor is such that we know. You could see it in George's diary as well, a tome full of relatively sparse pages with scribbles in pink ink on each page. January 9: "Went to Twickenham." January 10: "Got up, went to Twickenham. Rehearsed until lunchtime – left the Beatles." The next day, George wrote "Wah-wah" for the All Things Must Pass LP. And here's an interesting aside. John suggested at that point that Eric Clapton take George's place in the band. What an incredible concept. Keep in mind that at Clapton had been in Cream and then the Yardbirds, that this was before Derek & The Dominos and any of the solo LPs. I think again about Eric's blues background and the avenues that the Beatles may have explored with Clapton's bluesy past.

The Beatles, of course, would scrap the Let It Be project and reunite with George Martin for Abbey Road. George would have with that album one of the Beatles' biggest hit with "Something," but what other band, aside from the Beatles, could pass up songs like "All Things Must Pass" and "Isn't It a Pity?" Alongside "Something," though, is a song that is so familiar to us today that we hardly realize anymore that it's in written in 7/2 time. Instead of counting four beats to the measure, one counts seven, a time signature straight out of a progressive rock playbook that wouldn't even be written for another couple years. We've talked about Jim Morrison's influence in The Doors, but rarely do we recognize that The Doors' two biggest hits "Light My Fire" and "Touch Me" from LA woman were both written by Robby Krieger and not by Morrison.

The point is (you were beginning to wonder if there was one), the 60s were winding down. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Yes and Crosby, Stills and Nash would lead us into the 70s, but the 60s had one final victory that would take place in July 1969 with the orchestrated chaos called Woodstock. The plan for Woodstock was nearly as convoluted as that for Let It Be. In Early 1969, Music entrepreneurs Joel Rosenman and John Roberts were creating Media Sound, a state of the art recording studio in Manhattan. In February, Michael Lang, considered the real impetus behind Woodstock, and his partner Arthur Kornfeld approached Roberts and Roseman about funding a similar if smaller studio in the Catskill Mountains near Woodstock New York, the home of Bob Dylan and The Band, among others. Instead, Roberts and Roseman proposed a concert featuring those Catskill artists who found their way to Woodstock. And in January 1969 Woodstock Ventures was formed. 

At this point in time, no one knew what Woodstock would become, indeed Lang and Kornfeld couldn't find anyone who wanted to participate until in April 1969. Creedence Clearwater Revival became the first to sign on, agreeing to play for $10,000, the equivalent today of approximately $100,000. Their signing led to interest by a myriad of others from unknowns like Joe Cocker to superstars like Hendrix. Interestingly, an event that would be attended by some 500,000, the half-million-strong, was a muddy mess from beginning to end. Indeed, the concert didn't even take place in Woodstock but 50 miles away on Yasgur's farm in Bethel Woods, New York.

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