Sunday, August 30, 2009

Isle of Wightstock ?

There has been understandably less hubbub about the 40th anniversary tomorrow of Dylan's much-discussed Isle of Wight performance than there has been about the Woodstock anniversary.

And much of the discussion about the Bethel, New York rock festival concerned various theories as to why Dylan didn't appear there, especially since he was living in those days nearby in the town of Woodstock, New York. That of course was the original intended site of the festival which would eventually end up being staged on Max Yasgur's dairy farm spread an hour away to the southwest.

But for a specific reason, I've always been glad Dylan didn't make the three-day affair. For had Dylan done a set and been thusly memorialized in the film, his performance would likely have resembled what was on display just two weeks hence in the south of England. To put it politely, you have to search far and wide for anyone who considers the Isle of Wight a solid Dylan performance. As one critic put it, Dylan sang his tunes as if he were one of that generation of bad Dylan imitators who when covering his work always put the emphasis in all the wrong places.

So just a fortnight earlier at Woodstock, the result likely would have been similar to the Isle of Wight performance disaster. And thus that peculiar variation of Dylan's endless changes would be the one cemented in the mind of the general public at large as supposedly "classic" Dylan.

Fortunately, today merely a few Dylan afficionados lament decades later about how lousy the Isle of Wight performance was—or at least how few moments besides "Wild Mountain Thyme" ever found Dylan in the groove that entire night, and in front of three-quarters of The Beatles, for Heaven's sake! So how would you like having every Woodstock viewer conjuring that as their default image of Dylan?

But, I suppose, that would ultimately have been de fault of Dylan himself.



  1. As a fifteen year old who went to the IOW to see Dylan, I thought it was a great festival. I met a fifteen year old girl who had gone there to see Family and I lost my virginity. What more can one ask of a festival?

  2. The Isle of Wight was the crooning hillbilly BoB;ain't nothin' defective about dat !

  3. I'm glad didn't play Woodstock but not for the reasons you state. Woodstock, without doubting its historical or cultural importance, was just the kind of phony 'counter-culture' nonsense that Dylan has always hated. He wanted nothing to do with the whole 'hippy' thing, even if they wanted to hold him up as a hero and prophet. Dylan was a long way past all that by 1969. It was actually a good thing that he then went and played the Isle of Wight as a kind of riposte to Woodstock - and to top it all - he played it as a hillbilly crooner. Perfect! Dylan always knows what he's doing.