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Isle of Wight Festival 1970

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

The Isle of Wight Festival 1970 was held between 26 and 31 August 1970 at 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 and widely acknowledged as the largest musical event of its time, greater than the attendance of Woodstock.[1][2] Although estimates vary, the Guinness World Records estimated 600,000, possibly 700,000 people attended. It was organised and promoted by local brothers, Ron and Ray Foulk through their company Fiery Creations Ltd and their brother Bill Foulk. Ron Smith was site manager and Rikki Farr acted as 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.

Many excerpts from this festival have appeared on record and video.

Artists lineupEdit

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 Cactus, 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 also took part. 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 The Who's own PA. Organizers also faced the logistical problems involved in of transporting some 600,000 people onto an island with a population of fewer than 100,000. The Island's transport services were already stretched by the annual influx of summer holiday-makers at the same time.

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 difficultiesEdit

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 sections to the "Isle of Wight County Council Act 1971" designed to control any further large overnight gatherings.[3] 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 this choice 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 26thEdit

  • Judas Jump: A heavy progressive rock band featuring Andy Bown and Henry Spinetti of The Herd and Allan Jones of Amen Corner.[4]
  • Kathy Smith: A Californian singer-songwriter, signed to Richie Havens' label, "Stormy Forest", was well received.[5]
  • Rosalie Sorrels: Another folk musician, accompanied by David Bromberg on guitar.
  • David Bromberg: Bromberg was not on the bill, but he performed a set. "Mr. Bojangles" was included on the album The First Great Rock Festivals of The Seventies.
  • Redbone: Native American pop/rock outfit. On the bill, but did not perform.
  • Kris Kristofferson: Performed a controversial set. Due to poor sound, the audience was unable to hear his set, and it appeared that they were jeering him. He was eventually booed off the stage. "It was a total disaster," Kristofferson recalled. "They just hated us. They hated everything. They booed us, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Sly Stone; they threw shit at Jimi Hendrix. At the end of the night, they were tearing down the outer walls, setting fire to the concessions, burning their tents, shouting obscenities. Peace and love it was not."[6]
  • Mighty Baby: psychedelic rock band.

Thursday 27thEdit

Friday 28thEdit

  • 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 included a Leonard Cohen song.
  • Lighthouse: This Canadian act performed two sets at the festival.
  • Taste: Guitarist Rory Gallagher had a blues trio from 1966 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. Their set is featured on the Taste: What's Going on - Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 DVD & Blu-ray released in 2016.
  • 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 included "25 or 6 to 4," "Beginnings" and "I'm a Man."
  • 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. "Salty Dog" was included on The First Great Rock Festivals of The Seventies album.
  • Redbone: Native American pop/rock outfit.
  • The Voices of East Harlem: An ensemble of singing school children from East Harlem in New York City. Their set received several standing ovations.
  • Cactus: Two songs from their set were featured on the LP The First Great Rock Festivals of The Seventies.
  • Mungo Jerry were on the bill but did not play.

Saturday 29thEdit

  • 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.[9] 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 "Both Sides Now" and returned to the stage for an encore singing two more songs for an appreciative crowd.
  • 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. "Call It Anythin'" was included on The First Great Rock Festivals of The Seventies album.
  • 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 on the album The First Great Rock Festivals of The Seventies and the film 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 exist, alongside a 2015 remastered release by Doxy Records which has been made available on Spotify.[10] A live version of "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" was featured in the soundtrack for When You're Strange. Their set is featured on the Doors: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 in a combo DVD/CD – Blu-ray/CD & DVD – Blu-ray released in 2018.
  • The Who: Their entire set, including the rock opera Tommy, was released in 1996 on CD (Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970). Two 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), although 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 and 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. "Stand" and "You Can Make it if You Really Try" appeared on the album The First Great Rock Festivals of The Seventies. 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 30thEdit

  • Good News: American acoustic duo.
  • Kris Kristofferson (second set). Two of his songs from his sets were included on the album The First Great Rock Festivals of The Seventies.
  • 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, managed by Rikki Farr.
  • 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". Although not listed on any published setlist, "Oh I Wept" was also played. The song is audible as background when Rikki Farr is interviewed about drug-warnings, about 26 minutes into the film Message to Love.
  • Donovan: He first performed an acoustic set, and then an electric set with his band Open Road.
  • Pentangle: British folk band. A German woman interrupted their set to deliver a political message to the audience.
  • The Moody Blues: A popular British act and veterans 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: Performed in the early hours of 31 August with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass. Throughout Hendrix was beset by technical problems (during "Machine Gun" the security personnel's radio is clearly heard through Hendrix's amplifier). David Gilmour claims to have helped mix the sound that night.[11] The set has been released on CD and video in various forms. "Power to Love", "Midnight Lightning" and "Foxy Lady" received top billing on the album The First Great Rock Festivals of The Seventies.
  • 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. "Tonight Will Be Fine" were included on the album The First Great Rock Festivals of The Seventies. 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

Films and albumsEdit

The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies (1971)Edit

This three-LP set on CBS Records devoted the first disk to Second Annual Atlanta International Pop Festival, and two disks to the later Isle of Wight. Teo Macero is credited as the producer for the Isle of Wight disks. It featured in order billed: Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Ten Years After, Miles Davis, Kris Kristofferson, Procol Harum, Cactus, Leonard Cohen and David Bromberg.

Message to Love: The Isle of Wight FestivalEdit

All the performances at the festival were professionally filmed by award-winning film director Murray Lerner.[12] with a view to releasing a documentary film but due to financial difficulties, nothing was released until 27 years after the event. Finally, 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. A CD of the soundtrack was also issued by Castle Communications/Sony Legacy 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 Wight 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.

Other films and albumsEdit

A number of other performances were later released on CD, DVD and Blu-ray:


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.


The Last Great Event – with Jimi Hendrix & Jim Morrison, by Ray Foulk (Organiser) & Caroline Foulk, 364 pages, Medina Publishing 2016, Hardback ISBN 978-1-909339-58-3 & Paperback ISBN 978-1-909339-57-6


  1. ^ Simpson, Matthew (31 August 2011). "Top 10: Highest Attended Concerts Of All Time". AskMen. IGN Entertainment. p. 2. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. ^ "Concerts with Record Attendance". 19 August 2009. p. 1. Archived from the original on 14 April 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  3. ^ Isle of Wight County Council Act 1971, c.lxxi, ss.5-6
  4. ^ Judas Jump at AllMusic
  5. ^ "Kathy Smith". Archived from the original on 27 December 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2009.
  6. ^ Bell, Max: "Q&A: Kris Kristofferson"; Classic Rock #148, August 2010, p34
  7. ^ "Gary Farr & The T-Bones". Archived from the original on 4 August 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
  8. ^ "The Whole Story of The Famous Kinema Ballroom Dunfermline". Archived from the original on 17 June 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
  9. ^ Breese, Wally. "Joni Mitchell - The 1970 Isle of Wight Music Festival". Archived from the original on 11 August 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  10. ^ "Isle of Wight, 29 August 1970 (Doxy Collection, Remastered, Live)". Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  11. ^ "The David Gilmour Podcast - Episode 1". Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  12. ^ a b Dargis, Manohla (21 January 2010). "Going Back to the Well to Drink in the '70s". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2013.

External linksEdit