Isle of Wight Festival 1969

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Isle of Wight Festival 1969
Official festival poster
GenreRock, folk, country, blues, jazz
Dates29–31 August 1969
Location(s)Woodside Bay, Wootton creek, Isle of Wight, England
Coordinates50°44′06″N 1°13′48″W / 50.735°N 1.230°W / 50.735; -1.230
Founded byRikki Farr, Ronnie Foulk, Ray Foulk

The 1969 Isle of Wight Festival was held on 29–31 August 1969 at Wootton Creek, on the Isle of Wight. The festival attracted an audience of approximately 150,000[1] to see acts including Bob Dylan, the Band, the Who, Free, Joe Cocker, the Bonzo Dog Band and the Moody Blues. It was the second of three music festivals held on the island between 1968 and 1970. Organised by Rikki Farr, Ronnie and Ray Foulk's Fiery Creations,[2] it became a legendary event, largely owing to the participation of Dylan, who had spent the previous three years in semi-retirement.[3] The event was well managed, in comparison to the recent Woodstock Festival, and trouble-free.

Bob Dylan[edit]

The 1969 festival was considerably larger and more popular than the previous year's. Dylan had been little heard of since his allegedly near-fatal motorcycle accident in July 1966. Shunning the Woodstock Festival, held near his home in upstate New York,[4][5] Dylan was initially reluctant to perform his comeback show on the little-known Isle of Wight. After weeks of negotiations, the Foulk brothers showed him a short film of the island's cultural and literary heritage; this appealed to Dylan's artistic sensibilities, as he was enthusiastic about combining a family holiday with a live performance in Tennyson country.[6] The family was scheduled to travel to Britain on the Queen Elizabeth 2 and nearly missed the gig because Dylan's son Jesse had been hit by a ship cabin door and needed to be hospitalised. Dylan travelled to the site by plane at the last minute.[7]

The crowd in front the main stage

Before the festival, Dylan and his fellow Woodstock residents, the Band, rehearsed at Forelands Farm in Bembridge, and were joined there by George Harrison, the only "outsider" to have visited him in his enclave in the Catskill Mountains.[8][9][10] On Saturday, 30 August, the day before Dylan was to take the stage, Harrison's fellow Beatles John Lennon and Ringo Starr arrived on the island,[11] along with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton.[12] Also seated in the sealed-off VIP area in front of the stage would be Beatle wives Pattie Harrison, Yoko Ono and Maureen Starkey, together with celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Françoise Hardy, Georges Moustaki, Syd Barrett, Donald Cammell, Elton John and others.[13][12]

Thanks to rumours that one or all of the Beatles would be joining him on stage,[14] Dylan's comeback show had become, in the words of music journalist John Harris, "inflated into the gig of the decade".[6] On 31 August, Dylan arrived on stage in a cream suit recalling Hank Williams.[15] Backed by the Band, he performed recent pieces from his Nashville Skyline and John Wesley Harding albums, as well as countryfied versions of earlier songs such as "Maggie's Farm", "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Like a Rolling Stone".[16]

Tents at the festival

Dylan's setlist was as follows:

Four performances from this concert were included on Dylan's album Self Portrait (1970): "Like a Rolling Stone", "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)", "Minstrel Boy" and "She Belongs to Me". His set with the Band was also released in several countries on various bootleg records.[17]

A champion of both the Band and Dylan, Harrison wrote a country song inspired by the event and dedicated to Dylan, "Behind That Locked Door", released on his 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass.[18]

In 2013, the complete recording of Dylan's performance was released on the Deluxe Edition of The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971).[19]

The Who[edit]

The Who presented their standard set at that time, which included the rock opera Tommy, as they had recently released that album and were touring in support of it. The group had just returned from a tour of the United States, where they had performed at Woodstock about two weeks earlier. They opened with "Heaven and Hell", followed by "I Can't Explain", "Fortune Teller", "Young Man Blues", and then performed the opera nearly in full, finishing up with "Summertime Blues", "Shakin' All Over"/"Spoonful" and two tracks as the encore: "My Generation" and the finale of "Naked Eye".[20]


Isle of Wight Festival 1969


  1. ^ "2010 audio interview with Ray Foulk". 2 September 2010. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  2. ^ Foulk, Ray; Foulk, Caroline (2015). Stealing Dylan from Woodstock. London: Medina Publishing. ISBN 9781909339507. Archived from the original on 11 May 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  3. ^ Alan Clayson, George Harrison, Sanctuary (London, 2003), p. 274.
  4. ^ Levon Helm with Stephen Davis, This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band, A Cappella Books (Chicago, IL, 2000), p. 198.
  5. ^ Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Doubleday (London, 2001), pp. 248–51.
  6. ^ a b John Harris, "A Quiet Storm", Mojo, July 2001, p. 69.
  7. ^ "Bob Dylan: How the Isle of Wight festival managed to steal the voice of a generation from Woodstock". The Independent. 29 May 2015. Archived from the original on 24 March 2020. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  8. ^ Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Doubleday (London, 2001), pp. 236, 251.
  9. ^ Alan Clayson, George Harrison, Sanctuary (London, 2003), pp. 242–43.
  10. ^ John Harris, "A Quiet Storm", Mojo, July 2001, p. 68.
  11. ^ Barry Miles, The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years, Omnibus Press (London, 2001), p. 351.
  12. ^ a b Bill Wyman, Rolling with the Stones, Dorling Kindersley (London, 2002), p. 342.
  13. ^ Chris O'Dell with Katherine Ketcham, Miss O'Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Women They Loved, Touchstone (New York, NY, 2009), p. 87.
  14. ^ Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Doubleday (London, 2001), p. 251.
  15. ^ Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Doubleday (London, 2001), p. 252.
  16. ^ Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, Doubleday (London, 2001), p. 253.
  17. ^ "Bob Dylan: Isle of Wight". Archived from the original on 2 August 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  18. ^ George Harrison, I Me Mine, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA, 2002), p. 206.
  19. ^ "Another Self Portrait Press Release" (PDF). 16 July 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 January 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2013.
  20. ^ Neill, Andy; Kent, Matt (2002). Anywhere Anyhow Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of The Who. Virgin Books. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-7535-1217-3.

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