Political Animal Magazine2019-03-27T14:53:23+00:00

SPOTLIGHT

Woodstock Turns 50: Behind the Curtain with John Morris, Head of Production

August 15th, 2019|

By Aidan Prewett

In the wake of the cancellation of the Woodstock 50 music festival, the original Woodstock Music and Art Fair and its production look all the more historic. The following is an interview with John Morris, the Production Coordinator at Woodstock, whose voice became an iconic part of the event. As he explains, the first Woodstock could have collapsed under its own weight too, but due to quick thinking and the collective spirit of the crowd, disaster was averted.

The interview is an excerpt from the book Woodstock at 50: Anatomy of a Revolution, by Aidan Prewett (published by Political Animal Press). As Prewett explores in Woodstock at 50, the original festival was not just a music festival–it was an expression of a counterculture, the like of which barely exists today. Against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, the idea of three days of peace and music had a deeper significance.

Despite some attempts to link the Woodstock 50 festival to current social and political causes, including voter registration and climate change, the now-cancelled festival never embodied a movement. It had more of the feel of an establishment festival than an anti-establishment festival, similar to the numerous other corporate sponsored music festivals that have appeared in the last 20 years or so.

All the more reason to reconsider the significance of the original Woodstock on its 50th anniversary.


Aidan Prewett: So can we talk about Max Yasgur’s farm and how that was in the days preceding Woodstock, and how that changed as people started to arrive and the stage was being built….

John Morris: Nobody had any idea that there were going to be as many people there as there were. The largest two performance events that you had before that were the Beatles at Shea Stadium, about fifty thousand people, and Monterey Pop, which was about thirty-five thousand people. And that was as far as it went. Nobody knew about the size of gigs that happen now, and we had planned for fifty to seventy-five thousand, which was really pretty unthinkable, outside of New York. Chris Langhart, who was our technical director for the whole thing, built everything to stand four times that. Just for safety. Which is the only reason we got through what we got through. ‘Cos there were forty miles of underground pipes carrying water. Everything worked except the fences. The fence guy never finished. (more…)

A Tribute to D.A. Pennebaker

August 8th, 2019|

By Aidan Prewett

A trip down into D.A. Pennebaker’s basement offices is a descent into a veritable museum of pop culture history. The walls are covered, every inch, with original posters from JFK’s political rallies, concert flyers from the Fillmore East, and artwork from every other performance venue important enough to have a Pennebaker film made there. Shelves are lined with sacred artefacts; film canisters containing the raw materials of history. If Pennebaker was filming you, you were history. On this particular day, however, it was I who had the honour of filming Pennebaker. Penny’s own desire to foster young talent – to give a leg-up to other filmmakers – was clear. He helped give a push to my career, and continued to do so well after this particular documentary was completed. He performed this service for so many others over the course of his own extraordinary career. I’m truly grateful for his generosity. (more…)

THEORY

Freud, Woodstock, and Crowd Behavior

By |July 25th, 2019|0 Comments

When you have a master or a leader, there’s always another master somewhere fighting them off or trying to contest them. The masters of other people can look pretty annoying to you, if not contemptible, irrelevant, reprehensible. I think about Beatlemania, where people were just horrified — What the hell is going on? These four guys with weird floppy haircuts. Or with Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, or any of the other rock stars. The disgust and terror that people have that others are caught up.

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PRACTICE

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JUSTICE

Social Contract Theory

By |February 1st, 2019|0 Comments

When you make an agreement of some significance (e.g., to rent an apartment, or join a gym, or divorce), you typically agree to certain terms: you sign a contract. This is for your benefit, and for the the other party’s benefit: everyone’s expectations are clear, as are the consequences of failing to meet those expectations.

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ARTS & LETTERS

Woodstock Turns 50: Behind the Curtain with John Morris, Head of Production

By |August 15th, 2019|0 Comments

When you have a master or a leader, there’s always another master somewhere fighting them off or trying to contest them. The masters of other people can look pretty annoying to you, if not contemptible, irrelevant, reprehensible. I think about Beatlemania, where people were just horrified — What the hell is going on? These four guys with weird floppy haircuts. Or with Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, or any of the other rock stars. The disgust and terror that people have that others are caught up.

A Tribute to D.A. Pennebaker

By |August 8th, 2019|0 Comments

When you have a master or a leader, there’s always another master somewhere fighting them off or trying to contest them. The masters of other people can look pretty annoying to you, if not contemptible, irrelevant, reprehensible. I think about Beatlemania, where people were just horrified — What the hell is going on? These four guys with weird floppy haircuts. Or with Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, or any of the other rock stars. The disgust and terror that people have that others are caught up.

Freud, Woodstock, and Crowd Behavior

By |July 25th, 2019|0 Comments

When you have a master or a leader, there’s always another master somewhere fighting them off or trying to contest them. The masters of other people can look pretty annoying to you, if not contemptible, irrelevant, reprehensible. I think about Beatlemania, where people were just horrified — What the hell is going on? These four guys with weird floppy haircuts. Or with Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, or any of the other rock stars. The disgust and terror that people have that others are caught up.

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