Hi, my name is Jeff, and I am a Woodstockaholic.
I didn't go to the original concert, but I listened to it on the radio while sitting on my bed at summer camp in Connecticut, wishing I could sneak out of that particular hell and find my way to heaven. Instead, I could only listen to pieces of it that appeared on the news or from one of the local stations with a reporter on the site. The good news is that just a few weeks before, we were allowed to go to Tanglewood for one of the greatest shows I've ever seen: a triple bill of B.B. King, the Jefferson Airplane, and the Who, who performed "Tommy" in its entirety.
Since the concert, I've tried to satiate that great hole in my teenage life by seeing and owning every broadcast, film or recording of the concert I could get my hands on. That included, of course, going to the movie in the theater with my parents (my dad referred to Ten Years After as "Ten Long Years"), owning the record of Woodstock 1, then Woodstock 2, the VHS, the DVD, the Director's cut, the 40th Anniversary Director's Cut on Blu-Ray, an untold amount of bootlegs of the concert itself and individual acts, then the Rhino collection that came out several years ago and the 10-disk "Back to the Garden" collection that came out this year.
There are also the books, two terrific oral histories, "Barefoot in Babylon" and "Woodstock: The Oral History." My favorite was probably Eliot Tiber's "Taking Woodstock," about the kid who was one of the unsung heroes in bringing the concert to Bethel. It's not only a great story, but it was made into a movie by Ang Lee. The Nation magazine used it as a fundraiser, and not only was I asked to introduce it, but I also got to introduce the evening's featured speaker, Pete Fornatale, one of my DJ heroes from when he was on WNEW. He and I watched the movie together from the third row, while sharing a bucket of popcorn. He was truly a nice guy, and sitting there listening to his asides was one of the great thrills of my life.
Anyway, this year Rhino issued the holy grail of Woodstock collections: a 38-disc collection of everything, 433 tracks, everything that was heard at the concert from beginning to end. Even for someone like me, there were quite a few revelations, and I spent a good part of my summer uncovering them. Among them:
*Whoever edited the original film made a lot of good decisions. I'm not sure how much I would have lasted that first day, what with having to endure Melanie, Bert Summer, Tim Hardin. Even Richie Havens' performance was well-edited in the film and record to include the highlights and omit the low-lights, such as his rendition of "With a Little Help From My Friends," whose lyrics he couldn't remember.
*The constant stream of announcements remain endlessly fascinating, going way beyond the warning about brown acid. I still wonder whether the woman who left her clothes in the back of the guy's van ever got them back.
*John Sebastian, contrary to what you see in the film, was actually pretty good. He wasn't the stoned wreck the movie makes him out to be. On the other hand, I could have done without Joan Baez's righteousness. And Country Joe's attempts to be a country singer, omigosh, the less said the better.
*The Band wasn't so great, and the Dead's set was marred by major technical difficulties.
There were a couple of performances that I've put on repeat more than the others. Maybe it's just me, but I loved Arlo Guthrie's stoned-hippie story of Passover. Clearly, he was trying out a sequel to Alice's Restaurant. It may be you have to visit the medical marijuana dispensary first to enjoy it, or maybe not. Here's a link to it.
The biggest revelation for me was the Keef Hartley Band. Until Woodstock, Hartley was primarily known as the drummer who replaced Ringo in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. After Woodstock, well, he was completely unknown because he doesn't appear in any of the official releases, but I loved his blend of hard rock, jazz and every other style he could toss in there. His guitarist, Ian Cruickshank gets in a pretty hot solo hero too. Here's a link to "Halfbreed."