40 Years On: From Abbey Road to Woodstock

Saturday, August 7, 2009, marked 40 years since the 1969 photo shoot for the Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road album cover. In commemoration of the event, hundreds of Beatles fans from across the universe had come together at the famous zebra crossing. Those who could not be there were able to watch on their computer monitors thanks to a live web cam, something not possible when the Beatles crossed that street 40 years ago. Oh the times, they are a-changin’.

The year 1969 was pivotal in the evolution of popular culture. Promoters of a festival billed as “three days of peace and music” sold 186,000 tickets to the August 15-17, 1969, event at Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York. Over half a million people showed up. Heavy traffic caused as many as a million more to turn back and miss the event known as Woodstock. The rain and mud-soaked attendees were entertained by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Ravi Shankar, Joan Baez, Mountain, The Band, Richie Havens, and a break-out performance of the Beatles’ hit With A Little Help From My Friends by Joe Cocker.

The Daily Mail takes an amusing look back in, Forty far-out facts you never knew about Woodstock. One of my personal favorite facts is this one:

23. Off-duty police officers were banned from providing security, so a New Mexico commune known as the Hog Farm were hired to form a ‘Please Force.’ The Hog Farmers were led by Wavy Gravy, a toothless former beatnik comic, who put on a Smokey-the-Bear suit and warned troublemakers they would be doused in fizzy water or hit with custard pies.

In 1990, I met Wavy Gravy in a coffee store in Berkeley, California. He was running for Berkeley City Council (he lost), and he gave me a silk-screened campaign poster! His campaign slogan was “Let’s elect a real clown for a change.” Hmmm. Change we can believe in?