Travel: World Music: The Summer Of 69, Home Counties Style

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The Independent Culture
THE FAROES are 30 years too late; the future of music was sealed in the summer of 1969 - though not at the celebrated Woodstock festival. Instead, southern England was venue for a noisy revolution. Emily (and 15,000 others) saw Pink Floyd play Plumpton, Dylan took a ferry 'cross the Solent to the Isle of Wight, and the Stones spent the afternoon together in London's Hyde Park with an audience equivalent to three times the population of the Faroes .

In 1999, the children of those dazed hippies in the audience can set the controls for the heart of the Home Counties and retrace the trail of joss sticks and inadequate latrines of that glorious July and August.

Harold Wilson's Labour government assiduously courted the newly enfranchised youth vote. After showering the Beatles with MBEs and starting up Radio 1, the government celebrated Britpop Mk1 by giving the run of a royal park to the Rolling Stones.

The Stones' Hyde Park gig took place on 5 July, the weekend after one of the first premature deaths of a rock great - their former guitarist, Brian Jones. Mick Jagger quoted Shelley and released thousands of white butterflies in his memory. Then the windows of Apsley House and the Hilton rattled to the band's new hit, "Honky Tonk Woman".

Jones died from the lethal rock combo of drink, drugs and diving into a swimming-pool at his East Sussex farm. Had he lived, he would have needed only to stride down the lane to the summer's next big event, at Plumpton racecourse.

Despite what promoter Barry Moore described as "hassles with Tory MPs and High Court injunctions", he booked The Who, The Nice and Pink Floyd. The programme of the Ninth Jazz, Pop, Ballads and Blues Festival hints that its clientele was not to the taste of other Home Counties communities: "Previously at Windsor and Sunbury", it reads.

Because trains brought the festival-goers straight to the course, few of them ventured a mile or two south to the village of Plumpton, at the foot of the South Downs. They could have visited the Saxon church, then continued to the beautiful old county town of Lewes.

Most opted instead for the daytime vision of Ditchling Beacon rising above the haze of marijuana smoke ("Rolling tobaccos and skins will be available in the Village area", promised the programme), and the night- time spectacle of Keith Emerson destroying his Hammond organ during a particularly vigorous version of "America". At a time when half a million people were making their way to Yasgur's Farm in upstate New York for Woodstock, 15,000 festival-goers in Britain were being urged that "provision of dishwashing facilities is difficult and expensive, so bring your own cutlery and get sixpence off the price of your meal".

The summer was sealed on the last weekend of August. When the people of Freshwater Bay learned of plans for the Wight Festival of Music, they probably envisaged a genteel affair like the one that begins next Friday, the Cheltenham Folk Festival. After all, that nice Bob Dylan who wrote "Blowin' in the Wind" was booked to be there.

But the times they were a'changin': Bob bobbed up with The Band, and blew away much of the western half of the Isle of Wight - or Isle of Delight, as Warner Bros called it. The mantle of rock had passed from Woodstock to Wight. Southern England would never be quite the same again.