‘We are stardust, we are golden …”
Today, on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, I want to share my own magical memories of that world-changing event.
Oh, come on. Who am I kidding? I didn’t attend Woodstock. Like the vast majority of baby boomers, I would have been scared to death to attend Woodstock.
It always cracks me up when I see depictions of the 1960s in which everyone under 30 is portrayed as a hippie, dancing in the mud at Woodstock. My 16-year-old self would have been freaked out at the thought of hanging out with 500,000 longhaired, mud-covered nude people. I mean, my mother wouldn’t even allow us to leave the house barefoot.
Here’s the reality of August 1969, as I experienced it: I was a pimply 16-year-old wearing Lee Wrangler corduroys and an oxford, button-down shirt. I was not wearing bandannas and American-flag jackets like Captain America in “Easy Rider.” Like most of the kids in my Colorado high school, I looked more like Tommy Smothers than Peter Fonda.
I’m not sure we had any Captain Americas in my high school. We certainly didn’t have any Jimi Hendrixes. Of course, we had a number of kids with longish hair and bell- bottoms. But the hip kids in my school tended to look more like Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees than Wavy Gravy of the Hog Farm Collective.
Here’s what I was doing the weekend of Woodstock: Mowing the lawn. Going swimming at the community pool. Learning to parallel park.
Yes, instead of taking the brown acid at Woodstock, I was desperately studying to pass my driver’s test. Maybe the rest of young America was out at Yasgur’s farm, forming an Aquarian utopia. Me, I was just desperate to get behind the wheel of our ’64 Corvair and go to the drive-in.
My friends and I eventually experienced Woodstock the way the rest of the country did: at the movie theaters in 1970, when the Woodstock peace-love vibe had already been trampled into the mud at Altamont. Still, we loved “Woodstock,” the movie, mainly because we were sitting in warm, comfortable theater seats and not in a trash-strewn field a half-mile away from the stage.
That movie did make us a little wistful. We thought we had missed something important, some generational rite of passage. So, in 1971, we all went to our own mini-Woodstock, an outdoor festival at a nearby raceway featuring the Allman Brothers, Delaney & Bonnie and the Youngbloods.
We were aching for that Woodstock vibe, and we got it. We were so far from the stage, Duane Allman might as well have been Tiny Tim. “Statesboro Blues” sounded like distant thunder, or possibly a passing freight.
Then my friend Clint drank too much Strawberry Hill wine, ate some bad cheese dip and threw up all over our blanket.
As Joni Mitchell might have said, some of us were definitely not “stardust.”