"The Other Woodstock"
What You Need To Know:
Producer/director Murray Lerner brings to the big screen a memorable event in the history of music, the 5-day Isle of Wight Music Festival held in August, 1970, in England. The concert became one of the largest of its kind ever, with some 600,000 gather to hear some of the greatest names in music of that era. Only 150,000 of this crowd actually paid while the rest camped out on the surrounding hillsides. Some musicians played, regardless of the tension mounting backstage about the large illegal audience. On the other hand, due to the rowdy crowd, some barely get through their songs before slinking off the stage and some personally beg the audience to behave. At the end, the concert was a huge success, but a financial loss.
A MESSAGE TO LOVE pays wonderful tribute to the musicians of the 60s and 70s. It is a hilarious piece of documentary, cleverly never letting the violence erupt but recording just enough tension to capture the reality of the problem. It took more than 25 years to put it together, gleaned from a massive 175 hours of film shot by more than 9 teams of crew. Regrettably, this movie has liberal drug abuse, widespread promiscuity, some naturalistic nudity, and strong language.
(Pa, LLL, V, S, N, D, M) Pagan worldview depicting music junkies gathering hippie-style for a music festival; 25 obscenities, 11 vulgarities & 3 profanities; some threatening violence where the crowd tries to break down a steel fence and gate-crash the concert; talk of sex, a couple scenes of naturalistic nudity; miscellaneous immorality with drug use; and, promiscuity
The Isle of Wight is a little island off Southern England, and it is only accessed by boat. A beautiful quiet island, its landscape was transformed when The Isle of Wight Music Festival was staged there in August, 1970 in England.. For five days and nights, the crowds began to gather, first by the hundreds, then by the thousands. The exhilaration of the organizers eventually gave way to frustration and concern, as only a fragment of the surging crowds had paid the 3£ entrance charge. The rest of the music-lovers, now camping out on the rolling hills near the concert venue, were refusing to pay the ticket price and threatening to break down the steel fence that separated those who had paid and those who had not.
Nevertheless, as security guards lined the fences and police dogs growled their way through the crowds, the concert continued. MC and organizer Rickke Farr brought some of the most heralded musicians of the time and while he announced the musicians, he pleaded with the crowd to please pay. He threw out one reason after another: the ticket money was needed to pay off creditors, and the bands refused to play unless the crowd paid…all to no avail. The illegal audience continued to come, sleeping out in the cold and camping in groups to hear the bands play.
And the bands did play. Some of the greatest names in music played, including THE WHO, FREE, TINY TIM, DONOVAN, JOHN SEBASTIAN, TEN YEARS AFTER, THE DOORS, MOODY BLUES, KRIS KRISTOFFERSON, JONI MITCHELL, MILES DAVIS, LEONARD COHEN, JIMI HENDRIX, JOAN BAEZ, JETHRO TULL, EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER, and more.
At the end of the festival, some 600,000 people had gathered to watch the concert. As one interviewed spectator puts it, “thousands of freaks on the hillside…. It’s beautiful.” Only 150,000 finally paid for the concert.
A MESSAGE TO LOVE took 25 years to hit the screen, gleaned from 175 hours of film and shot by 9 teams of crew. Producer/director Murray Lerner made it worth the wait. Not only is this documentary exhilarating for its musical experience if you are a fan of the 60s and 70s music, but also for its witty interjections of the drama unfolding along with music. Its pieces of interviews with the organizers and the audience are wildly humorous. The chaos of the crowds, while at times threatening, was never allowed to erupt into ugly violence, thus preserving the element of fun even when it portrayed tension. As much fun as it was to see and hear the bands and singers, it was just as merry to catch the interviews carried out randomly among the organizers and crowd. The Doors tell the crowd to ignore the organizer’s threats and say they will play whether people paid or not.
From start to end, the documentary managed to capture what turned this concert into an event of historical proportions. Through massive film coverage, witty and brilliant editing and a perspective that caught on to the drama of the moment, A MESSAGE TO LOVE becomes not only a great experience and tribute to the greatest musicians of that particular era, but a highly entertaining and hilarious piece of coverage of an event that turned a little island upside down for a while. Thanks to this documentary, the concert will be remembered for a lot of things: Jimi Hendrix at a performance just 12 days before his death; the debut of Emerson, Lake & Palmer; and, the absolute loss of control experienced by the organizers.
Regrettably, viewers of this documentary will have to sit through though the liberal drug abuse and promiscuity that mark communal events of this type, and it is this that finally leaves a deeper and more somber message long after the music is gone.