Isle of Wight Music Festival’s 45th Anniversary!

Isle of WightCourtesy of Sara Lincoln

Labor Day Weekend marks one of the biggest weekends for music festivals during the summer, and it’s been that way for decades. Forty-five years ago today, the second annual Isle of Wight music festival took place in Wootton over the course of three days, from August 29th through the 31st. For a toddler of a festival, the Isle of Wight did all right, attracting a massive 150,000 concert goers. The huge attendance was supposedly due to the festival organizers managing to secure Bob Dylan in the lineup. Although the famed Woodstock Festival had been held practically in his backyard in upstate New York, Dylan avoided what turned out to be a hot mess of a fest, opting instead for the U.K.’s Isle of Wight.

It was lucky for Fiery Creations brothers Ronnie and Ray Foulk that he did because up until then Dylan had been out of the music scene for three years after a serious motorcycle accident. He was also hesitant to make his comeback appearance on a tiny unknown island outside of his native country. The Foulk brothers hounded him for weeks, negotiating and renegotiating until they finally showed him a short film about the Isle’s cultural and literary heritage. The film struck Dylan’s artistic side, and he decided to use his performance as an excuse to have a mini break family vacation in the Tennyson countryside. Dylan’s performance did his comeback justice. Eric Clapton later said, “He changed everything … [The audience] couldn’t understand it. You had to be a musician to understand it.”

Isle of Wight turned out to be organized much better than Woodstock that year, and also free of tragedies, which unfortunately, Woodstock was not. Aside from Dylan, big names such as The Band, The Who, The Moody Blues, The Pretty Things, Tom Paxton, Aynsley Dunbar, Free, Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, Blonde on Blonde, Family, Gypsy, Julie Felix, The Nice, Pentangle, Third Ear Band, Blodwyn Pig, Edgar Broughton Band, Fat Mattress, and Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band performed. Though some names may not be as familiar as those who performed at Woodstock, they were enough to draw George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Liz Taylor, Jane Fonda, Charlie Watts, and Richard Burton to attend. Also unlike the expensive cost of Woodstock tickets (for the time), Isle of Wight tickets were sold for a mere 25 shillings, or 3 dollars; one-sixth the price of a Woodstock ticket bought in advance.

At the same time as Isle of Wight, the Texas Pop Festival was taking place over the course of the three day Labor Day weekend. Over 120,000 music lovers showed up to watch Led Zeppelin, Santana, Janis Joplin, BB King, Grand Funk Railroad, Nazz, Sam & Dave, Johnny Winter, Delaney & Bonnie, Spirit, Chicago, and Canned Heat perform. Several of these artists had performed two weeks prior, at Woodstock. Read about Woodstock Festival’s 45th anniversary on FDRMX. If you’re looking for music festivals to check out this year’s holiday, read about the Top 5 Music Festivals for 2014 Labor Day Weekend on the Encyclopedia of Music.