Hollywood Music Festival, Staffordshire, 1970

Hollywood Music Festival, Staffordshire, 1970
Authored By Johnny Blogger

No, not that Hollywood. This is the one in Staffordshire, England which was about as far away from the counter culture movement in USA as you're likely to find.

The Hollywood Music Festival was held on a pig farm near Newcastle-under-Lyme on 23 and 24 May 1970. It was notable for the first ever performance of Grateful Dead in the UK. It was one of the first gatherings of British progressive bands. Held across two days these were the proposed line-ups.


Afternoon: Lord Sutch And His Heavy Friends Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page, Radha Krishna Temple (groovy Buddhist-based chanting), Demon Fuzz (not THE Demon Fuzz!), Family.

Evening: Titus Groan (Surely Gormenghast is a better name if you're going down that route), Mike Cooper(nope, me neither), Mungo Jerry (unbearable but went down a storm), Tony Joe White  ain't no polk salad in Staffordshire), Ginger Baker's Air Force.

SUNDAY, May 24

Afternoon: (This was the time to stir from your stoned slumber) Colosseum, Quintessence, Black Sabbath (who were very new), Grateful Dead. There were hopes of an all-star jam session involving Eric Clapton and Peter Green, since splitting from Fleetwood Mac. Do you think that happened? Of course it didn't.

Evening: Free, Trader Horne (sounds like a DIY store), Traffic, Jose Feliciano

It goes without saying that all these proposed 'heavy friends' and all-star jams never happened.

The company responsible for the festival was Onista Ltd, who promptly went bankrupt after the gig and were unable to pay festival staff. That was careless. Onista was an offshoot of Eliot Cohen's Red Bus company, with Ellis Elias and Elliot Cohen as the promoters. That's a lot of letter 'l's.

This was the first of the major festivals held in the summer of 1970 and part of the festival was to have been filmed by the BBC. Andrew Burgoyne of Burgoyne Film and Audio Services also filmed and recorded audio of some of the festival. Film crews can be seen on 8 mm footage of bands taken by fans at the festival on several occasions, notably during Quintessence and the Dead's performances. A DVD and CD set was issued in 2010, featuring archive material from the Grateful Dead's set, and one number each from Free, Family, Screaming Lord Sutch, and Radha Krishna Temple.

The very wonderful James Gang and The Flying Burrito Brothers were supposed to play but didn't turn up. The reason this is an important British festival is that it was one of the first to evolve away from the old blues festivals of the 1960s into a proper rock festival. Pictures show a rather bleak stage scene. For some reason a weird inflatable breast was on one side and some bizarre approximation of a man's doo-dah was on the other. I don't know why. It's awful.

Big metal fences and a stage that was unfeasbily high, all added to an ungroovy vibe to this festival. The photos show people tolerating it rather than enjoying it. But that's not to say it's not an important landmark.


Getting The Dead there was a very big deal. Reports suggest they basically played the whole of the Live/Dead album. I'm sure the set is available as Dick Pick volume 24,577. Other highlights were Free - who later recorded Highway based on their experiences at the Highway Farm where the bands were put up. Jose Feliciano was an unlikely star of a gig like this but it seems he was very popular doing his Spanished-up versions of rock and pop classics.

Hollywood Music Festival 1970 might not have had the counter culture impact of festivals across the pond but it was, nonetheless, an important event in the history of British rock. You might even say that the silly inflatables pioneered their later use by the Stones, Pink Floyd and Elton John.


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