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Woodstock Was No Lollapalooza


No one was texting Mom im ok bt wet from Woodstock says the New York Times' Gail Collins, one of the few columnists to admit having been there. (And how old are you?)

Nor were Woodstockers texting nxt to bg grn tent w peace sign WRU@? to locate each other.

No, in those days the handheld devices audiences consecrated bands with were (anyone?) Bics -yet somehow the event was recorded without the legions of volunteer citizen documentarians operating today.

Other tech inventions were missing, too back then. Like ATMs and credit cards-which would have been marked for "nationalization" in Steal This Books days-and credit ratings themselves.

Imagine boarding a plane without the airline knowing your age, address, travel history, spending habits and outstanding balance. Imagine buying tickets with no Ticketron. Who remembers anonymity? Who misses it?

Festing was cheaper in those days too, say those remembering the occasion. It cost $18 to attend the 3 day rock concert and about $10 to fly standby from Indianapolis to Albany albeit in the company of the guys on the other side of the culture divide, the G.I.s. Hold the antiwar songs.


You could also use your thumb to get around and inch along in 1969 versions of the SUV called the VW "microbus." Hitch-hiking wouldn't stop until the 1978 Larry Singleton/ Mary Vincent incident which put an end forever to the rhetorical "But What Could Happen?"

Of course it is not just the ubiquity of ring tones and debit cards that differentiates a Lollapalooza from a Woodstock. It is not the absence of antiwar songs and protests which actually began evaporating by 1972, when the draft was eliminated, long before the Iraq wars.

It's the musicians.

Despite Collins' 2004 book America's Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines, she's yet to comment on the "position" of women performers at Woodstock-both of them as the joke goes-which was probably as Black Power leader Stokely Carmichael said of women in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) "prone." (Actually there were 4 women headliners and some female back-up vocalists and musicians.)

Not only did women, other than Janis Joplin and Grace Slick, not front macho and rock bands in those days-the ax wielding Suzi Quatro and Joan Jett were years away-they didn't even hold title to their own bodies, as immortalized in the Grateful Dead's, "We can share the women; we can share the wine," from the song Jack Straw.

Nor did Arlo, anti-macho mascot though he was-who made litter not war-doubt women were in the public domain with his Don't Touch My Bags lyric, "Hip woman walking on a moving floor/Tripping on the escalator /There's a man in the line, and she's blowing his mind /Thinking that he's already made her."

One woman remembers a hitchhiker asking her boyfriend if he could have a "crack at her" during share-the-women days. "Can he?" she asked her boyfriend. And if the crack had unforeseen consequences? Abortion was only legal in New York or Hawaii, not always safe and not always affordable. That wasn't in the free love brochure.

And it got worse.

Everyone exulted at Jimi Hendrix' presence at Woodstock because he was an African-American, psychedelic, anti-establishment and had become a celebrity in the crescent of music civilization, Jolly Old England. At the time, most African-American musicians were still dressing up and sync dancing even as bas couture rock was taking over.

Yet imagine an oppressed group not just tolerating but rocking to, "I'm going down to shoot my old lady; You know, I've caught her messin' around with another man," as women did to Hendrix' Hey, Joe. "And I gave her the gun/I SHOT HER!"

Nor was violence against women just a gleam in Hendrix' eye, a week after the Manson murders in which women-high profile and pregnant-were murdered by other women because a man told them to.(?)

One of the musical ironies of Woodstock was the one thing women musicians were allowed to do in 1969- hum and strum on acoustic instruments-was upstaged by early male emo performers like Crosby, Stills and Nash-"Chestnut brown canary/Ruby throated sparrow" they warbled in Judy Blue Eyes"-and the former Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian.

And the guy who could open a bottle with his teeth and drink you-and cuss you-under the table was Janis Joplin from Port Arthur, Texas.

There's another difference between Woodstock and Lollapalooza. Back then, no one had heard of rehab.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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