News & Politics

Woodstock Hangover: Ripping Off Rock Festivals

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Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
July 30, 1970, Vol. XV, No. 31

Rip-offs and revival
By Don Heckman

Summer rock festivals. Hippie capitalists. Rip-offs. Exploitation of the “rock community.” Not exactly the kind of year anyone expected after the good vibes of Woodstock. But maybe it’s not as simple as all that. Maybe the after-image of Woodstock was false from the very beginning.

It still doesn’t seem to have occurred to many people that Woodstock was an ending and not a beginning.

With Altamont it represented a summing up, in microcosm, of all the beauty and all the evil of the ’60s. A summing up, because it defined the limits of youthful communal consciousness and youthful communal power that had first been stimulated by the creation of the Peace Corps in 1961, and come to full-blown and, in the long run, futile self-importance in the cry “No rain, No rain, No rain,” as the storm clouds gathered over Max Yasgur’s farm on that fateful August, 1969, weekend.

And so now the talk is of ripping off rock festivals. But what do we expect to accomplish? Among the many significant elements in the philosophy of Martin Luther King is the premise that one never takes action unless one is very clear about the potential results that one expects from that action. All well and good. But what kind of social change can one expect to bring about by ripping off a rock festival? Why hasn’t someone suggested ripping off the unions that have instituted inheritance membership systems that exclude blacks and Puerto Ricans? Why hasn’t someone ripped off the industrial farms that keep thousands upon thousands of migrant workers in conditions of virtual slavery?

And what about the really big corporations? Has anyone looked lately at the Defense Department’s list of 100 top contractors? Well, the next time you buy a Jefferson Airplane record, bear in mind that their music is marketed by an organization whose corporate associates are receiving $298 million in Defense Department contracts. And don’t forget that RCA Victor and Columbia Records and ABC Records also have corporate relationships with the NBC, CBS, and ABC networks — all of which are dependent upon advertising that comes from major defense contractors like AT&T, General Motors, AVCO Corporation, Westinghouse, Ford, Standard Oil, General Tire & Rubber, IBM, etc., etc.

The Saturday morning television cartoon line-up is sponsored, in large measure, by the enormous food company conglomerates who produce the cereals that were described last week before a Congressional investigating committee as having negligible nutritional value.

With targets like this available we should worry about ripping off rock festivals? Who’s kidding who…

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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