Woodstock: The good, the bad, the ugly

It was 40 years ago today that Woodstock stumbled into existence. I'm glad I missed it.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read

I bought a ticket and was ready to go to Woodstock; however, my ride chickened out and I missed the seminal musical event of the 1960s.

The thing is, over the course of those three days in August 1969, I, even a 20-year-old, was glad I missed it.

Sure, three days of peace and music sounds nice, but Woodstock was an instant media legend. Granted, great bands were there by the helicopter load; but the sound, as best as I could tell, was awful for the crowd gathered. Unlike today's high-powered concert sound systems that can easily play sound loud enough to cause hearing loss, the Woodstock system was probably pretty low intensity volumewise. Then again, I'm sure most of the 500,000 Woodstock Nation attendees were grooving under their own power.

That, combined with the rain, mud, and less than stellar lavatories would have made me pretty miserable.

I bought the "Woodstock: Music from the original Soundtrack" LP when it came out, and I saw the film--in 70mm in Manhattan. For me, those were a lot better than being there. I listened to the best music of the three days and didn't have to endure the rest of ordeal.

Think about it: The edited, perfected versions of the event are the ways most folks have experienced Woodstock. Most people were either too young to go in the first place, and most boomers, like myself, didn't get there. For us, Woodstock is the movie or music.

I just wonder for those who were there, have the movie and soundtrack albums replaced their memories of the actual event? There seems to be an endless stream of Woodstock titles coming out.

The recently released full Woodstock performances of Sly and the Family Stone, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Johnny Winter are--for the first time--available on CD. I bought the Sly set and it's pretty terrific.

Committed fans will probably enjoy the "Woodstock" Blu-ray Disc that has remixed and remastered sound, and it offers two and a half hours of "new" music.

Were you at Woodstock or have you watched the Blu-ray Disc? Tell us about it!