When the organizers of the Monterey Pop Music Competition introduced plans for a multi-day occasion in June 1967, there have been many skeptics. No person had ever accomplished something on this scale for rock bands. However regardless of the terrifying sound, lackluster crowd decor, and seedy plumbing, the competition was successful because of some nice performances from Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, The Mamas & the Papas, Otis Redding, and others. The period of the rock competition had dawned.
Festivals emerged like mushrooms, some legendary for good causes (Woodstock) and dangerous causes (Altamont). Others like Glastonbury (based in 1970) and Roskilde (based in 1971) grew to become annual occasions that proceed to this present day. Some have been fully forgotten. The Strawberry Fields Competition falls into this latter class.
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Strawberry Fields was conceived as Canada’s reply to Woodstock, an occasion for the Age of Aquarius. Sadly it did not end up that method.
John Brower was the promoter of the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival Competition on September 13, 1969 at Varsity Stadium in downtown Toronto. This present grew to become well-known for John Lennon’s first look outdoors of the Beatles (one thing that contributed to the breakup of the band). together with the notorious Alice Cooper Rooster episode, all of which had been filmed by documentary filmmaker DA Pennebaker.
Although the present was nearly a monetary catastrophe, Brower wished issues to escalate for the summer time of 1970.
He secured Mosport Park, the automotive racing facility close to Bowmanville, Ontario, for August 7-10, one yr after Woodstock, and booked bands. After establishing a steady relationship with John and Yoko, plans had been made to host the occasion because the Toronto Peace Competition, with the couple serving as official hosts.
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However Brower bought into hassle instantly. Permission to carry the competition has been mysteriously refused repeatedly. It was solely when the paperwork had been launched in 2007 that we discovered that the RCMP was spying on John and Yoko for drug use and their radical political opinions. John most likely would not have proven up anyway, as by the point the competition was rolling round he was caught after the Beatles cut up and the beginning of his solo profession.
With Mosport because the venue, Brower made plans to maneuver every thing to a 100 acre strawberry farm close to Shediac, NB, so the identify was modified to “Strawberry Fields Competition”. However Brower had been once more denied the mandatory permits, and native officers made noise that the world was being flooded by anti-Vietnam hippies who had been about to forn on native voter lawns.
After an deserted try to maneuver every thing to London – extra allow denials – Brower got here up with the thought of presenting the occasion as a motorbike race with “modern leisure”. Competition? Which competition? There may be nothing to see right here.
It labored. The Canadian authorities had been fully pretend for months. This, nonetheless, got here on the expense of downplaying the artists Brower wished to herald – no less than in Canada.
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Most of it was accomplished outdoors of the nation. Individuals in upstate New York and on the east coast of the US had been promised a weekend of “love, solar and sound”, whereas Canadians had been bought one thing by means of a race with some random musical performances. Believing that they’d be the primary attraction, a motorbike racing group agreed to host a contest that unwittingly supplied official cowl. In the meantime, Brower signed about two dozen acts for the weekend and bought tickets for $ 15.
Alice Cooper was introduced in together with Jethro Tull, Procol Harum and Grand Funk Railroad together with Woodstock Vets Mountain, Melanie, Ten Years After and Sly and the Household Stone. Canadian content material was from Lighthouse, Syrinx (an experimental digital band) and Crowbar. Led Zeppelin and Leonard Cohen had been marketed as appeared, however none confirmed.
The trick was found just some days earlier than the competition started. The then Prime Minister of Ontario, John Robarts, appeared within the opposition. The native RCMP apparently confirmed clips of hippies – largely American – who had been bare, used medicine, and had been usually hippies.
The Ontario Legal professional Normal was involved about well being and issues of safety and requested an injunction to finish the competition. On August 6, hours earlier than the music started, the injunction was rejected by an Ontario court docket, which discovered no motive to cease the competition. Brower additionally assured that the Dependancy Analysis Basis can be accessible to supply medical help within the occasion of any drug overdoses. Proceed to play.
Followers raved in regards to the web site and numbered between 75,000 and 100,000 individuals, hundreds of whom had been from America. Many tons of had been turned again on the border as a result of they might not produce adequate identification. A couple of jumped over the border fence.
Nevertheless, as soon as the music began it went effective. Right here is a few fan materials recorded on 8mm silent movie.
Yorkville Sound dealt with the audio with the world’s first 24-channel mixer. Not solely was all the competition recorded, however a movie was additionally made. Nevertheless, for some motive, this movie and the official recording of the performances had been by no means launched. All that exists is a few house movies, some dangerous bootleg pictures, and TV information from the CBC.
And what about bike racing? The official withdrew as quickly as they discovered the reality, so there was by no means a race. Nevertheless, a number of racers took a lap out on the monitor to meet the guarantees made in Brower’s settlement.
Whereas Strawberry Fields was a profitable, peaceable, and quick, probably even worthwhile firm, it was a one-off enterprise. And since documentation is sparse, Canada’s Woodstock, regardless of the good story of the way it happened, has largely been forgotten.
Can we possibly discover this film and soundtrack?
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for News Gob.
Subscribe to Alan’s “A Operating Historical past of New Music” podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play