Exactly 40 years ago today, my buddy Mike and I were in Atlantic City to experience the glorious and highly-underrated three-day Atlantic City Pop Festival. It was August 1,2, and 3, 1969, and we got there a few days early, hung around the boardwalk, smoked dope, and then decided to find a ride to the racetrack 12 miles away, where the big show was about to begin.
Everyone, whether they know it or not, knows the music of many of the bands who were there. Any time you’ve ever heard classic rock at weddings and bars, on TV or movie soundtracks, or wherever your travels have taken you, then you’ve heard bands from this festival that compares favourably with Woodstock which happened two weeks later. Only Atlantic City didn’t have rain and mud.
And the lineup:
Janis Joplin was there, as were Creedence Clearwater, Santana, Procol Harum, Joe Cocker, Mothers of Invention, Moody Blues, Joni Mitchell, the Byrds, Johnny Winter etc, etc. About 30 bands in all. (Joni Mitchell left crying half-way through her set because no one was listening, and Skip Prokop of the Toronto-based Paupers told everyone that if they were about to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, just come to Canada, there’s plenty of room.
I didn’t even bring a sleeping bag for some reason, and slept for a few hours every night for a week on hard ground, with my jean jacket as a lousy pillow. But it didn’t matter. I was there for the music and friends and vibes and chicks and drugs.
I would’ve liked to have been at some of the other festivals. People talk about Woodstock, and soon the 40th anniversary of the historical event that defines a generation of baby boomers who had had enough of formality, politicians and the man, and spread the message of love, drugs, body odour, laziness, ego-tripping, social ladders to climb, and many low-lifes.
And Monterey in 1967 at the fairground, where Janis, the Who, and Jimi Hendrix broke big in North America like a tornado hitting a corn field. After Jimi lit his guitar on fire, the Who smash their guitars and amps, and Janis wail like a banshee with the blues, music took on a whole different meaning after that. All of sudden, things began to get serious. No more Herman’s Hermits. This was the real thing.
People recall the Isle of Wight, and John Lennon’s ‘Live Peace in Toronto’, and here and there and everywhere. But no one talks about Atlantic City. The lineup was as good as Woodstock, there were only 125,000 folks there instead of half a million, and it didn’t rain like Woodstock, where people played in ther mud. And going to the bathroom at Woodstock meant going anywhere. Must’ve been tough to impress the chicks when you’re squatting with your pants down.
So I’m using my Habs blog to tell as many people who read this that Atlantic City was a historic event in its own right, and when you hear soon that Woodstock is celebrating it’s 40th birthday, please keep in mind that the one Mike and I were at in Atlantic City, two weeks before Woodstock, deserves a place in history books too.