If you were too young to have been physically present at The Hollywood Music Festival it has now become something of a legend. But why was the festival such a significant event?
The festival was held on eighty-three acres of farmland at Leycett, near Madeley, on May 23rd & 24th 1970. Attendance estimates vary from 20,000 up to 40,000. To put this figure into perspective, the first ever Glastonbury Festival, which was held four months later that year, only had an attendance of about 1,500.
One reason for this extremely high figure may have been a cunning ploy devised by the promoters. During the months preceding the festival they had hyped that an all-star jam session was a possibility, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon and Vivian Stanshall. This rumour was still gaining momentum less than a month before the event. This, of course, never materialised, and the closest the audience came to witnessing a super-group was Ginger Baker’s Airforce, headed by the ex-Cream drummer.
The festival opened with Screaming Lord Sutch performing a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” Probably the biggest attraction for many was the first British appearance of the cult American band The Grateful Dead, who played for over three hours. The only other really big names on the bill were Traffic and Jose Felicano.
The festival is most noted as being the springboard for Mungo Jerry’s career. They played on the first day and were so popular that the organisers slotted them in for another appearance on the second day.
Heavy rock giants Black Sabbath were at that time at the outset of their career, having released their first album only the previous month. Their world-famous anthem “Paranoid” would not be born for another six months. Free were also a largely underground band and their first success “All Right Now” was not released until the following month. Interestingly, during June and July, Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime” held the number one position in the charts for four weeks, only being displaced by Free’s “All Right Now.” For the last three weeks of July “All Right Now” was number one, while “In the Summertime” remained at number two.
Ted Askey was the fifty-three year old farmer on whose land the festival took place. During the proceedings he was invited onstage and given a public “thank you.” He responded with “you’ve been wonderful, I’ve enjoyed seeing you all, but I’m wondering what the cows would think if they came home now.” Even before the end of the festival the organisers were considering a second festival the following year. Due to the free promised to Ted for this festival he said that he would be happy to allow his land to be used again for the event. Unfortunately, due to the collapse of the organisers, Onista, Ted, along with all of the festival staff did not get paid.
It is a well-known rumour that it was intended to make a full-length film of the festival. This was to be produced by Irving Allan, in conjunction with Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who were responsible for the James Bond films. The intention was to film the festival in its entirety and then edit the footage to produce a full-length film for cinema distribution.
In addition to this the BBC also sent a film crew with the intention of capturing the event for BBC2. According to rumours the film crew succumbed to some purple pills touted by a young lady backstage. As these took effect the quality of the footage deteriorated and became so poor that the majority of it written off. Occasionally short extracts from the footage is screened by the BBC.