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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Isle of Wight veteran's memories
By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, Isle of Wight

Some 37 years after Jimi Hendrix and The Who took to the main stage at the Isle of Wight festival, how does the legendary 1970 event compare with today's incarnation?

Isle of Wight
John Hall was a 17-year-old garage worker in 1970
After the August 1970 festival, which saw 600,000 music fans descend upon the island, the event was cancelled but revived in 2002.

Snow Patrol, Muse and the Rolling Stones headlined 2007's three-day event, with a range of family entertainment also on offer.

John Hall, 54, who was originally from the Isle of Wight, has remained a fan of the event.

He went to the 1970 gig aged 17, and experienced an "eye opener".

"When you arrived and saw these huge fields full of tents and the main arena packed full of people. It was like nothing I had seen before," he recalls.

Despite today's noise levels reaching residents more than 30 miles away, Mr Hall, who is now based in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, claims some of the music was a lot louder back then.

"I remember the sound system being very good if you were a loud band and very poor if you were acoustic," he says.

"When the heavier bands came on I think they turned the sound systems up."

Isle of Wight 1970 / Douglas White
When it got dark there was this underlying feeling that something could go badly wrong
John Hall
Photo: Douglas White
As a big Who fan he can clearly recall the band taking to the stage.

"I have never heard volume which was so loud compared to the festivals now," he says.

'Last big show'

Jimi Hendrix famously performed at the 1970 festival - for his fans it was probably the last time they saw him play before he died shortly after.

"He came on very late and made a bit of a false start. I think he actually re-started his gig if I remember rightly," says John.

"I don't think it was one of his great performances. It's sad because with hindsight it was his last big show."

John thinks organisers have managed to sustain the big acts for today's festival, but with far more organisation.

"I think everything runs very smoothly now and the bands run almost exactly to time, which was certainly not the case in 1970.

"Bands used to change sequence and some would have played as long as they wanted to," he says with a smile on his face.

'Free festival'

Isle of Wight 1970/ Douglas White
When you went to the toilet you found yourself picking your way through people, who were not just sleeping, they were really out of it
John Hall
Photo: Douglas White
By the second day of the event crowds tore down the corrugated fences which had been designed to keep people out.

"It became a free festival after one day. I think I paid the first day, and then after that it was a free entry.

"The perimeter fence had gone, people ripped it up and used it for their camping arrangements."

And with so many revellers in one area, there was a sense of unease.

"When it got dark there was this underlying feeling that something could go badly wrong," Mr Hall remembers.

"There was far more of an edge to it. There were very few stewards and few police. The stewards could never have coped with any sort of disturbance - there just weren't enough of them.

'Out of it'

"There were a lot of drugs. Walking around there were people tripping - you didn't have to look very far to see them.

"There were people who were stoned and when you went to the toilet you found yourself picking your way through people, who were not just sleeping, they were really out of it."

Jimi Hendrix/ Isle of Wight 1970/ Douglas White
Hendrix died on 18 September 1970 (pic: Douglas White)
But Mr Hall, who did not indulge himself, remembers the atmosphere as being "good" most of the time.

"There was a spirit of 'hey we're going to do this despite you old folk'," he adds.

Mr Hall also has powerful memories of 1970's toilets.

"Someone had dug out a section of ditches and if you wanted a dump you had these wooden planks with large round holes drilled in them," he says.

"The memory of that and the smell of that will linger for forever. The toilets nowadays are not great, but they're far more functional and hygienic than those ever were."

It is clear that John has remained and always will be a fan of the event which gave him the first taste of independence and freedom.

"You certainly felt that you were at something which was almost a one-off, and that you were part of something historical," he says.


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