Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
The Stock Report by John Taylor

Report Courtesy of John Taylor

"You Can't Go Home Again" – THOMAS WOLFE

"...My Memory Has Just Been Sold" – PETER WOLF

It is my considered opinion, born of years of experience, that many things in life are simply better the first time. This doesn't mean, of course, that one should be content to savor the pleasures of the flesh just once, but one should be aware that no matter how often certain things are enjoyed, they'll never quite equal the original. I can still remember my first underage beer, and how it somehow tasted different from the eight zillion or so subsequent ones. The unbridled thrill of the first time driving without a license. The unmatched sensory tingle that accompanied the inaugural touch of bare mammalian protuberances. The knee-knocking pleasure of that first back alley...anyway, you get the picture. (The remainder of this list can be found in my upcoming book, All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned One Night from a $20 Hooker)

The point here, as expressed by the eloquent Messrs. Wolf(e), is that there are certain experiences that you can't — and shouldn't — try to relive. This thought, disjointed though it may be, was driven home like a ten penny nail to the temple as I watched 'Woodstock '94' this rainy August weekend.

Let's start at the beginning. I'm not one of those Generation IXers (must be what comes before Generation X, right? Don't you think it's gotten confusing since they started numbering generations like Super Bowls?) who is gonna whine about corporate perversion of the purity of Woodstock. In fact, if I hear one more pudgy, middle-aged CPA crying about "greed," I’m going to skull him with a lava lamp. Hey relic, the first one was supposed to be a moneymaking venture, too. Unfortunately, you were either too stoned, too stupid—or both—to pull it off. I'm not even going to argue that the last thing needed by a half-million slackers is a festival retreat. I'm sure they need a rest, because quite frankly, they tire me out pretty badly. Instead, let's talk about the fact that I was watching this heinous display to begin with.

As I'm sure you've surmised, I did not venture into the muddy slobdom that was Saugerties, but instead viewed the event from the comfort of my overstuffed black Hypnochair™, "the furniture from which none shall escape." Mind you, I had no intention of sacrificin' 48 hours of my life to the overlords of Pay-Per- View. I've been burned before: Tyson-Spinks, Chavez-Whittaker, Howard Stern. But, while channel surfing I stumble across the PPV channel and, to what do my wondering eyes appear, it's 'Woodstock'...and it's FREE!! So, as time passed and rain fell on both festival goers and myself alike, I watched. And became hooked. And when, after two hours of gratis viewing, the picture disappeared as magically as it appeared, I knew what I had to do: I called, I ordered, I watched...and watched...and watched. I saw it all. Topless girls, stopless rain. The wheelchair-bound guy who decided to take a nap in his car, only to awaken a half hour later and find his wheelchair gone. When stage announcements promised a "no questions asked reward" for its return, a guy produced a chair within minutes. The wrong chair. Two more days of peace and music...and capitalizing on the infirmities of those less fortunate than ourselves.

More than anything, I suppose this return to the long overgrown with weeds garden was supposed to be about music, and this giant Battle of the Bands produced both winners and losers. Highlights included a rousing cover of "Manic Depression" by King's X, who were relegated to the nevermind neverland of Friday night...strong Saturday performances by Primus (yes, that says Primus) and Nine Inch Nails, who took to the stage covered head to toe in mud and left the stage amid a haze of sparks and smoke from destroyed equipment, and frankly scaring the bejesus out of me in the process...the post-performance interview with the increasingly weird Stephen Stills, wherein the 300 lb. grandpa rocker revealed his plan to dive from the stage into the mosh pit – until bandmate Graham Nash talked him out of it (hey, maybe TWO Prozac a day wouldn't be such a bad idea)...Saturday's near-riot during the Green Day set as mud-throwing fans stormed the stage and security guards attempted to forcibly remove a dirt-covered Billie Joe from the stage at the height of the melee. Don't it make my blue hair brown?

The two most impressive sets of the entire event came from two highly unlikely sources: The Allman Brothers, who showed that some of the old guys can still rock; and The Neville Brothers, who had an initially indifferent crowd eating from their palms halfway through an exceptional set.

Some of the low points – ranging from disappointing to downright bad – were Cypress Hill and Salt 'N Pepa, proving once and for all that rap does have a place in music...and that place is as far away from a live stage as possible. How about the reformed and touring Traffic, whose Madame Toussad-ian walkthrough gave further credence to Steve Winwood's rep as a great studio musician who oughta stay there. And who can forget the great stage show, but surprisingly undistinguished set, from Porno for Pyros? While you can't go wrong with a backdrop replete with fire, lesbians and evil clowns, the best part of the actual set was Perry Farrell falling in the mud three times (Perry, babe, it's been done) including a football-kick pratfall that would've made Dick Van Dyke proud.

And, of course, no examination of this version of 'Woodstock' would be complete without discussing the big finale...Bob Dylan. Bob, who remained nearly intelligible through the first few songs, only to reach the inevitable point where Nancy remarked: "Uh-oh, he's slipping into that language we don't understand." The weirdness of his outfit was equaled only by the weirdness of the song arrangements – you knew you should recognize them, but you couldn't get a handle on it.

In all, 'Woodstock '94' was no better nor worse than the original. And no, the prospect of another 25-year rehash excites me no more than that fateful weekend in 1969. My blood runs positively cold at the thought of an overweight, 55-year-old Henry Rollins reprising "Liar" for a new generation of kids trying to recreate and recapture a history they know nothing about, and to be honest, wasn't all that great in the first place.

Let's plow the garden under before the temptation arises for yet another 'Stock answer to the questions of a generation.

JOHN TAYLOR is ER's business guru, voice of reason and Trouble Coordinator.

 


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