Don McLean's famous lyric in "American Pie" that "the players tried to take the field but the marching band refused to yield" is most likely about The Beatles' (specifically the Sgt. Pepper album's) control over the charts in the mid-'60s, but it also could have been about the Grateful Dead's set at Woodstock.
The Dead's jam session the night of Saturday, August 16, 1969, on the Woodstock stage extended far beyond the band's allotted time and erased any possibility that the late-running, chaotic festival would ever get back on schedule.
The Who have never forgiven the Grateful Dead, and Creedence Clearwater Revival's John Fogerty admitted in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, that he didn't appreciate the Dead's big moment either.
CCR's Woodstock set has only just been released after 50 years in obscurity. Creedence, like many Woodstock performers who resisted inclusion in post-Woodstock documents, like Michael Wadleigh's famous film, felt like their Woodstock sets were compromised for one reason or another.
"By the time we went on it was 2:30 in the morning," Fogerty told the L.A. Times. "We played a great set, but there was almost no reaction."
CCR, one of the first acts to sign on to Woodstock, was booked to perform in a prime time spot: 9 p.m. Saturday. Fogerty noted that the festival was already running late when the Dead took the stage. The band played for nearly an hour and a half, and Creedence did take the stage until well after midnight.
"I found out in the '90s that they'd dropped LSD before they went on, and so there they were onstage, what do you say, pretty bewildered," he said with a laugh.
And while he remembers his band being ready to go in spite of the late start, the crowd was exhausted. Understandably, he didn't feel like it would have been a good look for Creedence Clearwater Revival to be depicted playing a hit-laden set to a crowd of thousands of sleeping people.
Fogerty says he wasn't surprised by the Dead's imposition on the evening, but he was "what you would call pissed off" about it at the time.
"They sabotaged our chance in the limelight," he said. "But over time, I have developed quite an affection for the Dead. They mumbled their way through a career and they outlasted the Man. They changed the paradigm by doing it their own way, and they made it work. But at Woodstock, they were just a bunch of drugged-out hippies."
Fogerty and his surviving band mates recently agreed to set aside years of feuding to collaborate on the release of their Woodstock performance. And though he was hopeful that Woodstock 50 would materialize, when that fell apart, he was quick to book his band as part of the 50th anniversary festivities at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the venue erected near the original Woodstock site.
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