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Tom Paxton - Isle of Wight 1969

All photos by repfoto 1969

"I sat with John and Yoko for the Band and Dylan and thought they were totally great. I was struck by a gesture of Bob's that seemed to go pretty much unnoticed by the press and the crowd. He sang the British folk song, Wild Mountain Thyme. Very nice. I was at the party at Dylan's 'hotel'. Also there were John and Yoko, George Harrison and Ringo Starr with their wives and some Apple staff. The 'entertainment' was a test pressing of Abbey Road which I thought was tremendous. It was a quiet party and I didn't stay late." - Tom Paxton


by Peter Grant

AMERICAN folk singer Tom Paxton was one of the musicians led into the inner circle with The Beatles at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1969.

Tom discovered that night something that showed him just what an influence The Beatles had on ordinary people.

He met the Beatles backstage at a rendezvous with John, George and Ringo, who attended with their wives.

Tom recalls. "Bob introduced me to John Lennon. That night during a concert with The Band and Dylan I sat with John and Yoko in the press area and something happened that I have never forgotten.

"Security was intense so there wasn't anyone there who wasn't in some way connected with the music business. Even so, a fellow leaned over from behind and asked John for his autograph. John, very polite and every quietly, said, "No, if I start I'll never get to stop,' and the guy burst out with a profanity, spewing hate all over John's head. He called him every name you could think of.

"Two minutes later, he came back practically crawling on his belly. Throughout this entire barrage John sat with his head bowed looking at the ground.

"When it was all over, I said: 'Does this happen a lot?' and John said, 'Every time I leave the house'.

"I thought, 'My God, what a price to pay'."

It had been Dylan's idea to put Richie Havens and Tom Paxton on the bill.

"Richie always delivers," Bob had said.

As for Paxton, he brought the sudden good humor of a lone folk singer to a crowd that had been sitting through a couple of days of British freak-out music.

Tom's turn to perform was at dusk and when he'd finished, he said he'd had the feeling that people were listening to him on distant hilltops. Though told emphatically after two encores that Paxton would not reappear, the mob kept calling for Tom to come back on stage, chanting for four full minutes:

"Paxton! Paxton! Paxton! Paxton!"

When Tom finally did reappear, he said:

"Thank you, thank you! You have made me happier than I have been in my whole life."

Another high point of the night was Havens' spellbinding performance, which ended with a powerful and exciting Strawberry Fields Forever. Next on the bill was a set by The Band, who were supposed to go on stage at eight-thirty. But when the clock struck ten, The Band still hadn't made an appearance. The MC was cursing and screaming from the battery of microphones in an attempt to clear the press enclosure of anyone without proper credentials, but that wasn't the reason why The Band finally went on stage an hour and a half late. The real reason was that there was something wrong with the Foulk Brothers' vaunted sound system, which, the Brothers Foulk had insisted, was loud enough to be heard for miles. Hadn't Tom Paxton gotten the feeling that they were hearing him on distant hilltops? "But the sound system seemed to be working all right when Tom Paxton and Richie Havens were on" I said. "What happened to it since then? How can you tell there's something wrong with it?"

Forelands Farm 1969

Bob Dylan and his pregnant wife Sara arrived on the Island late on Monday, 25th August. During their stay the Dylan's visited the country estate of Queen Victoria, Osborne House and were joined at Forelands by George Harrison. Rehearsals for Dylan's first major performance since his 1966 motorcycle accident were held in the barn with The Band.

The reported 'jam' session at the Crab and Lobster Inn and the existence of The Red Rocking Chair tape were both scams spread by Islander Jeff Lewis. "Bob then invited The Beatles to a game of tennis on the Forelands Farm courts. 'I'll play on condition nobody really knows how,' quipped John and, as Bob and John teamed up against Ringo and George, Patti Harrison giggled: 'This is the most exclusive game of mixed doubles in the world . . .' The game ended at 5.30, and Dylan piled into a white van along with Sara, Ringo, Maureen and me for the five mile drive to the festival site. We joked all the way." - Al Aronowitz from Looking Back At Bob, The Telegraph No. 42 Summer 1992

After his performance Bob Dylan returned to Forelands for a get together with John Lennon, Yoko Ono, George and Patti Harrison, Ringo and Maureen Starr. "The 'entertainment' was a test pressing of Abbey Road, which I thought was tremendous. It was a quiet party and I didn't stay late." - Tom Paxton

1969 Isle of Wight Line-up ( in Alphabetical order)

The Band
Blodwyn Pig
Blonde On Blonde
Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band
Edgar Broughton Band
Joe Cocker
Aynsley Dunbar
Bob Dylan
Gary Farr
Fat Mattress
Julie Felix
Richie Havens
Marsha Hunt and White Trash
Indo Jazz Fusions
Liverpool Scene
Mighty Baby
The Moody Blues
The Nice
Tom Paxton
The Pretty Things
Third Ear Band
The Who

Bob Dylan setlist - Isle of Wight 1969
Source unknown

She Belongs To Me
I Threw It All Away
Maggie's Farm
Wild Mountain Thyme
It Ain't Me Babe
To Ramona
Mr Tambourine Man
I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine
Lay Lady Lay
Highway 61 Revisited
One Too Many Mornings
I Pity The Poor Immigrant
Like A Rolling Stone
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)
Minstrel Boy
Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35