Abbie Hoffman at Woodstock
“Woodstock without any politics, without a commitment to self-defense of the nation is a shuck.” –Abbie Hoffman
Abbie Hoffman: “If you ever heard about me in connection with the festival it was not for playing Florence Nightingale to the flower children. What you heard was the following: “Oh, him, yeah, didn’t he grab the microphone, try to make a speech when Peter Townshend cracked him over the head with his guitar?” I’ve seen countless references to the incident, even a mammoth mural of the scene. What I’ve failed to find was a single photo of the incident. Why? Because it didn’t really happen. I grabbed the microphone all right and made a little speech about John Sinclair, who had just been sentenced to ten years in the Michigan State Penitentiary for giving two joints of grass to two undercover cops, and how we should take the strength we had at Woodstock home to free our brothers and sisters in jail. Something like that. Townshend, who had been tuning up, turned around and bumped into me. A nonincident really. Hundreds of photos and miles of film exist depicting the events on that stage, but none of this much-talked about scene.” Source: The Autobiography of Abbie Hoffman
“As I wandered around the Woodstock Festival, I was overwhelmed by the realization that this tribal event was in actuality what the Yippies had originally fantasized about for the 1968 counter-convention in Chicago. No longer did so many of these celebrants have to feel like the only Martians on their block. Now, extended families were developing into an alternative society right before our dilated pupils. I had never before felt such a powerful sense of community.
The soundtrack was live, and the Hog Farm commune provided meals, servicing the largest Bed & Breakfast place in history. Actually, they had been hired to provide security. But to Hog Farm leader Hugh Romney, security meant cream pies and seltzer bottles. He planned to wear a Smokey Bear costume to warn people about putting out fires. This was not merely a three-day outdoor concert. This was a Martian convention. Or, as Abbie Hoffman called it, Woodstock Nation.
The political contingent was encamped in a huge red-and-white-striped tent christened Movement City. In the afternoon, a mimeograph machine was churning out flyers proclaiming that the outdoor concerts should be free. At night, several festival-goers were busy unscrewing the metal-wire fencing that had been put up during the day. Yippie Roz Payne was among them. She helped take down the “No Trespassing” sign and changed it into a sign that read “Peoples Bulletin Board.”
Abbie, Roz and I took a stroll down Merchants Way, which led to the stage that was still being constructed. They took down the “Merchants Way” sign and put in its place a sign that read “Ho Chi Minh Trail.” Lights had not yet been strung up along the path, and as it got darker, we kept walking and stumbling until we got lost in the woods. After a couple of hours, we saw a light through the trees, realized that we were right back where we started, and we laughed ourselves silly.
Abbie would get serious later on, though, ebbed on by his sense of justice and fueled by the tab of White Lightning that we had each ingested. While The Who were performing, he went up on stage with the intention of informing the audience that John Sinclair, manager of the MC5 and leader of the White Panther Party, was serving ten years in prison for the possession of two joints; that this was really the politics behind the music.
Before Abbie could get his message across, Pete Townshend transformed his guitar into a tennis racket and smashed him on the head with a swift backhand. Townshend had assumed that Abbie was just another crazed fan. When The Who played at Fillmore East the previous week, a plainclothes cop rushed on stage and tried to grab the mike. He intended to warn the audience that there was a fire next door and the theater had to be cleared, but he was able to do so only after Townshend kneed him in the balls.
Now he shouted at Abbie, “Get the fuck off my stage!” To the audience: “The next person that walks across the stage is gonna get killed.” The audience laughed. “You can laugh, but I mean it!” Source: Paul Krassner from The Huffington Post: On the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock
At Woodstock in 1969, Hoffman reportedly interrupted The Who’s performance to attempt to speak against the jailing of John Sinclair of the White Panther Party. He grabbed a microphone and yelled, “I think this is a pile of shit while John Sinclair rots in prison …” Pete Townshend was adjusting his amplifier between songs and turned to look at Hoffman over his right shoulder. Townshend shouted “Fuck off! Fuck off my stage!” and reportedly ran at Hoffman with his guitar and hit Hoffman in the back, although Townshend later denied attacking Hoffman. Townshend later said that while he actually agreed with Hoffman on Sinclair’s imprisonment, he would have knocked him offstage regardless of the content of his message, given that Hoffman had violated the “sanctity of the stage,” i.e., the right of the band to perform uninterrupted by distractions not relevant to the actual show. The incident took place during a camera change, and was not captured on film. The audio of this incident, however, can be heard on The Who’s box set, Thirty Years of Maximum R&B (Disc 2, Track 20, “Abbie Hoffman Incident”).
In 1971’s Steal This Book in the section “Free Communication,” Hoffman encourages his readership to take to the stage at rock concerts to use the pre-assembled audience and PA system to get their message out. However he mentions that “interrupting the concert is frowned upon since it is only spitting in the faces of people you are trying to reach.”
In Woodstock Nation, Hoffman mentions the incident, and says he was on a bad LSD trip at the time. Joe Shea, then a reporter for the Times Herald-Record, a Dow Jones-Ottaway newspaper that covered the event on-site, said he saw the incident. He recalled that Hoffman was actually hit in the back of the head by Townshend’s guitar and toppled directly into the pit in front of the stage. He does not recall any “shove” from Townshend, and discounts both men’s accounts. Source: Wikipedia Post: Abbie Hoffman
Tags: Abbie Hoffman, Hog Farm, Paul Krassner, Woodstock