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Other segments from the episode on August 14, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 14, 2009: Interview with Les Paul; Commentary on music performances at Woodstock; Interview with Joel Rosenman and John Roberts; Review of the new season of "Mad…


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Guitar Hero: Les Paul, 1915-2009


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, sitting in for Terry Gross. Yesterday, the music world lost a true

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of “The Les Paul Show”)

Unidentified Announcer: It’s “The Les Paul Show”)

Mr. LES PAUL (Musician): Hi. Hello, folks. Let’s see. I’ve got my guitar. I’ve
got my wife, Mary.

Ms. MARY FORD (Singer): Hi.

Mr. PAUL: And I’ve got a room just loaded with electronics. We’ve got some
inventions here that make one voice sound like many voices and one guitar like
many guitars. And by means of these six L6s and plugging them into this
amplifier, why, we managed to…

Ms. FORD: Well, why don’t you grab a guitar and show the people what you can

Mr. PAUL: All right. I’ve got a lot of ideas. Here we go.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PAUL: Now that’s one guitar. Now, if you want two, I just throw a switch.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FORD: How about three?

Mr. PAUL: Easy.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PAUL: Now if you want four, switch.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FORD: How about five?

Mr. PAUL: It’s a cinch.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PAUL: Now, if you want six, here’s a half a dozen - easy one.

DAVIES: Guitarist and inventor Les Paul died yesterday in White Plains, New
York. He was 94. Les Paul has been called the Thomas Edison of music. He spent
his life playing guitar, inventing guitars to play and inventing devices to
record himself on.

He invented the solid-body electric guitar, over-dubbing, reverb and multi-
tracking, innovations that helped make rock ‘n’ roll and modern recording
possible. But Paul himself stuck mostly to jazz and middle-of-the-road pop. In
the 1950s, he had several hits with his wife, Mary Ford, such as “How High the
Moon,” “Via Con Dios” and “Bye Bye Blues.”

Les Paul began experimenting with guitar amplification in the ‘30s. He
shattered his right elbow in a car accident in 1948. Once said it would be
immovable, so he had it permanently set at an angle that would allow him to
keep playing guitar. He was still performing as recently as this June.

Terry Gross spoke with Les Paul in 1992, when he was 76 years old. They started
with his 1948 recording of “Lover,” recorded in his garage, which he said was
the first recording to combine all his inventions and recording techniques into
one bag of tricks.

(Soundbite of song, “Lover”)


Les Paul, welcome to FRESH AIR. So is that you playing all the parts?

Mr. PAUL: Yes.

GROSS: Was this the first record that you over-dubbed on?

Mr. PAUL: Oh, no. I started it in 1933. I started it in the ‘20s by punching
holes in my mother’s piano rolls, but I did it because the rhythm guitar player
and bass player would go home, and I’d say darn it, I wanted to have them play
“Lime House Blues,” and I wanted to try something. And I’d say well, as long as
they’re not here, what I’ll do is I’ll play the bass, and I’ll play the guitar,
and you know, do that. But I never recognized that that could be such a
tremendous tool.

GROSS: What was different on this recording of “Lover” from anything that you’d
ever done before?

Mr. PAUL: Well, the sped-up sound, the echo. The playing the bass line, making
a guitar sound like a bass. This is the first time in history that anybody had
ever done anything like that. And then to speed the guitar up and slow the
guitar down, and you get all these different sounds by muffling your strings
with your wrist, and these were all new things to be exposed to the world. And
of course, I had my problems, because so many people weren’t ready to accept

GROSS: So on “Lover,” the high, fast, trebly sounds that we hear, that’s a
sped-up guitar?

Mr. PAUL: Uh-huh, along with the normal guitar. The whole idea there is to be
able to get octaves and to go an octave below and an octave above and to do all
the harmony parts and everything, you know? And that was not the very first
record I ever made that way, but like I say, that was the first one to come
out. And that came out about a week after I had an automobile accident, where
for two years, I was to be in the hospital, just in a basket.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PAUL: Everything, everything I had was broken, and I was in bad shape for
about two years. So I had a lot of time to think, and I unfortunately didn’t
have that many records in the can, so to speak. What I had are records that
were completely done except for the last part, which was the melody. And the
reason I left that melody off is I figured that every week that went by, I got
better. And if I got better, why, I had newer ideas. And so I’d leave that last
part off. And after the automobile accident, I had to do the next recordings in
a cast, a body cast. And so with one arm fixed right up even with my face in
air, the only thing I could move with my right hand was my thumb.

So I put a thumb pick on that, laid the guitar, and I had a rack built to hold
the guitar horizontal, and it laid there flat. And I just stood up and played
my part, and that’s how I made the parts for the next four or five records.

GROSS: This might be the dictionary definition of obsessive.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PAUL: Boy, I’m telling you, you learn in a hurry to live with the
obstacles, and they can be overcome.

GROSS: Now, let me get to one of the hits that you had. Let’s talk about “How
High the Moon,” which you recorded with Mary Ford, one of your big hits.

Mr. PAUL: Thank you.

GROSS: Let’s hear some of it.

(Soundbite of song, “How High the Moon.”

Mr. PAUL and Ms. PAUL: (Singing) Somewhere there's music, how faint the tune.
Where there's heaven, How high the moon. There is no moon above when love is
far away, too, ‘till it comes true that you love me as I love you.

Somewhere there's music, how near, how far. Somewhere there's heaven. It's
where you are. The darkest night would shine if you would come to me soon.
Until you will, how still my heart, how high the moon.

GROSS: How would you record Mary’s voice to get that echo?

Mr. PAUL: Well, that was something that – I spent two years trying to find out,
find… I didn’t want reverb like an empty room. I didn’t want Carnegie Hall. I
didn’t want that sound. I said to my friend, very dear friend, he and his
girlfriend - Mary was my girlfriend - and myself, and a fellow named Wally
Jones. We were all sitting in a little tavern at Santa Monica and Western out
in Hollywood. And Lloyd was arm-wrestling with me, and we had a pitcher of beer
and some popcorn, and we’re watching the fights on Friday night. And he pulled
my arm down real easy, and he says Les, you’re not concentrating. You’re
usually pretty rough to bring that arm down on.

And I said well, I’m thinking of that echo, and I said, I haven’t figured it
out. And he says, well, you’re still worried about that thing? And I says,
yeah, I need it. I need it, and I don’t know how to get it. And he says, well,
explain it to me again.

And so this night, Lloyd, I explain it to Lloyd again. I says picture that
you’re on the Alps. I say hello, hello, hello, hello, and I said I want it to
repeat, and I want it to repeat, and I want the delay and the decay, I want to
be able to vary it.

And lo and behold, he says to me, you mean like putting the playback head
behind the record head? Oh boy, I threw $10 on the table, I said to Wally: Pay
the bill and bring the girls, you know? And we left him with a $10 bill and the
girls and the beer and the popcorn and the TV. We’re gone, and by the time they
got home, you could hear all over the neighborhood – hello, hello, hello,
hello, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PAUL: And we’d found the echo, the disc(ph) delay.

GROSS: You know what I want to know? Why did you want to have echo with her

Mr. PAUL: Oh, that’s interesting because the – I felt as though the – when you
play the note dry, just dead, it just drops like a rock, and it ends right
there, and a lot of times you’d like to have that note hang on after you’ve
left it and go to the next note, and it’s very similar to ambience in the room,
the sound of a room, where it’s enhanced by bare walls.

If I happen to be talking to you, and I happen to be in a very empty room, you
could recognize that riding in your car, listening at home. You say, well, I
can tell that these people are talking in a very empty room, or you can say
they’re talking in a phone booth, it’s so small, or it’s a very large hall.

So you have command over what you wish to do, and in this case I didn’t want
that note to say, hey, and just go on like Carnegie Hall. I wanted to go, hey,

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PAUL: See? And now if you want, you put a little tail on it. You go hey,
hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. You know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PAUL: And you know, it gives you such command of so many things, toys to
work with it. Today they’re not – I call them toys because the kids, they have
all these little boxes that you can go in and buy in the store. When I was a
kid and I visualized this thing, the reason I had to invent it is because you
couldn’t buy it in a store. If I wanted it, I had to make one.

DAVIES: Les Paul, speaking with Terry Gross in 1992. We’ll hear more after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: We’re listening to Terry’s 1992 interview with guitarist and inventor
Les Paul. He died yesterday at the age of 94.

GROSS: I saw you about a year ago at Fat Tuesday’s, a club in New York, where
you play every Monday, and you sounded terrific.

Mr. PAUL: Thank you.

GROSS: I understand that you have arthritis of the fingers. How do you play?

Mr. PAUL: Well, that – after my heart surgery in 1980, they just said, well,
you’re going to have to do something else because you can’t play, your hands
are gone. And I only had a couple of fingers on each hand then. Now I have no
fingers in the right hand that move. They’re fixed and so there’s no movement
except at the knuckles, and in the left hand I only have two fingers, really
one and a half because the first finger is half-frozen and painful.

What do I do? I just figured out that if I could do that, whatever I did then,
I just figured out how to do that with two fingers, and so what I have done is
I says, well, what I used to do with two hands and all my fingers, I’m sure it
can be done, and lo and behold, it can be.

GROSS: So you’ve really taken the same approach to your body as you’ve taken to
designing instruments and engineering equipment.

Mr. PAUL: Oh, are you – you’re great, you’re great. Terry, you’re great.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PAUL: The key to that is, is that the same will, the same power that you
have to destroy yourself, you can use to make yourself well. If you have
arthritis, you just have to have an iron jaw, and you’ve got to go in there and
not use any cop out that, well, I can’t play anymore because of the arthritis.
You just say there’s a way. And I think that determination, I think that – and
of course you have to have a lot of luck, and you have to have the right genes
and all that jazz to go with it. But I think the bottom line is, is that if you
want to hard enough, you can do it.

GROSS: What’s your threshold for pain? How good are you with pain?

Mr. PAUL: Oh, boy, I can tolerate pain. It’s unbelievable what you can tolerate
if you have that – again, if you have that attitude about it. First of all,
you’ve got to think up and not down, and first of all, you don’t think of work
as a dirty word. You think of that as something that is a privilege.

When I was in the hospital and the doctor called me in the office and he says
promise me you’ll work hard, and I says, doc, I thought that’s what put me in
here, and he says, no, Les, he says, nobody died over overwork. Promise me that
you’ll work hard.

So I went upstairs and they wheeled me upstairs, and I asked the nurse for a
piece of paper, and I drew a line down the center of it, and I put plus on one
side and minus on the other, this one, that one, all the great things that
we’ve done in my lifetime, and when it came to the end, I looked at the list,
and it was overwhelming that the best time I had in my life was playing in a
little nightclub.

Now, I’d given up the guitar in 1965 and says let the young kids have it. I’ve
made my money, I’m going to get out and invent and go manage and record and go
another direction, but forget the guitar.

This piece of paper in 1980 said to me I should go back and play the guitar.
Where I was happiest was in a little club, an intimate nightclub. So when I got
well, I marched into New York and I looked at all the clubs, and finally I find
this club, and I said this is my club.

So I go to the manager, and he’s 6’4”, he’s a big, tall guy, Scott, and I said,
sir, I’d like to talk to you. My name is Les Paul. He says Les who? I says…

GROSS: No, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PAUL: Yeah, yeah. Les Paul, and he says name sounds familiar. I says, yeah,
I play the guitar and I’d like to come in and play in your club, and he says,
well, what do you do? What kind of music do you play? And I says, you know,
darn if I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PAUL: I’ve never been able to put a handle on that one, and he says, well,
what have you got? And I says, well, I’ve got a trio, and I’d like to come in
here, and he says well, I don’t think we’re interested. And I says, not only
that, I’d like to be in on a Monday night. He says we’re not even open on
Mondays. And he says no, and I says, but I’m willing to work for nothing. He
says we’re interested.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. PAUL: So the bottom line was is that I made a deal with the boss, and he
said I’ll put you in for two weeks, and I’ll take the door and part of the
liquor and whatever. Went in there for two weeks and the audience reaction was
tremendous, and it was loaded, and you couldn’t get in, and it was just great.

GROSS: Are you still inventing? Are you still in the process of creating

Mr. PAUL: Oh yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: What are you working on?

Mr. PAUL: We’re working on a bass, a Les Paul bass. It’ll be at the NAMM show
next week. We’re working on all kinds of things. I invented a thing for piano.
I’ve got another thing for high blood pressure. I’ve got all kinds of things…

GROSS: Something for high blood pressure?

Mr. PAUL: Uh-huh.

GROSS: Are you getting into the medical field now?

Mr. PAUL: Well, it’s just that…

GROSS: You need it.

Mr. PAUL: Not that I need it. I saw that there was room for it in the medical
world. There’s a lot of things that you recognize - if you’re lying in bed and
you see a guy do something that’s the hard way, and you say, you know, how come
you’re doing it that way? Well, the same thing applies to – it goes all the way
back to – Terry, if I can really take you way back, it’s the first time that my
mother, in her home, had a radio, a Victrola, okay?

That’s the gramophone, that’s the phonograph, okay? And a player piano, and I’m
sitting there with all these things, and I looked at it, and I says, you know,
there’s something interesting here. This piano, I can punch a hole in it
wherever I wish and that note will come out, and I can slow it down or speed up
and it doesn’t change pitch, okay? It just gets slower or faster.

If I put my hand on a phonograph record, and I slow it down, the pitch changes.
Why? And that’s the key to the whole thing, that curiosity of that – you just
asked that question, why, and you’ve got your life cut out for you.

GROSS: Well, Les Paul, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. PAUL: Oh, it’s my pleasure.

DAVIES: Les Paul, speaking with Terry Gross in 1992. He died yesterday at the
age of 94. You can see a slide show, listen to his music and hear more
remembrances at I’m Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
The 'Young Men With Capital' Who Started Woodstock


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies, filling in for Terry Gross.

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock festival and there are
plenty of commemorative books, concerts, recordings, and reissues. Rhino
Records has released a six disc box set of live excerpts from the concert; and
Sony Legacy has issued five deluxe double CDs, pairing what were then the
current albums by: Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, the
Jefferson Airplane, and Santana with the full soundtrack of their Woodstock

In a few minutes we'll hear the recollections of two of the concert's original
producers, recorded on the festival's 20th anniversary in 1989. But first, rock
historian Ed Ward has these reflections on some of the music performed at the

(Soundbite of voices)

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of whistles)

Mr. JOHN MORRIS (Woodstock stage manager and announcer): get back to the
warning that I've received, you may take it with however many grains of salts
you wish, that the brown acid that is circulating around us is not specifically
too good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MORRIS: It's suggested that you do stay away from that. Of course, it's
your own trip, so be my guest. But please be advised that there is a warning on
that one, okay?

Mr. ED WARD (Rock historian): A friend of mine who was there, hearing that I
was writing about the Woodstock anniversary, said, in no uncertain terms, there
was no good music at Woodstock. After listening to most of the six discs of the
Woodstock box, plus the entire sets of both the Jefferson Airplane and Sly and
the Family Stone, I can't quite agree, but I do see what he meant. And I don't
think we can blame the famous brown acid, the flat blue acid, the green acid or
any of the other drugs for it, not directly.

Some of the problem was technical, the sound system was cobbled together from
movie-theater systems, which was the best they could do at the time. The bands
couldn't hear themselves too well in the monitors, and there were lots of

Another part of the problem wasn't as simple, but is glaring today; a lot of
the talent was substandard. In short, Woodstock substituted quantity for
quality, on the basis of what we can hear today.

The entire first day was almost a total disaster. Richie Havens, called into
service to open when the band scheduled to open, Sweetwater, had yet to show
up, did a yeoman job. But then Sweetwater showed up and played an incoherent
mish-mash of flute and chick-vocal-led junk.

They were followed by the now-forgotten Tim Sommer, whose lightweight songs and
voice are entirely unmemorable. Tim Hardin followed him, sounding asleep or,
more likely, stoned and then Ravi Shankar came on and did a couple of showy
numbers of the sort he knew hippies liked.

He was followed by the worst act of the day, Melanie, whose grating, whining
voice delivered, among others, a song called "Beautiful People" with lyrics
like, you take care of me, maybe I'll take care of you. Thanks, Mel. The day
ended, finally, with professional sets from Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez.

The next day really typified the festival, starting off with another forgotten
band, Quill, going to a folkie set by Country Joe McDonald, and then a band on
its way up, Santana, whose Latin-rock fusion led the way for the second
generation of San Francisco bands. I've never liked them, but their passion is

Next, John Sebastian provided more folkie sweetness, and then came Keef
Hartley, a British drummer with a blues band who's never allowed his set to be
used on film or record. He was followed by the Incredible String Band, British
psychedelic folkies whose best work was far behind them; after which came
another harbinger of the 1970s, Canned Heat, who not only provided 28 minutes
of something called "Woodstock Boogie," which I declined to experience, but who
also, according to sound man Chip Monck, fried the amps.

Mountain was next, with a proto-metal act complete with portentous lyrics; and
then the Grateful Dead, one of the few bands at the height of their powers at
the time they performed, with a set Deadheads don't really consider very good.

The best was yet to come, although it was getting late. Creedence Clearwater
Revival apparently didn't know there were a half-million people there and did
their usual tight set to the darkness and flew back out. After that came Janis
Joplin who was apparently channeling a chicken.

(Soundbite of "Ball And Chain")

Ms. JANIS JOPLIN (Singer/songwriter): (Singing)....and whoa, ooh whoa, ooh whoa
whoa, oh it this can't be, oh no this can't, whoa honey it just can't be rain.
No, no, no. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Honey, this can't be no, no, no, no, no-no,
no, no-no, no, no. Never, never, never, never, never, never. Oh, never, never,
never, never-never. I’m hoping you could tell me. Oh, whoa, I just don't, I got
to know why it don't, don’t seem I (unintelligible). I feel and I need to know
why. Tell me. I want to ask you now. Oh just tell me who I'm gonna lean on. I
think I wanna put my arm around. I said I wonder how sometimes.

Ms. JOPLIN: (Singing) I need a little help sometime.

(Soundbite of whistle)

Ms. JOPLIN: (Singing) Baby. Baby. Baby...

Mr. WARD: This sort of histrionics, of course, was also going to heard a lot in
the decade ahead, although Joplin would be dead in a little over a year.

Following her, came one of the few really historic sets at Woodstock, as Sly
and the Family Stone came on and delivered a dose of show-biz at three AM.

(Soundbite of "Dance to the Music")

Sly and the Family Stone: (Singing) ...Come on now. Everybody. Boom, boom,
boom, boom, boom-boom. Boom-boom-boom. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom-boom. Boom-
boom-boom. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom-boom.

(Soundbite of clapping)

Boom-boom-boom. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom-boom.

Dance to the music. Dance to the music. Dance to the music.

Mr. WARD: And after them, the Who managed to play "Tommy," yet another
foretaste of the worst impulses of the 1970s.

Had I been there, I would have stuck around until the next morning to see one
of my then-favorite bands, the Jefferson Airplane, and I would have been
disappointed. The band, apparently heavily dosed on orange acid, battled the
sound system and each other to a truce over nearly two hours, a set that left
me tense, listening to it 40 years later.

Then, I probably would have left, missing a surprisingly good set by Joe
Cocker; Ten Years After’s legendary guitar excess, which has been withdrawn
from the reissues; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, a terrible version of the
Paul Butterfield band; the execrable Sha Na Na's camped-up doo-wop; and
finally, Jimi Hendrix battling a new band he'd thrown together for the occasion
and dumped almost immediately afterwards.

Excess, histrionics, and pretension, those were the coming trends at Woodstock.
Peace, love, and music, the supposed drawing cards, would soon seem quaint
relics of a bygone era.

DAVIES: Ed Ward lives in the South of France.

Coming up, some remarkable tales of Woodstock from two of the festival's
original producers.

(Soundbite of music)This is FRESH AIR.

DAVIES: John Roberts and Joel Rosenman were two of the originators of the
Woodstock festival. They used the money Roberts had from an inheritance and
found themselves in an undertaking far bigger than they bargained for. They
collaborated on a 1974 book called "Young Men With Unlimited Capital."

Terry spoke to them in 1989 on the 20th anniversary of the festival. They told
her they never planned on hosting a crowd of 400,000.

Mr. JOEL ROSENMAN (Co-producer of the Woodstock festival): Our first go-round
we hoped to get about 25,000 people. That was in say, March of 1969. By mid-
April, we realized we might attract 35 to 50,000. By say early June, we were
looking at 75,000. By late July, we thought, improbably enough, that we're
going to have 100,000. And by the day before the concert, we had everybody in

GROSS: There's a lot of interesting behind the scenes stories in your book. One
of them that interested me was this blackmail call that you got from a member
of the New York underground.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And it turned out, I think, to be Abbie Hoffman?

Mr. ROSENMAN: It was Abbie Hoffman. Of course, we have a fairly unique and
different perspective about Woodstock, having been, as it were, in the boiler
room, constructing and running this particular operation. And most people don’t
know about that story and it's in the book. But the underground had hoped that
- the radical underground, I should say - had hoped that Woodstock would be a
forum for their political ideas - that we would give them time on stage, that
we would allow them to have booths, distribute leaflets, and so on.

And it had been our very firm intention to keep this as non-political as
possible. This was three days of peace and music. Abbie Hoffman summoned us
down to his headquarters down in Greenwich Village in New York and announced
that if we did not come across with some money, and some stage time, and
booths, and so on, that he was going to like make our life a misery.

Nothing he could do could’ve made our lives more miserable than they were by
that July. We'd already been kicked out of our first site.

(Soundbite of laughter)

So we said essentially, do your worst.

GROSS: Which was what?

Mr. ROSENMAN: Well, his worst turned out to be he jumped up on stage during The
Who's performance and was booted off, unceremoniously, by Roger Daltrey. Later
on, I think, he did manage to distribute some leaflets. But that weekend
stayed, at least for the course of the weekend, resolutely non-political. It
was just half a million people trying to have a good time.

GROSS: Well you had hoped to make a big profit on Woodstock and you had printed
up plenty of tickets, but the festival ended up a free festival and this is how
the announcement of the free festival sounded on stage.

(Soundbite of John Morris)

Mr. MORRIS: This is one thing that I was going to wait awhile before we talked
about, but maybe we'll talk about it now so you can think about it, because you
all, we all, have to make some kind of plans for ourselves.

It's a free concert from now on.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. MORRIS: That doesn't mean that anything goes, what that means is we're
going to put the music up here for free. Now, let's face the situation. We've
had thousands and thousands of people come here today. Many, many more than we
knew or even dreamt or thought would be possible. We're going to need each
other to help each other to work this out because we're taxing the systems that
we have set up.

We're going to be bringing the food in. But, the one major thing you have to
remember tonight, when you go back up to the woods to go to sleep or if you
stay here, is that the man next to you is your brother. And you damn well
better treat each other that way because if you don't, then we blow the whole
thing, but we've got it, right there.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of cheers)

GROSS: So, in fact, this story of how this got to be a free concert has a lot
more to do with fear than benevolence.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Could you tell the story of why you were forced to make Woodstock a free

Mr. ROSENMAN: Okay. It's even somewhat of misnomer as described here. As it...

GROSS: You mean because some people had already paid. Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSENMAN: Well, for some people it was not a free festival.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. ROSENMAN: Those unfortunate few who actually bought tickets, many of whom
never were able to get to the festival because of the traffic. It certainly
wasn’t a free festival for John and me. It cost us roughly three to four
million dollars. But it was certainly a free festival in the legend of
Woodstock and it was definitely a free festival for the hundreds of thousands
that we just heard in the background while John Morris was making his
announcement from the stage.

GROSS: Now you had hoped to have what, about 20 turnstiles that ticket-holders
would walk through?

Mr. ROSENMAN: We had them. We built them. The gates were up. The turnstiles
were up. Ticket-takers had been identified, and in fact, their uniforms had
been designed. It's really… It was really all set. Unfortunately, all of that
had been constructed in Wallkill, New York some weeks prior to the actual
event. And with roughly 34 days to go, the Zoning Board of Appeals at Wallkill
met one evening in response to local pressure and revoked permits that we had
had for months while we finished our construction. So an entire festival
construction, at great expense and effort, was out the window.

We were booted from that site and with little less than - a little more than
five weeks to go, we had to reconstruct the entire festival site in White Lake,
New York. Now, this meant that some things had to be done triple time. Overtime
was very expensive, even in those days. We hired a lot more staff. We had a
hundred - we had a thousand people working at our peak, trying to recreate the

At oh, I guess a couple of days before the event was supposed to start, it
really came down to: do we finish the stage or do we try to get the stage even
workable, or do we build fences and ticket gates once again? At that point it
kind of was put to John and me, are we still in this for the money? Do we take
a chance with the crowd? Do we take a chance with what may be the peaceful
outcome of the festival, which we had worked so hard to maintain throughout the
promotion period?

We thought about it for a millisecond, I think, and said build the stage. Make
sure the crowd is taken care of. Make sure the systems are in place to support
them, and we'll worry about taking tickets later.

GROSS: Now you had planned to have a lot of off-duty New York City police to
come and keep the peace at the festival. At the last minute the police reneged
on the offer because the person who had made the offer got a heart attack and
his replacement didn't think it was a very wise idea. But while you were still
planning on using the New York City off duty police…


GROSS: …what kind of deal did you have with them? Were they going to bust
people for doing illegal things like smoking marijuana and dropping LSD or
walking around naked?

Mr. ROSENMAN: No, they weren’t. We had rather extensive interviews and
rehearsals with the off duty policeman that we selected. In fact, we had
applicants, I think, over a thousand applicants for about 300 places. And we
would pose questions to them such as, if a young man with long hair comes up to
you over the course of the weekend and blows marijuana smoke in your face, what
is the correct reaction? If the policeman said, I’d take my night stick and wop
him one then we would look for another candidate.

If he said, I’d smile and walk away, then we probably had the right guy. What
we wanted there was not a group of people to bust the crowd. We wanted people
who were tolerant, who would keep the peace, who would see that people do not
hurt each other and who basically had brought into the dream and the idea of
three days of peace and music.

GROSS: What did you do for replacement?

Mr. ROSENMAN: Well, believe it or not, most of them showed up anyway. And it
was really quite amusing because they didn’t use their real names. They would
sign in as Mickey Mouse or Pluto or Batman or something like that. And matching
up Batman with the money he was owed was as I recall one of the more
interesting tasks after the festival. So, I would say of the 300 we hired over
250 actually showed up and they did a fine job.

GROSS: The first night of the Woodstock festival, that Friday night there was a
terrible thunderstorm on stage…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …it sounded something like this.

(Soundbite of Woodstock Concert)

Unidentified Man #1: It looks like we’re going to get a bit of rain, so we
would like to cover up. If you got (unintelligible) it’ll be okay.

(Soundbite of thunderstorm)

Unidentified Man #2: Sit down. (unintelligible) Hey, if you think really hard,
maybe we can stop this rain.

(Soundbite of applause)

Unidentified Man #2: No rain, No rain, No rain…

Unidentified Group: No rain, No rain…

GROSS: While that was happening behind the scenes, you were all worrying about
mass electrocution…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: What had happened, electrically, that was the worry?

Mr. ROSENMAN: It was a nightmare. We had - it really was, it probably was the
bleakest moment of the festival for me. We were sprouting walky talkies from
every ear at that point and dealing with a dozen problems every minute or two.
And on top of it all the phone rang, the chief electrician was calling from
backstage. I asked him what the problem was, he sounded pretty shaky actually
at the time, even for a man who was going through what he was going through.

He said, with the rain and all of those hundreds of thousands of feet scuffling
over the performance area, the main feeder cable supplying electricity to the
stage – the musicians, the amplifiers, whatever has been - unearthed. And with
additional abrasion from these sneakers and whatever, sandals, it may wear away
the insulation on these cables. I’m worried with all those wet bodies packed
together that we may have something approximating a – and he paused for a
moment and I couldn’t believe that he was searching for the words that he came
up with. But he came up with mass electrocution.

And I thought to myself this is the incredible, this can’t be happening. He
said, what do you want me to do, should I shut down the power to the stage? Now
we had had a philosophy there at headquarters that one of the reasons that this
festival was proceeding so well in spite of the adversities that everybody
there was facing, the weather, the tremendous crowds, the strain on all
facilities, was that the music was so mesmerizing. It was wonderful talent,
brilliant artists performing - the kids were just in love with it.

The thought of shutting the power down in the darkness, in the rain storm
struck me as an invitation to chaos. Nevertheless, the thought of a mass
execution posed additional moral problems. At that point, I remember breaking a
two-year moratorium on smoking. I think I lit up three or four Camels at once
and stuck them in my mouth and tried to think this one through. Finally, the
electrician helped me out. He said, look I think there’s a chance that in the
next 20 minutes I can work a shunt from the power source to the stage that
bypasses those main feeder cables. And maybe that will solve the whole problem.

I said, give it a try, and hung up. And for the next 20 minutes, John and I sat
there looking at each other. I guess we were waiting like in the movies for the
lights to dim a little bit, the way they do when they throw the switch in the
electric chair chamber. And I think it probably took a hundred years for those
20 minutes to pass. The phone rang and it was the chief electrician again. He
said, I did it, I did it, everything is fine.

DAVIES: Joel Rosenman and John Roberts, two of the original producers of
Woodstock speaking with Terry Gross in 1989. John Roberts died in 2001. Joel
Rosenman lives in New York and runs a venture capital firm. Coming up, David
Bianculli on the new season of “Mad Men.” This is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
‘Mad Men’ Returns, With A British Invasion


One of the most widely acclaimed shows on television, AMC’s “Mad Men,” returns
on Sunday for its third season. Our TV critic David Bianculli has this preview.

DAVID BIANCULLI: There was plenty of suspense in the cliffhanger that ended
AMC’s “Mad Men” at the end of season two. Sterling Cooper had been bought by a
British firm. And John Hamm’s Don Draper had walked away unhappy with the
company’s newly appointed president and unsure if he would return after the
weekend. When Don got home, his wife dropped the bomb that she was pregnant.
And speaking of bombs, all of this took place during the Cuban Missile Crisis
of 1962, when the world was on the brink of nuclear annihilation. But if that’s
not enough suspense for you, series creator Matthew Weiner always manages to
generate more.

He doesn’t begin a new season precisely where the old one left off. So as a new
year of “Mad Men” begins, there’s always the question, is it a new year? If we
left off in 1962 during the missile crisis, where will we pick up? He wouldn’t
leapfrog over the 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination, would he? The answer
comes very early in Sunday’s premiere episode. So it’s not exactly a state
secret. “Mad Men” never says what year it is or what month in the first
episode. But since Don’s wife is still pregnant, we know it’s less than nine
months later. So, by inference, we’re still in that small ‘60s window known as
the Age of Camelot, after James Bond, before the JFK assassination.

And predictably, the new British owners have their own agendas. One is to call
a meeting to fire Bert, the head of accounts. Another is to dispatch Don,
played by Jon Hamm, to Baltimore, to charm an old client who has a British
connection of his own.

(Soundbite of TV Series, “Mad Men”)

Unidentified Man #1: I apologize to Baltimore. It has to be done.

Unidentified Man #2: Hmm. Sales call, no more I can do here.

Unidentified Man #1: It’s not a sales call, you’re the face of our business.

Unidentified Man #3: They need someone they can trust. London Fog, how

Unidentified Man #2: Really, I have one.

Unidentified Man #1: So do I.

Unidentified Man #3: No, of course, it’s just the name. There’s no fog in
London. There is no London fog.

Unidentified Man #1: Are you sure about that?

Unidentified Man #3: Quite. Never was. It was the coal dust from the industrial
era. Charles Dickens and whatnot…

(Soundbite of IVR)

Unidentified Man #2: We need you to have a seat, Bert.

Unidentified Man #3: Okay.

BIANCULLI: A lot of this episode has to do with the seismic shift of the
corporate takeover. Of course, this mirrors perfectly how unsettled we’re all
feeling in this new millennium. And by now, we know all the employees at
Sterling Cooper well enough to be fascinated by how they react. Roger, Pete,
Peggy — they all angle for ways to protect or expand their turf. And even Joan,
the Va-va-voom secretary played by Christina Hendricks, holds her own in this
pre-Beatles British invasion. While Bert, who’s just been fired, throws a
temper tantrum behind closed doors, Joan stands outside and gets into a verbal
duel with the British boss’ new secretary, a man whom the other secretaries,
citing the James Bond character, disparagingly refer to as Moneypenny.

(Soundbite of TV Series, “Mad Men”)

Ms. CHRISTINA HENDRICKS (Actor): (As Joan Holloway) I assume you can continue
to handle this beautifully when I dispense psychotherapy to the girls in the

Unidentified Man #4: You Americans don’t know how to handle your emotions. It’s

Ms. HENDRICKS: (As Joan Holloway) His wife is sick and if you would talk to his
girl she would have informed him.

Unidentified Man #4: So, he would had a longer (unintelligible).

Ms. HENDRICKS: (As Joan Holloway) And if you had talked to me I would’ve been
waiting with his coat and his (unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #4: More on topic, decorum, I’d like to speak with you about
the way I’m being addressed.

Ms. HENDRICKS: (As Joan Holloway) Could you be more specific?

Unidentified Man #4: The switchboard. I’m not John. I’m Mr. Hooker.

Ms. HENDRICKS: (As Joan Holloway) That’s a way they’ve been taught to address
the secretaries.

Unidentified Man #4: Yes, well, as I’ve unexplained, in Great Britain…

Ms. HENDRICKS: (As Joan Holloway) A truck is a lorry, and an elevator is a
lift. I’ve got it Mr. Hoooker. Despite your title, you are not a secretary.

Unidentified Man #4: I’m Mr. Price’s right arm. I’m not his typist.

Ms. HENDRICKS: (As Joan Holloway) Of course.

BIANCULLI: I love how politely defiant Joan is in that scene. And let’s admit
it, how attractive. Lots of people, starting with Hamm’s Don Draper, are
ridiculously handsome or beautiful in this 1960’s drama. But Christina
Hendricks and her well-rounded curves may make Joan the most retrosexual “Mad
Men” character of all, as well as one of the most complex. The characters, even
more than the setting, are what make this show so captivating. No matter which
character is onscreen, you could follow that character for the rest of the hour
without complaint. Not many drama series are written that well and cast that
deeply to make you emotionally invested in almost everyone.

“The Wire,” “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “The Sopranos,” “The Shield,”
“Damages,” — it’s not a very long list but it is an impressive one. And “Mad
Men” belongs right up there with them. It’s one of the finest TV dramas ever
made. And the new season begins just as strongly as last season ended.

DAVIES: David Bianculli writes for and teaches television
and film at Rowan University.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: You can download podcasts of our show at Terry Gross
is back on Monday. I’m Dave Davies.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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