Message to Love - The Isle of Wight Festival 1970

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

5/5 (1)

In 1970 in England, The Isle of Wight Music Festival was set up. It was the largest of its kind, modeled after Woodstock. Some 600,000 people attended. [

There was terrific drama throughout the festival. Prior to the concert, there were resident lobbyists protesting the event stating in part that the festival would disrupt the mostly wealthy island community. Some said that the concert goers were Communist hippies who had no place on the island. Others said that the concert was a front for black power.

Whatever the case, word spread that the concert was a “people’s concert” and that admission was free for most visitors.

Most musicians, but not all, went with this assumption and sided with the crowd.

The promoters however were greatly dismayed by this and emphatically stated that business was business and that money was a grim reality.

Nervous about the enormous turnout of almost supernatural proportions, the police set up huge sheets of metal to act as barricades against the crowd. This riled both the yippies and the hippies who were both fiercely anti-capitalist.

Music producer Murray Lerner captures all of the drama in “Message to Love.” This is a wonderful documentary. Not only is it a time capsule but it is also a social study of the counterculture and what remains important.

Jimi Hendrix is here strumming and sexualizing his guitar as if it is a phallus or a totem object. Joni Mitchell is here singing “Woodstock” and the crowd boos her. There are also the Moody Blues, Kris Kristofferson, a young Leonard Cohen and last, but not certainly not least, the absolutely captivating Jim Morrison singing “This Is the End.” The camera adores him.

Central to this documentary is the conservative backlash complaining about the anti-capitalist concert goers. One older man claims that every audience member is an anti-patriotic terrorist, while the promoters wring their hands about concert expenses.

In one shocking moment, the audience breaks through the barricades, upsetting the police and a German shepherd attacks a spectator.

Again and again, the concert executives attempt to pacify the crowd with little success.

By the end of the film, he Isle of Wight is scorched and littered with paper and gray garbage, as if a bomb dropped.

The concert managers shuffle off into the empty field, bereft and dispirited.

This is one of the most vivid and evocative concert films that you are likely to see. “Message of Love” is a play-by-play record of time and an illustration of battle between hippies and bureaucrat executives, a civil war that still continues today, albeit in lessening degrees.

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