The Isle Of Wight Festival was a steep cultural landmark, an event that bookended an era and was the last hurrah before the swinging sixties’ days became a thing of the past. It wouldn’t only close the counter-culture movement, but it would also be the final time that The Who’s Roger Daltrey got to see Jim Morrison, and they put the world to rights.
The influential festival, which welcomed over 600,000 revellers to the shores of a sleepy seaside resort, also brought together the glittering gold of the rock world at the time. It meant performances from Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, The Doors and The Who would become some of the most celebrated sets of all time. The few days on a quaint island situated off the south coast would carve itself into British folklore forever and remains an occasion that lives long in the memory of The Who’s Roger Daltrey, who witnessed the tide turn in more ways than one following the end of the weekend.
The third consecutive event for the festival since 1968 meant the organisers were quietly confident they could sell out their allocation of 150,000 tickets, and they did so way before the event was intended to take place. Like Woodstock and Glen Watkins before it, the event gave non-tickets holders time to assemble and plan their attack. The gatecrashers made sure it smashed the previous Woodstock record of 400,000 and made sure that it was the most astonishing event in British festival history.
The Who took to the stage on Saturday evening, their set followed performances from Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis and The Doors, which is a simply extraordinary line-up of legends. The concert started at 2:00am, and The Who’s former tour manager John Woolf later boasted that “every moth and flying nocturnal animal on the island” was in the 600,000 strong crowd. However, while the show confirmed The Who’s iconic status, it was a well-earned drink with Jim Morrison that Roger Daltrey would remember with equal fondness.
“I shared two bottles of Southern Comfort with Jim Morrison and got very plastered,” Daltrey reminisced about the event. “It was in front of a huge bonfire that was being fulled by whatever we could fine to burn, to be honest. It was freezing, it was very cold. It was later in the year, I think from what I can remember. The Doors went on before us, so that was the last time I saw Jim because he died. Literally, I think it was in two months that he died. So the bastard got out without buying his round,” Daltrey jokingly said with an emotional look painted on his face.
“It was the last time really we had a real group get together, cause in those days we used to mix a lot,” Daltrey said on another occasion to Absolute Radio. “Today we are like ships in the night, everyone’s on the road going to different places. But, in those days, England and London, in particular, was a very small musical village. We used to see each other all the time, and that was the last time we had that closeness.”
While Daltrey may have used humour to hide his feelings about Morrison’s death, even though he’s wearing sunglasses in the clip, it’s evident that he was on the verge of welling up as he remembered his old drinking buddy. Those days of all the bands being in the same place and fighting for change collectively soon became a hazy memory.
The ramshackle ways in which the business worked were left behind and soaked up in the commercialised beast’s belly. Little did Daltrey know back then in 1970 that those two bottles of Southern Comfort in Morrison’s company would be his last drink before rock lost its roll and transformed into an industry.