When The Who were on form with Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon firing on all cylinders, you’d struggle to find a better sight in rock ‘n’ roll. This powerful performance of ‘Heaven and Hell’ dated in 1970 and recorded from the Isle Of Wight encapsulates everything that was impressive about the legendary band.
The festival not only welcomed in excess of 600,000 counter-culture revellers to the shores of a sleepy seaside resort, but also the glittering gold of the rock world at the time. It meant performances from Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, The Doors and many more became written into British folklore but The Who’s iconic set is a picture of a band at their absolute peak which is a delight from start to finish.
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, that only gave time for non-tickets holders to assemble and plan their attack.
At roughly 600,000 attendees, it smashed the previous Woodstock record of 400,000. But far from the hippie-love-in promised, the crowd were surly and ready to riot and proceeded to smash just about everything else in their paths. It led festival MC Rikki Farr to scream: “We put this festival on, you bastards, with a lot of love! We worked for one year for you pigs! And you wanna break our walls down and you wanna destroy it? Well, you go to hell!”
The Who took to the stage on a star-studded bill on Saturday evening that saw them follow the likes of Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis and The Doors in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest collated line-ups in the history of music. The concert started at 2:00am and The Who’s former tour manager John Woolf once recalled that “every moth and flying nocturnal animal on the island” was in the 600,000 strong crowd.
“We all sat around this fire, I sat next to Jim Morrison and we downed a bottle of Southern Comfort, they went on just before us and they were great,” Roger Daltrey recalled about the evening to Absolute Radio. The night was one that The Who frontman holds with a mix of different emotions as the night would signal the end of an era when the music industry would evolve into a well-oiled machine.
“It was the last time really we had a real group get together, cause in those days we used to mix a lot,” Daltrey added. “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.”
‘Heaven and Hell’ opened their epic set in chasmic fashion, The Who would go on to put on one of their most famous performances of all time which would help create their legacy as one of the rock ‘n’ roll greats. From the very first few notes of ‘Heaven and Hell’ you can feel the seismic atmosphere and the fury unleashed from Pete Townshend’s guitar, a sound which sets up the crowd for an evening they would never forget.
Check it out, below.