The Last Great Event By Ray Foulk with Caroline Foulk Book Review

The 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival, according to its organiser.

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The world within these pages is a different world. One far removed from the more corporate-oriented approach we know today when it comes to festival promotion. Along with his brothers, Ray Foulk organised not just the 1970 but the previous two festivals as well, and what he does brilliantly here is capture the spirit, chaos and serendipity of getting this off the ground. Foulk does go briefly into what happened in 1968 and ’69, to give some necessary background to the main bulk of this book. But this is kept to a minimum, as it has already been outlined in detail in his first book on the festival. What he deals with here is exactly what went into launching the 1970 shindig, and how close it came on several occasions to being scuppered.

At times, all the craziness and overblown nonsense leading up to the five days of music mania in August of that year seem so surreal you could be forgiven for thinking this is a Goon Show script. But once this is dealt with, then Foulk goes into incredible detail on the performance from every artist on the bill. Of real interest to Prog readers will be his description of ELP’s landmark set, and while admitting Carl Palmer has some less than complimentary things to say about the festival, nonetheless Foulk is fulsome in his praise. He does, though, have a little dig at Jethro Tull’s excessive demands. The Moody Blues, Procol Harum and Chicago also get a decent shake, Supertramp and Pentangle come out of this with reputations intact, and mention is also made of how Hawkwind so nearly jammed with Jimi Hendrix. In such a wide-ranging book, covering politics, business shenanigans and music, it’s hard to maintain an entertaining balance, but Foulk generally succeeds in being informative yet interesting. Having read it you will have a greater understanding of what it took to stage this festival, and why it’s become such an important part of early progressive rock history.