Crosby Stills Nash & Young almost didn't perform at the festival. The helicopter that Graham Nash and the group's bassist, Greg Reeves, were on was less than 25 feet off the ground when the tail rotor failed and it began to spin. The helicopter almost crashed and Nash and Reeves were almost killed when it not only made a hard landing, but just missed some high-tension power lines.
The two= and three-panel screen presentations seen throughout much of the movie were innovations born of necessity on the part of its creators and a film editor named Martin Scorsese. With so much footage shot, and the studio's unwillingness to expand the length of the released film's running time, it was decided that a way must be found to maximize the amount of footage that could be used. Because of the wide-screen aspect of the release, it was realized that the multi-panel format could be used most effectively to not only include as much film footage as possible, but to also have concert footage and crowd reaction shots together on the same screen. The filmmakers believed it was important to show the viewing public just what a monumental event the Woodstock festival had unintentionally become. This method also allowed them to show many behind-the-scene activities that showed all the hard work put in by the production staff and crew, another important detail that the concert's producers thought was very important for the public to see as they had always contended that without the efforts of the entire production staff, this event could have easily degenerated into a disaster.
When the promoters were negotiating to get Grateful Dead to perform at the festival, Bill Graham, who was managing the band at the time, insisted that the promoters include one of two other acts he managed on the bill. Michael Lang listened to recordings of both bands and liked them so much that he couldn't decide which one to put on the bill and wound up flipping a coin; the winner would be booked. The losing band was It's a Beautiful Day. The band that won the flip was Santana, which would achieve superstardom on the basis of their appearances at both the festival and in the film.
Santana was supposed to go on later on the evening of day two, but due to all the delays the band was forced to go on much earlier. However, Carlos Santana had taken a dose of mescaline and was still peaking when the band was performing. As a result, he imagined that the neck of his guitar had become a snake and was moving. Fortunately, he still was able to perform and the band's star-making performance went off without a hitch.
The Who's performance was interrupted by Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman. Hoffman ran onstage to make a speech about the recent marijuana arrest of radical John Sinclair. As Hoffman was shouting about Sinclair and his displeasure about the festival, Pete Townshend kicked him off the stage.
The festival may have been an artistic success but it was a financial disaster. The film and soundtrack were the only items to make money, and they were also the only items that the concert promoters did not invest in--they thought there was no money in it.
Abbie Hoffman wasn't the only one to feel Pete Townshend's wrath during The Who's performance. As they were walking onstage Townshend kicked one of the cameramen filming the documentary. The cameraman happened to be none other than the film's director Michael Wadleigh.
The festival organizers offered Bob Dylan the chance to headline the festival. In fact, the fact that Dylan and The Band had taken up residency in the nearby town of Woodstock was a principal reason for choosing the location. Dylan refused to appear. Years later, he derided the organizers for "exploiting the hell out of that town" and declared that the festival-goers were just a bunch of "kids on acid with flowers in their hair", adding that the festival was not his "scene".
The filmmakers and distributor were sued by the man who was interviewed while cleaning the Port-O-San portable latrines, on the grounds of mental anguish, embarrassment, public ridicule, and invasion of privacy. An appellate court opinion in this lawsuit may be read at Taggart v. Wadleigh-Maurice, Ltd., 489 F.2d 434 (3d Cir. 1973).
Even though it was a long shot, the promoters sent out an invitation to The Beatles. In fact, John Lennon said that the group had to decline, but that he would gladly appear solo with a version of the The Plastic Ono Band. Needless to say, the invitation was withdrawn.
Richie Havens originally was scheduled to go on later that evening, but because many of the artists were late in arriving he was pressed into duty to open the show. Michael Lang also was going to ask Tim Hardin to open the festival, but Hardin was very stoned and when asked, he ran away. He did perform a very ragged set later that evening.
The performances of Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin were not seen in the original version of the film when it was released in 1970. Also, the Canned Heat song "Going Up the Country" was heard earlier in the movie but the band was not seen in the movie until the director's cut was released in 1994.
Even though Neil Young performed with Crosby Stills & Nash at Woodstock, he was not in the movie. He hated the idea of being filmed and even threatened physical violence to a cameraman if he was caught being filmed. However, he is heard on the soundtrack album performing with them on the songs "Sea of Madness" and "Wooden Ships".
Country Joe McDonald wasn't scheduled to perform the second day. He was forced into it because many of the acts that were scheduled to perform that day hadn't arrived yet. He also performs on day three with the rest of the group Country Joe and the Fish.
Among the artists who appeared at the festival but not in the movie were Creedence Clearwater Revival, Mountain, The Band and Tim Hardin. Clips of Hardin's and The Band's performances were released several years later on the outtakes video. Also, Hardin was in the film, but he wasn't performing--he was filmed making a rather bizarre speech on Japanese technology.
Creedence Clearwater Revival, which at the time were the #1 band in the US, performed right after Grateful Dead. Because of problems with the sound, and because he thought their performance was substandard, singer/songwriter/guitarist John Fogerty didn't allow any footage to be included in the movie, nor for any song to be released on the album. However, four songs from their were released on the 25th-anniversary box set and some footage was included on a DVD of extra footage in the 40th-anniversary DVD box set of the film.
Warner Bros. did not want to release the film theatrically at first, because several other concert documentaries had failed badly in releases before that time, but did a release anyway; there was so little money involved that one executive said they could have cut up the film and sold it for bookmarks if they needed to.
Melanie was not booked to play the festival. She had showed up and pestered Michael Lang to add her to the line-up, which he refused to do. However, when The Incredible String Band decided to postpone their performance to the next day due to a rainstorm, Lang finally relented and she became a star following her performance.
While Grateful Dead did perform and were filmed for this movie (Jerry Garcia can be seen in brief interviews), the band members felt their performance was not to their normal standards. At the band's insistence, the footage was never used. However, some of their performance was included in the discs of extras that were released to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the festival.
The studio versions of Canned Heat's "Going Up the Country" and Crosby Stills & Nash's "Wooden Ships" are used in the movie. However, the live versions are used in the various soundtracks that have been released over the past 30 years.
The reason the Jeff Beck Group pulled out of the festival was that the band had broken up a couple of weeks prior to it. Interestingly, the band's piano player Nicky Hopkins did perform at the festival with Jefferson Airplane.
The Moody Blues' reason for not performing at the festival was that they had already been booked to play a show in Paris at around the same time the festival was to take place. Years later the band admitted that they regretted not accepting the invite.
The filmmakers and distributor were sued (unsuccessfully) by the musician who played "Mess Call" on his Flugelhorn at 4:00 a.m., on the grounds of violation of a New York privacy statute. The court opinion may be read at Man v. Warner Bros. Inc., 317 F.Supp. 50 (S.D.N.Y. 1970).
Chip Monck was originally hired to set up the stage and lighting for the festival. However, he was pressed into service to act as master of ceremonies when Michael Lang realized that he hadn't hired one. Because of the festival he started a second career as a stage announcer due to his distinctive voice.
Jethro Tull was also invited to perform at the festival. However, lead singer Ian Anderson didn't want to perform in front of, as he termed them, "a bunch of unwashed hippies". Ironically, in the scene where the NBC reporter is interviewing Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld the group's song "Serenade to a Cuckoo" is playing in the background.
In an interview, John Phillips admitted that he was invited to become part of the board of directors of the festival due to his experience as one of the board members of the Monterey Pop Festival. However, he declined due to the fact that the festival was a profit-making venture as opposed to Monterey, which was a non-profit event with the proceeds going to charity.
Ironically, even though Bob Dylan refused to appear at Woodstock due to "festivals not being his scene" he was spotted in New York boarding the Queen Elizabeth on the first day of the festival to go to England to appear at the second Isle of Wight festival. However, his son was injured by a cabin door just prior to departure forcing Dylan to cancel his reservation and after his son recovered he and his wife Sara wound up flying to England for his appearance at that festival. Also, his backing band was The Band, who performed at Woodstock.
The duo of Zager & Evans, which had a huge hit that year with the song "In the Year 2525", was invited to perform but refused. Ironically, the song was in its sixth week at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 when the festival was going on.
When the promoters sent their long shot invite to The Beatles, the group suggested that they book a recent addition to their Apple Records label; James Taylor. However, after the group declined the invite Taylor's invitation was withdrawn.
When The Who is singing, "We're Not Going to Take It," the lighting change seen was the sunrise, which occurred at precisely at the most dramatic moment for the song. The band was so pleased at the aesthetic effect of this coincidence that they arranged special lighting in future concerts to achieve the same effect.