On 29th June 1744, Horace Walpole writes to Henry Conway about the recently opened Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens in Chelsea:
“Every night constantly I go to Ranelagh; which has totally beat Vauxhall. Nobody goes anywhere else… My Lord Chesterfield is so fond of it that he says he has directed all his letters to be directed thither. If you had never seen it, I would make you a most pompous description of it, and tell you how the floor is all of beaten princes—that you can’t set your foot without treading on a Prince of Wales or a Duke of Cumberland. The company is universal; there is from his Grace of Grafton down to the children out of the Foundling Hospital.”
James Boswell discusses the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in 1791:
“Vauxhall Gardens is peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English nation; there being a mixture of curious shows—gay exhibition, musick, vocal and instrumental, not too refined for the general ear;—for all of which only a shilling is paid. And, though last, not least, good eating and drinking for those who wish to purchase that regale.”
Adolf Hitler, a lifelong admirer of Richard Wagner, recalls a visit to the Bayreuth Festival in Bavaria in August 1925:
“What a bustle there was in Bayreuth for the Festival!… I used to spend the day in Lederhosen. In the evening I would put on a dinner jacket or tails to go to the opera… At the first performance of Parsifal that I attended at Bayreuth, Cleving was still singing. What a stature and what a magnificent voice! That same year, I was also present at the Ring and Meistersinger. The fact that the Jew Schorr was allowed to sing the role of Wotan had the effect of a profanation on me. Why couldn’t they have got Rode from Munich? But there was Braun, an artiste of exceptional quality.”
Joe Boyd recalls the row when Bob Dylan played with electric amplification at the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965:
“Dylan left the stage with a shrug as the crowd roared. Having heard three songs, they wanted ‘mooooore,’ and some certainly were booing. They had been taken by surprise by the volume and aggression of the music. Some loved it, some hated it, most were amazed, astonished and energised by it. It was something we take for granted now, but utterly novel then; non-linear lyrics, an attitude of total contempt for expectation and established values, accompanied by screaming blues guitar and a powerful rhythm section, played at ear-splitting volume by young kids. The Beatles were still singing love songs in 1965, while the Stones played a sexy brand of blues-rooted pop. This was different. This was the Birth of Rock.”
Michael Lang, who organised the Woodstock Festival of 1969, recalls it in an interview with the Guardian 40 years on:
“The estimates are [that there were] half a million to 600,000 [people] on the site, and a million and a half on the roads trying to get there. They shut the freeway, they shut the Canadian border, they shut everything they could shut—luckily, frankly, because I don’t know what we what would have done with more people.
“We’d been through a decade of anti-war demonstrations and human rights issues… When we planned [Woodstock], we planned it to be a festival that would welcome everyone. People with tickets and people without tickets… you had free camp grounds, there was a free kitchen if you didn’t have money to buy food, there were free stages where the acts could go and play afterwards…
“Because most of the bands were part of the counter-culture, the things they wrote about were the things we were concerned with. They were all of a fabric together, so when everybody looked out and saw how many of us there were, we were all really amazed… I certainly don’t compare it to [later] festivals. It was a sociological phenomenon, you have to look at it like that.”
Broadcaster Andy Kershaw introduces Johnny Cash at Glastonbury, 1994:
“When I heard that Johnny Cash was to play on the Saturday afternoon slot, I was thrilled but worried. In recent years that position had been reserved for novelty acts or those making an incongruous appearance at a rock festival. Tom Jones and Rolf Harris had, in 1992 and 1993, satisfied the appetites of tedious postmodern piss-takers. Johnny Cash did not deserve that treatment from a crowd I feared would be too intolerant and too ignorant to realise his true value.
“All morning… I’d been fretting about how he’d be received and a form of words I might summon to do justice to the man and pre-empt any ridicule. When it was time to go, I’d still not thought of the intro. I set off toward the centre microphone, my head empty and in a state of near panic. But when I reached it, the words came from somewhere… ‘Please welcome, a giant of American music and a giant of a man. Johnny Cash…’
“Hard on those words came the signature twanging guitar intro to Folsom Prison Blues. Glastonbury went up like a chip-pan… Giant waves of affection were crashing into and breaking over the stage. With the final chord dying away, the swell was immense and overpowering. Cash stood there, humbled, tears rolling down his face. I was in floods too.”