INTERVIEW

Santana On Woodstock

Featuring: Carlos Santana
Time: 5:25 minutes
Excerpt:"50,000, you know, half a million or more strong. All I could see was an ocean of flesh and hair and teeth."
full transcript

Bill Graham took us to, uh, this journey of going from the Ark to the streets of San Francisco, and he said to us, “There’s going to be a festival that’s going to, like, be the festival of festivals.  And I want you to be in it.  I know you haven’t, you know, your album’s not out, and you know, people don’t know you from anything but they requested my help, and I told them the only way I help ‘em, if they put Santana.”  

And, “What the hell is Santana?”  So, our first tour, w-, ‘cause we’d been playing Seattle, we’d were playing, you know, San Francisco and San Diego, and Santa Barbara, and everywhere we played, we were taking a big chunk of the audience from Credence Clearwater and the Grateful Dead, and, uh, anybody who got in front of us.

The Who, um, Steppenwolf, we were taking their audience with us, it’s, you know, it’s like, people are like, “Man, you heard Santana?” “Yeah! that’s”, you know, so next thing that we show up, their audience would be there with us now, you know.  And, but we’d never been further than Phoenix, I think.  And so Bill booked us into the Dallas festival, and the Atlantic festival, and this other festival and it was going from 30 to 60,000.  

By the time we got to Woodstock, we weren’t afraid of the crowd.  You know, so, he trained us very, very, very well.  You know, uh, and, uh, he prepared us by how he booked us.  Uh, Bill Graham was a real architect, uh, for Santana, uh, you know, he saw something in me and in us, [exhales] that was very different than a lot of people in San Francisco, you know? And he invested energy, time, money, and passion in us, and, uh, you know, I’ll always be grateful to him, uh, just like Clive Davis, people who believe in us and they stick their neck out for us, even when their investors might say, “You know, p-, p-, who the hell is Santana,” you know?  

Uh, but it was a very, I wouldn’t say calculated, it was a very thought-out, uh, flow of how he created for us to be exposed to, a bigger crowd, a bigger crowd, a bigger crowd, a bigger crowd, until, when we got to Woodstock, you know, we weren’t afraid. It was a disaster of transportation.  All the freeways were blocked like a science fiction movie.  You know, people just abandoned their cars on the freeway.  550,000, you know, half a million or more strong.  Uh, all I could see was an ocean of flesh and hair and teeth.  And the cheering was like, you know, combine like a bunch of Super Bowls and World Cups, and baseballs, and you don’t, you know, you don’t hear that sound of 500 people, like, uh, screaming at the same time.  You know, and, uh, we’re in a helicopter, hearing it, you know? 

The biggest door I ever walk in through, or walk through, other than sup-, the, than the Supernatural experience.  Um, you know, it’s like, a little strange that a few years back, maybe a year and a half, I was in Mission High School, and now I’m playing with, same stage with Sly and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, all these incredible mega-superstars already.

I remember that I was under the influence of LSD.  You know, and I, then it all came back to me, like, “Damn!  Why did I take LSD before I went on,” you know?  The, the guitar neck, it felt like, uh, uh, a, electric snake that wouldn’t stand still.  That’s why I’m making ugly faces, trying to make the snake stand still, so I can, like, play it, you know, ‘cause it was going like this.

The neck is going like that, and I’m like, you know, and, and, inwardly, I’m just, I remember saying, over and over, “God, I’ll never do this again, ever!  If you can just keep me in time and in tune, that, that’s all I ask.”  That was my first mantra.  “God, please, I promise I’ll never do this again.  I’ll never take this, this thing again.”  

Just, you know, and then the sound of hearing the music coming from within me, through my body, through my fingers, through the amplifier, through the speakers, up into the audience as far as you can go, and then come back to you.  You know, uh, it was a scary thing.  You know, I’ll, I’ll, uh, I’ll, uh, you know, I thought, uh, we were going to go on, like, 12 hours later, so that I would be cool.

And it was like, “Okay, now, you know, I already drink a lot of water, I pee it out, now I can do this,” and I, you know, I’m not a, everything’s not so amoeba, liquid-y, you know, all, discombobulated, you know, [laughs], I don’t recommend it for anybody, you know, to go on stage high on LSD, trying to perform or present your music.  Um, but, by God’s grace, the performance that they got from “Soul Sacrifice” was very electric.