Happy Birthday Leslie West: Hear Mountain Perform ‘Live At Woodstock’ In 1969
Hear Mountain's stellar Woodstock set.
Guitarist and vocalist Leslie West was born on this date in 1945 in New York City. West sadly died on December 23, 2020 but his legacy lives on in the countless musicians he influenced throughout the years as a true musician’s musician. In 1969, West formed the pioneering hard rock band Mountain, who are widely considered to be progenitors of heavy metal, with bassist Felix Pappalardi.
The name Mountain came from West’s debut solo album. After performing in the moderately successful band The Vagrants, West caught the attention of Pappalardi. Felix produced Cream’s landmark 1967 album Disraeli Gears but also worked with The Vagrants. Impressed, Pappalardi got West in the studio with the result being Mountain. The newly formed band Mountain would bring many of the songs on the titular album to the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969.
On Saturday, August 16 at around 9 p.m. Mountain took the stage at Woodstock just after Canned Heat’s iconic performance and before the Grateful Dead’s notoriously stormy set. Mountain — at the time also consisting of drummer Norman Smart and keyboardist Steve Knight — had less than five shows under their belt but worked the half a million strong Woodstock crowd like old pros. The band kicked off their performance with a tight rendition of “Blood Of The Sun,” which not only features West’s killer guitar work but also his outstanding rock ‘n’ roll vocals. The band would follow with the blues standard “Stormy Monday” on which West also shined delivering wailing riffage throughout.
For the third slot, Moutain sailed through the psychedelic “Theme For An Imaginary Western,” a song written by Cream’s Jack Bruce and sung by Pappalardi in a similar operatic style to Bruce, an interesting foil to West’s powerful rasp. The oft-sampled “Long Red” came next. The song would later appear on the Mountain’s Live (The Road Goes Ever On) and has become a favorite song to sample by hip hop artists appearing on songs like JAY-Z’s “99 Problems” and Kanye West’s “Barry Bonds.” Mountain’s Woodstock performance of “Long Red” saw West get the audience involved and also delivering another strong guitar and vocal performance. The Pappalardi sung “Who Am I But You And The Sun” is often cited as “For Yasgur’s Farm,” named after the owner of the Woodstock grounds Max Yasgur.
The set also includes the delightfully heavy “Beside The Sea,” which features Pappalardi working the fuzz bass. “Waiting To Take You Away,” which would also appear on The Road Goes Ever On, came next before West got cookin’ on “Dreams Of Milk And Honey” which stretches to over 16 minutes and contains one of Leslie’s signature guitar solos. Mountain closed out their Woodstock set with “Southbound Train.”
In honor of Leslie West, stream Mountain’s Woodstock set — officially released in 2019 by Columbia Legacy — below for this edition of Full Show Friday: