By José Oliveira – Forever Journalist/Photographer!!! – Rock At Night France, Portugal
Celebrating my 50th article for Rock At Night, this deserved one of my most beautiful stories! In my teens in Portugal, music was already a huge passion! But the Portuguese youth had the heavy burden at the time, to have inherited a colonial past, which, for some, would condemn them to lose four years of their lives and even to die. Music and Woodstock helped me to survive.
Here is my story…
I had an incredible opportunity during my two years in the army in Africa. – By the time they got to Woodstock – They were half a million strong – And everywhere was a song – But I was sent to Africa to Kill ….
This year we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. There will be four different celebrations. There are already two Festivals announced. Michael LANG (the original Promoter in ‘69) will organize one of them.
At the same time in 1969, I lived an incredible story!
I was 21 years old. I came from a family that was quite well known because my father had two stores in town: a shoe store and the most beautiful and renowned lingerie store in this university town (COIMBRA – 70 000 people).
At that time Festivals were not announced three or four months in advance. The Festival was held for three days in August and I learned about it, at the end of July of that year. So, I thought I would go to the United States. For that, I would have to get a passport.
In 69, Portugal still lived on the heritage of the dictator Salazar. Military service was mandatory for all, from the age of 18 years and for a duration of 4 years! Two years in Portugal and another two years at the Portuguese colonies (Angola-Mozambique-Guinea- Bissau-Timor-Cabo Verde-Goa or Macau).
I went to the courthouse and tried to get the papers to get a Passport.
I told them that I would like to go to the USA, to a great Musical event. They were surprised to see that I was 21 years old and had not yet joined the army. I told them I was still studying at the Agricultural High School of Coimbra. Ironically, they then informed me that I could not leave the country because Portugal was at war in our Colonies. My request was denied.
They took the opportunity to tell me, that in the army, instead of a guitar, I would receive a G3 machine gun and I would leave, for free, to fight in one of our colonies. There would be a lot of excitement and even fireworks!!! I was terribly disappointed but my Father was very happy to save some money! My dream was collapsing. Three weeks later, I was integrated into the army. I spent two years in Portugal and was then sent to the East of Angola for two years! (1971-1972). In Angola I was very lucky. I was a Sergeant in charge of Stewardship in a border town with Zaire, called LUSO. Many military barracks were concentrated there, to prevent the enemy from moving forward.
But one day, in late 1971, we received an order (a note) from the State Major Head of the Armed Forces, to present ourselves for a casting in order to form a musical Band!!! The officers of the various military Companies, staying in the East of Angola, had requisitioned the GRAND LUSO HOTEL and needed a Band that would entertain their private nights and balls. I introduced myself and I was hired to play rhythm guitar!!!!
Then, we created a Band composed of five elements. Without hesitation, to avenge myself of a visceral suffering, I gave the band the name of Woodstock!!! To loop the loop!!
Suddenly, I had the good life! A sort of DOLCE VITA!!! I left the barracks to play every Saturday at the GRAND LUSO HOTEL and in the clubs around the city.
From time to time, we would take the plane to play for the soldiers, in the bush!
I went to local high society events and made a lot of friends with the pretty girls, who belonged to the families of the Major officers!
It is a beautiful story lived in a military context and in a country where its children sacrificed themselves to fuel the colonialism’s madness, which invaded the heirs of the Salazar regime!
But we are living in a time where the pretty stories are increasingly trivialized. With the Internet, we have quick access to everything. We want everything and right away. Well, JIM MORRISON also sang at the time « WE WANT THE WORLD AND WE WANT IT NOW!” but everything was to be built and reinvented. Dreaming was allowed!
Nevertheless, I remain an eternal dreamer. I think this story could and should reach the ears of Michael LANG (the Woodstock ’69 Promoter)!!…
I know, it’s not my fault if I’m as crazy as ZAPPA was!
The Woodstock Band musicians :
Many thanks to my RAN colleague Rosine Alleva for editing and publishing!
If José didn’t exist? We should invent him! Big hugs to you my friend – Rosine*