Long before Coachella, Lollapalooza, or Bonnaroo, Apple Computers co-founder Steve Wozniak launched a multi-day celebration of evolving technologies; a marriage of music, computers, television, and people dubbed the US Festival — with “US” an acronym for “Unite Us In Song.” Held in Glen Helen Regional Park outside of San Bernardino, California, Woz simply wanted “to throw a big party in the middle of nowhere.”
The first took place over Labor Day weekend in 1982 and featured a variety of acts over three days including the Ramones, the Grateful Dead, the Police, and Gang of Four. The following spring, over Memorial Day weekend, Wozniak did another US Festival, again over a three-day period only this time it was split into distinct categories of “New Wave Day,” “Heavy Metal Day,” and “Rock Day.”
Next Tuesday, December 3, will see the DVD release of the US Festival 1983: Days 1-3 (MVD Entertainment), which should be a pretty exciting event. After all, there were some legendary performances by the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, and David Bowie.
Unfortunately, none of those artists will be represented on the release. The full tracklisting is below, but instead of getting even just one Mötley Crüe song, there are four (four!) tracks by Triumph.
Beyond the nearly 700,000 who attended the ’83 US Festival, the lack of quality footage from the weekend is a source of frustration for music fans in general. The entire weekend was professionally shot, but the only performances released in extended formats have been Quiet Riot and the aforementioned Triumph.
INXS had a breakthrough set, yet there’s only one song included on US Festival 1983: Days 1-3. Ditto for the Clash, whose performance was the final with Mick Jones. U2 were still a rising act relentlessly touring the States, and while it’s nice to get “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “The Electric Co.,” it would be so much better to have the entire 13-song set, which included the rarely played “Surrender” and “I Threw a Brick Through a Window.”
While the educated guess would be that the marquee artists are stingily holding onto the rights to their performances, leaving poor-quality bootlegs floating around as the only alternative, Vanyaland wanted to get the official word and reached out to Carlos Harvey, Chief Financial Officer of Unuson.
“You hit the nail on the head in your assumption that the only reason that some A- list artists are not included in this release is that they have not been willing to give us the rights,” Harvey says. “We have been trying for years to obtain them, and yes, we are still trying. We would like nothing more than to be able to provide the fans with a total compilation that includes the top songs performed by every artist and also would love to release the full performance of each artist individually, but unfortunately despite much effort it seems that some artists just don’t want their performances seen.”
Admittedly, some of the acts might have good reason to want the celluloid tucked away. Van Halen delivered an inebriated performance — one that landed them a Guinness World Record for drawing $1.5 million fee for a show. Singer David Lee Roth famously forgot the words to multiple songs while Eddie Van Halen made blatant mistakes during his guitar solo. Still, the desire to see them is there, and the set by VH in particular is one of the most bootlegged out there.
“There is a lot of low-quality bootlegged footage out there on YouTube, etc.,” Harvey laments. “Some have even been brazen enough to offer it on homemade CD’s, but I am sure you also understand that Unuson Corporation and Icon TV Music cannot and will not participate in this behavior. Rest assured that we are actively still pursuing making the performances available in a quality and legitimate production.”
Bands not allowing their charity performances to appear on official festival home video releases are nothing new. Back in 2004, Led Zeppelin refused to allow footage from their reunion set at the 1985 Live Aid charity concert for famine relief in Africa to appear on a four-disc set, for which proceeds would go to the original charity.
In a joint statement, Zeppelin said, “Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones are in absolute full support of the fundraising project for the people of Sudan. However, Jimmy, Robert and John Paul found that both the sound and general reproduction of their performance at Live Aid Philadelphia was sub-standard.”
US Festival 1983: Days 1-3 Tracklisting
INXS – “The One Thing”
Divinyls – “Boys in Town”
English Beat – “Jeanette”
Stray Cats – “Rock This Town”
Stray Cats – “Please Make Up Your Mind”
Men At Work – “It’s A Mistake”
Men At Work – “Who Can It Be Now”
The Clash – “Should I Stay or Should I Go”
Judas Priest – “Breaking the Law”
Judas Priest – “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”
Triumph – “Magic Power”
Triumph – “Fight the Good Fight”
Triumph – “Lay It on The Line”
Triumph – “A World of Fantasy”
Scorpions – “The Zoo”
Scorpions – “Can’t Get Enough”
Berlin – “Sex”
Quarterflash – “Find Another Fool”
U2 – “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
U2 – “The Electric Co.”
Missing Persons – “Words”
Stevie Nicks – “Stand Back”
Stevie Nicks – “Outside the Rain”