DOWN IN MONTEREY

Considered to be the Big Bang of the Summer of Love, Monterey International Pop Music Festival (to present its full and rather ambitious name) was conceived and planned by a small group led by John Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas. Their hope was to give pop music the  status awarded to jazz and other musics having their own festivals. History shows that they succeeded admirably.

Boasting the first major US appearances by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who and Indian classical musician Ravi Shankar, Monterey was also a watershed performance for Janis Joplin. One persistent story associated with the line-up is Hendrix and The Who being recommended by Paul McCartney, The Beatles having declined an invitation to attend. Given Beatles publicist Derek Taylor was one of the four original instigators, this is entirely plausible. And given the performances by both of those ‘British’ artists, both crowds and organisers cannot have been disappointed.

The 4-CD Rhino box set is a wonderful souvenir of the event for those not around San Francisco in June of 1967, which is, let’s face it, almost everyone. The capacity of the grounds was 7,000 people and an estimated 20,000 passed through across the five sessions between Friday evening and Sunday.

Boasting twenty artists and clocking in at a smidgin under five hours, this multi-disc set is pretty damn terrific. The sound is as good as you could expect for the time, while the diversity of the music really does exemplify the open-armed approach of both organisers and fans. Otis Redding and Jimi, Janis and Jefferson Airplane, Booker T and The Byrds; there are highlights galore, especially in some of the stage announcements.#

Often forgotten is the fact that the artists were not paid. You heard correctly: everyone performed for free*, with proceeds going to charity. Astonishingly, marvellously, the whole thing worked. An excerpt from a contemporary review said this:

The Flower Fuzz: Two weeks ago in Monterey there was an International Pop Festival. For Two and a half days people listened to music. They were almost all kids, and there wasn’t a moment of trouble. The cops were astonished.

[Pete Hamill in the New York Post, July 7, 1967]

Vinyl Connection recently picked up this super set for a song. If you come across it, I recommend you do the same. In the meantime, here are a few photos, interspersed with the artists on each disc.

# My favourite is one of the Byrds (McGuinn or Crosby?) quoting Paul McCartney’s suggestion that world peace could be assured if all politicians were given acid. Couldn’t make things worse, now could it?

* Except Ravi Shankar, who received US$3000 for his long afternoon sitar performance, and Country Joe and the Fish who got paid by DA Pennebaker for their appearance in his film.

DISC ONE

Festival introduction—John Phillips

The Association

Lou Rawls

Eric Burdon & the Animals

Canned Heat

Country Joe & The Fish

Big Brother & The Holding Company

DISC TWO

The Butterfield Blues Band

The Steve Miller Band

The Electric Flag

Hugh Masekela

The Byrds

Ravi Shankar

The Blues Project

DISC THREE

Jefferson Airplane

Booker T & The MGs

Otis Redding

The Who

DISC FOUR

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

The Mamas & The Papas

Scott McKenzie

The Mamas & The Papas—Festival Finale

 

25 comments

  1. P.A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock made a film about the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. It was not Woodstock yet, that means, it was about both music and people. Perhaps it was because Monterey was at sea, the open-air stage had chairs, and the musicians had been listeners when they were not on stage: Jimi Hendrix watching Ravi Shankar, Mama Cass as she looks to Janis Joplin with her mouth open, whether Mike Bloomfield or Garth Hudson of The Band, Monterey appears like a movie in which people take the music seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that moment where Mama Cass is watching Janis open-mouthed is brilliant.
      It’s also worth remembering the relative size: Woodstock, a couple of years later, was well over 10 times bigger. And no deck chairs either!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder what that $6.50 ticket price would be today, adjusted for inflation? For many years, I had Pennebaker’s documentary on videocassette. Every time I see performance footage of Joplin or Hendrix I think, “Imagine what else they would have given us had they not died so young…” I’d forgotten that The Association (“Windy” was an earworm of early childhood) and Lou Rawls were on the bill. Your post inspired me to watch some clips on YouTube…wild to think that the small children running around their tie-dye draped parents are now my age!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I’d meant to include Redding in that ‘gone WAY too soon’ comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. According to the calculator at ‘Dollar Times’, the ticket price converts to roughly US$50. Not too bad! I’d pay that to see those artists, especially the dead ones.

      As for imaging the age of the youngsters now, we’re probably (hopefully) in better shape than those tie-dyed parents!

      Like

  3. That would have been neat to see those big names making their major US debuts – and that the artists volunteered their time & the music was enjoyed peacefully by the crowds? Sign me up!

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    1. Almost impossible to imagine something that small, relaxed and unexploited, eh? Still, lovely fantasy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This does indeed look like a super set! The line-up was surely impressive and some of the footage (on YouTube) is pretty brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a terrific time capsule, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It was Crosby who was spouting out during The Byrds set, along with his acid plea he pontificated on JFK’s assassination and apparently the rest of the band were mightily pissed off with him. In addition he sat in on Buffalo Springfield’s set, pretty soon he was booted out of The Byrds. There’s an interesting read about his departure here… http://www.snopes.com/music/hidden/notoriousbyrds.asp

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for adding in a few more details, Paul. My money would have been on Crosby (who did, let’s face it, often wanders close to the town limits of Plonkerville). I don’t imagine Jim McGuinn would have been impressed with Dave’s co-option of the gig.
      Will have a look at the link. Wonder whether it perpetuates the amusing Notorious Byrd Brothers album cover ‘horse’ story?

      Like

  6. Indeed it does.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. oops, rather, it debunks it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent stuff Bruce. I was interested to see one of my real faves, Hugh Masekela in there too – I didn’t know he was there at all. I’d have picked attending Monterrey over Woodstock, or Altamont (natch!), any day.

    The book looks rather gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Hugh even joins The Byrds for ‘So you want to be a rock and roll star’.
      And big ‘yes’ – this would have been the one to be at. The beginning, small, friendly, and a fabulous line-up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Quick Bruce, to the time machine!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I saw him at a festival in 1984, I was only 12 and I just absolutely fell for his music. I’ve never found any recordings of his that quite did it the same way for me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m a little embarrassed to say that he isn’t represented in the VC collection at all. Don’t tell anyone!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I’ll inherit a couple of 80s ones one day but I’ve never bought any myself. Yet.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    And somehow, odd god that he is, Steve Miller was there. I love that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed he was, bless ‘im! And a full year before the debut album.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Seen clips of a few of the people that played there. Just watched a doc on Stax records. I think this was the last time Otis performed. Wasn’t aware of the entire lineup.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ohhhh man. I had totally forgotten about this set. But we used to play this at my buddy Brian’s Mom’s house, hell we were still in high school! Thanks for reminding of this! It’s like half of my lifetime just collapsed in onto itself and took me right back…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely. Just watched the VHS video of Pennebaker’s film. Seemed like the right medium!

      Like

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