“I think it’s gonna be like Easter and Christmas and New Year’s and your birthday all together…It’s just gonna be too much and the vibrations are just gonna be flowing everywhere.”
That was one fan’s account of those three days in Monterey, California, at the first--and what turned out to be the only--Monterey International Pop Festival. It was the musical festival before that other one went and outdid the scene.
There were no Rolling Stones (save a non-performing Brian Jones, while the rest were kept in England to face marijuana charges), no Bob Dylan (in seclusion following his ‘66 motorcycle accident), no Chuck Berry (demanded too much--that is, any--money). Others--the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Beach Boys, the Beatles--never showed, either, and they probably had their reasons.
But there were those that showed up with better reason: they wanted to be there, to play for free for thousands of music-loving, flower-donning fans. Over 30 acts performed at the festival, including Johnny Rivers, the Steve Miller Band, Moby Grape, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and Grateful Dead. And those are just some of the artists who were cut from the finished film.
D.A. Pennebaker, who had released Dylan doc Don’t Look Back two years earlier, and a team of six others (including Albert Maysles, who along with his brother David and Charlotte Zwerin, would direct Gimme Shelter, the chronicle of the Stones’ infamous 1969 Altamont concert) captured the essence in Monterey Pop, which has gone on to become one of the greatest examples of the concert film.
Pennebaker and company capture, amongst others: Canned Heat rollin’ and tumblin’ like madmen; Simon & Garfunkel feelin’ groovy under a red-tinted light; Jefferson Airplane in a two-song set that is about as close to textbook psychedelia as music gets (Grace Slick doesn’t blink once!); Big Brother and the Holding Company, fronted by Janis Joplin in her sole stage appearance in the film, doing “Ball and Chain”; The Who racing through “My Generation,” serving as a preface to guitarist Pete Townshend and animal drummer Keith Moon destroying their gear; Otis Redding making love to the crowd of thousands; and Jimi Hendrix (with his Experience) performing voodoo on his Fender Stratocaster, easily outmatching Townshend’s antics.
Like that other festival of the ‘60s, the Monterey International Pop Festival was as much about the crowd as it was the music. The most admiring segment of fan loyalty comes when the camera interviews the girl “lucky” enough to be the one who wipes down all of the seats. After she’s finished her duty, she waits in the seat of her choice, proud to have made the cold, wet chairs comfortable and dry for the thousands that will soon show up to be “at one” with it all.
Monterey Pop closes with an instrumental outro, with Indian musician Ravi Shankar plucking at his sitar for nearly 20 minutes in a wonderfully-edited sequence that encapsulates the harmony of the three-day festival. As the crowds pack and head back to their VW buses and/or parents’ basements, it dawns that these people, and the artists they just submitted to, have little idea what the Monterey International Pop Festival would inspire.
“This is where it all ends,” said bassist John Entwistle at the beginning of The Who’s set. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Jimi Plays Monterey
If Otis made love to the crowd on Saturday evening, Jimi fucked them silly the next night.
Sunday, June 18th marked the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s first concert in the United States following a stint in London. Taking the lead from Rolling Stones cofounder Brian Jones‘ introduction, bassist Noel Redding, drummer Mitch Mitchell, and Jimi himself take the stage, the axeman wielding his greatest tool: the upside down Fender Stratocaster.
The 33-minute, seven-song set (introductory footage shows the band in Europe covering The Beatles and The Troggs) that Jimi, decked in tight red pants and a pink feather boa, and company blaze through opens with “Killing Floor,” hits right into “Foxy Lady,” cools down with Dylan cover “Like a Rolling Stone,” takes on blues standard “Rock Me Baby,” and lets out favorite “Hey Joe.”
And then, just as the calm from “The Wind Cries Mary” sinks into the crowd, Jimi rips into “Wild Thing,” the performance of his career. After six minutes of assaulting the stage both physically and sexually, takes fire to his Strat, all to show up The Who’s Pete Townshend, who smashed his guitar and amp just two sets earlier.
And he did. One Woodstock and three years later, Jimi Hendrix would be dead at 27.
Shake! Otis at Monterey
In just 18 minutes and five songs, Otis Redding made sincere and absolute love to a crowd of thousands.
It was Saturday, June 17th, and Otis, backed by Booker T and the MG’s and the Mar-Keys, was the last to perform that night. Taking the stage in the now-famous green suit, Otis deemed the audience “the love crowd” and burst right into “Shake,” which gave way to “Respect,” which he prefaced with a playful riff on Aretha’s thievery and subsequent success.
The single greatest live performance Otis ever gave comes in “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” where he, like the crowd, begs the brass section repeatedly to “Do it to me one more time!” Next was a cover of the Rolling Stones’ first hit, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which he consciously never attributes to the band.
The all-too-short set ends with “Try a Little Tenderness,” which Otis devotes “to all the miniskirts” in the crowd. Backed with implanted footage of girls, babies, and lovers over the festival’s three days, it’s the quintessential segment of the film.
One recording of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” and six months later, Otis Redding would be dead at 26.
Audio Commentary by festival producer Lou Adler and director D.A. Pennebaker: As this track was recorded over three decades after the concert, it’s remarkable how vivid Adler and Pennabaker’s memories are. The duo dish out a wealth of information on how the project developed, their experiences making the film, and much more in between. A highly informative commentary backed by great chemistry.
The Outtakes, which run close to two hours, are divided into four sections: Day 1 features The Association and Simon and Garfunkel; Day 2 has Country Joe and the Fish, Al Kooper, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Electric Flag, The Byrds, Laura Nyro, and Jefferson Airplane; Day 3 with The Blues Project, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Buffalo Springfield, The Who, and The Mamas & the Papas; and The Hunt Club contains four Tiny Tim numbers.
Interviews with Adler and Pennebaker (29:22): The pair sits down for a seven-part interview recorded in 2001. In it, the pair comfortably chats reminisces about how Pennebaker came onboard, heading to California for the festival, the significance of Ravi Shankar’s epic performance, and more.
Audio Interviews with The Mamas & the Papas members John Phillips and “Mama” Cass Elliot, David Crosby, and British journalist/agent Derek Taylor.
Promotional Material houses the Theatrical Trailer and Radio Spots.
Festival Ephemera contains photographs taken by Elaine Mayes and the Festival Program.
Audio Commentary on Jimi Plays Monterey by music critic/historian Charles Shaar Murray: The enthusiastic Murray gives a historical look into the work of Hendrix and his performance at Monterey.
Pete Townshend Interview (4:35): This interview, recorded in 1987, has the legendary Who guitarist sharing his memories of Hendrix at Monterey, including a coin toss on who would perform first, as they both planned to destroy their guitars onstage.
Commentaries on Shake! Otis at Monterey by music historian Peter Guralnick: In the first, Guralnick gives a Song-by-Song look at Redding’s performance, while in the second he offers a Career Overview.
Phil Walden Interview (18:45): This interview, recorded in 2002, has Redding’s manager discussing his career, falling in with Redding, and “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.”
Trailer for Jimi Plays Monterey.
Also included are two booklets. The first, at 44 pages, includes three essays: “Monterey Pop: The First Rock Festival” by writer and musician Michael Lydon; “The Meeting of the Twain: Monterey and the Great California Divide” by author Barney Hoskyns; and “Monterey Pop: People in Motion” by critic Armond White. The second, at eight pages, includes one essay: “Bold, Beautiful, and Black” by Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke.