Monterey Pop FestivalThe Monterey International Pop Music Festival was a three-day concert event held June 16 to June 18, 1967 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California. The festival is remembered for the first major American appearances by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Who and Ravi Shankar, the first large-scale public performance of Janis Joplin and the introduction of Otis Redding to a mass American audience.
The Monterey Pop Festival embodied the theme of California as a focal point for the counterculture and generally is regarded as one of the beginnings of the "Summer of Love" in 1967; the first rock festival had been held just one week earlier at Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, California, the KFRC Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival. Because Monterey was widely promoted and heavily attended, featured historic performances, and was the subject of a popular theatrical documentary film, it became an inspiration and a template for future music festivals, including the Woodstock Festival two years later. Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner said "Monterey was the nexus – it sprang from what the Beatles began, and from it sprang what followed."
The festivalThe festival was planned in seven weeks by John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas, record producer Lou Adler, Alan Pariser and publicist Derek Taylor. Monterey and Big Sur had been known as the site for the long-running Monterey Jazz Festival and Big Sur Folk Festival; the promoters saw the Monterey Pop festival as a way to validate rock music as an art form in the way in which jazz and folk were regarded. The organizers succeeded beyond all expectations.
The artists performed for free, with all revenue donated to charity, except for Ravi Shankar, who was paid $3,000 for his afternoon-long performance on the sitar. Country Joe and the Fish were paid $5,000, not by the festival, but from revenue generated from the D.A. Pennebaker documentary. The artists did, however, have their flights and accommodation paid for. Apart from Shankar, each act was given up to 40 minutes for their performance. Several ended their sets earlier, including the Who, who played for only 25 minutes.
Lou Adler later reflected:Monterey's bill boasted a lineup that put established stars like the Mamas and the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel and the Byrds alongside groundbreaking new acts from the UK and the U.S.
Crowd estimates for the festival have ranged from 25,000 to 90,000 people, which congregated in and around the festival grounds. The fairgrounds' enclosed performance arena, where the music took place, had an approved festival capacity of 7,000, but it was estimated that 8,500 jammed into it for Saturday night's show, with many extra attendees standing around the sides of the arena. Festival-goers who wanted to see the musical performances were required to have either an 'all-festival' ticket or a separate ticket for each of the five scheduled concert events they wanted to attend in the arena: Friday night, Saturday afternoon and night, and Sunday afternoon and night. Ticket prices varied by seating area, and ranged from $3 to $6.50 ($– in , adjusted for inflation).
The song "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" was written by Phillips and sung by Scott McKenzie, released in May 1967, to promote the event.
Jefferson AirplaneWith two huge singles behind them, Jefferson Airplane was one of the major attractions of the festival, having built a large following on the West Coast.
The WhoAlthough already a big act in the UK, and now gaining some attention in the U.S. after playing some New York dates two months earlier, the Who were propelled into the American mainstream at Monterey. The band used rented Vox amps for their set, which were not as powerful as their regular Sound City amps which they had left in England to save shipping costs. At the end of their frenetic performance of "My Generation", the audience was stunned as guitarist Pete Townshend smashed his guitar and slammed the neck against the amps and speakers. Smoke bombs exploded behind the amps and frightened concert staff rushed onstage to retrieve expensive microphones. At the end of the mayhem, drummer Keith Moon kicked over his drum kit as the band exited the stage. During Jimi Hendrix's stay in England, he and the Who had seen each other perform; they were both impressed with and intimidated by each other, so neither wanted to be upstaged by the other. They decided to toss a coin, with the Who's performing before Hendrix.
Grateful DeadMichael Lydon, author of Flashbacks (2003) commented: "The Grateful Dead were beautiful. They did at top volume what Shankar had done softly. They played pure music, some of the best music of the concert. I have never heard anything in music that could be said to be qualitatively better than the performance of the Dead, Sunday night. Jerry Garcia commented on the Who "smashing all their equipment. I mean, they did it so well. It looked so great. It was like, 'Wow, that is beautiful.' We went on. We played our little music. And it seemed so lame to me, at the time. And [Jimi Hendrix] was also beautiful and incredible and sounded great and looked great. I loved both acts. I sat there gape-jawed. They were wonderful." It took some wrangling to get the band, who were suspicious of the commercialism of the Los Angeles faction, to agree to perform; at one point, the Dead threatened to create an alternative festival opposite Monterey Pop.
The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceJimi Hendrix's use of extremely high volumes, the feedback this produced, and the combination of the two along with his dive-bombing use of the vibrato bar on his guitar, produced sounds that, with the exception of the British in attendance, none of the audience had ever heard before. This, along with his look, his clothing, and his erotic antics onstage, had an enormous impact on the audience. To take things further, aware of the Who's planned explosive finale, he asked around for a can of lighter fluid, which he placed behind one of his amplifier stacks before beginning his set. He ended his Monterey performance with an unpredictable version of "Wild Thing", which he capped by kneeling over his guitar, pouring lighter fluid over it, setting it on fire, and then smashing it onto the stage seven times before throwing its remains into the audience. This performance put Hendrix on the map and generated an enormous amount of attention in the music press and newspapers alike. Robert Christgau later wrote in The Village Voice of Hendrix's performance:Interestingly, an early draft of the line up had the Experience scheduled to play on the Friday night bill, rather than Sunday. The move could have been down to the organizers discovering the London rivalry between Hendrix and the Who. Fruitless wrangling between the two acts over which would perform before the other was ultimately settled by a coin flip. Hendrix and the Who also had what is sometimes described as a backstage jam session, but Pete Townshend disputes that description: "I've heard Roger talk about it as a jam session, but it wasn't a jam session. It was just Jimi on a chair playing at me. Playing at me like 'Don't fuck with me, you little shit.'"
Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin)Monterey Pop was one of the early major public performances for Janis Joplin, who appeared as a member of Big Brother and the Holding Company. Joplin gave a provocative rendition of the song "Ball and Chain". Columbia Records signed Big Brother and the Holding Company on the basis of their performance at Monterey.
Eric Burdon and the AnimalsEric Burdon changed gears with his performance at Monterey. After three years of playing with the original band the Animals as part of the British Invasion, and the breakup of that band, Eric assembled a new band, a "New Animals", and at the festival, they performed the Rolling Stones' song "Paint It Black", which showcased Burdon's new style: anti-war and hard rock. Monterey affected his career intensely as later captured in the song he wrote about it.
Otis ReddingRedding, backed by Booker T. & the MG's, was included on the bill through the efforts of promoter Jerry Wexler, who saw the festival as an opportunity to advance Redding's career. Until that point, Redding had performed mainly for black audiences, besides a few successful shows at the Whisky a Go Go. Redding's show, received well by the audience ("there is certainly more audible crowd participation in Redding's set than in any of the others filmed by Pennebaker that weekend") included "Respect" and a version of "Satisfaction". The festival would be one of his last major performances. He died six months later in a plane crash at the age of 26.
Ravi ShankarRavi Shankar was another artist who was introduced to the U.S. at the festival. The Raga Dhun (Dadra and Fast Teental) – later miscredited as "Raga Bhimpalasi" – an excerpt from Shankar's four-hour performance at the festival, concluded the Monterey Pop film.
Shankar's set began in the afternoon following a rainy morning, and the audience filled the arena to about 80% capacity. All other musical acts played to a packed house.
Laura NyroA 20-year old Laura Nyro gave one of her earliest performances at The Monterey Pop Festival. Critics at the time were divided in their opinions of her performance, some claiming that the black-gowned Nyro was out of sync with the psychedelic sensibilities of the event. Upon the conclusion of her set, Nyro was upset, claiming to have heard “boos” from the audience and refused to believe otherwise for many years. Her performance was not included in the original film’s release. In the mid-1990s, D.A. Pennebaker was assembling an expanded release of the film, and reviewed the Nyro footage for inclusion. Revealed on the soundtrack was an audience member saying “beautiful” at the end of the performance, which Nyro apparently thought was a “boo”. Pennebaker contacted Nyro and invited her to screen the footage to see for herself, but she died before a screening could be arranged.
The Mamas & the PapasThe Mamas & the Papas closed the festival. They also brought on Scott McKenzie to play his John Phillips-written single "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)". Their set included their hits "Monday, Monday" and "California Dreamin'". The song "Dancing in the Street" was the final song performed at the festival, with Mama Cass telling the audience "You're on your own".
Several acts were also notable for their non-appearance.
Music writer Rusty DeSoto argues that pop music history tends to downplay the importance of Monterey in favor of the "bigger, higher-profile, more decadent" Woodstock Festival, held two years later. But, as he notes:The festival launched the careers of many who played there, making some of them into stars virtually overnight, including Janis Joplin, Laura Nyro, Canned Heat, Otis Redding, Steve Miller, and Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar.
Monterey was also the first high-profile event to mix acts from major regional music centers in the U.S.San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Memphis, Tennessee, and New York Cityand it was the first time many of these bands had met each other in person. It was a particularly important meeting place for bands from the Bay Area and L.A., who had tended to regard each other with a degree of suspicionFrank Zappa for one made no secret of his low regard for some of the San Francisco bandsand until that point the two scenes had been developing separately along fairly distinct lines. Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane said "The idea that San Francisco was heralding was a bit of freedom from oppression."
Monterey also marked a significant changing of the guard in British music. The Who and Eric Burdon and the Animals represented the UK, with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones conspicuously absent. The Stones' Brian Jones wafted through the crowd, resplendent in full psychedelic regalia, and appeared on stage briefly to introduce Jimi Hendrix. It would be two more years before the Stones hit the road, by which time Jones was dead, and the Beatles never toured again. Meanwhile, the Who leapt into the breach and became the top British touring act of the period.
Also notable was the festival's innovative sound system, designed and built by audio engineer Abe Jacob, who started his career doing live sound for San Francisco bands and went on to become a leading sound designer for the American theater. Jacob's groundbreaking Monterey sound system was the progenitor of all the large-scale PAs that followed. It was a key factor in the festival's success and it was greatly appreciated by the artists—in the Monterey film, David Crosby can clearly be seen saying "Great sound system!" to bandmate Chris Hillman at the start of the Byrds' soundcheck. Lighting by Chip Monck attracted the attention of the Woodstock Festival promoters.
Electronic music pioneers Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause set up a booth at Monterey to demonstrate the new electronic music synthesizer developed by Robert Moog. Beaver and Krause had bought one of Moog's first synthesizers in 1966 and had spent a fruitless year trying to get someone in Hollywood interested in using it. Through their demonstration booth at Monterey, they gained the interest of acts including the Doors, the Byrds, the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, and others. This quickly built into a steady stream of business, and the eccentric Beaver was soon one of the busiest session men in L.A. He and Krause earned a contract with Warner Brothers.
Eric Burdon and the Animals later that same year, in their hit "Monterey", quoted a line from the Byrds' song "Renaissance Fair" ("I think that maybe I'm dreamin'") and mentioned performers the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Hugh Masekela, Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones ("His Majesty Prince Jones smiled as he moved among the crowd"). The instruments used in the song imitate the styles of these performers.
Anniversary festivalThe festival did not become an annual event. However, in 2017 on the 50th anniversary of the festival, the "Monterey International Pop Festival – Celebrates 50 Years" was held at the same venue on the same weekend, with the participation of Lou Adler. Norah Jones, daughter of Ravi Shankar, was one of the headliners.
Recording and filming the festivalThe festival was the subject of a documentary movie titled Monterey Pop by noted documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker. Pennebaker's team used recently developed portable 16mm crystal-sync motion picture cameras that stayed synchronized with double-system sound-recording systems. The film stock was Eastman Kodak's recently released "high-speed" 16mm Ektachrome 100 ASA color reversal motion picture stock, without which the nighttime shows would have been virtually impossible to shoot in color. Sound was captured by Wally Heider's mobile studio on a then state-of-the art eight-channel recorder, with one track used for the crystal-sync tone, to synchronize it with the film cameras. The Grateful Dead believed that the film was too commercial and refused permission for their performance to be shown. The screening of the film in theaters nationwide helped raise the festival to mythic status, rapidly swelled the ranks of festival-goers looking for the next festival, and inspired new entrepreneurs to stage more such festivals around the country. Adler said the cameramen were instructed to capture at least two complete songs for most of the acts, but for certain others, particularly the Who and Hendrix, to film as much of the sets as possible. As a result, only one song was not captured in part at least from both act's performances.
Big Brother's scheduled set was not filmed because of a disagreement. However, due to the huge reaction the band got, they were asked to return to play two songs on Sunday, to be filmed specifically for the movie.
An expanded version of the documentary has been released on DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection.
The audio recordings of the festival eventually became the basis for many albums, most notably the 1970 release Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival featuring partial sets by Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix. Other releases recorded at the festival included dedicated live albums by the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Shankar. In 1992, a four-CD box set was released featuring performances by most of the artists; various other compilations have been released over the years. According to a radio promotional feature that accompanied the box-set release, on modified stages, including flatbed Kaleidscope (LA) trucks, set up in the surrounding environs, there had been several spontaneous jam sessions for the overflow crowds and campers. Among them was one at the Monterey Peninsula Community College sports stadium (right across the Hwy. 1 interchange), where Jimi Hendrix, flanked by Jorma Kaukonen and John Cipollina, played for an enthusiastic audience. It was also reported locally that Eric Burdon had checked out the provisions and healthcare facilities.
Moby Grape's Monterey recordings and film footage remain unreleased, allegedly because manager Matthew Katz demanded $1 million for the rights.
PerformersFriday, June 16
Saturday, June 17
Sunday, June 18