Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monterey Pop (1968) * * *

On a beautiful weekend in 1967 from June 16-18, at the height of the Summer of Love, the first and only THE FIRST ANNUAL MONTEREY INTERNATIONAL POP MUSIC FESTIVAL was captured on film by documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker. Some of the festival's big acts, such as The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, and Buffalo Springfield didn't make the final cut for various reasons. In some cases it was a legal or managerial decision. However, I once listened to the entire 3 day concert and was surprised at how bad most of the musical performances were. Eric Burdon, a great singer, was absolutely embarrassing singing "Gin House Blues". Laura Nyro was OK, but basically flopped at the festival. On the other hand, Monterey Pop instantly made superstars out of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin for their astonishing performances.

Program book: Be happy, be free; wear flowers, bring bells--have a festival.

Otis Redding: This is the Love Crowd, right?

The performers who appear in the film are excellent: Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Hugh Masekela, Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin), Simon & Garfunkel, and The Mamas and the Papas. Papa John Phillips was one of the festival's principal organizers along with Paul McCartney. Pennebaker immortalized moments that have become legend: The Who destroying their instruments at the end of "My Generation", and Jimi Hendrix Experience setting his guitar on fire during "Wild Thing". Backstage before the show Pete Townshend accused Hendrix of ripping off the Who's stage act. Hendrix called Townsend a "honkey", who refused to follow his performance, realizing that nobody could. On the last day of the event, Ravi Shankar pleased the crowd with his energetic Ragas. He was quite disturbed by the violent showmanship of The Who and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and actually didn't want to perform. The arrogant jerk demanded his own separate stage, where he played in a cloud of incense. (Lone Wolf also plays sitar and is not very impressed by Shankar.)

Papa John Phillips: We were doing the Monterey Pop Festival, which I produced with Lou Adler, and the town of Monterey was sort of frightened by the thought of two hundred and fifty thousand hippies coming. The police force was very concerned. They were prepared for riots, but they ended up interacting with the kids in a very positive way. Policemen had orchids in their helmets and on their motorcycles.

Mama Michelle Phillips: I thought we did a poor concert there. We only had about two minutes to warm up, and we hadn't rehearsed for three months. I came off the stage crying. There was something so extraordinary about the harmonic convergence of that weekend. I don't believe Monterey could ever happen again.

Hugh Masekela: Monterey was a platform to be able to get more visibility to bring awareness about what was happening especially on my continent. People were turned on in those days just with music. There was no genre, category, or marketing as there is today. People just loved music, they either liked it or it didn't turn them on.

D.A Pennebaker: People were there to see what was going to happen. There was no attitude about it. People were just as interested and surprised by Ravi Shankar as they were by Canned Heat.

The film concentrates on the musical performers, with only brief intimations of the burgeoning counterculture, showing unique and amazing sights, sounds, and experiences. Two years before Woodstock, an unprecedented crowd of young people gathered in and around the Monterey County Fairgrounds for a three day celebration. It attracted an estimated 200,000 total attendees with 55,000 to 90,000 people present at the event's peak at midnight on Sunday. Only about 10,000 were actually seated in the official paying "audience". Admission was only $1, but most did not pay. The performers appeared for free with all revenue donated to charity--only lodging and travel expenses were provided. The only exception was Ravi Shankar, who was paid $3,000 for his afternoon-long performance on sitar. It was a time of reunion and discovery for the performers as well as the audience. Funds raised by the festival and subsequent film and CD sales were earmarked to The Monterey Pop Foundation which is still in existence today and providing help to worthwhile causes such as the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic. Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones attended, introduced The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and was hailed "King of the Festival" as he waded through the crowds undisturbed by the hippies.

Songs featured in the film, in order of appearance:

1. Big Brother & The Holding Company ("Combination of the Two")
2. Scott McKenzie ("San Francisco")
3. The Mamas & The Papas ("Creeque Alley" & "California Dreamin'")
4. Canned Heat ("Rollin' & Tumblin'")
5. Simon & Garfunkel ("The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)")
6. Hugh Masekela ("Bajabula Bonke")
7. Jefferson Airplane ("High Flyin' Bird" & "Today")
8. Big Brother & The Holding Company ("Ball & Chain")
9. Eric Burdon & The Animals ("Paint It Black")
10. The Who ("My Generation")
11. Country Joe & The Fish ("Section 43")
12. Otis Redding ("Shake" & "I've Been Loving You Too Long")
13. The Jimi Hendrix Experience ("Wild Thing")
14. The Mamas & The Papas ("Got a Feelin'")
15. Ravi Shankar ("Raga Bhimpalasi").

In 2002 MONTEREY POP was re-released on DVD as part of a Criterion Collection box set, The Complete Monterey Pop Festival, one of the most impressive sets they've released to date. It also includes Pennebaker's short films JIMI PLAYS MONTEREY (1986) and SHAKE! OTIS AT MONTEREY (1986), as well as two hours of outtake performances, including some by bands not seen in the original film. One of rock music's most famous concerts gets the royal treatment with this three-disc boxed set.

Material on two of the three discs has already been widely available. MONTEREY POP, D.A. Pennebaker's 79-minute, 1968 film, effectively sets the scene for the festival. It shows the festival from construction to the festival's end. While not all the featured performances are great, those that are--the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding--are worth the price of admission, especially in the high-definition digital transfer and new 5.1 mix seen and heard here. The same can be said for JIMI PLAYS MONTEREY and SHAKE! OTIS AT MONTEREY, which appear in the boxed set on a separate disc and provide a much fuller look at Hendrix's and Otis Redding's amazing sets.

Those two discs are also loaded with bonus features, including audio commentary by Pennebaker, festival producer Lou Adler (on Monterey Pop), and author Peter Guralnick (Shake!); audio-only remarks by some of the performers; photos; trailers; and other material. There's also a substantial booklet, filled with essays and photos. But it's the third disc, "The Outtake Performances", comprising some two hours of music that didn't make the final film edit, that will be of most interest to many viewers. The disc supplies a taste of some of the artists who didn't appear in Monterey Pop at all, such as the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Quicksilver Messenger Service, plus a more complete look at some who did.

DISC ONE: MONTEREY POP in a new high-definition digital transfer, supervised by D.A. Pennebaker. New 5.1 mix by legendary recording engineer Eddie Kramer, presented in Dolby Digital and DTS. Audio commentary by Festival producer Lou Adler and D.A. Pennebaker. New video interview with Lou Adler and D.A. Pennebaker. Audio interviews with Festival producer John Phillips, Festival publicist Derek Taylor, and performers Cass Elliot and David Crosby. Photo essay by photographer Elaine Mayes. Original theatrical trailer. Orginal theatrical radio spots. Monterey Pop scrapbook. Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition.

DISC TWO: JIMI PLAYS MONTEREY and SHAKE! OTIS AT MONTEREY are featured. The Jimi Hendrix film contains performances of: "Can You See Me?", "Purple Haze", Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", "Monterey", "Killing Floor", "Foxy Lady", "Like a Rolling Stone", "Rock Me Baby", "Hey Joe", "The Wind Cries Mary" and "Wild Thing". The Otis Redding film contains performances of: "Shake", "Respect", "I've Been Loving You Too Long", "(I Can't Get No) Staisfaction", and "Try a Little Tenderness". New high-definition digital transfers, supervised by D.A. Pennebaker. New 5.1 mixes by legendary recording engineer Eddie Kramer, presented in Dolby Digital and DTS. Audio commentary on JIMI PLAYS MONTEREY by music critic and historian Charles Shaar Murray. Two audio commentaries on SHAKE! by music critic and historian Peter Guralnick: the first on Otis Redding's Monterey performance, song by song; the second on Redding before and after Monterey. Interview with Phil Walden, Otis Redding's manager from 1959 to 1967. Original theatrical trailer for JIMI PLAYS MONTEREY. Video excerpt: Pete Townshend on Monterey and Jimi Hendrix. Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

DISC THREE: "Monterey Pop--The Outtake Performance" contains two hours of performances not included in the original film, from the following artists: Buffalo Springfield, The Association, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Blues Project, The Byrds, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Country Joe and the Fish, The Electric Flag, Jefferson Airplane, Al Kooper, The Mamas and the Papas, Laura Nyro, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Simon and Garfunkel, Tiny Tim, and The Who. Here are the artists and the songs played in order: "Along Comes Mary" by The Association, "Homeward Bound" and "Sounds of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Not-So-Sweet Martha Lorraine" by Country Joe and the Fish, "(I Heard Her Say) Wake Me, Shake Me" by Al Kooper, "Driftin' Blues" by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, "All I Ever Wanted to Do (Was Love You)" by Quicksilver Messenger Service, "Drinkin' Wine" by The Electric Flag, "Chimes of Freedom", "He Was a Friend of Mine", and "Hey Joe" by The Byrds, "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Poverty Train" by Laura Nyro, "Somebody to Love" by Jefferson Airplane, "Flute Thing" by The Blues Project, "Combination of the Two" by Big Brother and the Holding Company, "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield, "Substitute", Summertime Blues", and "A Quick One While He's Away" by The Who, "Straight Shooter", "Somebody Groovy", "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)", "I Call Your Name", "Monday, Monday", and "Dancing in the Street" by The Mamas and the Papas. Finally there is a performance by Tiny Tim of "King for a Day", "Laugh, Clown, Laugh", "May God Be With Our Boys Tonight", and "My What a Funny Little World This Is".

The first two discs also have special features, but there are none on disc three. However, there are over 60 pages of essays, a list of performers and a lot of other extras.

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