“3 days of understanding….
Of moving with one another…
Even the cops grooved with us —
Do you believe me, yeah?
Down in Monterey…”
The Monterey International Pop Festival held June 16-18, 1967 proved a pivotal event in American music, helping to kick off the “Summer of Love,” and setting the scene for later festivals including Woodstock.
Pulled together in an amazing seven weeks by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas along with others include in record producer Lou Adler and publicist Derek Taylor, the event sought to shine a spotlight on rock music in the same way that the other established festivals at Monterey had done for jazz and folk music.
With an emphasis on California music balanced by new acts from overseas, the festival featured several memorable performances: the first major American appearance by the Who as well as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, a breakthrough performance from Janis Joplin of Big Brother & the Holding Company, and an afternoon of sitar music from Ravi Shankar.
Reading through the list of performers brings back dozens of melodies, songs and images. Any of the many sets would have been amazing but to think of seeing all of these bands within a 3-day span blows my mind.
Most of the acts — with some notable exceptions — were filmed and recorded by documentarian D.A. Pennebaker with the newest, highest-quality recording capability, and released in 1968 as Monterey Pop, sharing stage highlights from the 3 days and scenes from the crowd with a bigger audience.
For many rock fans, this provided the first taste of many of these musicians in performance. For some performers — like Janis Joplin — the film and its soundtrack album gave them a platform for their music to be heard by an ever expanding audience.
Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company
With so many different acts on the bill, many performers had the opportunity to hear some of their musical peers for the first time. The musical range reached from soul to pop to rock to Ravi Shankar’s exotic sounds.
Many musicians strengthened their ties over the weekend. Already somewhat at odds with his bandmates in the Byrds, David Crosby joined Buffalo Springfield on stage, substituting for an absent Neil Young. Within a year, Crosby would band together with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash for the first Crosby, Stills & Nash album.
Even before the film hit theaters, Eric Burdon releasing the song “Monterey,” his personal reaction to the festival. The song became a major a radio hit in 1967. Beyond simple name-dropping, the song mimics the musical style of each of the performers mentioned before closing out with the observation:
“If you want to know the truth in life —
Don’t pass music by.
And you know
I would not lie.”
Eric Burdon & the New Animals