Monterey International Pop Festival
(Razor & Tie / Starbucks)
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2007, Volume 14, #6
Written by John Metzger
Thu June 14, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Woodstock tends to get all of the attention, but it was the Monterey International Pop Festival that marked a turning point for the music industry. Nothing like it had ever been held before, and everything since ó from the muddy mess of Woodstock to the bloody violence of Altamont to the corporate constructs of Bonnaroo ó has been staged in an attempt to capitalize upon the lucrative financial possibilities these sorts of enormous gatherings have come to represent. Held in June 1967 at the height of the "Summer of Love," the three-day Monterey International Pop Festival not only was the first large-scale concert to be devoted to rock music, but it also featured a breadth of cultural and musical diversity that was completely unprecedented. With all of its artists donating their share of the proceeds to charity, and with minimal publicity considerations shading their appearances, the Monterey International Pop Festivalís emphasis remained solely where it belonged: upon the music and the scene. Arguably, it was the purest event of its kind.
Over the years, the many performances from the Monterey International Pop Festival have been packaged and re-packaged countless times, and the resulting products have ranged from Rhinoís four-disc, 70-track boxed set (which sadly is now out of print) to standalone offerings from Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, and The Mamas and The Papas. In celebration of the eventís 40th anniversary, the simply titled Monterey International Pop Festival attempts to present a wide-ranging overview of the concert in an extremely concise and confining space. For certain, the distillation of three days of music into a 95-minute compilation isnít without its problems, and the effortís contents are akin to reading the Cliffs Notes rather than the book. Consequently, the outing is apt to leave listeners with a serious case of whiplash and only a slight idea about the momentousness of the occasion.
Still, itís hard to argue with the tracks that have been assembled on Monterey International Pop Festival. The concert thrust Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding into the spotlight. Although their respective sets have been trimmed to two songs a piece, the power of their performances remains readily apparent. Not only did Hendrix settle easily into the haunted, tranquil beauty of The Wind Cries Mary, but he also fed Bob Dylanís Like a Rolling Stone into his inimitable brand of lysergic blues. Backed by Big Brother & the Holding Company, Joplin roared through the stampeding, electric boogie of Down on Me and passionately conveyed the tormented anguish of Ball and Chain. Redding turned the explosive Shake and the slowly simmering Iíve Been Loving You (Too Long) into something magnificently cathartic.
Elsewhere, Monterey International Pop Festival contains numerous other pleasures: Electric Flag blasted its way through the propulsive swing of Wine, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band tore into Born in Chicago with a vengeance. The pristine harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel lent a spiritual air to Homeward Bound and Sounds of Silence, both of which were previously unreleased. Hugh Masekela blended African beats with jazzy grooves on Bajabula Bonke (Healing Song), and later, he joined The Byrds for a rousing rendition of (So You Want to Be a) Rock ínĎ Roll Star. Jefferson Airplane delivered confident and powerful performances of its hits Somebody to Love and White Rabbit, while The Who followed the crash-and-burn intensity of Summertime Blues with the destructive fury of My Generation.
In the months preceding the Monterey International Pop Festival, Scott McKenzie had written, recorded, and released San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair). Understandably, the single became the eventís anthem, and for a brief moment of time, the notion of a society that was built around the concepts of peace, love, and harmony made the leap from an idealistic, innocent dream to a believable reality. The concert was the culmination of this journey of enlightenment, and the material contained on Monterey International Pop Festival offers a nostalgic and moving glimpse at the possibilities that music, art, and life can hold.
Of Further Interest...
Monterey International Pop Festival is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box