It Was 50 Years Ago Today

that the first and best pop festival of all time occurred and I’m not talking Woodstock.
The Monterey Pop Festival of June 1967 was a very ambitious, successful, and memorable undertaking by Lou Adler and John Phillips. It featured newcomers Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar (the only person paid), and The Who (introducing themselves in a big way to the U.S.).

D.A. Pennebaker who had filmed Don’t Look Back about Bob Dylan’s first U.K. tour had several cameramen roaming around trying to capture the flavor of the festival and all the (what-have-become) stereotypes and clichés are there in what is essentially a people and music festival. The people and bands, including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, who wanted to perform and missed out  is a long, Who’s Who list in itself.

If you want to savour some of rock’s most memorable moments along with the first major injection of Eastern music into the West, the DVD box by Criterion (pictured above) is The Package you want. It has the Mamas and Papas singing “California Dreaming” and “Got a Feeling”, Simon and Garfunkle doing “Feelin’ Groovy”, Eric Burdon and The Animals in their wildest incarnation doing the Stones’ “Paint It Black”, The Who thrashing around in “My Generation”, Hendrix setting his guitar on fire in “Wild Thing”, and Shankar knocking everyone out with a long, intense jazz-style raga.

The Outtakes disc features The Association opening up the festival with “Along Comes Mary” (about marijuana), Simon and Garfunkle doing excellent performances of “Homeward Bound” and “Sounds of Silence”, The Byrds doing “Chimes of Freedom” with a wild, whacked-out David Crosby, The Jefferson Airplane druggily rendering “Somebody to Love”, The Buffalo Springfield doing their “For What It’s Worth” anthem before they broke up and became CSN, The Who pounding through “Substitute” and “Summertime Blues”, and The Mamas and Papas led by Cass Elliot nailing “Straight Shooter” and “Monday Monday”.

For Hendrix fans there is a separate disc featuring “Purple Haze”, “Foxy Lady”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Hey Joe” and “The Wind Cries Mary”. It contains, arguably, Hendrix’s most memorable, dramatic work with the Experience.

Others featured in this extravaganza are Otis Redding, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Country Joe and the Fish, The Electric Flag with mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Laura Nyro, and the sixties novelty act Tiny Tim.

The new HD digital transfer and 5.1 mix are complemented by audio commentaries, interviews, and a scrapbook. If you are curious about music at the time of the Summer of Love (beyond The Beatles), this is as good a place as any to begin your explorations. Highly recommended.

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