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The 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. Crowd estimates for the festival ranged from 50,000-90,000 people, who congregated in and around the festival grounds. The fairgrounds' performance arena, where the music took place, normally had a capacity of 7,000, but it was estimated that 8,500 jammed into it for Saturday night's show.
The festival is remembered for the first major American appearances by Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Ravi Shankar, the first large-scale public performance of Janis Joplin and the introduction of Otis Redding to a large, predominantly white audience.
The Monterey Pop Festival embodied the theme of California as a focal point for the counterculture and is generally 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, the KFRC Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival. Monterey was the first widely promoted and heavily attended rock festival and inspired many to both put on festivals and go to them.
The festival was planned in seven weeks by promoter Lou Adler, John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, producer Alan Pariser and publicist Derek Taylor. The Monterey location had been known as the site for the long-running Monterey Jazz Festival and Monterey 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 organisers 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. Ravi don't work for free, baby. Country Joe and the Fish were paid $5,000 not by the festival itself, but from revenue generated from the D.A. Pennebaker documentary film.
There are so many stand-out performances, perhaps primary amongst them the shocking sonic and literal destruction of The Who. When they trash the stage, people look on slack-jawed, quite unable to believe what they are seeing.Then there was the infamous burning guitar of Jimi Hendrix. But so much great music was performed by the great, the good and the obscure across those three days. Look up the complete recordings and you'll find some superb music.
The Beach Boys, who had been involved in the conception of the event and were at one point scheduled to headline and close the show, failed to perform. This resulted from a number of issues plaguing the group. Carl Wilson was in a feud with officials for his refusal to be drafted into military service during the Vietnam War. The group's new, radical album Smile had recently been aborted, with band leader Brian Wilson in a depressed state and unwilling to perform (he hadn't performed live with the group since late 1964, although he would do so in Honolulu, Hawaii in August 1967). Since Smile had not been released, the group felt their older material would not go over well. The cancellation permanently damaged their reputation and popularity in the US, which would contribute to their replacement album Smiley Smile charting lower than any other of their previous album releases.
The Beatles were rumoured to appear because of the involvement of their press officer Derek Taylor, but they declined, since their music had become too complex to be performed live. Instead, at the instigation of Paul McCartney, the festival booked The Who and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The Kinks were invited but could not get a work visa to enter the US because of a dispute with the American Federation of Musicians.
Donovan was refused a visa to enter the United States because of a 1966 drug bust.
Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band was also invited to appear but, according to the liner notes for the CD reissue of their album Safe As Milk, the band turned the offer down at the insistence of guitarist Ry Cooder, who felt the group was not ready.
Dionne Warwick and The Impressions were advertised on some of the early posters for the event, but Warwick dropped out because of a conflict in booking that weekend. She was booked at the Fairmont Hotel; the hotel was reluctant to release her and it was thought that cancelling that appearance would negatively affect her career. Ooops.
Even though the logo for the band Kaleidoscope is seen in the film as a pink sign just below the stage, the band did not perform at the Monterey Festival.
Although The Rolling Stones did not play, guitarist and founder Brian Jones attended and appeared on stage to introduce Hendrix. The group was on the short list of invitees, but was unable to get work visas because of the drug arrests of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
It was long rumoured that Love had declined an invitation to Woodstock, but Mojo Magazine later confirmed that it was the Monterey Festival they had rejected. Bad move.
The promoters also invited several Motown artists to perform and even were going to give the label's artists their own slot. However, Berry Gordy refused to let any of his acts appear, even though Smokey Robinson was on the board of directors. Weird.
The Doors did not appear because the coordinators forgot to invite them. Drummer John Densmore, in his book Riders on the Storm, expressed his belief that the band was not invited because its music didn't express the peace and love ideals of the time. That seems a little unlikely. History is usually more cock up than conspiracy.
The Monkees were the biggest-selling musical act in the United States in 1967 and were seriously considered to play, but after weeks of deliberation, John Phillips and Lou Adler decided not to invite them. However, group members Micky Dolenz (in full American Indian buckskins and headdress) and Peter Tork attended the festival and mingled with musicians backstage. Tork was asked to introduce Buffalo Springfield, his favourite group, for their set.
According to Eric Clapton, Cream did not perform because the band's manager wanted to make a bigger splash for their American debut. However, it has since been revealed that the band were not considered by the festival organisers.
When you watch the movie now, what strikes you is how ordered and respectable it all is. A year or two later, stoned hairies would litter the highways of America on their way to some rain-sodden site in the back end of nowhere. Here, in 1967, it's all much more tidy. The festival and subsequent superb movie launched so many careers. Bands got contracts on the back of their performances here, many others increased their record sales and subsequently their appearance fees. The festival itself showed there was gold in them there rock kids.
Monterey changed everything. Woodstock would go on to the the premium festival brand, but it all started in Monterey.