Although devoting the whole of Sunday afternoon to Indian classical music might seem a bold move, in fact there could have been nothing better suited to thousands of California hippies who had been up half the night and were exhausted, zonked out on Monterey Purples, or otherwise spaced out, than a lesson from the master of the sitar.
Having spent 15 minutes tuning up, after which the audience applauded enthusiastically, the Indian sitar maestro (the only artist at Monterey to be paid for his appearance; everyone else just got expenses) proceeded to play for the next three hours or so. That’ll teach ’em. Now the western world, or a significant part of its younger generation, would get to hear what George Harrison and a few others had been on about. This was not “raga rock”, these were ragas – the real deal.
Here’s the 18 minutes or so that DA Pennebaker shot for his movie. Around six and a half minutes in, note Jimi Hendrix, and then Mike Bloomfield, enjoying the show. You can also spot Monkee Micky Dolenz, taking a break from tinkering with his new Moog synthesiser, among the appreciative audience at the end. Shankar’s gracious verdict was: “This is not pop, but I am glad it is popular.”
It’s the last night of the festival, and time for the Sunday evening show.
The Blues Project
Al Kooper had just quit the band but seems happy enough (at around 9:53) watching them perform Flute Thing, featuring the talents of Andy Blumenfeld. It goes on a bit, and rhythm guitarist Steve Katz looks bored at times: you sense he can’t wait for Al to give him a call and sign him up for BS&T so he can have fun, score chicks, and make some money. All of which duly happened.
The Group With No Name
After a brief reappearance by Big Brother & The Holding Company, to be filmed playing Ball and Chain again after the sensation Janis had caused on Saturday, The Group With No Name took the stage. Michael Lydon, for once, got it right, predicting they “may well not last long enough to get a name”. No one seems to have recognised, recorded or recalled anything they played. The band was led by Cyrus Faryar, a founder member of The Modern Folk Quartet who had also played with The Whiskeyhill Singers. Devotees of the Elektra label may remember an album called The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds; Faryar did the weird but wonderful narration. Now 71, he lives in Hawaii and still performs.
Not seen and heard enough of David Crosby with The Byrds on Saturday night? No problem: he’s back, this time with Buffalo Springfield, nominally standing in for the recently departed Neil Young. Stephen Stills seems happy enough but I don’t sense Richie Furay is especially impressed. The soap opera would soon be resolved when Steve and Dave got together with their new English best friend Graham, leaving Richie to take a trip to the country to form Poco. For what it’s worth, here – as introduced by Monkee Peter Tork – are his favourite group, “The” Buffalo Springfield.
Furay got to sing Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing and A Child’s Claim to Fame and they also did, at breakneck speed, this pretty good version of Bluebird.
England’s finest showed what they thought of all this “peace and love” nonsense with an edgy, in-your-face show that culminated, as My G-Generation f-faded away, in a brutal assault on his guitar by Pete Townshend. Despite a dodgy sound system that left them somewhat underpowered, The Who’s set was excellent, and made their name in the US, although the bawdy-music-hall-esque “mini opera” A Quick One While He’s Away stuck out like a cucumber stuffed down a bass player’s trousers. You can hear the full set here (sound only), but let’s face it, what we all really want is to see a bit of good old-fashioned GBH (guitar body harm) from Pete while John Entwistle plucks defiantly away at his bass until only Keith Moon is left bashing away, before kicking his drums over, like someone who knew he would die before he got old.
The Grateful Dead
Pennebaker’s crew were sleeping on the job here, failing to capture any footage of what by all accounts was a typical really-loose-except-when-it-was-really-tight Dead performance, on their home turf, by Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Pigpen and Bill Kreutzmann. Garcia had appeared at the Monterey Folk Festival in 1963, playing banjo with The Wildwood Boys. The Dead’s set comprised Viola Lee Blues, Cold Rain and Snow, and Alligator/Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks). Luckily we have the audio, all 34 minutes and 55 seconds of it, and it’s terrific.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Jimi Hendrix warmed up for his US concert dates in July – as support act to The Monkees – by reinventing the electric guitar and proving himself, already, its greatest exponent. Opening with a killer-diller version of Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor, he continued with Foxy Lady, Like a Rolling Stone, Rock Me Baby, Hey Joe, Can You See Me, The Wind Cries Mary, Purple Haze and a Wild Thing that made the original, by The Troggs, seem about as wild as a sleepy kitten. Oh yes, and he set his Stratocaster on fire. Unlike Townshend’s earlier act of premeditated violence, however, this was more a crime of passion; Hendrix seems almost sad about it. But then he had just spent half an hour making love to the instrument. Here’s the trailer for Jimi Plays Monterey.
The Mamas & The Papas
Hendrix would have been a hard act to follow for anyone, and The Mamas & The Papas were tired, bleary, and not at their best. Even so, it’s a bit unfair to dismiss them as “pop shit” (thank you, Country Joe McDonald). There wouldn’t have been a festival without them and in a sense this group, with all their hippie-dippery, summed up what it had all been about: a “love-in”, if only for three days, a celebration of youth, a brief glimpse of a better world. They sang their hits …
… and then Scott McKenzie gave a fine performance of Phillips’ Monterey anthem San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair) …
… and the whole thing finished with Dancing in the Street.
Eric Burdon later paid tribute to the festival in his great song Monterey: “The people came and listened/Some of them came and played/Others gave flowers away, yes they did/Down in Monterey./ Young gods smiled upon the crowd/Their music being born of love/Children danced night and day/Religion was being born/Down in Monterey.”
This weekend, 16-18 June 2017, Burdon was back at Monterey for the 50th anniversary of the festival (Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead and Booker T Jones returned as well, and Ravi Shankar’s daughter, Norah Jones, also played). It’s poignant to reflect on the many musicians who didn’t make it this far, some of whom did not even survive the 1960s, and to wonder what became of all those beautiful young people, frozen in Technicolor and in time.
One of them, Mama Cass, declared 50 years ago tonight: “This whole weekend was a dream come true.” Two days before the festival began, a young man named Donald Trump had celebrated his 21st birthday. It’s not the fault of the musicians, or the gentle people with flowers in their hair, if the dream was to prove an illusion.
The greatest music festival in history – New York Times article
A bloody battle over Monterey – Jann Wenner, in a 1968 Rolling Stone piece, on the failed attempt to stage a second festival in 1968, which he calls “a bizarre enactment of the entire American tragedy”
Those interested in hearing more music from this era should subscribe to psych67’s excellent YouTube channel, full of hidden gems and rarities
Last modified: September 16, 2017