It really was the Summer of Love. On 1 June 1967 The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and in an instant changed music forever. No longer would people call whatever was not Classical music or Jazz, simply Pop, thereafter there was something new called Rock.
The first real American rock festival was held at Mount Tamalpais in California on the weekend of 10/11 June 1967. Billed as the Fantasy Faire and Magic Mountain Music Festival it had an eclectic mix of performers ranging from Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Country Joe & the fish and The Byrds to Laura Nyro. 15, or maybe 20,000 people showed up and paid just $2 to get in, with all profits going to a nearby child care centre.
While the Fantasy Faire was first, Monterey is the festival that everyone remembers. With a line up that read like a who’s who in pop music – as in short for popular. Otis Redding got his first exposure to a rock audience and others on the bill included The Mamas & The Papas, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin and Ravi Shanker. It was all captured on film, which did much to enhance its reputation as well as the myth.
Held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, over the middle weekend of June, from 16 – 18 June 1967. The Monterey Pop Festival attracted somewhere between 30 and 50,000 people, although not all at the same time, to what was the first major rock festival in America. It was organised by Lou Adler, John Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas and Derek Taylor, the former Beatles publicist, and their ambition was to create an event that was multi-cultural, multi-national and multi-styled in the music that was performed.
It was truly a ‘first’ and it can be considered the premier event of the Summer of Love’; one at which everything seemed to work and about which nothing bad has ever been written.
In particular, Monterey helped launch the careers of many performers, catapulting them from local, or relative obscurity, into the forefront of American and worldwide awareness. Today, it’s easy to forget that before Monterey Jimi Hendrix had not had a hit record in America. Neither had The Who managed to get a record into the Billboard Top 20 and only one of their four minor hits had got higher than No.51; nor was Otis Redding very well known among white audiences. Rolling Stone, Brian Jones was there, and according to one report he was, “In a mind-shattering gold lame coat festooned with beads, crystal swastika & lace, looked like a kind of unofficial King of the Festival” Brian Jones was the king of Hippie-chic
“This is really a great scene here. All the kids are so nice. The people are so polite and just come up and talk to me and say they like the way I’m dressed” – Brian Jones
Others who played at Monterey included, Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkel, Canned Heat, Al Kooper, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Hugh Masekela, The Byrds, Booker T & the MGs, The Blues Project, Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield, The Electric Flag, and The Association
Press attention from around the world, and particularly the music press alerted fans to what was happening, but it wasn’t until the end of 1968 that people were able to see the documentary made by D.A Pennebaker – for most people this was the first time that they actually saw Jimi Hendrix set fire to his Stratocaster. It has not had the effect of the Woodstock movie, which could be put down to the fact that the commercial precepts were less well developed at this point. Big business had not cottoned onto the money-making potential of a ‘bunch of hippies.’