Bonnaroo, Coachella, even Woodstock might never have happened if it had not been for the good vibes that remained from the first great rock festival. Next weekend, Saturday through June 18, will mark the 40th anniversary of the Monterey International Pop Festival.
The anniversary will be commemorated with a new two-disc CD that includes two previously unreleased Simon and Garfunkel songs; an exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; and a screening at Bonnaroo of the theatrical film of the festival.
Monterey Pop became the watershed event of 1967. It was the launching pad for the careers of Jimi Hendrix, the Who and Janis Joplin and was the event that put soul great Otis Redding into the mainstream. It also inspired a series of festivals — two of which, Woodstock and Altamont, are regarded along with Monterey as symbolic moments in American culture.
“Altamont was about the murder. Woodstock was about the weather. I take pride in the fact that Monterey was about the music,” says Lou Adler, one of the organizers of Monterey. “Jimi Hendrix and Janis and the Who still remain as icons, and people are buying their music as if it had been put out last week.”
The two changed the event from a one-day for-profit festival into a three-day fundraiser for charity. Artists agreed to perform for free with the promise of lodging and travel expenses to and from the event.
“Number one,” Mr. Adler says, “you couldn’t afford to pay all those acts, and two, this was an opportunity to give something back. … I don’t think we could’ve put that festival on if it had not been a nonprofit.”
He says the biggest hurdle was persuading the Monterey City Council and Monterey Police to let the festival happen. The Monterey police chief was six months away from retiring, and he didn’t want problems.
“Hippies and Hell’s Angels were all the same to him,” Mr. Adler says. “And he expected 30,000 people, and eventually we had 200,000 people who came through Monterey.”
Michelle Phillips, the surviving member of the Mamas and the Papas, was married to John Phillips at the time and also was involved in planning the event.
Ravi Shankar already had been booked as a headliner when it was a one-day event, and that gave the new organizers the idea to turn the festival into an international event.
“When we asked Paul McCartney and Andrew Oldham, who was the manager of the [Rolling] Stones, who we should bring from England, they both said Jimi Hendrix and the Who,” Miss Phillips says. “So we said, ‘OK, we’ll fly them in.’ Then we thought of Hugh Masekela from South Africa. There was just a mix that you could have never seen in any other condition.”