This is a story about a person who brought a whole new concept to the music world. Forget House music, Hip Hop, Soul, music magazines, DJs, Ibiza – this guy paved the way for what has led us dancing in fields at festivals, illegal raves, dancing in the sun in the Nevada Desert, talking cobblers in a tent at dawn, festivals where you have to board a boat to get to Serbia, splash around in mud kicking your feet in the air to The Chemical Brothers at a farm in Somerset, feeling that moment when a tune explodes on the speakers as the sun rises and you slowly turn your head and just knows the person next to you has exactly the same feeling you are experiencing, having your car stuck in mud, that moment when your favourite band plays THAT tune, meeting a friend for life. Meet Lou Adler, part of the team behind the first ever festival – The Monterey Festival…
He was born in Chicago, raised in Los Angeles. He remarkably founded and co-owned Dunhill Records which in 1967 he sold the label for three million dollars to ABC Records. That obviously helped him fund the Monterey International Festival and the film version – Monterey Pop later that year. Monumental. Was the producer of Sam Cooke, The Mamas and Papas and Johnny Rivers. Won two Grammy Awards in 1972 for producing ‘It’s Too Late’ by Carole King and the Album of the Year for Tapestry. Adler was known as a major playboy in the 1960s and 1970s, having been romantically linked to some of the world’s most beautiful women around at that time – such as the singer Jill Gibson, actress Tina Sinatra, actress Peggy Lipton, singer-actress Michelle Phillips and actress Britt Ekland, by whom he fathered a son Nicholai in 1973. Lou Adler was married to actress and singer Shelley Fabares in 1964 and produced several of her songs. They separated in 1966. Then married Page Hannah, the younger sister of actress Daryl Hannah. Owned The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood, and is best friends with actor Jack Nicholson. Adler is also a lifelong friend of record producer Herb Alpert from A & M Records.
So… Monterey 1967… This was a three day concert event held June 16 to June 18, 1967 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California. Monterey was the first widely promoted and heavily attended festival, attracting some 200,000 people. It was notable as hosting the first major American appearances by Jimi Hendrix and The Who, as well as the first major public performances of Janis Joplin and Otis Redding. The Monterey Pop Festival embodied the themes of San Francisco as a focal point for the counter culture and is generally regarded as one of the beginnings of the ‘Summer of Love’. It also became the template for future music festivals, notably the Woodstock Festival two years later. The festival was planned in just seven weeks. The artists performed for free, with all revenue donated to charity, with the exception of Ravi Shankar, who was paid $3,000 for his afternoon-long performance on the Sitar.
Lou says… “We set up an on-site first aid clinic, because we knew there would be a need for medical supervision and that we would encounter drug-related problems. We didn’t want people who got themselves into trouble and needed medical attention to go untreated. Nor did we want their problems to ruin or in any way disturb other people or disrupt the music. Our security worked with the Monterey police. The local law enforcement authorities never expected to like the people they came in contact with as much as they did. They never expected the spirit of ‘Music, Love and Flowers’ to take over to the point where they’d allow themselves to be festooned with flowers.” Almost every aspect of Monterey was a first – although the audience was predominantly white, ‘Monterey’s bill was truly multi-cultural and crossed all musical boundaries, mixing Folk, Blues, Jazz, Soul, R&B, Rock, Psychedelia and Pop boasting a line-up that put established stars like The Mamas and Papas, Simon & Garfunkel and The Byrds alongside groundbreaking new acts from the UK, the USA, South Africa and India.”
So some never known gossip – DMC exclusives “The Who – the band’s famed performance was decided by a coin toss. Since guitarists Pete Townsend and Jimi Hendrix each refused to go on after the other. ‘Monterey’ was also one of the earliest major public performances for Janis Joplin who appeared as a member of Big Brother and The Holding Company. Joplin was seen swigging from a bottle of Bourbon as she gave a rendition of the song ‘Ball ‘n’ Chain’. Columbia Records signed ‘Big Brother’ and The Holding Company on the basis of their performance at Monterey. Jimi Hendrix played “The ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at Monterey, then rocked Woodstock in 1969. Hendrix, inspired by Pete Townsend’s guitar-smashing, ended his Monterey performance with an unpredictable version of ‘Wild Thing’, which he capped by kneeling over his guitar with playful reverence pouring lighter fluid over it, setting it aflame and then smashing it. Monterey Pop was also one of the earliest major public performances for Janis Joplin. Monterey was the first time that soul star Otis Redding performed in front of a large and predominantly white audience in his home country. Redding, backed in his performance by Booker T. & The MG’s, was included on the bill through the efforts of promoter Jerry Wexler who saw the festival as an opportunity to advance Redding’s career. Redding’s show included his single ‘Respect’ which had become an even bigger hit for Aretha Franklin just weeks earlier. Although the festival finally gave Redding mainstream attention, it would be one of his last major performances. He died 6 months later in a plane crash at the age of 26.”
So Ravi, a Monterey new comer back then? “Ravi Shankar was another artist who was introduced to America at the Monterey festival. Eighteen minutes of Raga Bhimpalasi, an excerpt from Shankar’s four-hour performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.”
A bit of a weird year though – a difficult line up…? “Several acts were notable for their non-appearance. The Beach Boys who had been involved in the conception of the event and at one point scheduled to close the show, failed to perform. The Kinks were invited but could not get a work visa to enter the US due to 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. According to Eric Clapton, Cream did not perform because the band’s manager wanted to make a bigger splash for their American debut. Dionne Warwick and the Impressions were advertised on some of the early posters for the event, but Warwick dropped out due to a conflict in booking that weekend, she was booked at the Fairmont Hotel and it was thought that if she cancelled that appearance it would negatively affect her career. Though the logo for the band Kaleidoscope is seen in the film, they did not perform at ‘Monterey Pop’. Though The Beatles refused an invitation to play, they were assigned to the board of directors. The Rolling Stones did not play, guitarist and founder Brian Jones attended and appeared on stage to introduce Hendrix. It was long rumored that Love had declined an invitation to Woodstock, Mojo Magazine later confirmed that it was ‘Monterey’ they had rejected.”
You have had some massive music big ups over the years… “True Dan…music writer Rusty DeSoto argues that pop music history tends to downplay the importance of ‘Monterey’ in favour of the “bigger, higher-profile, more decadent” Woodstock Festival, held two years later. But, as he says…”Monterey Pop was a seminal event. It was the first real rock festival ever held, featuring debut performances of bands that would shape the history of rock and affect popular culture from that day forward. Much needed. The festival launched the careers of many others. ‘Monterey’s was also the first high-profile event to mix acts from major regional music centres in the U.S.A. – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Memphis and New York City – and it was the first time many of these bands had met each other in person. It was a particularly important meeting place for bands from the Bay Area and L.A., who had tended to regard each other with a degree of suspicion – Frank Zappa for one made no secret of his low regard for some of the San Francisco bands – and until that point the two scenes had been developing separately and along fairly distinct lines. Paul Kantner, of Jefferson Airplane, said, “The idea that San Francisco was heralding was a bit of freedom from oppression. ‘Monterey’ also marked a significant changing of the guard in British music. The Who and Eric Burdon & The New Animals represented the UK, with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones conspicuous by their absence. The Beatles had by then retired from touring and The Stones were unable to tour America due the recent drug busts and trials of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The Stone’s Brian Jones appeared on his own, wafting through the crowd, resplendent in full psychedelic regalia, and appearing on stage briefly to introduce Jimi Hendrix. As it transpired, it was two more years before The Stones toured again, by which time Jones was dead. The Beatles never toured again. Meanwhile, The Who leaped into the breach and became the top UK touring act of the period. Also notable was the festival’s innovative sound system, designed and built by audio engineer Abe Jacob, who started his career doing live sound for San Francisco bands, and went on to become a leading sound designer for the American theatre. Jacob’s groundbreaking Monterey sound system was the progenitor of all the large-scale PAs that followed. It was a key factor in the festival’s success and it was greatly appreciated by the artists — in the Monterey film, David Crosby can clearly be seen saying “Great sound system!” to band-mate Chris Hillman at the start of The Byrds’ performance. Electronic music pioneers Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause set up a booth at Monterey to demonstrate the new electronic music synthesizer developed by Robert Moog. Beaver and Krause had bought one of Moog’s first synthesizers in 1966 and had spent a fruitless year trying to get someone in Hollywood interested in using it. Through their demonstration booth at Monterey, they gained the interest of acts including The Doors, The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel and others. This quickly built into a steady stream of business and the eccentric Beaver was soon one of the busiest session men in L.A., and he and Krause earned a contract with Warner Brothers. Eric Burdon and The Animals later that same year sang a song about the festival entitled “Monterey”, which quoted a line from the Byrds song “Renaissance Fair” (“I think that maybe I’m dreamin'”). In the song, Burdon mentions Monterey performers The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Hugh Masekela, The Grateful Dead, and The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones (“His Majesty Prince Jones smiled as he moved among the crowd”). The instruments used in the song imitate the styles of these performers.”