Anyone wanting to take a crash course in the late 1960’s
Pop-Rock counterculture could do worse than to check out
the 2002 Criterion release “The Complete Monterey Pop
Festival,” a three-DVD set which also includes an
informative 61-page booklet.
Disc One is the longest disc by far and contains roughly five
hours of footage, including commentaries by Lou Adler and
filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, not to mention interviews with
festival producer John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas,
Cass Elliot, David Crosby, and others.
Disc Two includes what is supposedly Jimi Hendrix’s entire,
46-minute set and Otis Redding’s 19-minute set, along with
commentaries about both of these icons by noted critics,
Charles Shaar and Peter Guralnick, and an interview with
Otis Redding’s manager from 1959 to 1967.
For me, the Hendrix set on Disc Two was probably the
high point of these discs. Jimi Hendrix was a new commodity
in America in June 1967, and he clearly hit the festival like
a thunderbolt. Nobody had seen anyone like him at the
time, and he literally changed the musical landscape.
The last 20 minutes of the main film featured an outstanding
performance by Ravi Shankar.
Although the actual 80-minute “Monterey Pop” film has been
available for years, Disc Three of this set includes additional
footage of bands that weren’t in the movie, such as The Byrds,
Laura Nyro, Buffalo Springfield (minus Neil Young, but with
David Crosby), The Electric Flag, Quicksilver Messenger
Service, The Association, and others. This disc also has extra
performance footage of bands that were featured in the film,
including The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Big Brother and the
Holding Company, and Jefferson Airplane.
There’s even a bonus feature on this disc of Tiny Tim singing,
while accompanying himself on his ukulele. It lasts roughly
10 ½ minutes, and is recommended only for those who must
literally watch EVERYTHING in this set, because it’s atrocious!
In his commentary, D.A. Pennebaker mentioned that the
filming process was primitive at the time of this Festival. They
had to change the film stock every 20 minutes or so, and there
was no “template” for shooting such an event. That being
said, I think that he and his crew did a relatively good job.
The sound was quite decent, considering the equipment
available, and Eddie Kramer provided an updated audio mix
for this package.
This three-disc set contains roughly 10 hours of audio and
visual footage. Although many of the 32 acts, such as Lou
Rawls and The Grateful Dead were not included in this set,
I believe that we should be happy about the acts that were
featured. The Zeitgeist of this era came through loud and
clear, and this set is highly recommended.