The Monterey Pop Festival, 40 Years Later Two years before Woodstock, a music festival in Monterey, Calif., brought together a diverse group of big-name acts including the Mamas and the Papas and Jefferson Airplane as well as some then-unknown performers, notably Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
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The Monterey Pop Festival, 40 Years Later

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The Monterey Pop Festival, 40 Years Later

The Monterey Pop Festival, 40 Years Later

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This week, 40 years ago, hippies and some of the coolest bands around were heading to the California coast for a musical event that would usher in the Summer of Love. The Monterey International Pop Festival was a first. It brought together popular bands - big-name acts like the Birds and the Jefferson Airplane - and then-unknown performers like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

Music producer Lou Adler cooked up the idea with the Mamas and the Papas' John Phillips and got filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker to document it. For a look back, we turn to Lou Adler and singer Michelle Phillips.

Michelle Phillips, you were obviously, at the time, with the Mamas and Papas and they were a big act at that time.



(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: I think it would be a good thing to do to listen for a moment to one song that you sang that, in a sense, summed up the moment for a lot of people.

(Soundbite of song, "California Dreamin'")

MAMAS & THE PAPAS (Rock Band): (Singing) All the leaves are brown. All the leaves are brown. And the sky is grey. And the sky is grey. I've been for a walk. I've been for a walk on a winter's day. On a winter's day. I'd be safe and warm. I'd be safe and warm. If I was in L.A. If I was in L.A. California dreamin'. California dreamin'. On such a winter's day...

Ms. PHILLIPS: It's kind of a record with legs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LOU ADLER (Producer): That should be the California...

Ms. PHILLIPS: ...state song.

MONTAGNE: State song.

Mr. ADLER: State song, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PHILLIPS: Yes, it should be. You're watching the film, you see a lot of hippies and you see and a lot of flowers. And the reason there were a lot of flowers was because Lou had a 150,000 cymbidiums flown in from Hawaii. There was an orchid on every chair, and there were orchids all over the stage. And the policemen started wearing the orchids in their helmets and putting the orchids on the antennas of their motorcycles, too.

Mr. ADLER: And the barrels of their rifle.

MONTAGNE: One thing that shows up again in the Pennebaker film, when Janis Joplin gets out and sings "Ball and Chain" and really seems to blow everyone away, there's a close-up of Mama Cass Elliot and she, kind of, she watched it with her mouth open agog.


Mr. ADLER: And Michelle just...

(Soundbite of song, "Ball and Chain")

Ms. JANIS JOPLIN (Singer): (Singing) And I say, oh, whoa, whoa, now hon, tell me why, why does everything go wrong, wrong? I see people, honey, over, oh, yeah. It all goes wrong, whoa, whoa, now honey, tell me why, why was everything go wrong, baby...

Mr. ADLER: Actually, Pennebaker had just a knack of not showing you more and not showing you less, but showing exactly what happens. The same reaction is shown on a girl's face when Hendrix is on, and it's shock and...

Ms. PHILLIPS: Shock.

Mr. ADLER: and everything else, all in one look.

Ms. PHILLIPS: Her jaw is just hanging open, and she's bug-eyed looking at, watching him doing his performance.

(Soundbite of song, "Wild Thing")

Mr. JIMI HENDRIX (Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter): Come on man, come on, sing it me.

(Singing) Wild thing, you make my heart sing. Come on. You make everything groovy. Wild thing...

Ms. PHILLIPS: Jimi Hendrix, who gets on stage and plays his guitar on his back, he...

Mr. ADLER: Behind his back, on his back, laying down.

MONTAGNE: In every which way. And then he sort of attacks it at one point and sets it on fire, and it's just astonishing because the music's really amazing at the same time.

Ms. PHILLIPS: And I tell you something. I was shocked to see anybody treating their instrument like that. And I didn't understand that it was kind of theater. I was used to people singing and harmonizing and, you know, taking care of their instruments during...

Mr. ADLER: Michelle's very conservative.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PHILLIPS: Okay, I was, and it was shocking to me to see this kind of behavior on stage.

Mr. ADLER: It shocked a lot of people, not only the audience, Ravi Shankar, to this day can believe that anyone would treat their instrument. But he then says he's never heard anyone play like that.

MONTAGNE: And then, there was Otis Redding.

Mr. OTIS REDDING (Singer): We're going to slow it down this town and sing a soulful number. This song - this song is a song that, you know...

Mr. ADLER: You know, Janis had those one or two numbers that she really killed on and The Who had theirs and Hendrix. But Otis Redding, from the beginning of his act until the end of it was just amazing, and probably one of the greatest concert or live performances ever.

(Soundbite of song, "I've Been Loving You Too Long")

Mr. REDDING: (Singing) I've been loving you too long to stop now. You work hard and you want to be free. My love is growing stronger, as you become a habit to me. I've been loving you...

Ms. PHILLIPS: I think that this was the first time he had played in front of an audience this size, and certainly the first time that he had played in front of the love crowd, as he says.

Mr. ADLER: And a white audience.

Ms. PHILLIPS: And a white audience. I mean, he says, so this is the...

Mr. ADLER: Primarily white.

Ms. PHILLIPS: ...this is the love crowd, huh? I love it. And he - a whole new audience opened up.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. REDDING: (Singing) (unintelligible) one more time. If you may (unintelligible)...

MONTAGNE: Woodstock has come to define the era, but producer Lou Adler sees it differently. Woodstock, he says, was about the weather. Monterey was about the music. Lou Adler co-produced the Monterey Pop Festival. Michelle Phillips performed there. Hear the music from a newly released set of CDs at

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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