A Look Back At Monterey Pop, 50 Years Later Festival organizer Lou Adler, documentarian D.A. Pennebaker and more recall the historic music festival that helped define the Summer of Love and set a template for rock extravaganzas to come.
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A Look Back At Monterey Pop, 50 Years Later

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A Look Back At Monterey Pop, 50 Years Later

A Look Back At Monterey Pop, 50 Years Later

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Fifty years ago this week, musicians took the stage in California for the first ever major rock festival. Now, organizers didn't call it that. They were afraid of upsetting the locals.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The three-day Monterey International Pop Festival became the template for Woodstock, Bonnaroo, Coachella and all the rest. A film by a future Oscar winner carried the performances around the world and set the standard for concert documentaries. Paul Ingles looks back at how it all came together.

PAUL INGLES, BYLINE: Four names rise to the top of any conversation about the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

HOLLY GEORGE-WARREN: Janis Joplin.

D A PENNEBAKER: When she sang, all of her sang. I mean she shook her butt. She shook her feet. She shook her head.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MONTEREY POP")

JANIS JOPLIN: (Singing) And I said, oh, oh, Honey, this can't be, Baby, not in vain.

TOM GUNDELFINGER O'NEAL: Otis Redding.

HENRY DILTZ: The power and the feeling in his voice was something that a lot of us had never seen before.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MONTEREY POP")

OTIS REDDING: (Singing) Oh, she may be weary. Them young girls, they do get wearied.

DILTZ: The Who smashing their instruments.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MONTEREY POP")

THE WHO: (Singing) People try to put us down - talking about my generation.

KEN KUBERNIK: The audience looked absolutely shell-shocked after everything blows up during "My Generation."

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MONTEREY POP")

GEORGE-WARREN: Jimi Hendrix of course.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MONTEREY POP")

O'NEAL: When he throws the guitar down on that stage and pulls out a can of Ronson lighter fluid and douses it, lights it and then leans back and this sacrificial right of giving his guitar to the gods - one of the most iconic rock 'n' roll moments in musical history.

INGLES: Photographer Tom Gundelfinger O'Neal. We also heard from filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, music journalist Holly George-Warren, author Ken Kubernik and photographer Henry Diltz. Singer Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane was also there and, via Skype, remembers the musicians who weren't playing, watching, transfixed from behind the curtains at the side of the stage.

GRACE SLICK: We hadn't seen a lot of these people, and everybody was just blown away by Jimi Hendrix in particular because we hadn't seen him live.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MONTEREY POP")

JIMI HENDRIX: (Singing) Wild thing, I think I love you.

SLICK: But we were amazed at each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MONTEREY POP")

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE: (Singing) When the truth is found to be lies...

INGLES: Three days of music history began as a one-day one-off. Two promoters, Alan Pariser and Ben Shapiro, were booking musicians for an all-day event at the same fairgrounds that hosted the storied Monterey Jazz Festival. Record producer Lou Adler got wind of the project.

LOU ADLER: Rock 'n' roll was not considered an art form, so when the idea came up to possibly do this at the same venue that had jazz festivals, we thought this might be the chance for that validation.

INGLES: Adler and his partner John Phillips of The Mamas and Papas took over. The idea for the festival had always been to mix up a wide range of musicians, but Adler says the San Francisco psychedelic bands wanted nothing to do with the more commercial pop musicians from LA.

ADLER: Those meetings that took place in San Francisco pretty much almost came to blows.

INGLES: On top of that, local authorities in Monterey were starting to get cold feet over the prospect of their little town being overrun by hippies. So John Phillips wrote this song to smooth things over.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAN FRANCISCO")

SCOTT MCKENZIE: (Singing) If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

INGLES: Scott McKenzie's recording of a song hit the Top 10. ABC TV put up $200,000 in advance to get a Monterey film for its new "Movie Of The Week" series, and D.A. Pennebaker, fresh off the success of his Bob Dylan documentary, "Don't Look Back," was hired to make it.

PENNEBAKER: Usually I just did my films by myself, and suddenly the idea of having to do a concert film with four or five or six different cameramen was something I had never even thought about doing before. So it was kind of letting everybody go out and do whatever they thought a concert film should be.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MONTEREY POP")

JOHN PHILLIPS: To open up the first Monterey International Pop Festival, I'd like to give you The Association.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

INGLES: With that introduction by John Phillips, the Los Angeles band launched the event.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MONTEREY POP")

THE ASSOCIATION: (Singing) Every time I think that I'm the only one who's lonely, someone calls on me.

INGLES: The group's "Along Comes Mary" was a thinly veiled salute to marijuana, kind of an appropriate place to start considering that by all accounts, drugs were everywhere. But Lou Adler says the drug use was treated with a light touch by Monterey's police force.

ADLER: It didn't take long for them to have flowers in their hair or in their helmets and flowers on their guns. The changeover from what they were told was going to happen to what actually happened in Monterey was very special.

INGLES: Most of the musicians played for free, and the proceeds from ticket sales went to charity. In fact, a foundation set up for the festival still gives away royalties from any released Monterey recordings and from D.A. Pennebaker's documentary "Monterey Pop," which was released in theaters the following year. But it never aired on ABC, says Adler.

ADLER: At the time, the head of ABC was a man named Tom Moore, who was a very conservative Southern gentleman. So we showed him Jimi Hendrix fornicating with his amp and said, what do you think? And he said, keep the money, and get out. He said, not on my network. And so we were able to keep the advance and the film.

INGLES: There was never a follow-up to the original Monterey International Pop Festival until this weekend when a 50th anniversary event will take over the same fairgrounds. For NPR News, I'm Paul Ingles.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MONTEREY POP")

HENDRIX: Yes, as I said before, it's really groovy. I'd like to bore you for about six or seven minutes and do a little thing, yeah. Excuse me for a minute.

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