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Music, Mayhem & Monterey: The ‘First Real Rock Festival’
June 16, 2012
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Forty-five years ago, the first great rock festival took place at California's Monterey County Fairgrounds. The Monterey Pop Festival was an unprecedented mix of musical genres, presenting rock, folk, blues, jazz, soul, psychedelia, pop, classical and more over the course of three days. It was intended to validate rock music as an art form, just as jazz and folk music had already been accepted.

This idea belonged to producer Alan Pariser, who was inspired while attending the 1966 Monterey Jazz Festival. A Board of Governors that included Donovan, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson and Brian Wilson, made it the mandate of the festival to represent all genres of immediate past, present and future of contemporary music. It was a starting point for the Summer of Love.

Music journalist Rusty DeSoto has argued that pop-music history tends to forget Monterey in favour of the Woodstock Festival that happened two years later: "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." For the first time, different musical regions of America (San Franscisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Memphis, New York City) were brought together and interacted with one another.

This Festival was also a breakout moment for two acts that were not widely known at the time: Janis Joplin and Otis Redding. Other performers on the periphery of stardom, such as Canned Heat, Laura Nyro and Steve Miller Band, became household names afterward. And it was the first major American appearance for two up-and-comers: The Who and Jimi Hendrix.

Both were both booked at Paul McCartney's suggestion after he had declined an invitation for The Beatles to perform, as their sound had become too complex for live performances. And both were propelled into the mainstream after their destructive antics on stage at Monterey. It's widely believed that before the festival, The Who's Pete Townsend lost to Hendrix in a coin toss that decided who would play first. Each had planned instrument-destroying mayhem. Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones introduced Hendrix as, "the most exciting guitarist that I've ever heard" and at the end of Hendrix's set, one of the most iconic moments in rock history unfolded. As a frenzied finish to 'Wild Thing', Jimi lit his guitar on fire and smashed it around the stage. And The Who ended 'My Generation' with smoke bombs, broken guitars and deafening feedback.

Jimi Hendrix 'Wild Thing'

The Who 'My Generation'

Other artists included Simon & Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield, Eric Burdon and The Animals, Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas & The Papas, The Byrds, The Grateful Dead and Booker T & The MGs. And on Sunday afternoon, Ravi Shankar was introduced to America with a three-hour long set. It was a shift in music from the guitar strums and drum beats that had reigned all weekend: Shankar played nothing more than a sitar with tabla accompaniment. He also requested no smoking and no photographs.

For what is often considered his break-out performance, Otis Redding played for a large, predominately white audience. He had enjoyed some chart success, but wasn't well known outside his black audience. His setlist consisted of 'Shake', 'Respect' (he penned this tune for Aretha Franklin), 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' and a cover of the Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction'. After he closed with 'Try A Little Tenderness' he told the crowd: "I've got to go. I don't want to go, but I've got to go." Monterey was one of Redding's last major performances before his untimely death six months later.

Otis Redding 'I've Been Loving You Too Long'

Watch more performances from Monterey Pop Festival 1967 below:

Buffalo Springfield 'For What It's Worth'

The Byrds 'Hey Joe'

Grateful Dead 'Viola Lee Blues'

Janis Joplin 'Ball & Chain'

Jefferson Airplane 'Somebody To Love'

Simon & Garfunkel 'Sound Of Silence'

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