2017-06-18 Monterey Pop Festival 50th
Blues ProjectJanis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company
The Mamas and the Papas
*************************I am vacating my regular time slot, 2-5PM on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, for June and July because I have had construction workers disrupting my day sleeping habits since November and I just don’t feel comfortable driving to the station, but I am filling in for Mark Owens this weekend in order to remember the Monterey Pop Festival. The show will be on Sunday, June 18th between 1-3PM. Conveniently, Mark was going to find a fill-in anyway. Good timing. I plan to be back August 9th with a show dedicated to Chuck Berry in advance of our Oldies Marathon weekend a little more than a week later.
*************************Dateline: June 18th 1967. I was hanging out with my friends’ band, the Druids, after they had just finished a Saturday night gig in Los Gatos at Apogee West when three of us decided last minute to head down to Monterey to catch The Who performing at the Monterey Pop Festival. Steve and I lived about two blocks apart so Mark drove us there to grab a quick change of clothes before we hit the road. Mark had an Anglia, an English Ford that probably made a Volkswagen beetle seem roomy. In fact, the car was so small that Mark wouldn’t let me tap my feet to the music because it shook the vehicle too much.
We must have gotten to the Fairgrounds around 3AM. Mark grabbed a nap in the front set and I climbed into the back but Steve, who had vacated the back seat, was likely the most comfortable sleeping on the ground.
Since we had no tickets, we went to the box office and were told that the evening show was sold out but if we came back in a couple of hours we would get the first group of three cancellations. I’m thinking that access to the grounds was free of charge so we went inside and tripped around the vendor area where, for the first time in my experience, we saw booths of hippie clothing, posters and paraphernalia. Even if we didn’t get tickets, this atmosphere might have been sufficient to make the trip worthwhile, but when we revisited the box office they had a set of three tickets for us. Perhaps we didn’t get onto the grounds until then, but after fifty years this is an item that is a little vague in my memory.
Anyway, the entire Sunday afternoon show was taken up by Ravi Shankar and friends. We ran into a musician friend of Steve’s from high school and told him we came down to see The Who and he told us, “Yeah, The Who is going to be great, but check out this black cat coming back from Britain with a new band.” So, the time has come and we enter the concert area and discover that our seats are in the first row of the general audience behind about a dozen rows of VIP seating. And the cost was six, maybe seven bucks, for a lineup that had The Blues Project, then Buffalo Springfield, and a group called The Band with No Name. Following these were Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, who had impressed enough on one of the earlier shows that they were brought back when, I presume, another band cancelled. A piece of personal trivia: I had the opportunity to jam with Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew, but by this time about fifteen years ago he was playing saxophone.
All the acts leading up to the group we went there to see were top-notch, with the possible exception of The Band with No Name whom I have yet to learn anything regarding who was in the ensemble, but when The Who came on stage it seemed to jump to another level. The rhythm section was incomparable with Keith Moon absolutely wailing on his drums as John Entwhistle stood back calmly as if it was totally effortless to produce his often outrageous bass licks. Peter Townsend had that windmill motion as he struck his power chords while singer Roger Daltrey swung his microphone above his head with the long chord acting like a cowboy’s lariat.
The band had just released their second American album in May (known in the US as Happy Jack, reaching only #67 compared to its British charting of #4) and the first two numbers in the set, Substitute (#5 UK) and Summertime Blues (as far as I know never recorded in studio), were unavailable to US buyers and therefore relatively unknown to even the three of us. These led to a couple of items they were promoting, Pictures of Lily, which reached #4 UK and eventually #51 after its June US release, and A Quick One and their March US-released Happy Jack, both from their new album. The only readily recognizable tune was My Generation (#2 UK and only #74 US and the album of the same title #5 UK, no listing for its US charting, but the song justifiably remains a Rock anthem) and by the time the tune was over (and The Who’s set) any pent-up energy possibly remaining had been exhausted, particularly after Townsend had smashed his guitar on stage, something he had taken to doing but quite novel to this American audience.
Okay, I have never been a big fan of the Grateful Dead and when they followed the excitement of The Who they just seemed listless, and to be followed by Jimi Hendrix didn’t make them seem any more thrilling in hindsight. It is well known that neither The Who nor Hendrix wanted to play after the other and Hendrix drew the short straw. While The Who had two American albums out by the time of the Festival, Jimi had only released three singles in England (a #3 and a couple of #6’s) and his Are You Experienced LP, which reached #2 UK but did not surface here until a couple of months after the Festival in August, the same month as his first 45, Purple Haze / The Wind Cries Mary. Already, Hendrix had become such a sensation that his LP rated #5 but the single only #65. As I saw it, if you wanted Hendrix, why would you buy the single when you could get the two tracks on the album, and anyone who wanted Hendrix probably wanted as much as they could get.
There’s not a whole lot I have to say about the Hendrix performance – I think it speaks for itself better than I could analyze it – except that he opened up with a Howlin’ Wolf tune (Killing Floor) and later a version of B.B. King’s Rock Me Baby with a couple of his exceptional self-penned rockers, Foxey Lady and Purple Haze in the set. Jimi had Noel Redding backing him on bass and Mitch Mitchell behind the drum kit, but all eyes were on the amazing Mr. Hendrix, and when he got to his closing number, Wild Thing, which he referred to as “the English and American combined anthem”, he was not about to be outdone by The Who and so provided a bit of Stage theatrics by combining his guitar with a cigarette lighter to leave his audience with a memorable touch of pyrotechnics.
After the concert I could not tell you who I thought stole the show (since I present them both today, I’ll leave that decision to you, but I think Jimi shows up better as a recording while The Who were generally more visually impressive), but never before had I seen anything to compare with either The Who or Hendrix. Jimi played at the Fillmore Auditorium the next weekend (The Who had played it the week prior to the Festival) and there was no way I was going to miss that. Once again, the performance was phenomenal and as soon as it came out, I’m sure I bought the LP. I loved (and still do) the album except for the psychedelic tune Third Stone From the Sun and, since that is the direction he moved toward, I pretty much lost interest and was well on my way to devoting almost all of my listening to Blues. Actually, the Festival had a profound impact on me as I gave up the job I had at a gas station, have not trimmed my moustache since (50 years!) and began to take interest in things like trying to end the war in Viet Nam. I proudly consider myself a hippie (which I did not then) because I still believe in the same basic things I did back then.
The concert was pretty much the brainchild of John Phillips so his band, The Mamas and the Papas, had the privilege of closing the last show of a great weekend. I often hear about Woodstock being the first mega-concert but Monterey pre-dated it by about two years, I believe; summer of ’69? Today’s show only presents you with the bands I saw, three of whom unfortunately were not presented on the four CD set which I believe was released as a twenty-fifth anniversary issue. I wonder if there will be more coming out this year.
As usual, there is a projected playlist. I have a few other numbers on the discs I made up for the show just in case, but what you see is about what I can fit in a two-hour show.
*************************Since it is still relatively new, I thought I’d mention that KKUP is now streaming on the internet and, while it is still in a developing stage, we have been putting out the word. I’m not all of that good with high-tech stuff, but it seems pretty easy to access. If you go to our website at KKUP.org you will see on the home page a strip of options immediately above the pictures of the musicians the next to the last option being LISTEN ONLINE. By clicking this, it brings up a choice of desktop or mobile. I can only speak for the desktop but after maybe a minute I was receiving a crystal clear feed. As already mentioned, this is still a work in progress and we are currently limited to a finite number of listeners at any one time. I mention this so you will be aware to turn off the application when you are not actually listening. (I put the player in my favorites bar for the easiest of access.) Now we can reach our listeners in Los Gatos and Palo Alto, even my family in Canada. Let your friends elsewhere know they can now listen to your favorite station, and while they have the home page open they can check out our schedule.
*************************Down On Me
Combination of the Two
Ball and Chain
Big Brother and the Holding Company
Pictures of Lily
A Quick One While He’s Away
Killing FloorFoxey Lady
Like a Rolling Stone
Rock Me Baby
Can You See Me
The Wind Cries Mary
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Straight ShooterCalifornia Dreaming
I Call Your Name
Dancing in the streets
The Mamas and the Papas 66mins