The Criterion Collection presents
The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (Monterey Pop / Jimi Plays Monterey / Shake! Otis at Monterey) (1968, 1986)
"Talking 'bout my generation...."- The Who
Stars: Scott McKenzie, John Phillips, Cass Elliot, Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty, Alan Wilson, Bob Hite, Henry Vestine, Larry Taylor, Frank Cook, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Hugh Masekela, Rick Neesai Botchway, Stanley Todd, Nat Hammond, Big Black, James Morton, Isaak Asante, Eric Burdon, Danny McCulloch, Barry Jenkins, John Weider, Vic Briggs, Janis Joplin, Sam Andrew, James Gurley, Peter Albin, Dave Getz, Grace Slick, Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, John Entwistle, Country Joe McDonald, Barry Melton, David Cohen, Gary Hirsh, Bruce Barthol, Otis Redding, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Don Dunn, Al Jackson Jr, Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell, Ravi Shankar, Alla Rakha, Kamala
Other Stars: Laura Nyro, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, Stephen Stills, Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Tiny Tim, Brian Jones, Tom Smothers, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, others
Director: D.A. Pennebaker
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief language in some supplemental material)
Run Time: 02h:27m:12s (total, features only)
Release Date: 2002-11-12
DVD ReviewMonterey Pop (1967)
"In fact, that's what filmmaking is about, making the best stuff count for what you leave out." - D.A. Pennebaker, from the accompanying booklet
The preface to the Summer of Love was John Phillip's Monterey Pop Festival held on the central California coast June 16-18, 1967 and its preamble was his song, San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair), recorded by pal Scott McKenzie: "For those who come to San Francisco/Summertime will be a love-in there..."
While insurgent American youth were creating the nascence of Flower Power and Free Love as a more peaceful response to the anti-war, anti-establishment sentiments (sit-ins opposed to riots and protests) that, in hindsight, we now know defined the era, the music business was hot to cash in on the phenomenon. Phillips and co-producer Lou Adler knew the only way to attract top acts fast was to donate all proceeds to various charitable programs that would focus on promoting the arts. It worked. (Record sales would boom, of course, in the afterglow.) Although the biggest names would not appear (The Beatles, Rolling Stones and so on), lending their names to the Festival Committee helped achieve the required results. Those who would perform—mostly bands local to California—would reap the benefits of the exposure and become A-list spokespeople for a new generation.
Raising technical standards of contemporary festivals, the producers brought in the best in the business; in a sound check, David Crosby is captured on film noting, "Groovy, a nice sound system at last." Capturing this image was the team—including Albert Maysles—corralled by D.A. Pennebaker, the filmmaker who had just made his bones with his groundbreaking visual ballad to Bob Dylan, Dont Look Back.
Thirty-five years later, the presentation, sentiment and fashion might seem clichéd, but this was where it started. The world was truly changing; things we take for granted and see as icons of a time now were just being created. It was a different era of communications that is hard to compared to our global-satellite-wired-up world in which TV was mostly local with only a few shows controlling what was allowed broad dissemination. Elvis Presley had helped to bring down these barriers a decade earlier and, of course, the appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show three years before was a landmark.
With the advances in media technology, the expansion of the distribution system and a growing market for the product, suddenly isolated pockets of musical experimentation and exploration would cross-pollinate and unite behind certain shared precepts about the world. One of the key aspects of Monterey Pop is fusion: there are combinations of pop, rock, jazz, blues, and world music traditions that showed, to steal a phrase from a popular utopian television show of the era, "infinite diversity in infinite combinations."
Look closely at the crowd—certain clichés have begun to emerge but have not yet taken hold. While there is some "hippie gear"—painted faces, headbands, the occasional floral adornment—most of the throngs who flocked to the event were on the verge of creating that Sixties look; the only flowing robes and caftans appear on stage on the figures of the performers. With the theatrical release of this multimedia document garnering national success for this pop festival, a youth movement was born. Kids gathered on college campus all over the world to protest for peace, both at home and abroad.
Pennebaker and his crew capture the concert's essentials on the limited film available to them; the 79-minute main feature allows, for the most part, one song per band. As Phillips was co-producer, there's plenty of Mamas & Papas footage, but then, they were the headliners, perhaps the group with the most success prior to the event. (In fact, this would mark the beginning of their demise.) Highlights include Big Brother and the Holding Company (who, after this appearance, would rightfully give lead singer Janis Joplin headline status), Hugh Masekela, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who and the transcendental Ravi Shankar. Why? Because they offered something different, something general audiences had not yet experienced.
A white woman wailing like Joplin was almost blasphemy in a time when the laws of the land had just begun to desegregate its widely reluctant population (don't miss Cass Elliot's candid response when Janis hits her last note). Masekela's African rhythms were as foreign to American ears as his South African homeland. Exotic and ear splitting, Hendrix was a force of nature destined to be a new kind of rock icon. The Who provided a unique expression of youthful angst born of the various British teenage movements with a rare combination of intelligence and theatrical violence, carving their own place in the pantheon of rock music. And when Shankar and friends transfix the crowd for over 17 minutes (3 hours on that original Sunday afternoon), we understand the influence he had on Western culture of that era.
Some of the more interesting material is found in the less familiar segments such as Canned Heat's outstanding rendition of the blues standard, Rollin' and Tumblin', or the spacey jam provided by Country Joe and the Fish, later to achieve fame with a profane version of their "Fish Cheer" at Woodstock. Jefferson Airplane demonstrates a remarkable potency in those days with the innovative stylings of Jorma Kaukonen on guitar and the vocals of Grace Slick, Marty Balin and Paul Kantner. Eric Burdon and the Animals give a dynamic and riveting reading of The Rolling Stones classic, Paint it Black. For various reasons, Pennebaker was forced to cut a number of acts: The Paupers, Lou Rawls, Johnny Rivers, The Steve Miller Band, Moby Grape and The Grateful Dead. The latter, the director explains, ran all his cameras out of film with their notoriously lengthy jams.
While Pennebaker describes at length the difficulty of the shoot and the painstaking process of cutting and building his film, Monterey Pop would ultimately set a style and standard for all festival films (Woodstock, Concert for Bangladesh, The Last Waltz, et al) to follow. There is no narration, and once the concert revs up, few words are spoken, particularly from the stage. The bold pace is electrifying, if occasionally awkward; the vérité style tells it like it is, and the editing underscores the rough and tumble of three long days of shooting. Viewing it now—with all the background material provided with the set—it is interesting to see that the innocence we fondly attach to that time was shared only amongst the throngs who came to see this tightly produced, highly polished program put on by music industry professionals.
D.A. Pennebaker would later cut two additional film shorts from the extra Monterey Pop reels and released them to theaters as a double bill. Disc Two of the collection features these separate works with their own bevy of supplemental materials.
Jimi Plays Monterey (1986)
"Let me just play my guitar, alright?" - Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix's meteoric rise to stardom, based on unbelievably wild guitar playing, his otherworldly persona and a willingness to go beyond all accepted convention, blazed a new and unique trail to superstardom. Discovered in New York by Chaz Chandler of The Animals, he was spirited off to England and became almost an overnight hit in there. Having previously backed both Little Richard and The Isley Brothers and performed as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, Hendrix brought a strong foundation of rhythm and blues to his music. Overseas, he found a ready audience that had discovered inspiration in the music of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and the early Motown sound; an appreciative audience that was not hung up on racial divisions. One need only remember the scenes of racist protests against black music in the US to recall the terrible conditions all across America for black performers.
Jimi Plays Monterey begins with artist Denny Dent painting a splatter portrait of Hendrix to the soundtrack of Can You See Me, a song from the concert set that, unfortunately, has no video. Also, featured in the titles and credits are snippets of Purple Haze, with a small bit of the video.
The first part of the film features The Jimi Hendrix Experience onstage in London, prior to the festival, performing The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and part of The Troggs' Wild Thing. "Papa" John Phillips, one of the festival's organizers, narrates these opening scenes, telling some of Hendrix's history and how The Experience came to be invited to Monterey.
Hendrix's festival performance begins with powerful renditions of Howling Wolf's Killing Floor and his own Foxy Lady that threw down the gauntlet to every other rock performer in the world. His set is so fluid and masterful that one can say that he was responsible for a quantum leap in musicianship among his peers. Hendrix was a black man wresting back the reigns of his cultural heritage by leapfrogging a generation of white musicians, sending them all back to school.
Bob Dylan was a big influence on Hendrix, as he was on so many artists of this era looking to expand the lyrical quality of their writing. His performance of Like A Rolling Stone, a Dylan signature song, provides a fascinating glimpse of Hendrix's ability to take a song and make it his own, yet remain true to the original. Innovation drawing on the traditions of rhythm and blues continues with a performance of B.B. King's Rock Me Baby and William Roberts' often-covered Hey Joe—complete with Hendrix playing the guitar with his teeth. The Wind Cries Mary looks ahead to Hendrix music to come with its intricate musical style. Interestingly, this truncated feature only includes filmed performances of two Hendrix originals.
The singular, most memorable moment here is, of course, the version of Wild Thing in which Hendrix set fire to his guitar. Jimi had vowed to top The Who when a legendary coin flip determined that he was to follow them on stage that night; each wanted to be the first to bring pyrotechnics and equipment destruction to the American audience. Included here is Hendrix's full introduction (cut from the feature film) to the song in which he describes his desire to sacrifice something very dear to him, in this case a personally hand-painted Fender Stratocaster. However, as dramatic as it all seemed, the blaring feedback after his guitar is destroyed is a distinct reminder that the whole bit was an act that he had done before and would do again (and the same for The Who as well).
Even after all these years and all the changes, Jimi Hendrix's performance at Monterey Pop is still an astonishing and powerful one. The popularity of the festival was ultimately a mixed blessing for him in that, even though he evolved and changed as an artist over the succeeding years, many in his audience wanted him to continue to replicate the wild night at Monterey.
Shake! Otis at Monterey (1986)
"This is the Love Crowd, right?" - Otis Redding
Otis Redding came up through the same tradition as Jimi Hendrix, but found his way to Memphis and recording with Stax Records. It was on a tour of Europe with a Stax revue that opened his eyes to the potential of broadening his audience beyond the restrictions of racial division. One of the few popular rhythm and blues acts booked as a featured performer at Monterey Pop, his management team saw the nature of the rock festival and feared that they had made a mistake. But they had not counted on the power of Otis Redding in winning over an audience.
It is difficult for audiences today to truly appreciate Redding's style and artistry because exposure to his music is often limited to a snippet of (Sitting on the) Dock of the Bay in some late night commercial for yet another repackaged collection of pop hits from the Sixties. Of course, the first surprise in this 19-minute presentation of his Monterey performance is that Dock of the Bay is not heard; this, his biggest hit, was recorded shortly before his death on in December that same year. Instead, what we see is a sizzling soul-rock fusion that sounds fresh and exciting, even 35 years on. However, this is also an Otis Redding on the cusp of change. After coming up in the rhythm and blues market, Monterey Pop was a departure for a musician determined to broaden his artistic aspirations. Backed by the force behind the Stax sound, Booker T. & the M.G.s, Redding added an appealing, driving rock beat to his classic repertoire, designed to appeal to a white audience.
Hitting the stage at one in the morning beneath a rain shower, Redding launches immediately into a revved up version of Sam Cooke's Shake that sends a charge of energy into an audience that already had been through a long night. Booker T. and the M.G.s, augmented by The Mar-Keys on horns, provides crisp and powerful support. Immediately following is Redding's version of his own Respect, which he notes was taken over by a lady friend of his (referring to Aretha Franklin). Visibly out of breath, Redding slows down the pace of the performance—but not the intensity—with a soulful rendition of I've Been Loving You Too Long. Then with enthusiasm, he leaps into a dynamic cover of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. The set closes with Try a Little Tenderness, another tune associated with one of Redding's idols, Sam Cooke. The song is marred only by some out-of-place daylight footage, mostly repurposed from the Ravi Shankar section of the main feature.
What Shake! comes down to is a riveting and exciting 20 minutes of rocking soul from a tremendous performer at the height of his powers. There is just a beautiful and transcendent timelessness to Otis Redding at Monterey.
This documentary triumvirate, supported by an avalanche of truly relevant supplementary material—including the outtakes contained on Disc Three—offers a more complete experience of that key event, set in that most tumultuous era of love and segregation, peace and war, and helped rally a generation who tried to change the world. Don't think they did not succeed—they did, in more ways than we can fathom today.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The image on the collection's centerpiece, Monterey Pop, is extraordinary given the circumstances under which it was obtained. Filmed out-of-doors on the foggy Monterey Peninsula, the atmosphere seems to add an organic quality to the film grain. That said, the daylight pieces are naturalistic and details such as the inlay on Shankar's sitar or the flight of his fingers over the strings above are simply beautiful. When the sun shines, colors are luminous with no apparent bleed.
The night scenes fare worse, but this is to be expected. Black levels are deep, but everything in the spotlight's reach is color-rich and clearly defined. Distance shots suffer the most from high grain and a lower contrast, but details such as the steam from Redding's mouth—against the black sky—is soft and fluid. (Speaking of, the choices Pennebaker made on the Redding footage render it magnificent.) Impressively, the reds pretty much stay in place, a formidable achievement.
The archival footage that makes up the early part of the Hendrix documentary is filled with debris and scratches; once we hit the stage at Monterey, the quality moves to the level of the feature film. The same is true for Shake!
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: On the main feature, one can choose between Dolby 2.0 and 5.1, DTS 5.1 or the original audio mix. The latter is for masochistic purists only, but should be visited by younger viewers who are being weaned on digital sound; the best way to describe it is "chunky." The Dolby 2.0 has a clipped, "small" sound but is clean and distinct. The 5.1 track moves into more comfortable territory with detail in every corner of the soundfield. However, the transfer to DTS here is extraordinary. Bright and crisp, it truly surrounds the room as if you were there, or better, as there is the benefit of no ambient noise (the original track was recorded through the soundboard). With this superior track, every note struck by Ravi Shankar (simultaneously) is heard; by the time it gets to My Generation, Keith Moon is beating on your chest. And Hendrix? He's standing on it.
While there's only so much that can be pulled from the original four-track recording, every ear-piercing distortion—namely the feedback from Hendrix's burned and shattered guitar—is as vivid as it likely was through his Marshall amps that night. Good and bad, but in a word: Unforgettable. Bravo!
On Jimi Plays Monterey, the audio quality follows that of the image; the early segments have not been remixed, but when the expanded sound kicks in, Jimi brings down the house—your house.
There seems to be less noticeable difference between the Dolby 5.1 and the DTS on the two shorter films, both of which seem somewhat harsher overall.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 37 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
20 Deleted Scenes
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Lou Adler and D.A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop); Charles Shaar Murray (Jimi Plays Monterey); Peter Guralnick (Shake! Otis at Monterey)
Packaging: Godfather-style box set
- audio interviews with John Phillips, Derek Taylor, Cass Elliot, David Crosby and others
- photo essay and stills gallery
- Monterey Pop festival program
- radio spots
Disc One is home to the main feature, Monterey Pop, divided into 20 chapters, most of which serve as song markers. There is a full-length commentary with filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and festival co-producer Lou Adler. (The former remarks up front that John Phillips was meant to participate on the track with them, but neglected to show up.) They discuss varying aspects of the original event, from conception to the resulting impact of the festival as well as Pennebaker's film, with a balance of scene-specific comments that makes for an enjoyable listen.
A 7-part interview (with as many chapter stops) has Pennebaker and Adler, this time on camera for a 29m:21s discussion focused on their own career histories. Adler goes first, queried by his companion, and shares background information about various acts he's worked with over the years. Of interest is his recounting of a meeting at Cass Elliot's house with Paul McCartney in which the validation of rock music as an artform was discussed, and that their first concept was to document the festival for ABC television. (The execs took one look at the Hendrix footage and basically said, Keep the film, good luck to you.) The filmmaker takes his turn, prompted by Adler, covering his history with Dylan's Dont Look Back and how he and his crew came aboard for the project, with further details about the challenges facing his team.
The Scrapbook link leads to a choice of two additional sections, the first of which reproduces the documenting photography of that weekend by Elaine Mayes for Billboard Magazine. This section has a manual browse photo gallery (itself broken down in categories), which includes useful intertitles that remarkably supply the name of the band as well as the individual(s) about to be shown in the following still. (Note that using the skip button of your remote runs through the intertitles of band names; the forward and back buttons move you screen by screen. Convenient, if you are not a fan of, say, The Paupers.). Deadheads should enjoy a pre-beard Jerry Garcia captured in action. An auto-run photo essay (12m:14s) with commentary by Mayes is segmented by six chapters. The photographer offers her experience at Monterey from a unique perspective and discusses the technical aspects of a documentary photo assignment. A Mayes text bio is also included. The second presents the original program, with a myriad of images, and briefs by the likes of Derek Taylor (pressman for The Beatles), Bob Shelton (New York music critic famous for an article that broke out the young Bob Dylan's career) and Jann Wenner, now legendary founder of Rolling Stone magazine. There is a note from Peter Tork who claims the absence of The Monkees is due to their being in England that weekend, however both Tork and Mickey Dolenz are seen in attendance in various footage elsewhere in the collection. Especially interesting is an entry by Leonard Bernstein in favor of Pop music and its subculture and a fascinating collection of quotes gathered by Ralph J. Gleason (San Francisco jazz critic and co-founder of Rolling Stone).
There is a section of excerpted audio interviews recorded in intervening years with John Phillips (broken down in 10 segments), Cass Elliot (5), David Crosby (5) and Derek Taylor (16). Elliot's audio is low quality but seems to have been boosted for optimum clarity, a shame because her comments are perhaps the most interesting of the set. Everyone has high praise for Janis Joplin, especially Elliot, who proclaims her the star of the festival. Crosby has some keen observations about Jimi Hendrix and Taylor shares more organizational details. While there is no "play all" function, within the individual speakers, choosing the first one will play all of that contributor's clips in sequence.
There is a full-frame, harsh-sounding theatrical trailer that helps one to appreciate the restoration effort made on behalf of the main feature. Five radio spots feature Hendrix, Joplin (2), Redding and The Mamas and The Papas and sound even rougher than the trailer as they tout its "four-track stereo sound."
The final section of the supplements (on the first disc) covers the remix in text with a bio for Eddie Kramer, responsible for this and many other legendary performance soundtracks.
From the main menu, there is information available about the Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation.
Branching from Jimi Plays Monterey there is an interview with Pete Townsend. The lead guitarist of The Who provides some reminiscences of the festival and tells his side of the infamous argument between The Who and Hendrix about who would play first on the festival's stage.
This short feature carries a commentary track provided by musical historian Charles Shaar Murray, who offers some good anecdotal tales early on, but gets a little bit cheerleader-ish as he settles in to watching the film. He does provide some interesting information about Hendrix, the man and the artist.
Additional audio excerpts from Murray's track are divided into 8 sections. Murray redeems his previous commentary as he explores in more detail various aspects of Hendrix's life and career with some fascinating reflections on this star and the world in which he moved.
This feature has 12 chapter stops.
Shake! Otis at Monterey
In a video interview, Redding's manager, Phil Walden, discusses his own attraction to rhythm and blues back in his teens that prompted him to began booking acts around his hometown of Macon, Georgia. He met a young Otis Redding with whom he shared an affinity, and Walden became the singer's manager until Redding's untimely death. Recorded earlier this year, Walden provides some fascinating insights into Otis Redding, his life and career. He also tells interesting anecdotes about the music world of that era.
Two commentaries by music historian Peter Guralnick accompany this short. The first is a song-by-song appreciation of Redding's concert set; in the second Guralnick describes the artist's career. Each track provides interesting aspects of this artist who died too young.
A sufficient 5 chapter stops divide this film.
The collection's third part is a bonus disc of outtakes, longer (01h:52m:24s) and in some ways better than the feature itself. Here, one of the onstage cameras has an errant, crisscrossing hair that lingers throughout many of the segments, especially on clips from the second day. A few of the guest announcers make a showing, unlike the body of the film where just about all things extraneous to the music have been omitted. Highlights here are better picks for Simon & Garfunkel and Jefferson Airplane; what might be the first time David Crosby and Stephen Stills performed together; several great blues performances; and more great tunes by The Who as well as The Mamas & The Papas. These additional performances (in 1.33:1 aspect ratio and in stereo, unless otherwise noted) consist of:
The Association, Along Comes Mary
Simon & Garfunkel, Homeward Bound; Sounds of Silence
Country Joe & The Fish, Not-So-Sweet Martha Lorraine
Al Kooper, (I Heard Her Say) Wake Me Shake Me
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Driftin' Blues
Quicksilver Messenger Service, All I Ever Wanted To Do
The Electric Flag, Drinkin' Wine
The Byrds, Chimes of Freedom; He Was a Friend of Mine; Hey Joe
Laura Nyro, Wedding Bell Blues; Poverty Train
Jefferson Airplane, Somebody to Love
The Blues Project, Flute Thing
Big Brother and the Holding Company, Combination of the Two (5.1 remix)
Buffalo Springfield, For What It's Worth
The Who, Substitute, Summertime Blues, A Quick One While He's Away (5.1 remix)
The Mamas & The Papas, Straight Shooter, Somebody Groovy, San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair); I Call Your Name; Monday, Monday; Dancing in the Street
This disc finishes off with footage (10m:32s) from the backrooms of the festival where Tiny Tim plays a few songs for a circle of friends.
The accompanying booklet is well done, but perhaps the least interesting entry in the collection. Criterion has reprinted articles by Michael Lydon (Newsweek), Jann Wenner (Rolling Stone), Barney Huskyns (rocksbackpages.com) and Armond White.
This is yet another astounding package from the fine crew at Criterion (and Home Vision) that captures just the right support material with which to enhance this essential release.
Extras Grade: A+
Final CommentsThe Criterion Collection knows what is worth archiving, and this is one of their landmark achievements. There are no clichés here; what seems all-too-familiar now began somewhere, and the Pop Festival at Monterey in 1967 is where our cultural and musical diversity was truly embraced, perhaps for the first time. The rest, as they say, is history... made there, and preserved here, in this definitive collection for all time.
debi lee mandel and jesse shanks 2002-11-10