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Monterey Pop Festival (1967)

The most memorable musical event of 1967 was the Monterey International Pop Festival, held in the Californian sunshine over three days between June 16th – 18th.

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If the “Summer of Love” was largely a media construct, the good vibes at Monterey were definitely for real.

The Monterey city fathers, who had braced themselves for an onslaught of debauched hooligans, were pleasantly surprised to see thousands of well-mannered, neatly-groomed (most of then men weren’t even sporting shoulder-length hair) flower children milling peacefully around the festival grounds.

Organised by record mogul Lou Adler and John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas, the festival attracted 50,000 fans and showcased the cream of the San Francisco music scene, including The Grateful Dead,Country Joe & The FishBig Brother & The Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin), Moby GrapeQuicksilver Messenger ServiceSteve Miller Band and Jefferson Airplane, who were currently bringing some San Francisco magic to the charts with Somebody To Love and White Rabbit, from the Surrealistic Pillow LP.

The festival also fielded a diverse array of acts from around the globe, including The Who, Ravi Shankar and Jimi Hendrix.

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The latter, a former sideman with Little Richard and The Isley Brothers, had transformed himself into a psychedelic guitar god during his recent stay in England.

Monterey marked the first time Jimi had performed for an American audience since 1966, and he made it count; by the time his set was finished, his Stratocaster was in ashes (pictured below) and the audience were shaking their heads in disbelief.

Otis Redding also experienced a major breakthrough at Monterey.

A recording artist for the legendary Memphis record label, Stax (whose roster included Rufus ThomasBooker T & The MGsEddie Floyd and Sam & Dave), Otis specialised in down-home soul. Given the fair to

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Given the fair to moderate pop success of singles like Try A Little Tenderness and I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now), he arrived at Monterey with misgivings and was completely unprepared for the ecstatic response he received from the festival-goers.

Back home in Georgia after the festival, Otis penned Sitting On The Dock of the Bay as a heartfelt tribute to the San Francisco “love crowd” that had made him feel so welcome.

Sadly, he died in a plane crash on 10 December, just three days after recording the song.

Released in early 1968 it would become his first and only #1 single.

The Beach Boys were supposed to headline the festival but Brian Wilson backed out at the last minute. Neil Young quit Buffalo Springfield just prior to the show and David Crosby of The Byrds filled in.

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D.A. Pennebaker produced an excellent film of the Pop Festival – imaginatively titled Monterey Pop (1971) – including classic performances from Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Several bands did not make it into the movie including Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel and The Grateful Dead.

A planned 1968 Monterey International Pop Festival was cancelled due to pressure from local government bodies.

In the wake of the cancellation, $52,000 was found to be missing from the previous year’s profits. The festival’s bookkeeper, Mrs Sandra Beebe, was also discovered to be missing without trace

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