Watch Hendrix, The Who, and Others Play 1967’s Monterey Pop, the “First Real Rock Festival”

Even a mild inter­est in the cul­ture of twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can rock will lead you to learn about the Wood­stock Music & Art Fair, those oft-com­mem­o­rat­ed “three days of peace and music” in August 1969. But roll the clock back two years, turn from the east coast to the west, and you’ll find the tem­plate for that icon­ic “Aquar­i­an Expo­si­tion”: the Mon­terey Inter­na­tion­al Pop Music Fes­ti­val. Held from June 16 to June 18, 1967 in Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Mon­terey Coun­ty Fair­grounds, Mon­terey Pop fea­tured a who’s-who of the com­ing momen­t’s musi­cal pan­theon: Jef­fer­son Air­plane, Janis Joplin, Simon and Gar­funkel, Ravi Shankar (play­ing for an entire after­noon), and the Grate­ful Dead. In the intense­ly era-dis­till­ing clip above, watch a cer­tain Jimi Hen­drix fire off his inim­itable ver­sion of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Not bad at all for what Rusty DeS­o­to called “the first real rock fes­ti­val.”

Mon­terey Pop, orig­i­nal­ly con­ceived as a rock-legit­imiz­ing com­pan­ion to the exist­ing Mon­terey Jazz and Folk Fes­ti­vals, brought many of its host­ed artists a kind of pop­u­lar­i­ty they’d nev­er had before. Otis Red­ding, just six months before his untime­ly death, enjoyed his first pre­dom­i­nant­ly non-black live audi­ence in Mon­terey — and they, by all accounts, enjoyed him. Colum­bia Records gave Joplin and her band, Big Broth­er and the Hold­ing Com­pa­ny, a con­tract on the strength of their Mon­terey show (right above). A great deal of high-qual­i­ty film and audio tape of these per­for­mances sur­vives, thanks in large part to doc­u­men­tar­i­an D.A. Pen­nebak­er, whose film Mon­terey Pop remains the defin­i­tive record of the fes­ti­val. Watch any of the footage, such as the clip below of a ram­bunc­tious out­fit by the name of The Who, and you’ll under­stand just how force­ful­ly Mon­terey Pop launched these artists into the zeit­geist.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Jef­fer­son Air­plane Wakes Up New York; Jean-Luc Godard Cap­tures It (1968)

Wood­stock Revis­it­ed in Three Min­utes

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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