Monterey Pop (1968)


(director: D.A. Pennebaker; cinematographers: D.A. Pennebaker/Richard Leacock/James Desmond, Barry Feinstein, Albert Maysles, Roger Murphy; editor: Nina Schulman; Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: John Phillips/Lou Adler; The Criterion Collection; 1968)
“D.A. Pennebaker’s great concert film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

D.A. Pennebaker’s great concert film of the June 16-18 weekend Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 is where some 200,000 gathered in the tiny coastal city about 110 miles south of San Franciscofor what many called the best rock concert ever (it didn’t have the negatives of the Woodstock concert given two years later: no drug overdoses, mud or hectic crowds). It wasa time known as the Summer of Love where hippies, rockers, some straights and Hell’s Angels gathered together in peace and love to fly kites, sleep out in the football field and listen to great rock. It’s a performance driven concert and the performers came to play and groove.

Scott McKenzie opens the show by singing the film’s theme song “If you’re going to San Francisco,” Simon and Garfunkel sing “Feeling Groovy,” The Mamas and the Papas sing Michelle Phillips’ “California Dreamin’,” Jimi Hendrix sings “Wild Thing” while bringing his guitar to multiple orgasms before setting it ablaze and then smashing it to pieces, Otis reaches out to the mostly white “love crowd” while singing “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” Janis belts out a soulful rendition of Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain,” and the last 20 minutes is saved for Ravi Shankar on sitar performing a raga called “Raga Bhimpalasi” in the film’s most accomplished and scintillating performance–ending the film on a musical high.

The performers include The Animals, Canned Heat, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin with Big Brother and The Holding Company, the Mamas and the Papas, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Ravi Shankar, Hugh Maskala, Scott McKenzie, Country Joe & the Fish and Booker T. and the MGs.