Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:

Anatomy of a Love Festival

This is the full-length version of the Esquire article published in somewhat condensed form in my first collection, Any Old Way You Choose It. It was completed in late July of 1967 but not on the stands until the January 1968 issue. It appears as originally published, with one exception: the phrase "psychedelic Uncle Tom" had to be changed, at the Esquire lawyers' insistence, to "just another Uncle Tom." Here it is restored to what I actually wrote, for better or worse--and I certainly think "psychedelic Uncle Tom" is more accurate than "just another Uncle Tom."

--Robert Christgau, Nov. 2002

"This is the love crowd, right? "One a.m. Sunday, the apogee of the Monterey International Pop Festival, and Otis Redding surveyed his audience: they were free and white, but were they twenty-one? In any case, they were cheering again.

"We all love each other, right?"

There was a roar of assent. Redding grinned. He had them right there.

"Am I right?"

"Yeah!" the crowd yelled.

"Let me hear you say yeah, then!" said Redding.

"Yeah!"

"All right," Redding said. Then, on some unheard but nevertheless precise beat, Redding began to . . . well, emote, part-singing, part-talking, part-moaning : "I've been [Steve Cropper lightly on guitar] loving you [pause] too long [lone shout from press section] to stop now," and The Mar-Keys started to blow, and the arena was in an uproar once again. Superspade was flying high.

Redding had come to Monterey with misgivings. The summer before he had played San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium to appreciative but restrained applause. Redding, a veteran entertainer who is a demigod on the soul circuit, is used to better than that, and anyway, the festival was only paying expenses. But finally, between the honor, charity, and an untapped market, he came, the only mainstream Negro performer to do so, and his success was exemplary. Of demigods, at least, this audience demanded nothing--no build, no work, no show. All Otis had to do was trot his big self onto the stage and rock into his rather medium-sized hit, "Shake," and he had made it, wham bam thank-you-ma'am. The rest of his act--the dancing, the chuckling, the running around, the whole image of masculine ease on which is career is based--was icing. They were just cheering him. The L.A. record exec in the velour turtleneck was up on his seat again, shouting "Heavy! Heavy!" Brian Jones felt the beginning of tears in his eyes. The cheap seats were standing. The love crowd was screaming its head off.

When Redding said "love crowd" he of course meant "hippies," which has long since stopped meaning anything. At one time Redding identified the hippies with that unresponsive audience at the Fillmore, by then no longer a hippie hangout; now, he thinks the hippies adored him at Monterey, although those screams were really left over from a lot of rock-and-roll shows in Santa Monica.

But there are no hippies--they have disappeared in an avalanche of copy. Most of the originals who were living in the Haight in 1966, when the journalists started nosing around, have fled from the bus tour and the LSD-Burgers and the panhandling flower children who will be back in school next semester. Those who remain do not conform to the stereotype any more than those who have left. They seem to have their share of ego, though on a more sophisticated level than, say, the average Reagan supporter, and they think a lot about "the movement." There really is a movement, administered by the media and inspired in a fairly direct way by those hard-core bohemian remnants who are still talking. The love crowd is as good a name for it as any.

The love crowd is America's affair with bohemia. Like the hippies, those shadow folk who will necessarily partake in what follows, it flourishes wherever the living is easy. In California--affluent, suburban, temperate, and close to the fabled Hashbury--it dominates teen-age life, but it is by no means confined to the lost kids who have migrated to the center for a season and their more conservative counterparts back home. It is everyone who is turned on by the hippies, in person and through the media, not only real dropouts but a lot of youngish liberals. It is college instructors who wear their hair kind of long, and lawyers whose wives like to show off their four years of modern in the flicker of a strobe, and all the people who read the Los Angeles Free Press or the Berkeley Barb. It's everyone who smokes pot, and in California that happens to be a lot of everyone.

Pot is one of the two adhesives that bind the truly disaffiliated to the teeny-boppers with ironed hair and the aging-at-twenty-seven rebels. The other is music. The new pop has an avocational fascination for them all, from the graduate Beatlemaniacs to the mourners of John Hurt and John Coltrane. And so the Monterey International Pop Festival became the first powwow of the love crowd, the perfect pastorale, chocked with music and warmhearted people. Its success was so unprecedented that it took everyone a little by surprise. You see, at the beginning nobody was really sure the love crowd was out there.

And chances are that by next summer it may have disappeared forever.

Ben Shapiro is an enterprising young-man-about-Hollywood who wishes there was a nicer word for packager. He has booked acts like Bob Dylan and Miles Davis and Peter, Paul & Mary; he has conceived movies like What's Up, Tiger Lily?; he has advised artists like Ravi Shankar. Last March, a well-heeled scene-maker named Alan Pariser went to Shapiro with an idea for an event based on Italy's San Remo Festival, a non-profit "music mart" of the serious creators and uncommitted experimenters in "mainstream music"--not only the Beach Boys and The Mamas and the Papas and Simon and Garfunkel, but sitar virtuoso Shankar. Record manufacturers would back the event only in return for artistic control. So Shapiro raised $50,000, started a profit corporation, obtained the state-owned Monterey Fairgrounds for June 16-18, signed Shankar, and he and Pariser got a hip publicist named Derek Taylor to help put the show together. Then Simon and Garfunkel hit town, it was time to firm things up, and Taylor, Pariser, and a guy named David Wheeler were sent to talk to John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas.

A few years ago, John Phillips was living with his wife on a slummy block in the East Village, making a decent living with a folk group called The Journeymen and thirsting for better things. By mid-1965, John and Michelle and a few others were in the Caribbean, subsisting (according to the myth) on handouts and somebody else's American Express card; six months later they had sold the tightest rock group anyone had ever heard to producer Lou Adler, who had recorded acts like Jan and Dean and Sam Cooke. One of the first hippie groups, The Mamas and the Papas have made a great deal of money. With the eccentric exception of Bob Dylan, Phillips is probably the finest songwriter America has given the new pop, which means even more royalties. Like all the supergroups, The Mamas and The Papas perform when they feel like it--an occasional concert or TV gig--and their price is in five figures. Shapiro offered $5,000. Festival or no festival, Phillips was not impressed.

Phillips is a quasi-bohemian in a position any bohemian would envy--he can screw the "establishment" and get away with it. There is so much money in rock that its big names have almost unlimited power, like the top movie stars, but people in rock are not much like movie stars. They are more like, you guessed it, hippies: fond of money, perhaps, but not enslaved by it; more loyal to their generation than to their business; careless of publicity--there was no hush-hush, for instance, Mama Cass has made a running stage joke about the paternity of her daughter, Owen; and libertarian about everything. The Shapiro-Pariser scheme was just hip show business, and Taylor, who has worked with The Beatles and is as much like the average P.R. man as Phillips is like Robert Goulet, knew it. So he was not surprised at Phillips' reaction; in fact, he rather respected it. And when Phillips and Paul Simon suggested a nonprofit Festival run and financed by artists, a kind of enormous weekend party and idea session, everyone agreed, especially as there was no other way to attract performers. A Board of Governors, including many top names--Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Brian Wilson--was formed, with Phillips and Lou Adler emerging as major movers. Soon after, Shapiro quit in a clash with Adler, who had just signed a deal with Columbia for his own label and is not noted for humility anyway. Shapiro suspected him, not unreasonably, of lust for contacts and prestige. In addition, he claimed that Adler wanted to transform the Festival from a "significant musical event" into a conglomeration of Top 40 acts.

That may have been what Adler wanted--indeed, there is a sense in which a pop festival should be just that--but it wasn't what happened. Instead, considering who was on the Board, it was only natural that the fit should be almost perfect. The Board's bias was clearly Californian and avant-garde. Teeny acts--Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Dave Clark Five--were not invited. There were only four English imports: an obscure folk singer named Beverly, somebody's protégée; a transplanted American Negro named Jimi Hendrix; Eric Burdon and the Animals, and The Who. The Stones and Donovan couldn't get work permits because of drug hang-ups in England, but other good groups--The Hollies, The Yardbirds--were ignored, and The Cream had a conflict in dates. From the East Coast there were Simon and Garfunkel, The Paupers, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and The Blues Project, with The Project capitalizing on the charisma of organist-vocalist Al Kooper. (Kooper broke with the group late in May; yet the group was well-received--better, in fact, than Kooper, who appeared as a single and also helped stage-manage.) The Young Rascals and The Lovin' Spoonful, both New York-based, pleaded prior engagements. Chances are The Spoonful, which has been on the wrong--that is, prosecution--side of a 'Frisco pot bust earlier in the year, wouldn't have been too anxious anyway, and The Rascals were later heard complaining about "a clique among music people." Other Eastern groups, like The Youngbloods and The Fugs, both with good album sales, weren't even considered.

Most disturbing was the paucity of Negro acts. Rock is basically black music; until The Beatles changed the world, eighty percent of the good stuff was Negro rhythm and blues. But Redding was the only straight R&B singer at Monterey, and his performance was curtailed because he was preceded by an L.A. cult hero from South Africa, Hugh Masekela, who played indifferent jazz trumpet and scratched through numbers like "Here, There and Everywhere" and "Society's Child" for fifty-five tedious minutes, the longest set of the festival. Lou Rawls and Dionne Warwick, the two nightclubbiest singers in soul, both signed, but Dionne was later forced out by the hotel she was working in San Francisco. The gospel-oriented Impressions agreed to come, but didn't show. Chuck Berry refused, as always, to perform free. Smokey Robinson of Motown Records was on the Board, but no Detroit artists appeared, Robinson's Miracles included, despite two dozen long-distance calls by the Los Angeles staff. The rumor spread that this was "whitey's festival."

In a way, it was. The house band, made up of top studio musicians, was integrated, and so were ten of the thirty acts, a significant trend. But every act at Monterey appealed to the hip white audience--even Redding is without question the love crowd's favorite soul singer, far ahead of James Brown or Wilson Pickett. The festival was dominated by what people in rhythm and blues lump under the term "folk-rock"--that is, serious white rock and roll. Until recently, this music has been based in Los Angeles, where most of this country's good studio work is done. Now the excitement has moved to San Francisco, where there are hundreds of experimental bands, all geared to live performance. Los Angeles music (which still sells the records, especially singles) is unmistakably white. The San Francisco bands try for a soulful sound, but they are more interested in urban blues (Muddy Waters, B.B. King) than in the more popular and commercial Negro music. Folk-rock performers seem uncomfortable with contemporary Negro music. Most of them like the best of it, or think they do, but they don't want to imitate it, especially since they know how pallid their imitation is likely to be. So they hone their lyrics and experiment with their instruments and come to regard artists like Martha and the Vandellas, say, as some wondrous breed of porpoise, very talented, but somehow . . . different. And their audience concurs. This attitude is anything but condescending (in fact, it is almost reverent), but the Negro performer, who prefers his music to any other, is understandably disinclined to regard himself as a cultural oddity.

In any case, when the final tally was in there were fourteen white acts from California on the program, seven from L.A. and seven from San Francisco, and that doesn't count the blues bands of Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield, both from Chicago but identified with California. Excitement began to grow, among the surfers on the Southland beaches and the lumpenhippies in the Hashbury and students and groupies and potheads everywhere. Rumors spread--Dylan and The Beatles would show, groups would jam together, proceeds would go to the sainted Diggers. Seats were not cheap ($3 to $6.50) but as long as the money was going back to the tribe, nobody cared. Those who had the means would pay fair exchange for the culture's one great financial resource, everybody else would groove for free, and the profits would be channeled back where they were needed most.

Actually, it had not been decided to give the money to the Diggers. The rumor got started, Taylor admits with typically disarming candor, one day when he was short a release for the underground press. Phillips had conferred with restaurateurs about feeding the hordes of penniless kids everyone had assumed would come, there had been talk of money going back, only talk, and in general the vibrations weren't so hot. Taylor misunderstood and wrote his release, it was picked up by the workaday press, the Diggers screamed that they didn't want the Festival's lucre (music belongs to everyone), and Mayor Minnie Coyle of Monterey nearly went through the roof.

Shapiro had obtained the Fairgrounds for a quiet, cultural affair, much like the annual jazz festival. The new Festival, now five weeks off, did not promise much quiet. Phillips was talking about drawing 100,000 kids, or 200,000. Ordinarily, events at the Fairgrounds are limited to arena ticket holders--there are no grounds admissions. The arena holds seventy-five hundred tops. That leaves a lot of flower children. Monterey Police Chief Frank Marinello had been unhappy about the Festival; when he heard his city was going to be invaded by every young nonconformist in California, he became much more unhappy. Mayor Coyle, an amiable grandmother in her second term, was particularly disturbed by this talk of Diggers in the papers. "If there are people hungry, feed them," she says, like the good liberal she is. "But don't advertise free food for everyone who wants it. That encourages youngsters to leave home."

On Monday, May 15, the Festival flew to Monterey for lunch, and Phillips--tall, balding, faintly Edwardian in his sparse beard--charmed the tiger. Everyone received a copy of the Articles of Incorporation: ". . . charitable, literary, and educational in nature and is particularly to initiate, sponsor, promote, and carry out plans and cultural and artistic activities which will tend to further . . . ." That didn't sound like any hippie get-together. Papa John assured the burghers that Festival profits would "not go to a hippie organization," and insisted that "the show is designed for those in the nineteen-to-thirty-five age group. We have omitted acts that draw the real young kids and our publicity has solicited family groups. We haven't invited the sort of acts that inspire acting up on the part of the audience. If that happens we'll pull them off the stage." A coordinating committee was formed, a local ticket outlet established, and everything was as good as it could be--the town, after all, had no choice. Phillips agreed to advertise that no grounds admissions would be sold; the town agreed to find accommodations for the inevitable unbelievers who would show up anyway.

But if the burghers were fairly happy, the anti-burghers were not. The Diggers were still bristling over Taylor's misuse of their good name. Several of the underground groups were beginning to feel used. They began to ask who was going to get the money, anyway? What about that $400,000 contract ABC had with Donn Alan Pennebaker to film everything? What was going on?

The trouble with San Francisco is that it isn't quite urbane enough. When it has to deal with uptight New York or plastic Los Angeles it loses its vaunted cool. There is a story that takes place at a jam session in Sausalito. Dewey Martin of The Buffalo Springfield, one of the least commercial L.A. groups, gets up to sing, and a guy in the back can't resist yelling, "Los Angeles pseudo-hippie, Los Angeles pseudo hippie." L.A. musicians have mixed feelings about San Francisco; most of them admire the music but distrust the mystique. San Franciscans respond with brickbats. "What Brian Wilson is doing is fine but it has no balls," one Jefferson Airplane told Richard Goldstein of The Village Voice. "Everything is prefabricated like the rest of that town. Bring them into the Fillmore and it just wouldn't work."

So, as June 16 approached, Chet Helms, chief of The Family Dog, which runs the Avalon Ballroom, and Dan Rifkin, wild-haired manager of The Grateful Dead, the band that developed such an underground reputation (and was so obviously indifferent to potential wealth) it could afford to dicker with three or four companies until Warner Brothers finally guaranteed absolute product control in a recording contract, were feuding with Adler. Are you gonna let the people on the Fairgrounds, Lou? What do you mean, for a buck? Music should be for everyone, Lou, those prices are ridiculous. These bands are all rich, why do you have to pay expenses? And everything first class, Lou. Is that movie Pennebaker's shooting for ABC gonna be distributed in theaters? The Dead have a booking Friday night in San Francisco, Lou, we can't make it Friday. Where are all those kids gonna crash, Lou?

Despite their tendency to overrate their own importance, the San Franciscans were right this time--the Angelenos needed them badly. "Be happy, be free; wear flowers, bring bells," the brochure read. In other words, act like hippies--and mingle with hippies. With the exception of Canned Heat, a blues band, and The Group With No Name, a throw-in, the L.A. groups were all hit-makers-- The Seeds, Love were not invited. The Doors were in New York. But some of the San Francisco groups had never even recorded. The whole setup was an implied bow to the "rock underground," which apparently only existed only up north. If you don't make it in L.A., you're just a flop.

But San Francisco did not appreciate the compliment. Dan Rifkin envisioned an enormous, secluded campground at Fort Ord--yes, Fort Ord, so the M.P.'s could protect them from the Highway Patrol--where all of the real groups would hold an anti-Festival, everyone streaming to the anti-Festival, where the real music was at. The Grateful Dead perform free much of the time, and so do many of the other groups in the Bay Area. Rifkin saw no reason why other good bands shouldn't do the same.

As Rifkin plotted in San Francisco, Chief Marinello alerted six hundred and fifty National Guardsmen training at Fort Ord to be prepared for trouble--at the Fairgrounds. The staff in L.A., mostly volunteers, was working frantically. Hell's Angels and soldiers were reported excluded. Radio stations featured interviews with Festival staff and performers, then warned listeners not to attend without tickets and accommodations. The Berkeley Barb swallowed the same shuck. The Beach Boys dropped out. The Byrds, who hadn't given a decent concert in a year, were reportedly practicing like mad, and some of the lesser acts seemed jumpy. The Festival office in L.A. was even jumpier. Nobody knew if it would come off, and just about everybody was worried.


It came off.

Crews began to set up amplification equipment and prepare the stage at the beginning of the week. On Thursday, an initial contingent of about twenty-five love people arrived, mostly by thumb, to work on the Fairgrounds in return for food, shelter in an unused building, and admission to the arena. Other workers had been recruited at Monterey Peninsula College, about a mile from the Fairgrounds. The College had also agreed to provide a camping area on its football field.

Next day the love crowd attacked in force. Traffic was jammed from midafternoon, not only with long-haired kids but with short-haired gawkers. Roads both north and south were jammed with hitchhikers, and getting a ride was never easier. The brochure had gently suggested that blankets might be useful, and most of those from up north took the advice, but sun people never seem to understand about cold weather in June--one gang of kids on the beach in Santa Monica decided to drive up at the last minute in nothing but swimsuits and shirts, and were not seen after Saturday. A small group of Hell's Angels roared in late Friday, and soldiers attended all concerts.

The gawkers were not disappointed. Those of the invaders who weren't in costume--cowboys and Indians was the favorite masquerade--wore spectacularly new or spectacularly old clothing, usually the latter. Bells, tambourines, beards, painted and decaled faces, bare feet and bare thighs were all in evidence. So was the smell of incense, and of course there were flowers. Long-hairs outnumbered short-hairs, despite twelve hundred press people (Taylor accredited everyone who asked), a lot of recording and radio professionals, and several thousand locals. (None of these groups bolstered the short-hair ranks as overwhelmingly as might be expected.) Despite Phillips' assurances, many of the celebrants looked under nineteen and not many were over thirty. The few families were very new ones.

As the crowd grew--there were at least 30,000 by Friday and estimates for the weekend ranged up to 90,000, with 55,000 a conservative figure--the police became more and more nervous. In addition to his own men, Marinello had called in a hundred extras from surrounding towns. He dismissed suggestions that they leave their guns at the gate and wear flowers instead, but by dusk there were quite a few be-flowered cops. What can you do when a barefoot girl comes up, smiles, and offers you a daisy? The love ethic was beginning to take hold.

The love ethic did not begin as an ethic, although it has certainly become one, with many would-be hippies murdering their own impulses to keep the law. It began as a feeling that it was possible to live without hassling everyone. The capacity for generous self-effacement is one of the things about the hippies that turns the love crowd on. But the day-to-day exigencies of almost everyone--including hippies--demand egoism, and so even among the love crowd love is often theoretical.

But Monterey was anything but a day-to-day situation. Except for the weather, which was damp and cool, it was totally benevolent. Those who came empty-handed despite all the warnings--because they knew someone from somewhere or trusted their own ingenuity or just didn't believe what they heard on the radio--were vaguely aware that a lot of attention was on them, that they had the law-men and plan-men worried. Once they shelled out grounds admission (a dollar, abandoned altogether by mid-Saturday) they had most of what they wanted. So they went on their best behavior, just to prove love could work, and they succeeded. All those who had come neutral or slightly apprehensive caught the mood, and the largest crowd in the history of the Monterey Peninsula became the best-behaved. There were simply no complaints. "At the Jazz Festival, sometimes I have to push people a little to get them to move," one cop said, "but here there's no trouble." Marinello started sending his reinforcements home on Saturday morning; before the last show had begun, a hundred of his three hundred men were gone. The rest had nothing to do but look at the funny people.

There was one thing they could have done. They could have risked the fury of the love crowd and made marijuana arrests. State narcs made the sole pickup--two boys, obviously stoned, who according to Marinello were released for lack of evidence--but though the good aroma of California grass was everywhere, Marinello's men did nothing about it. Nor did they seize any of the thousands of acid tabs that were distributed free all weekend. There are even stories of policemen walking away from obvious turn-on sessions; in one, the cop goes so far as to empty a vial into the bushes, shake his finger at the offender, and intone, "Be cool." Marinello admits there was some smoking but insists the lawbreakers were "too smart in hiding it" to permit any arrests. Actually, the people who are smart in hiding it attend the Jazz Festival. Pot has always been a part of jazz, and though there is considerable boozing at the Jazz Festival, there is considerable marijuana as well--in cars and rest rooms and motels, not out in the open like that. But once the love crowd felt the vibrations it abandoned paranoia, initiating an argument for the legalization of marijuana that would do Leslie Fiedler proud. Love worked. But the pot helped, too.


The real turn-on, though, was the music--twenty-two hours of it, divided into solid chunks that usually ran more than thirty minutes. Friday night was the epitome of what San Francisco calls plastic, but it didn't matter. The almost offensively collegiate Association (long-hair collegiate, but collegiate) did their potsong qua lovesong, "Along Comes Mary," and a ditty called "Enter the Young," and a lot of tightly arranged songs and unfunny patter, and got good applause. Lou Rawls went through an entire nightclub act--"On A Clear Day You Can See Forever," "Autumn Leaves," everything--and got an ovation for being a soulful spade. Eric Burdon and the Animals played a blues-rock set (including a rendition of "Gin House Blues" that was the ultimate anti-alky statement--Eric introduced it as "a song of the past") and brought down the house. And Simon and Garfunkel closed with their finely wrought, one-unaccompanied-acoustic-guitar-and-two-sweet-sensitive-voices routine and had to return for an encore. Except for Burdon and the unknown (and excellent) Paupers, none of the show was really rock. But the audience--not just the arena, but far, far back behind the cyclone fence at the rear, or wandering down the grassy midway between rows of concessions, examining the jewelry and light works and underground newspapers and listening over the P.A.--loved it. They would have loved anything.

There is a lot of talk about the new audience for rock--critical, unhysterical, intelligent. The Festival was predicated on such talk. But the issue is more complicated. The love crowd is an intelligent and mature audience, but its attitude toward intelligence and maturity is stubbornly emotional and childlike. It reveres enthusiasm. It is made up of teenagers who have no great desire to grow up and adults who have never completely renounced their adolescence. And like any kids, they know how to enjoy a good time--once the vibrations establish themselves, it's uncool to cause static. That doesn't mean the audience was totally uncritical--Laura Nyro and The Group With No Name were adjudged unqualified bummers by all, and three or four other acts aroused only lukewarm response. But there was lots of autohype as well.

Autohype is the process whereby the audience responds to itself rather than what is happening on the stage. On Friday, for instance, the bassist for The Paupers, Dennis Gerrard, a stubby bullfrog with bulging eyes that seem to rise clear out of his head when he gets going, started fooling around with the feedback--The Paupers really know how--and gradually worked into an unanticipated solo. It was good--Gerrard is the most expressive bassman I've ever heard in a rock band, one of the few to explore the kind of facility the electric bass was invented to provide--and he kept going, his eyes half-closed and showing nothing but white, and after a couple of good stretches he got scattered applause. Then he appeared to finish and was cheered enthusiastically. But Gerrard wasn't through yet. He turned to the amplifier, doubling the cord so he got shuddering interference on every note, and played some more, not so well this time, but very intensely, perhaps even hoking it up consciously, and now, although the whole solo was turning into an exhibition, the place really broke up, unable to withstand the impulsion of its own excitement.

The love crowd also reacted easily to preconceived symbols--the spade, the supergroup, the guru. On Saturday, underground day, eight bands played, and seven of them did straight electric blues or blues-oriented rock. The first big hit was Janis Joplin of Big Brother and The Holding Company, a good old girl from Port Arthur, Texas, who may be the best rock singer since Ray Charles--that means since the beginning, brother--with a voice that is two-thirds Bessie Smith and one-third Kitty Wells, and fantastic stage presence. Her left nipple erect under her knit pants suit, looking hard enough to put out your eye as she rocked and stomped and threatened any moment to break the microphone, or swallow it. She got the only really big nonhype reaction of the weekend, based solely on her sweet, tough self. That was about two o'clock. By five, it was getting pretty hard to tell good blues from mediocre blues. I am told The Steve Miller Blues Band, which played seventh, was excellent, but although I was sitting twenty feet away I remember nothing about them except Mike Bloomfield's group, The Electric Flag, followed.

Chet Helms had been emceeing most of the day, but John Philips introduced Bloomfield: "One of the two or three best guitar players in the world." I think that's excessive, but many don't. Bloomfield is a legend. He was the first lead guitar for the first white blues band, Paul Butterfield's. Soon he was the real star of the band. Early this year he quit and started his own outfit, and this was its first performance. There were cries of anticipation in the audience, most of which agreed with Phillips and the rest of which believed him. My head hurt and I walked to mid-arena to watch. Singing lead was a great fat Negro with an enormous pompadour. He also played drums, and his name was Buddy Miles. Miles is a great shouter. Bloomfield's solos were fine, but the show just disappeared from under him. Miles let someone else sing and just drummed for one number and when he came back to sing some more the audience was screaming. After four-and-a-half hours of blues, one more bluesman just knocked everyone out. Miles really didn't seem to want an encore--perhaps the band's repertoire was too thin--but the cheering kept up until a girl literally pushed him back from the wings. It was very exciting.

Now, Miles was very good, but he was no better--or not much better, anyway--than the guy who sang with Canned Heat to open the show. Since Miles closed the show, the extra applause was natural. But position wasn't the only reason he got it. He got it because he was with Bloomfield, who was so excited he looked as if he were about to blow up like a balloon. He got it because he was, as the Los Angeles Free Press so delicately put it, "a raunchy black mound"-- after all those hours of white blues, he could finally give everyone the real thing. And he got it because the audience heard itself applauding, deduced that it was approaching hysteria, and slipped right over the line. That was what happened when Otis Redding came on that night, and Jefferson Airplane, too, although in each of those cases it was based on name as well, and although both Redding and the Airplane gave really great shows. In another form, it happened to Ravi Shankar next afternoon.

Shankar was a remnant of the Pariser-Shapiro Festival. Although he is an important figure in the new rock, which has been showing Oriental influences for several years, it isn't likely that Phillips or Adler would have thought of him on their own. Shankar is the finest classical musician in India and possibly the world and is very sensitive about his stature--his hackles rise at the mention of "Indian folk music" and he has no use for rock, despite his guru-disciple relationship with George Harrison. He has no use for drugs either, insisting that his audience abstain even from tobacco during a recital so as to devote full attention to music. Shankar's concert was the only one not sold out weeks ahead.

The no-smoking rule was obeyed respectfully, though who knows how much of the audience got stoned beforehand. I think a lot of people must have attended (like me) out of curiosity. In any case, there was not much sophistication evident. After Shankar tuned his sitar--a process that takes about twenty minutes--the audience rewarded him with applause. Shankar beamed. Then he did what I'm told was a flashy, rather easy raga. There was a thunderous ovation. The music filtered over the superb loudspeaker system, and slowly people began to buy tickets to come in and watch. It isn't likely that a third of those present had more than the most rudimentary understanding of what was going on. But Shankar played to his audience. He complimented them on their choice of incense, threw back their orchids, and geared his invention (raga is nine-tenths improvisation) to what he knew would delight them. Before he was through he had a full house. That's the good kind of autohype, the obverse of showmanship. It takes a very warm audience to open itself the way the love crowd did. Of course, when someone who looked like Paul McCartney walked down the aisle during the final section of the concert, the whole house craned for a peek. But you can't ask for everything.


The same mood of sanguine goofiness characterized the whole weekend. Everything was beautiful. Those who had money spent it on food and trinkets--corn on the cob and a metallic pinwheel were big sellers. But the Los Angeles Diggers were there with free fruit, so no one went very hungry. Sleep was the same. Motel beds were full, and floors were often occupied. One local designated his field a "Sleep-In" and charged a buck to park the night. The lazy just rolled out their gear on the Fairgrounds. But the hip core of kids hiked over to the designated sleeping area at Monterey Peninsula College, where Dan Rifkin had set up his anti-Festival.

There were concerts at the football field Saturday afternoon, but the big action was that night, after Otis Redding had sent everyone to sleep happy. A flatbed had been converted into a sound truck, and as I arrived, some time after two, an anonymous group was testing the power. Near the truck the audience reclined in sleeping bags or blankets, some dozing. A hundred feet away there was a ring of standees ten deep, and beyond that a sea of sleeping bags stretching into the darkness. I waded through, stepping carefully, as one of the band members called for a B-flat harmonica. Cigarettes glowed here and there and every once in a while I was hit with a whiff of pot. Couples who hadn't reached the age of consent slept in each other's arms. Someone was at the controls of the scoreboard and was running an impromptu light show: 36-37-38-39 . . . . There was giggling, murmuring. The musician blew into one instrument and called the donor back: "Hey, man, you sure this harp is B-flat?" The music began. It was mediocre, but everybody dug it anyway.

Sunday afternoon I decided to inspect the football field again. Traffic was heavy, so I left my car parked and hitchhiked. Four high-school kids from a small town in the Sacramento Valley picked me up. They wanted to know if I was holding any grass. The Festival was great, only someone had stolen their blankets.* [* A common complaint. If the churl who removed my sweatshirt and blanket from the press room Saturday night will send them to Esquire, he will enhance my opinion of the human race.] They had been up at the football field until it started to rain, then slept sitting in the car. The greatest thing was about four in the morning, when a new singer came on. They had been half asleep and were far from the bandstand; for a moment, they couldn't make out who it was. Then:

"It was Eric Burdon, man. I couldn't believe it, Eric Burdon, it was like a dream. It was all foggy and looked like a dream, you know? I really dig Eric Burdon."

We reached the football field. It was completely abandoned--not a scrap, not a sleeping bag, not a soul. The kids told me most of the crowd had slept through the rain, then rose at eight or nine, wiped off the mud, and trooped back to the Fairgrounds. They took me to the road and turned for Pacific Grove. Some crazy chick had let them all take showers in her house that morning. Maybe she'd have some pills or something.

I walked back, making better time than the cars, my shaggy hair blowing in the breeze. An elderly couple in a Pontiac pulled over and honked. I saw no way to refuse the ride. Traffic backed up for two hundred yards as the husband reached back to open the door. The proprietary gleam in his eye told me he thought he had a live one. He seemed disappointed when he learned I was only a reporter, then perked up as his wife asked questions. Who were they? Why did they? What had they?

I offered standard answer number three: essentially religious blah-blah, never had to cope with the material environment blah-blah, self-indulgent sure, self-pity sure, drugs both good and blah-blah-blah. They were disappointed when I had to get out.

"Tell me just one thing," the man said. "Do they believe in the one great God, Jehovah?"

I told him I didn't know.


Even before the last concert began there was a sense of something ending. A few had already left. Many who had hitched coming were setting up rides home. One of the ushers with the uniform "Seat Power, We Love You" hatband also wore a sign that said "Oregon?" (He got his ride.) Starting time was seven-thirty and, as usual, it was accurate. The Blues Project did a short set. Janis Joplin and Big Brother came back for a reprise. The Group With No Name bored everyone into thinking them up: The Lead Balloon, Grundy's Kite Tree, The Bummer, Lou Adler's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Dave Crosby of The Byrds sat in with The Buffalo Springfield, the only such admixture of the festival. Then The Who came on.

The Who is one of the finest groups in England but has never fired in the States. Leader Pete Townshend has gone so far as to attempt an opera and is an exceptional rock guitarist. While fooling around with feedback, he invented a stage technique that was eventually adapted (with The Yardbirds--because, Townshend claims, his group was too difficult to manipulate) by Antonioni for Blow-up. For over a year of steady performance in Europe, Townshend ended every act by smashing his guitar into the amplifiers while Keith Moon attacked his drums and Roger Daltry hit things with the mike.

Welcoming applause was rather light, but as always the group put on a good show. Moon is a spectacular drummer to watch, with a lot of armcrossing and a trick of bouncing one stick ten feet off the snare, then catching it on the beat. Townshend flailed his guitar as if he were sending semaphore signals. And Daltry, wearing a fringed shawl that looked about fifty years old, did the group's best songs--"Substitute" ("I'm a substitute for another guy/ I look pretty tall but my heels are high/ The simple things you see are all complicated/ Look pretty young but I'm just back-dated/ Yeah"); the little opera, "A Quick One While He's Away"; the one major U.S. hit, "Happy Jack"; and the current single, "Pictures of Lily"; and Eddie Cochrane's "old rock and roller," "Summertime Blues." But although they performed in a class just below the top of the Festival, the audience wasn't with them.

Then they did "My Generation." The song is not what you'd think of as flower music; it is raucous, hard-driving, hostile ("People try to put us d-d-down/ Just because we g-g-get around/ Things they do look awful c-c-cold/ Hope I die before I get old/ My generation/ My generation, baby"). But then, no blues-based music is flowery in the obvious sense. "My Generation" really caught the crowd, and somewhere among the refrains the destruction started. The rumor is that The Who is bored with the whole routine--Townshend reportedly uses a breakaway guitar that can be repaired for the price of a neck--but they were obviously up for this audience. As bassist John Entwistle kept the beat, Daltry crashed his mike against the cymbals and Townshend thrashed the amplifiers. A smoke bomb exploded. The audience was in pandemonium and the stage crew, which had been magnificent all weekend, was worse. One hero tried to save a mike and nearly lost his head to Townshend's guitar. Lou Adler, frantic and furious, protected one set of amplifiers. The love crowd was on its feet, screaming and cheering. Backstage, Jimi Hendrix muttered about encores.

But the task of following The Who fell to The Grateful Dead. Originally scheduled for Friday, seen lurking in the wings until Buddy Miles broke things up Saturday afternoon, The Dead finally made their appearance in a sunburst of San Francisco warm. "You know what foldin' chairs are for, don't you?" asked Bob Weir, his dirty blond hair hanging down past his shoulder blades and over his face. "They're for foldin' up and dancin' on." As the group drifted into "Viola Lee Blues," the hangers-on in the wings started to dance, slowly gravitating toward the center of the stage, and some of the audience got up as well. Adler's compulsive streak was really beginning to show. He was mad. Before too long he helped the stagehands hustle the dancers off, and the ushers did the same in the aisles. There was no resistance per se, but everyone was annoyed. The Dead looked as if they might leave the stage themselves. Then Peter Tork came on.

Tork, the ineffectual Monkee, had surprised everyone by emceeing part of Friday night and drawing a good many teeny shrieks. The surprise was because Tork had written a little thing in the program that began: "We wanted to do this Festival, only we're in England now as the Festival goes on. We won't even be able to watch." But both he and Micky Dolenz (in an ancestral Indian headdress) were around all weekend doing their best to be likable. The Monkees have inferiority problems. Ever since their first album appeared with someone else playing the instruments, most of the people in rock have snickered at everything about them except their music. In San Francisco they are regarded as the height of L.A. plastic. "I was rapping with that guy backstage before," a member of one San Francisco entourage said, handing me a joint as Tork waited for the audience to quiet. "His head is really nowhere."

Tork's mission was to quash a small riot. All weekend there had been Beatle rumors--their equipment was backstage, they were holed up in a motel, they were mingling incognito ("disguised as hippies," Derek Taylor said). The Beatles are kings of the love crowd, and everyone wanted desperately to catch a glimpse of them. Now some kids were trying to get in backstage and hunt. Who better than a second-hand Beatle to stop them?

"People," Tork said, "this is me again. I hate to cut things down like this, but, uh, there's a crowd of kids--and this is to whom I'm talking mostly, to whom, are you ready for that?--and, um, these kids are like crowding around over the walls and trying to break down doors and everything thinking The Beatles are here . . . ."

Phil Lesh could no longer resist. Lesh, The Dead's bass player, is twenty-nine, classically trained, a Bay Area native, and there, right there, stood Los Angeles, this square, manufactured teen idol, the mouthpiece of safe and sane Adlerism, everything Lesh had hated all his life.

"This is the last concert, why not let them in anyway?"

". . . and, um, last concert, all right, except that they're trying to break things down, crawling over ceilings and walls and like, they think The Beatles are here and they're not, you, those of you, they can come in if they want."

"The Beatles aren't here, come in anyway," Lesh said.

There were cheers. Tork laughed nervously, mumbled, "Uh, yeah, there's great things happening anyway. "

"If The Beatles were here they'd probably want you to come."

"Yeah, except that, uh, just don't, you know, bring down ceilings and walls and everything, and, uh, carry on."

The cheering was for Lesh, and Tork knew it. As he limped off, crowds of non-ticket holders pressed through the rear gates and filled the empty field behind the stadium. The "Seat Power, We Love You" college kids did not try to stop them, and The Dead did the carrying on, much enlivened. By the end of the set Weir and Jerry Garcia were riffing back and forth in the best guitar-playing of the Festival.

It becomes clearer and clearer that the so-called psychedelic sound is moving toward jazz. San Francisco rock is basically Chicago and Texas blues plus electronic music, and Chicago blues is primitive jazz. Also, the structure of jazz meshes with the whole bias of the San Francisco scene toward "freedom." The problem is that rock is much easier to play than blues and blues is much easier to play than jazz. Anyone can pick up an electric guitar and sound a few chords, but it takes real musicianship, not to mention a special kind of creative talent, to improvise melody. There was some good blues guitar at the Festival--Bloomfield and his replacement in Butterfield's band, Elvin Bishop, were excellent. Dennis Gerrard of The Paupers and Jim Gurley of Big Brother played some good electronic stuff. John Weider of The Animals contributed a fine violin solo with "Paint it Black." And that was it. Garcia and Weir were arresting, no more, but that was enough to make them the standout improvisers of the Festival.

But their performance was quickly obscured by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hendrix is a Negro from Seattle who was brought from Greenwich Village to England by ex-Animal Chas Chandler in January. It was a smart move. England, like all of Europe, thirsts for the Real Thing, as performers from Howlin' Wolf to Muhammad Ali have discovered. Hendrix picked up two good English sidemen and crashed the scene. He came to Monterey recommended by the likes of Paul McCartney. He was terrible.

Hendrix is a psychedelic Uncle Tom. Don't believe me, believe Sam Silver of The East Village Other: "Jimi did a beautiful Spade routine." Hendrix earned that capital S. Dressed in English fop mod, with a ruffled orange shirt and red pants that outlined his crotch to the thirtieth row, Jimi really, as Silver phrased it, "socked it to them." Grunting and groaning on the brink of sham orgasm, he made his way through five or six almost indistinguishable songs, occasionally flicking an anteater tongue at that great crotch in the sky. He also played what everybody seems to call "heavy" guitar; in this case, that means he was loud. He was loud with his teeth and behind his back and between his legs, and in case anyone still remembered The Who, Hendrix had a capper. With his back to the audience, Hendrix humped the amplifier and jacked the guitar around his midsection, then turned and sat astride his instrument so that its neck extended like a third leg. For a few tender moments he caressed the strings. Then, in a sacrifice that couldn't have satisfied him more than it did me, he squirted it with lighter fluid from a can held near his crotch and set the cursed thing afire. The audience scrambled for the chunks he tossed into the front rows. He had tailored a caricature to their mythic standards and apparently didn't even overdo it a shade. The destructiveness of The Who is consistent theater, deriving directly from the group's defiant, lower-class stance. I suppose Hendrix's act can be seen as a consistently vulgar parody of rock theatrics, but I don't feel I have to like it. Anyhow, he can't sing.


The Mamas and the Papas, who can, provided the perfect anticlimax, a feathery landing back into the world of music, love, and flowers. (Oh yeah--music, love, and flowers.) Outfitted in royal robes, with Mama Cass fatter than ever in a shift--"Somebody asked me today when I was gonna have the baby. That's funny"--and Philips beaming like the great father of his tribe, they bestowed their blessings on all of us. "Hasn't this been something?" Cass began. "Something we can be proud of. Everybody. We're gonna have this every year, you know. You all can stay if you want. I think I might."

The act was familiar. "Straight Shooter," "California Dreamin'," "I Call Your Name," "Monday, Monday." Scott McKenzie came on and did Los Angeles' version of the hippies, a top five song, "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers in Your Hair)," written by John Phillips, produced by John Phillips and Lou Adler. Then, "Dancin' in the Streets": "Philadelphia, Pee Ay/ Baltimore and D.C. now/ Don't forget the Motor City/ Way down in L.A.," and they cut it, and the Festival was over.

Thirty minutes later a dozen stragglers were still on the Fairgrounds, jumping up and down, or dancing, to a dozen different rhythms, or none at all. Others banged on trashcan drums. A cop approached warily and asked them to cool it.

"How come?" one of the kids asked. "We're not hurting anyone."

Uh-oh, the cop thought. He offered some dreary facts of life--people sleeping, maintenance crew had to work, etc.--and the kid thought for a second. The cop was still a cop, and he was afraid of trouble.

"I guess you're right," the kid said. Soon they had all gone.

Then there was aftermath. Mama Cass was right--the Festival was something for everyone to be proud of, even to the least teeny-bopper. The press was ecstatic, with the trades and underground and teen magazines and big city dailies echoing Newsweek: "They landed at Monterey last week and built a city of sound, a hippie heaven of soul and rock and blues and funk." But no one stopped to wonder how soul and rock and blues and funk meshed with the "peace and acceptance" (Newsweek again) of Monterey. The new rock has very little of peace and acceptance about it. To the adolescent defiance of the Fifties has been added not only whimsy and occasional loveliness, but social consciousness and the ironic grit of the blues. The big beat has been augmented by dissonance, total volume, and a science fiction panoply of electronic effects. But the paradox is on the surface. Music is how the love crowd mediates with an unfriendly environment. And Monterey was their perhaps simple-minded stab at a replacement, a little utopia to show the bad old world it might be done.

But in Monterey, where the example should have had its strongest effect, a kind of post-hallucinatory reaction set in. Mayor Minnie Coyle had faced the press Saturday afternoon and told us our music was a pleasant surprise and our crowd just wonderful. Sunday Chief Marinello appeared and was even friendlier. He said he had "never encountered such peace-loving people" and planned to tour the Haight first chance. On Monday, after everyone had gone, Mayor Coyle announced that she had drafted a resolution for the city council. Its purpose: to prevent the State Fair Board from booking any event that would attract more than two thousand visitors without the permission of the city. In other words, no more Pop Festivals. A week later, Chief Marinello of the "Flower Fuzz," inundated with thank-you letters, described his admirers as lawbreakers who had avoided capture and said he agreed with Mayor Coyle.

Personalities enter here. Mayor Coyle is said to be hurt because she wasn't seated on the Festival Board (with Donovan and Jim McGuinn?). Marinello is a bit worried about his reputation. But while the only businessmen who oppose the Festival as a group are the bar owners, there is scattered opposition everywhere. Townspeople who hope the love crowd returns--and there are many--are sure the proffered excuses, which revolve in a narrow ellipse around lack of space and lack of kulchuh, are only covers for the real problem, which is style.

Especially if the difference between marijuana and alcohol is granted to be mostly a matter of legality and taste, style is the whole problem. The success of the Festival wasn't merely a matter of love. Without organization--at once very tight and remarkably unautocratic, which is to say, intelligent--it might have been a shambles. The stage crew was the most efficient I've ever seen. The sound system was flawless. Head Lights, brought in from San Francisco to do the rear-projection light show, had prepared brilliantly. And Phillips kept every promise he made to the town. It was as if he and Adler and Paul Simon and all the others wanted to say: "See, you can have the best of both worlds." When it came time to distribute the $200,000 profits, sentiments leaned not toward the Los Angeles Diggers, nor Monterey (which claimed $4,000 in unpaid traffic-control expenses outside the grounds--overbalanced, incidentally, by a record $18,000 in food-concession revenues) but to some kind of ghetto program. In the end a minimum of $50,000 went to the New York City Youth Board for guitar lessons in the ghetto. A tentative scholarship program for Negro music students was arranged with Atlantic Records and a sop for the Monterey Symphony Orchestra was considered. This from the dropout culture. It seemed an unspectacular end for all that lovely money.

But the love crowd doesn't want anything spectacular. It just wants peace, tolerance, and the chance to work things out for itself. If Monterey doesn't want the Festival, well, the Festival isn't so sure it wants Monterey either. Repeating yourself is just a big drag, anyway. Entrepreneurs in the East are talking about holding their own Festival, in New York or Boston. Phillips has considered London and Stockholm. And Victoria, Australia, has offered to pay for everything if the Festival will come to Melbourne next summer.

It won't be Monterey over again. The love crowd may never come together again. But something will happen, which is all that matters.

Esquire, Jan. 1969