Thursday, March 22, 2007 was 40 years ago today...

Okay, okay, it wasn't actually "40 years ago today", but I needed a good rhyme. Coincidentally, that's what you need, for the most part, if you're a good songwriter, or a performer in search of a good song. That's my crude way of tying in all that's come before, to what's coming up in this post. Basically, I'm writing about the MONTEREY POP FESTIVAL that was held in the summer of '67, so if you can hang on for a half-year, yes, it will be "40 years ago". No, I didn't go. I lived in a small North Idaho town, with conservative parents..."did I go?" Are you kidding? I was only 13 at the time. But what I heard of the music, I really liked it.

But, in North Idaho, the radio didn't really play an awful lot of Otis Redding. The first song I ever heard by him was "Dock Of The Bay", recorded after Monterey, a day or two before he died when his airplane unceremoniously crashed into a lake. And, I didn't even hear Hendrix until after "Monterey"; his great version of "All Along The Watchtower" didn't come out until 1968. Local radio didn't play a whole lotta Hendrix, either. Maybe I'm morbid, but I've developed an interest in collecting music by old dead rock stars. As a result, I have a bunch of Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix albums, and I love 'em all. Of course, when I went away to college (University of Idaho, big deal), I got exposed to all kinds of heavy music I'd never heard before. And I loved it all, and that's where I really started record collecting; now I have tons of music by unknown English, European and American rock groups. But I'm starting to drift here...

This album was ironically released in 1970, just before Hendrix died. And three years after Redding went to that great soul train in the sky. This is the album that documents (most of) Jimi's Monterey set, as well as all of Otis' performance. On this album, you'll find Jimi's live performance of "Wild Thing" (which he introduces as the combined English/American Anthem), and towards the end of the song, there's all kinds of rude, overmodulated, twisted noise, which is the sound his guitar was making AS HE SET IT ON FIRE. Now, it doesn't make an awful lot of sense on record; you had to be there to SEE it. Well, I wasn't, but I got a 3-DVD set of Monterey Pop Festival performances, and there's Jimi, trashing his guitar.

He kneels over it, pours lighter fluid on it, and sets it on fire. And, after that, he picks up his guitar and SMASHES IT INTO THE STAGE, and then throws the assorted shattered guitar-parts into the audience. Spellbinding, historic, and maybe just a little bit scary. And when I think of all those expensive instruments Hendrix and the Who destroyed back in the early days; it's enough to make grown men weep. But all that weird noise from Hendrix' shattered guitar makes more sense when you can see it happen. BANG! WHAM! SCREEEEEEEECH!!! (That last exclamation is the sound his guitar makes.)

Otis Redding's concert performance was a true revelation for me. I'd read so much about him over the years, and everyone wrote about how great he was, but I had no idea of what they were talking about until I saw Otis' Monterey performance. He was the last performer you'd expect at a love-peace festival, with all the long hair, caftans, miniskirts, etc...but there he was, smartly dressed, with a smartly dressed Memphis backing band, and boy, did he give off the energy. He begins with the old Sam Cooke song, "SHAKE!!!!!", continues thru "Respect" (which Aretha Franklin also recorded)...and, then he amazes everyone by doing the old Stones' song, (I CAN'T GET NO) SATISFACTION...that had to be the VERY LAST thing you'd expect him to do...and he tears it to pieces and puts it back together at a frantic pace...he gave everything he had at Monterey. Six months later, the plane crash. A true tragedy. He was on the brink of superstardom.

Anyway, I bought bunch of old records from a friend a few months ago, and the Monterey album (pictured above) was among those. I needed a good copy; the old copy I had was full of wear, tear, scratches and skips. And I played it tonite, and thought, "wow, they don't do this kind of stuff anymore". Well, of course not. They're both DEAD. But that's not what I meant...musicians, in general, just don't do this type of stuff anymore. But Monterey showcased plenty of variety...Canned Heat (blues), Jefferson Airplane (psychedelia), Hugh Masekela (jazz), The Byrds (oh yeah!), and on and on. A couple of years ago, I bought a 3-DVD "special edition" of Monterey. I'm not sure if it's available anymore, but I have seen single-DVD packs of the "Monterey Pop Festival Movie" and Jimi Hendrix/Otis Redding in Concert. I love DVD's. I think they're so cool. They can instantly take you back, back, waaaay back.

What you'll miss on that third DVD, if you can't locate the three-DVD set, are "out-take performances", some good, some so-so, but it gives the viewer a chance to see just how wide of a scope that the musicians at Monterey represented. On that DVD, are such acts as Quicksilver Messenger Service, Buffalo Springfrield, Simon & Garfunkel, The Association, The Electric Flag, PLUS (and you don't wanna miss this) TINY TIM, entertaining all of the other musicians backstage. Tiny Tim. Only in the 60's! Also, you might remember that Eric Burdon and the Animals wrote a song about "Monterey"..."even the cops grooved with you believe me, YEAH!!!" Eric sings, as the band plays on.


So what brought this on? I needed something to write about. And, looking at the dates, I realized that it was indeed...(almost) 40 years ago. Do you feel old yet? I think I do.


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