A documentary account of the Monterey International Pop Festival of 1967, where many of the most important bands of the late 1960's performed.
The Californian Monterey Pop Festival is nowadays overshadowed by the hippy dream of Woodstock and the hippy nightmare of Altamont. However, the array of talent on show here makes D.A. Pennebaker's film a valuable document of its time.
After a semi-animated title sequence, we hear Scott MacKenzie crooning "If You're Going To San Francisco" over a montage of the festival-goers, some of whom really do have flowers in their hair. Then it begins its race through the concert highlights with a variety of performers; it can go from the gentle folkiness of Simon and Garfunkel to the jazz rhythms of Hugh Masakela in a matter of a couple of minutes.
The Who rush headlong through "My Generation" and we are treated to the sight of Pete Townshend smashing up his guitar as the concerned roadies bustle onto the stage to salvage some of the borrowed equipment. Otis Redding is effortlessly charismatic as he gives a show-stopping rendition of "I've Been Loving You To Long". Janis Joplin looks very pleased with herself after blaring her way thorugh "Ball and Chain".
But the most famous sequence, and the most celebrated part of the festival, is Jimi Hendrix, shown here performing "Wild Thing". Some of his antics include breaking into "Strangers in the Night" halfway through the song and playing the guitar behind his back. And, not to be outdone by the Who, he not only smashes up his guitar, but sets fire to it first.
The audience look shocked at Hendrix, which makes a nice change from the usual blissed-out expressions we continually see on their faces throughout the movie. Which can get kind of annoying, especially on the rare occasions that we get to hear them speak - they seem so naive, now. But there's a tinge of sadness here, too, when you're reminded that within a few short years many of the people on stage would be dead before their time.
After Jimi, the film winds down with a bit of Ravi Shankar. Well, quite a lot of Ravi Shankar, actually. On the whole, Monterey Pop is a good nostalgia piece and a nice memento of the enduring music of 1967. Also with: a cheeky monkey.
More of the Who's performance can be seen on the 'Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B' DVD. They don't sound as good as they usually do, largely because they were using Vox amplifiers at Monterey and they were used to HiWatts.