Stay Tuned By Stan Cornyn: Summer Of Love
Every Tuesday and Thursday, former Warner Bros. Records executive and industry insider Stan Cornyn ruminates on the past, present, and future of the music business.
The actual date of 1967’s Summer’s peak was the evening of June 18, 1967. On that evening, sitting in the grandstand, though not together, were Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler, Columbia’s Clive Davis and Goddard Lieberson, A&M’s Jerry Moss, and Warner/Reprise’s Mo Ostin. (I was down on the main floor, stage left.)
Many more from the record/music business were backstage. There it was chummy. Free food from the barbecue back there. Over the June 18 weekend, over 30 worthwhile record acts performed on stage, and connected back stage. On stage were 100,000 orchids, flown in from Hawaii by Mama Michelle Phillips (“never mind the expense”). Outside the Fairground, an abundance of sheriffs stood by, with flowers in their hair.
This weekend was the biggest ever of nearly everything. Bigger than Woodside. Bigger than Beatles. Buses of teens-to-twenties, here from everywhere buses were legal.
Roaming the Fairgrounds: maybe (some guessed) 200,000 of our young, lured there by music:
If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear flowers in your hair
The Monterey International Pop Festival was on stage, changing what “records” would mean, as we attended the Festival’s three days of the New Age of popular music. What was going on got to everybody, it even got to Jerry and Clive and Mo.
They, too, felt the moment, heard the future, and got out their artist signing pens. Here’s why:
First Up: The Association
In 1967, Warner Bros. Records had bought Valiant Records, a small label, because (mostly) of a new sextet of singers called The Association. They were managed by Lou Adler, a co-producer of the Monterey Pop Festival.
So Lou put them on stage first. They wore suits and ties. Their opening songs – “Along Comes Mary” and “Windy” – symbolized today’s pop music. The Association sounded full and well-blended, even though dressing in suits and ties looked odd to the tie-dye set out front. Even if they were just up from L.A. (So were the Mamas & The Papas, and Buffalo Springfield, and The Byrds…).
But The Association were the Festival’s openers. Safe and full of good sound.
In the stands, Mo felt at ease. The Association were signed to W/R. Mo, like everyone else in the stands, had no idea what the next two days would bring. So, relax. But the group’s “Windy” was about to chart #1 on the first of July, 1967.
To HEAR the warmth of The Association, watch this:
Friday night turned out to be a gentle night: it closed with Simon & Garfunkel.
Walking back to your room after Friday night, if you were lucky enough to have pre-registered for an actual room-with-bed, your stroll took you through the large number of Monterey cops, now wearing begonias instead of billy clubs. You strolled through the Fairgrounds’ 21 acres, through a warm, sea-bordering area a hundred miles south of Haight-Ashbury. Around you were thousands of young pilgrims who’d found Monterey on their own, who’d tonight sleep out on the fair grounds, in tents, over in rented parking lots, in communes, doing co-everything together.
And no trouble anywhere. Or as one sheriff’s deputy said about Monterey this weekend, “We’ve had more trouble at PTA conventions.”
Try to get some sleep, babe. Tomorrow’s big.
It felt like the big bus from the Haight had pulled up this afternoon, as groups and stars from San Francisco were set to perform. White boy blues bands. Many of them Haight-Ashbury neighbors, like the Greatful Dead’s Pigpen and his girl friend from down the street, Janis.
Big Brother and the Holding Company
The act was little known to the audience at Monterey. Its “Big Brother” was Chet Helms, who ran the Avalon Ballroom up in Frisco.
On stage at 1:30, Helms made the act’s intro. He told how he had just brought home to San Francisco a “chick from Texas by the name of Janis Joplin. I heard her sing,” he told the crowd, “and Janis and I hitchhiked to the West Coast in 50 hours.” With that said, Helms turned the stage over to Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Or better, turned the stage over to the chick from Texas. Janis sang like her voice was a hammer and the lyrics were nails. ”Down on Me” was her first, and she sang and percussed with a stick and ratchet. Guitarist James Gurley boomed feedback. When they reached the group’s second piece, “The Combination of the Two,” Janis became its star with her “whooo-whoa-whoa-whoa”s. She warned the audience, “We’re gonna knock ya, rock ya, sock it to ya.”
Her voice took charge of the whole place. A couple more songs, each more compelling, and then came “Ball and Chain.” “We’ve got one more song,” she told us.
She then slammed her heel down on the stage. She sang it as never before, sweet to the verse, then ka-boom exploding its choruses. She reached out with her voice to … to … and the audience was fully in suspense. She had transformed the Festival from friendly to passionate.
Her performance was so talked-about, the Festival’s manager said, “Do it again, tomorrow.” And she would. She became the first and only artist in Monterey to perform twice.
Clive Davis got out his signing pen.
Mo Ostin showed interest in signing her, but was astonished at the size of the check that his rival, Clive Davis of Columbia, wrote to sign Joplin to his label. Rumored to have been double what these things were worth.
Janis felt so strongly about this good news, she immediately expressed her desire to bed down with Clive. (He turned her down.)
The rest of Saturday afternoon was nearly all blues, with acts like Country Joe, Paul Butterfield, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Steve Miller, and Mike Bloomfield, acts often on medium-sized labels.
Time for dinner.
Saturday evening felt soft. Your sorbet felt yummy. Time for seven more acts tonight! They ranged from Moby Grape (named for "What's big and purple and lives in the ocean?") to The Byrds. Here are two of that neo-psychedelic bands that evening:
Jefferson Airplane With Grace Slick
Jefferson Airplane was San Francisco’s most profitable band. They played that way. With the Airplane’s new lead vocalist, the model-singer Grace Slick, they opened their set with two of their current Top Tens, both written by Mrs. Slick: “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love.”
The Airplane then moved into its latest RCA album: named Surrealistic Pillow. It proved why the band was now just about as popular as any band in America. With the Pillow, it had moved in sync with the rest of young San Francisco from folk rock into psychedelic. The charts had already applauded, and Surrealistic Pillow had already lured many of the college age immigrants from other states into the San Francisco scene.
The past January, Jefferson Airplane along with the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service headlined the Human Be-In staged in Golden Gate Park. It had been one earlier, giant step into this, the Summer of Love.
June 18, in Monterey, the crowd loved Grace and Jefferson. For most of the audience, the band felt like listening to good stories told by a favorite uncle. It felt, as 100,000 of them said, “good.”
What was not expected, during Jefferson’s set, was that later that evening Jefferson Airplane would be utterly upstaged.
Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler had much earlier signed Otis Redding to his Atlantic-connected label, Stax-Volt, but wanted to open up He’d set Redding up to a few shows at Los Angeles’ Whiskey a Go Go, and it was starting to work. So, Redding’s appeal, which so far had been to black audiences. So how about Monterey?
Having made the Monterey deal, Wexler was well-seated up in the dress circle. By his side was Phil Walden, Redding’s manager, both of them getting nervous about this date. They’d just played the Fillmore in San Francisco, but this would be a debut grande for their Georgia soul singer. Already some acts at Monterey had fumbled badly (Laura Nyro and Hugh Masekela), so this was no cinch.
Breaking through to the white audience hadn’t been done by a rhythm-and-blues singer since early rock-and-roll. A decade ago.
Time was getting short. Past eleven now. Otis had to do his thing before midnight, when according to the deal with the City, on stage Monterey would be shut down. 11:30. Redding was backstage, squeezed into the orthopedic brace he used to seem thinner.
On stage was his backing band: Booker T. and the MGs. Tommy Smothers was out onto the stage making the intro: “It’s been a real groovy day and a great evening, and here, let’s bring on with a big hand, Mr. Otis Redding.”
Otis ran out in a light blue suit. Teal-colored. He ran out, and let out a ecstatic “whomp” before he even reached the mike. The MGs swung into Sam Cooke’s “Shake,” playing it at twice-normal speed. Redding jumped in at the chorus, aiming direct at the crowd out front:
Shake (sang the band)
Ev’rybody say it (Otis yelled)
Let me hear the whole crowd
Everybody say it
A little bit louder
Early in the morning
Late in the evening
In the midnight hour
When the time’s goin’ bad
Shake with the feelin’
The crowd had been grabbed. Many had minutes before started up the aisles toward bed. They rushed back fast. Redding had them in rapture.
He moved quickly to his song “Respect,” after noting that Aretha had “borrowed” the song from him and had gone #1 with it. Otis knew how to drive it home faster. Then “I’ve Been Lovin’ You Too Long,” which he stretched out sloooowly ‘til he got to the song’s midsection, just below its belt line. Then another shreeeek, and he stopped the band dead with it. He looked back at the band, and asked, “Can I have that again, please?”
Again happened. Sheek. Then stop. “Can I have that again, please?” Otis Redding had the crowd where he liked them: in his paws.
The best of Otis Redding at Monterey? Watch it here.
“Satisfaction” next, then “Try a Little Tenderness,” which he dedicated to you mini-skirts out there. “Tenderness” he ended, then re-ended. He’d done under twenty minutes, and he had stolen not only the show, but the festival.
Midnight. For the audience, they walked out of the arena not wanting to forget how their night had ended. The slept wherever they could. Motels were selling just floor space (beds long gone). Sleeping bags got rolled out on the Festival lawns. Around them all, off site, bands played music ‘til dawn.
Otis was already driving down with Walden to Los Angeles in a rental car, not sure how well Redding had done last night. When they reached L.A., they read in the trades that Redding was already being called “the star of the show.”
Sunday Afternoon:Sitar Time with Ravi
One trio played sitar and similar instruments for three hours on Sunday afternoon. On stage, their off-looking things-you-pluck were being played: a sitar, a tabla, and a tamboura. The (His) show began around 1:30, and its star was a distinguished Indian musician who’d been made famous mostly by Beatle George Harrison’s journey to Bombay, and his adoption of Ravi Shankar’s music, and its use in a few Beatles tunes like “Norwegian Wood” in Sgt. Pepper.
The audience for this started small. The “tunes” the Indian trio played were long and intricate. After the first number, the audience applauded strongly, showing its appreciation. The 47-year-old Shankar thanked them, then explained that his trio had “only been tuning up.”
Seated behind an electric heater, Shankar then added, “Let us all pray that I can give a good performance to you and that it doesn’t rain.” It didn’t rain.
The trio played for three hours, their performance broadcast out into the fairgrounds, and the audience drifted in, it grew, hour by hour.
At 4:45, they were finished, and the now full house stood and applauded for five minutes.
Sunday Night Explodes
During prep for the Sunday night show, backstage at 6, The Who’s Pete Townsend had confronted Jimi Hendrix. Pete was pissed off about how Jimi had stolen Townsend’s own “set ending” drama, when Townsend would bang his guitar to bits on stage. It’d become a trademark of The Who.
Townsend told Hendrix about his pissed-ness. How, when The Who and the Experience had played on the same bill earlier that year in London’s Saville Theatre, Hendrix had beat up his guitar on stage, just as Townsend had been doing on stage.
The Who did NOT want to follow Hendrix on stage tonight and look like they were imitating him, they way it had worked in London.
They agreed to flip a coin. The Who won, and the got to go first.
The Who’s set was riotous and raunchy. Townsend handled his guitar like a baton, whirling it through chords, slashing it through the air. Roger Daltrey’s singing was anything but “love” for this flowers-everywhere crowd; he sang super-roaring. Drummer Keith Moon pounded. Smoke bombs exploded on stage, blocking out the psychedelic light show’s drizzling color streams.
Townsend rubbed his guitar strings on the mike stand, flipped his poor guitar over his head, then smashed it into the speakers on stage, whack whack. Then, he dropped the remnants of his guitar on stage.
The audience went wild. Townsend went ape, and privately thanked God for winning the coin flip.
The Grateful Dead
Following The Who, the Dead were less than bombastic. They knew their audience, the Love Crowd. Guitarist Bob Weir set out to change the mood from guitar-destruction. He asked the audience, “You know what folding chairs are for, don’t you? They’re for folding up and dancing on.”
He got his wish. People on stage, moved in toward the band and danced. In the aisles out front, ditto. Weir even got the ushers to open the entrance doors, so those without tickets could crowd in; ditto.
The Grateful Dead had limited time to perform, as did every act this closing night. They felt at home with their music habits, and played four tunes only, but at good length: “Viola Lee Blues,” “Cold Rain and Snow,” and “Aligator/Caution (Do No Stop on Tracks).”
They were not show-offs.
“Viola Lee Blues” came first. It revealed the Grateful Dead at their musical best. High energy abounded, while the band, ill-prepared technically for this gig, played the hell out of it. Jerry Garcia and drummer Bill Kreutzmann got at it wildly, and Pigpen on organ and vocals was impassioned.
And after four tunes for the Dead, Bill Graham (MC-ing) waved them off-stage, telling the audience what it didn’t need to hear: “Let’s hear it for The Grateful Dead.”
The audience had put up with some lousy moments (a strange harmonica playing during “Alligator”). Then the Dead drove the two hours home, worried that they’d blown it that night. Recordings proved them wrong.
Watch the Grateful Dead’s “Viola” performance from Monterey here:
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Up in the stands, same seat, was Reprise head Mo Ostin. It had been a good week for him, meeting with future employees Derek Taylor (head publicist for the Festival) and Andy Wickham (assisting off stage). Good men, good minds, both English.
Tonight, still feeling good, Mo still was wondering about the next act coming. He had earlier signed Jimi Hendrix sight unseen, and now wanted the Experience in person. Thirty minutes earlier, Mo had just felt very good about Warner’s Grateful Dead, but now…?
On stage, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones did the intro: “I’d like to introduce a very good friend, a fellow-countryman of yours. He’s the most exciting performer I’ve ever heard: The Jimi Hendrix Experience.”
Jimi bounded on stage, followed by his two band mates, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding. They looked ready. Hendrix was dressed for this climax: feathers, pink boa, ruffles, purple. And...Hair.
Jimi felt up his guitar, and she made little squeals. He worked her over. First up: a Howlin’ Wolf blues called “Killing Floor,” played faster than the police normally would allow.
Watching Hendrix from the side of the stage, Byrd David Crosby reported, “We were flummoxed. His tongue was snaking in and out of his mouth and he was playing guitar like God. Mind-boggling. Here we were going ‘jingly-jangly,’ and he was going ‘whomp, whomp, scree’.”
The audience roared in astonishment, as it had done only for two other acts in Monterey, for Janis and for Otis. Both had been explosive on stage, and now … my God!
The Experience played their sure fire hits: “Foxy Lady,” with Hendrix flipping his guitar between his legs. “Like a Rolling Stone.” B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby.” “Hey Joe.” “The Wind Cries Mary.”
And then, having won the coin flip, Jimi dropped his guitar onto the stage before him, and knelt down behind it. He pulled out a can of Ronson lighter fluid, squirted, lit it. His guitar blazed. He smashed his still-amplified guitar into the amps, shrill-shrieking, then flung its limbs out to the audience, it still emitting a long, high-whistling whiiiine, and now, the biggest, tha-wack of a chord since Hiroshima.
Up in the stands, Mo Ostin was mildly uncomfortable with the flaming performance, but felt comfort at the audience’s ecstasy. He went to work on introducing Hendrix to America. Reprise was able to get Hendrix as an opening act for the Monkees, just going out on a national tour.
Jimi Hendrix’ Experience went out on the tour, only to hear teen girls, impatient with his blues, chant “We want the Mon-kees” during his “Purple Haze.” A few dates in, this had got to Jimi. In Forest Hills, halfway through his set, Hendrix flung down his guitar, gave the audience the finger, leaned into the mike for a mellow “Fuck you,” and walked off. Watching from the wings, one Monkee turned to another: “Good for him.”
Finale: Heading Back Home
The final songs of Monterey belonged to The Mama & The Papas.
The quartet was meant to close the Festival, and had been put there by their guru, Lou Adler, who co-managed the whole weekend with the group’s most famous Papa, John Phillips. Philips you’d notice: he was the tall one, and he wore an even taller fur cap.
The closing was set to feel soft, and it did sound mellow. Adler had flown in the audio engineer whose touch and ears had help make The Mamas and the Papas sound enriched: Bones Howe, who earlier in L.A. had controlled the audio sliders on Wally Heider’s sound board for The Association.
Time now to sum up this Festival:
Mellow opening, mellow closing, with three spectaculars – Otis, Janis, and Jimi – with their business-changing sets in between.
Two big changes: They’d brought black stars into the pop scene, and they’d showed how girl singers no longer had to sing songs like “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window.”
But now, Sunday late, it was time to head home.
The Mamas and The Papas sang a mellow twenty minutes of their familiars (“California Dreamin’,” “Monday, Monday”) then called out on stage the singer of the weekend’s key song, “San Francisco (Be Sure two Wear Flowers in Your Hair.”) He was Scott McKenzie, he was all over the radio, and he sang this new anthem with all his heart.
HEAR “Flowers” by Scott McKenzie:
On its way out of the stadium, the crowd felt mellow, and they went out hearing how to live the rest of their lives: “Dancing in the Street.” HEAR the Mamas and Papas sing “Dancing in the Street.”
-- Stay Tuned
Whatever Happened To:
Otis Redding: A few months after Monterey, Otis Redding headed for another appearance in Madison, Wisconsin. His private, twin-engine Beechcraft plan crashed into a Wisconsin lake. He and his band died on Dec. 10, 1967. He was 26.
Janis Joplin: She left Big Brother and the Holding Company to start her own, Kozmic Blues Band. Then, at age 27, on Oct. 4, 1970, she died of a heroine overdose in her hotel in Los Angeles.
Jimi Hendrix: While in England, he died at age 27, on Sept. 18, 1970, in a friend’s apartment in Notting Hill. He had grown to grand stature, playing at Woodstock and throughout North America and Europe. Cause of death: drug overdose.