POSTED: 19 JULY 2007 - 6:00am HST

California Dreaming becomes reality

Peter Townsend (The Who), Jimi Hendrix & Janis Joplin (Big Brother & the Holding Company) @ MPF

by Michelle Phillips on 18 July 2007 in The Huffington Post

Michelle Phillips and her then-husband, the late John Phillips, were one half of the group The Mamas And The Papas. Together with record producer Lou Adler, Michelle was part of the team that organized the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival in the summer of 1967. She also performed at the festival. As the Mods & Rockers Film Festival prepares to salute Monterey with an historic 40th anniversary reunion celebration to be attended by many of the surviving participants (including Michelle Phillips) - she has written this special recollection of the festival exclusively for Huffington Post.

When our friend Alan Pariser came over to our Bel Air house in April 1967 he had the idea to do a pop festival in Monterey, California and make a killing. It was a great idea -- but impractical in that it wouldn't have been possible to pay the fees of the top artists required to attract a huge crowd, house and feed them - and then turn a profit.

But an intriguing idea no less. It took roughly an hour for Lou Adler and John Phillips to take control and turn it into the first non-profit pop festival - in fact the first pop festival of any kind - and name it "The Monterey International Pop Festival". They quickly formed a Board of Governors which would turn out to be the early "genius idea" that would give the festival its glorious clout.

Lou Adler, John Phillips, Paul McCartney, Donovan, Mick Jagger, Roger McGuinn, Smokey Robinson, Terry Melcher, Andrew Loog Oldham, Alan Pariser, Johnny Rivers, Paul Simon and Brian Wilson. They were all assured they would never have to attend a meeting.

Now for the tricky part: getting pop and rock artists to perform for... gulp... free. Be assured, this was a totally alien idea to musicians at the time!

So John and Lou scrambled to come up with the entities that would benefit from their free performances. Music schools in Watts and Harlem, free clinics in San Francisco and Los Angeles, free musical instruments for underprivileged kids etc., etc. And the talent took the bait...

With The Mamas and The Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Ravi Shankar (who had already been booked by Pariser), Johnny Rivers and The Byrds on board - word was out. It was going to be something you didn't want to miss out on.

image above: Nico Velvet Underground) and Brian Jones (Rollong Stones) in the audiance @ MPF

McCartney suggested an unknown (to the U.S. anyway) crazy singer/guitarist named Jimi Hendrix. Andrew Oldham (the Rolling Stones manager/producer) strongly urged them to fly in a group called The Who. The San Francisco promoters and producers, Bill Graham and Ralph Gleason, turned in Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, the Grateful Dead and Big Brother & the Holding Company featuring a blisteringly-soulful blues singer named Janis Joplin.

John wrote "If You're Going To San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)", had his old band-mate Scott Mackenzie sing it, Lou Adler produced and released it. It shot to #1 on the charts within just two weeks. Now we had an anthem and the acts were now clamoring to get on board.

D.A. Pennebaker, whose claim to fame at that time was the great Dylan documentary "Don't Look Back", was hired to film the three days of June 16, 17 and 18. The weekend that started what eventually became known as "The Summer of Love".

One hundred and fifty thousand orchids were flown in from Hawaii, placed on every seat and scattered on the stage - and when the first chord rang out from The Association, the festival began. Friday night also saw rounds and rounds of enthusiastic applause for Johnny Rivers, Lou Rawls, Eric Burdon and The Animals, and Simon & Garfunkel.

Saturday afternoon was blues and "wacky rock" - Canned Heat, Country Joe and the Fish, Al Kooper, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Steve Miller and more.
Saturday night: Hugh Masekela, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane - and the one suggestion I had made - the incomparable Otis Redding.

image above: Ravi Shankar playing the sitar @ MPF

On Sunday afternoon the audience was held spellbound by Ravi Shankar who held them in the palm of his hand for a deliriously spiritual three-hour concert.

And just when you thought you'd seen it all, Sunday evening brought in more Janis, The Who and that guy McCartney had suggested, Jimi Hendrix, bringing down the house, eventually even setting his guitar on fire. Oh boy!

Scott Mackenzie sang the anthem, that by now was an international #1 song and we, The Mamas and the Papas, closed to an audience that had just experienced a three-day harmonic convergence of Music, Love and Flowers that resonates today as one of the greatest musical moments of all time. The rewards were great.

My daughter Chynna Phillips was born eight months later and the Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation (that little "for-free" thing) is still generating hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for dozens of organizations that embody the spirit and intent - however vague it might have been at the time. Organizations such as Arts for City Youth, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, L.A. Free Clinic, the Barrio Symphony Orchestra and the Debbie Allen Dance Academy to name but a few.

For me and the 200,000 people who made their way from L.A. and San Francisco... from across the country and even from Europe and India - it is the sweetest and most powerful kind of memory. Very groovy...

image above: unidentified attendees of Monteray Pop Festival at their tribal campsite