Monterey Pop (1968)

Monterey Pop (1968)

“We all love each other, right?”

Some of the world’s most notable musicians perform at the historic 1967 Monterey International Festival in Northern California.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Concert Films
  • Counterculture

Response to Peary’s Review:
Widely acknowledged as “the first major rock concert film”, Monterey Pop gives us “a chance to see some of the greatest rock-music acts in the world”, and accurately captures a “time when music was so central to the counterculture”. While we may be familiar with many of the types of images presented here (either from other concert films, or from random documentary footage), it nonetheless remains an invaluable time capsule in its own right, as creatively conceived and captured by D.A. Pennebaker and his team of six cinematographers, who were given homemade cameras and told to shoot whatever they saw of interest, cinema verite style. If you’re a fan of music from this era at all, you’re guaranteed to enjoy many of the performances; my personal favorite (after Janis Joplin’s heartfelt rendition of “Ball and Chain”) is Ravi Shankar’s lengthy, rousing finale.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A priceless document of late 1960s counterculture

  • Janis Joplin performing “Ball and Chain”
  • Jimi Hendrix’s memorable guitar-burning performance of “Wild Thing”
  • The Mamas and the Papas performing “California Dreamin'”
  • Simon and Garfunkel singing “The 59th Street Bridge Song”
  • Ravi Shankar’s joyous finale performance

Must See?
Yes, as an historically important, most enjoyable concert film.


  • Good Show
  • Historically Relevant


One thought on “Monterey Pop (1968)

  1. A must.

    Rather in agreement here. It’s an important historical document of the ’60s era and is accessible enough, I think, to be of interest to ffs as a film (rather than just a concert film).

    In some ways, I find it superior to ‘Woodstock’ – which, though largely enjoyable and also must-see, is a bit unwieldy by comparison. ‘MP’ is a very full, satisfying 78 minutes. It has obviously been stripped down (indeed, a 3-disc set is now on DVD) but it’s not choppy. You get much more than the essence of what the concert itself must have been.

    Many of the greats are here, doing what made them great. Some of them in particular – Joplin, Hendrix (whose ‘Wild Thing’ is downright playful!) – send off a genuine thrill of being onstage, as opposed to the polished professionalism of the The Mamas & The Papas (who would soon disband).

    Surprisingly, two of my favorite performances are by artists I never followed: Canned Heat and Hugh Masakela. Joplin is, of course, remarkable – in a way, she’s what Grace Slick (who is in fine voice for ‘Today’) might have been if Slick had decided to become totally unleashed. Otis Redding is given the best handling of lighting (all surprises at various angles) during ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’.

    I never, ever did *get* the guitar smashing/burning stuff (Pete Townsend, Hendrix) – and I think, due to the free-flow nature of his music, more hardcore jazz enthusiasts will appreciate someone like Ravi Shankar more than I can (though I can understand why the crowd would be thrilled).

    Note: One of my idols while growing up – Laura Nyro – performed but does not appear in this edited, main feature. I look forward to checking out disc 3 of the DVD set to finally see her. Rumor had it she was booed off the stage – which, from what I understand now, was not the case!

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