Friday, June 08, 2007

The Beat Q&A: Lou Adler (Pt. 2)

In part two of our Q&A, music producer extraordinaire Lou Adler, co-producer of The Monterey International Pop Festival, talks about the music at Monterey Pop.

This interview will be reprinted in the Sunday edition of the Monterey County Herald, as part of our 40th anniversary special section in honor of Monterey Pop. Check out the Sunday edition for more coverage...

Q: Another part of the story was that this was the big American break through for acts like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. What did you know about these acts? Where they brand new to you?
A: The San Francisco acts were familiar to us, because John Phillips and myself had gone up to San Francisco to look at some of the groups. We had seen Janis perform before at the Filmore with Big Brother, and we saw Country Joe and Quicksilver. So we were familiar with the San Francisco groups. As far as Hendrix and The Who, we had heard about them but had not seen them until Monterey. Obviously, acts like The Association, Lou Rawls, those acts of that genre we knew well. Buffalo Springfield. All of the acts ouf of LA, we knew real well.

Q: Was there any one act or performance that you considered the best or that stood out?
A: That's three or four. I think Otis Redding's performance is one of the best overall concert performances ever, and certainly on film. (It wasn't) just one song. Janis Joplin was incredible, but it was one or two songs thtat got the audience. Every song that Otis sang was a termendous performance that night. And Hendrix and The Who. If you watch the Monterey Pop film, you can see the look on the audience. That's pretty much what we all had. We were like Dylan's Mr. Jones at that point. Something was happening and we were in on it for the first time.

Q: What was the response from locals once you guys touched down and started setting up?
A: It took us seven weeks from the time that we started going after acts and hiring people and pretty much working out the production of what the festival would be. We took up residence in Monterey two weeks before the festival. By that time, it was more curiosity than anything. Being the first festival and Monterey not really knowing what was going to happen or who was coming in, the only inlking they had was one, Hells Angels, and two, what was happening up in San Francisco in Haight Ashbury, with the influx of people from all over the United States, runaways, etc. There was that negative aspect to it: What are we in for? But mostly it was curiosity. What are these guys doing?

Q: Aside from performances, are there any hight lights or lowlights that stick out in your mind?
A: A lot of it is a blur. Things were happening so fast. The fact that there were no rules or regulations or anything to follow. Because we were the first and we had 32 acts and we had to get them on and off and get the audience in and out, it was just a blur. There were a few things that jump out . . .
My approach to it was to manage the 32 acts as if they were one. Get them the best accomodations, get them the best sound system, all the things you would do for any act that you were managing. Just treat all 32 like that. The premise was, if we can make the acts only have to worry about performing, and (take care of) all of the things that up until that time bothered acts. Like a bad sound system or “Where's the nearest White Castle?” So we provided all of that. The best sound system, the best places to stay, food 24 hours a day. And all they had to do was perform. That had a lot to do with the performances that came off that weekend.

Q: Where did you put up the acts? Where did they stay?
A: There were 11 hotels and motels in the area, and they were spread out. But every act had a driver. It was just things that rock and roll acts had not experienced yet. Some of them had, but very few, and they had whatever the best rooms that we could get in those hotels, and motels if we had to.
We had set up a tent directly behind the stage, and that was open 24 hours a day. Served everything: cracked crab, lobster, caviar. Anything that they wanted.
It was a chance for acts that had heared about each other and listened to each other but never had a chance to see each other perform..or sit down and have a meal together or pull out a guitar and start playing with someone. The jams backstage were exciting to watch

Q: Any specific jams that stick out?
A: Well, it was unusual to see Hendrix and Paul Simon play together (laughs).

Q: Fourty years later, is it still fresh in your mind, or does it seem like five lifetimes ago?
A: I've been reliving it because of doing the 40th (anniversary), and having these kinds of conversations, and putting out the new CD. Reliving it, listening to the music, making sure all of the tracks are right. Talking about it a lot. It seems like, I mean, it's cliche to say, but it really does seem like yesterday.

Q: What impact did it have on pop culture, overall?
A: The impact, I think, you can state it easliy if you look at the parallels and see what we went through then is happening now. I mean, we have an unfortunate and a very unpopular war. We had then a new way to read about our music, which was Rolling Stone, and now we have blogs and the internet. We had a new way to listen to music then, which was FM, and now we have iTunes. And, more ironic, in California for the second time we have a republican governor that's an actor. We had Reagan then and we have Schwarzenegger now.
It just shows that the history that was being made then, it was a generation coming alive, and dictating what music they were going to listen to and who they were going to listen to and becoming so powerful that the politics and politicians are looking to them. It was the birth of a new generation and a new culture. Monterey was the key to opening the door of what became the summer of love.

Q: For you persoanlly, what did the experience mean to you?
A: It's corny, but to be a part of history and to be able to in a sense, be the spokesman of it. But what's most important is that the foundation that we started in 1967 continues to be funded by the ancilaries that the film and the videos and the CDs, the dvds, that were created then. And to fund the foundation and give to things like free clinics and PS Atts, which keeps art going in public schools... and all of these things are still being funded on behalf of the artistst that appeared in Monterey. That's very gratifying.

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