June 18, 1967 was a Sunday. At the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California, the Monterey International Pop Festival was in its third and final day. The first two days of the festival had seen performances by many of the well known acts of the summer including: The Association, Lou Rawls, Simon & Garfunkel, Big Brother & the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, Al Kooper, Jefferson Airplane and Otis Redding.
Sunday afternoon was devoted to a three hour performance by Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar, with Alla Rakha on tabla and Kamala on tamboura, that mesmerized the crowd of 7,000.
Sunday evening started with The Blues Project, from New York City. Buffalo Springfield played a bit later.
Then it was time for the eagerly awaited American debut of the English band The Who. They started their set with the song “Substitute” and ended it with “My Generation,” in a performance that climaxed with feedback, smoke bombs and a violently smashed guitar.
The Grateful Dead, down from San Francisco, came next and played what some said was the best music of the weekend.
Then came another American debut: The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Formed eight months earlier in London, England, they were introduced by the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones as “the most exciting guitar player I’ve ever heard.” The trio: Jimi Hendrix, guitar and vocals; Noel Redding, bass guitar and vocals and Mitch Mitchell, drums, played an 11-song set that included “Purple Haze,” “Like A Rolling Stone” and the finale, “Wild Thing.” For this last number, Jimi switched from his main, sunburst Stratocaster to a hand-painted Stratocaster that, not to be outdone, he proceeded to set fire to, destroy and throw out to the audience in pieces at the end of the song.
The evening and the festival, closed with festival co-organizer John Phillips’ band, The Mamas and The Papas.
“California Dreaming,” indeed.
If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend Monterey Pop, the documentary film of the festival directed by D.A.Pennebaker. The performances of Janis Joplin and Ravi Shankar alone are well worth the price of admission.
Also on June 18, in 1942, a young couple, James and Mary of Liverpool, England welcomed their first born, James Paul into the world. The young lad developed an interest in music and, inspired by Britain’s “Skiffle” craze in the mid-1950s, he learned to play guitar. In the summer of 1957, he met another Liverpool musician named John, who asked him to join his band.
The two boys formed a quartet in which Paul, soon known as “the cute one,” played bass guitar, sang, and co-wrote songs with John. The group went on to be rather successful and well known, even though they named themselves after an insect.
Happy birthday, Paul.