Forty years after the Monterey International Pop Music Festival, the cultural reverberations are still being felt. VH1 is celebrating the anniversary by looking back on the hippie high-water mark through the perspective of musicians, organizers and attendees of the three-day event. The Monkees' Micky Dolenz was one of the people interviewed for the aptly titled documentary Monterey 40, airing Saturday at 9 pm/ET, so TVGuide.com checked in to hear firsthand what that legendary weekend was all about.
TVGuide.com: Do you consider the Monterey Pop Festival the defining moment of the Summer of Love?
Micky Dolenz: I hate to put labels on things, but I guess you could say that. It didn't come out of the blue. In the late '50s and early '60s, it was called the Beat generation and it was about bohemian influences, and that sort of morphed into the hippie experience. And then that morphed into something else. But Monterey was certainly the biggest event on the West Coast that summer.
TVGuide.com: Monterey is generally considered the first large rock festival. What was innovative about it at the time?
Dolenz: Well, it was very well organized. I guess the thing about Monterey that was most innovative was that the acts had an international flavor, especially with people like Ravi Shankar playing. But, like I said, it was also very organized in that the festival producers had a great relationship with the local civic organizations and the police. There wasn't any attitude or confrontation.
TVGuide.com: There were 200,000 people in attendance and yet there were no deaths, no injuries, no drug overdoses and no arrests. It seems like that would be almost impossible nowadays.
Dolenz: Oh, it would be impossible. It became impossible shortly after that. After that point, the vultures swooped in and the con men and the crooks started taking advantage of the community. It was very naive. People would let people crash at their place and pick up hitchhikers, but shortly after that it started to attract nefarious influences and swindlers. But during Monterey it was innocent and naive. That's the thing I remember about it the most.
TVGuide.com: What are some of your favorite memories from the weekend?
Dolenz: Seeing Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar and The Who, they all stick out in my mind. Musically, Ravi Shankar was my favorite memory, because that was the first time I'd heard those types of rhythms. As a studying, working drummer at the time, that just blew me away. But as far as just hanging out with everybody, I remember how on the last night after the event, it was hard to get everybody to leave. I was sitting in a tent and somebody dragged in a generator and some amps, and Jimi Hendrix came in with some people and they jammed all night long. Nobody wanted to go home. It was pretty intense.
TVGuide.com: Considering the Monkees were at the height of their popularity at that point, were you able to venture out and watch the show without getting mobbed?
Dolenz: Sure, because the community at that time felt very small. It was a subculture. It was like everybody there was in a band, related to somebody in a band or sleeping with somebody in a band. It wasn't a big commercial event. It was mostly people from the West Coast community, not like Woodstock, where people came from all over.
TVGuide.com: Paul McCartney is said to have insisted Jimi Hendrix be put on the bill, even though he was relatively unknown at the time.
Dolenz: It's funny; I was in New York a few months before and someone told me, "You got to go down to the Village and see this guy play guitar with his teeth." I don't remember his name even being mentioned, but sure enough we went down to the Village and saw this guy play with his teeth. Months later I go to the Monterey Pop Festival and on stage comes this band and it was the same guitarist. It was Jimi Hendrix.
TVGuide.com: The Monkees actually took the Jimi Hendrix Experience out on the road as your opening act later that summer.
Dolenz: Yeah. I told our producers at the time about the Experience and that's why they got him. We needed an opening act and we were going out on tour right after the festival, so it seemed like a good fit. Jimi was quiet, but he was a very theatrical guy. I thought he would work well with the Monkees, because the Monkees were an act as well.
TVGuide.com: Last year you put out the book Micky Dolenz' Rock 'n Rollin' Trivia (buy it here). What's some trivia about the Monterey Pop Festival that people might not know?
Dolenz: Jimi Hendrix and The Who were fighting about who would go on first, because each thought the other had stolen their act — they both blew up their instruments and smashed them. They were arguing about who would destroy their instruments first.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think we're still talking about the Monterey Pop Music Festival 40 years later?
Dolenz: At the time, it was a special event, but I don't think anyone could've predicted its impact on the social landscape. It didn't come out of nowhere, though. The summer of 1966 and the summer of 1968 were pretty nice, too. But the Monterey Pop Festival was a coming-of-age for that West Coast hippie thing. It was casual. It wasn't until after that that a lot of the big corporations realized that the subculture was somewhere they could make a lot of money and take advantage. People have said that Monterey was like the love affair, Woodstock was the marriage and Altamont was the divorce.
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