A one hour television film of the Monterey International Pop Festival, currently being produced for the American Broadcasting Company, has resulted in considerable consternation among the musicians who appeared at the Festival (and who may or may not appear in the film.) The film focuses so much on the activities and performance of the Mama’s and Papa’s to the point that performances of some of the best groups who appeared are left out, that Al Kooper, former organist and star of the Blues Project, says the television film appears to be about the “John Phillips-Lou Adler International Pop Festival.”
The opening number of the festival film is Scott McKenzie’s song (and McKenzie is a friend of Phillip and Adler, who produced his record, manage him and wrote the song) “Wear Flowers In Your Hair.” The second song in the film is “Creeque Alley” by the Mamas and Papas. They also sing “California Dreamin’ ” and are shown directing, watchings, managing, supervising and speaking. Another curiosity is that the sound for the Mama’s and Papa’s portions is practically perfect, unlike what happens to the sound on the other sections.
Artists that were not shown included Paul Butterfield’s the Electric Flag, the Blues Project, Al Kooper who did a solo act, Lou Rawls, The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield among others.
At least one major artist, Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel, feels that his portion of the television special is so bad that it may be best for him to ask that it be cut. In the present editing of the film he is allotted enough time for a snatch of “Feelin’ Groovy,” and the lighting seriously obscures a clear view of him and Art Garfunkel.
At this time, ABC has not yet scheduled the film for television screening. A network official reports the status of the special as “In Inventory.” They are still planning for a 50-minute feature although D. A. Pennebaker, who directed and shot much of the footage and who is in over all charge of the production, still has it in a 90-minute version.
There was some dispute as to the film releases groups were asked to sign to appear in the film. Managers and artists were approached just before they went on stage at the June festival and told they had to sign the releases if they were to be filmed, otherwise the cameras would be shut off for their performances. Several groups concerned with just such things as sound quality, refused to sign, including the Grateful Dead and the Steve Miller Band. Big Brother and the Holding Company finally did sign and performed twice on Saturday so they could be re-filmed.
The releases explicitly were intended to cover rights to only a one time television showing. On the other hand, Pennebaker is currently negotiating with ABC (which technically owns the film,) for rights to distribute a feature length film in theatres. And Lou Adler is reportedly negotiating for European showings and distribution.
Consider the case of Jefferson Airplane which signed a release 15 minutes before they were filmed. The soundtrack on the Airplane’s part of the film is especially poor, so bad in fact, that it will do more harm to the Airplane to be heard in this film than to release a bad record. On top of the deficiencies in the sound, the camera focuses on Grace Slick throughout the performance of “Today,” a song on which she only sings harmony while Marty Balin has the lead part. But the film makes it look as if she is solo singer!
Two other performers suffer notably: Otis Redding and Ravi Shankar, both of whom were among the real highlights of the festival. Shankar’s portion of the film is nearly seven minutes long, but most of those minutes are devoted to the audience reaction and other minutiae not directly connected with his art. Finally when the camera does come on the face of a performer during the Indian music, it is Alla Rakha, Shankar’s tabla accompaniest. The confusion in shots of Shankar and Rakha is so great that only those closely acquainted with Shankar will know which one he is.
Otis Redding was very poorly filmed: he is given a few minutes of time, half of which he is off-camera and the other half of which he is hard to distinguish. His was perhaps the most physically exciting performance of the festival, yet it is carried as if it were little.
The television show will undoubtedly be popular and well worth seeing, as it helps recall a fantastic event, one of the great weekends in California. However the artists — with the notable exception of the Mama’s and Papa’s — suffer on the film in degrees ranging from poor to worse.
Because the air date has not yet been set, it is hoped there will be time to make a few changes and additions in the film, especially with regard to the sound. Pennebaker says he is still “working” on the sound track and perhaps the film will in the end turn out to be aesthetically as satisfactory as it is a good reminder of a fine time.