My Monterrey Pop — Fifty years later

©2017 Martin E. Cobern, rights to all text and photos reserved.

How I got there

In June of 1967, I got my BS in Physics from The Cooper Union and headed out to California for a summer job at Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Livermore. I was 80 miles geographically and 1 million light-years culturally from the Summer of Love in San Francisco.

By the second weekend, I had obtained the required“non-owner’s” auto insurance and was able to rent a car. I spent Saturday in San Francisco and decided to drive down to Monterrey on Sunday, doing the 17 Mile Drive in the morning. All week, the radio had been full of ads for this “Pop Festival,” so I thought I might “pop” in.

What I found

I pulled into the “parking lot,” which was a huge grassy field. One had to steer around the tents and the couples mating in the grass (it was the “Summer of Love”) to find a spot. None seemed available until I found this prime location.

Best parking spot available!

Everything was very laid back. Security was light, everyone was toking in full view of the few policemen there. There was a “midway” selling tie-dyed clothes and head gear. I had little time to shop before the afternoon show.

I noticed that everyone seemed to be wearing a button saying “Big Brother Love You,” but I had no idea what they were about.

The Midway

The Afternoon Show

I had a great seat for observing the crowd….

The entire afternoon was devoted to a concert by Ravi Shankar. I had heard some of his music through the Beatles, but I found it quite new and exciting.

… but not so great for seeing the stage.

My view was further blocked, once the show started, by a very tall, emaciated white dude with a huge Afro, who stood up and began whipping his head around in circles in tome to the music. Any brain cells he had not previously killed with drugs were no doubt scrambles.

After the show, I spent about 45 minutes on what has now become a festival tradition.

The Evening Show

Naturally, my seats for the evening show were even farther from the stage. While John Lennon and Paul McCartney were on the organizing committee, the radio ads all week were saying, “They are not performing at the Festival!” [Perfect inverse advertising!] So naturally, everyone assumed they would be there. There were four girls in front of me with large loose-leaf binders and binoculars. Each book had photos of one of the Beatles in all his many permutations of hair, mustache and beard, and they were scanning the wings for them, rather than watching the show.

I very soon realized that I could not see anything. So, taking advantage of my nerd “disguise” and the Leica camera around my neck, I casually strolled down the left aisle to a point near the corner of the stage. No one questioned me, perhaps assuming I was a professional photographer, and I watched most of the show from that vantage point. Below are some of my photos, which are not as great as I remember them. It was getting dark and I was shooting Kodachrome ASA 64.

Tom Smothers
Paul Simon
The Blues Project
Janis Joplin. So THAT was who they meant by Big Brother!
The Mamas and the Papas (yes they are in there!}

Going home

Late Sunday night, I manage to find my rental car and head home, my head full of memories and at least one souvenir which I have to this day. I made it back to Livermore, even though the dash lights on the rental car did not work and I had no idea how fast I was going.

Yes, that is me. It was 50 years ago!

That summer held other adventures. A few weeks later I was at the Berkeley Folk Festival and did get to see Janis and Big Brother at Fillmore. More on that later.

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