Criterion’s three disc set presents the films with supplements over the first two discs and then outtake performances from the festival on the third disc.
The first disc presents the film Monterey Pop and all of the supplements related to the film.
First up is an audio commentary recorded by director D. A. Pennebaker and festival producer Lou Adler in 2002. The two have been recorded together and recall what they can about the festival and filming it. Adler talks about the festival in general through most of the track while Pennebaker sticks mostly to talking about the film itself, which includes the technical side of things and the complicated process of getting the footage and then editing everything together. Other than a few select performers (Joplin, Hendrix, The Who, Redding, and Shankar) the two actually talk very little about the individual performances, but offer a few anecdotes involving some behind-the-scenes stuff (including how Joplin’s agent did not want her performances recorded.) I actually rather enjoyed the track, though, and I found the two informative and entertaining, never letting the track lag in any area. Certainly worth a listen.
The remaining supplements are then all found under “Supplements” from the main menu.
First on the roster is a 29-minute video interview between Lou Adler and D. A. Pennebaker. Considering the two did the commentary together I figured this would be a bit of a waste for a feature but the two actually further expand on the commentary track. In it the two discuss their early careers (Adler in music, Pennebaker in filmmaking) and how the two became involved with the Monterey Festival. Adler explains the reasoning for the festival (primarily to validate rock/pop music as an art form) and Pennebaker talks about the actual filming and editing (and the hours of rushes he had to deal with.) Again it’s an interesting extension to the excellent commentary track.
Scrapbook has a couple of nice supplements. A sub-section here is devoted to Elaine Mayes’ photos taken at the festival. First there is a photo gallery featuring her photos from the festival with notes preceding them, which you navigate through using the arrows on your remote, and then there is a photo essay, which is a 12-minute presentation featuring Mayes’ work as she speaks over it in an audio commentary, talking about her career, what it was like at Monterey, and then even gets into technical details (lenses, film) and her favourite photos. There is then a short text bio on Mayes. As a whole it’s an excellent feature, one of the more interesting photo presentations I’ve come across.
Also found under “Scrapbook” is the Festival Program, which presents a copy of the actual program that you can navigate through using the arrows on your remote. At times you will also see a “TEXT” option show up at the bottom of the screen. When you select this you are then presented with an easy-to-read reprint of the text that is on the page you’re viewing. A rather nice addition and I wish Criterion did this with all similar extras on other DVDs (unfortunately they don’t.)
There are then four audio interviews featuring John Philips (16-minutes), Cass Elliot (12-minutes), David Crosby (9-minutes), and then Derek Taylor (29-minutes). Between the four they cover various aspects of the festival. Taylor talks a lot about the set up of the festival and behind-the-scenes stuff, including dealing with a disapproving town, record labels that showed up, and then persistent rumours about The Beatles actually being there. Elliot and Philips also touch on the festival set up, the intentions behind it, but also both talk about their amazement with Janis Joplin, and also both agree that the Mamas and the Papas gave the worst performance of the whole weekend. Philips also throws in a comparison to Woodstock. Crosby was my favourite of the interviews, focusing on the stands outs of the festival, which included Hendrix and then The Who’s destruction of their instruments (which he says he found disrespectful and “sacrilege.”) He’s the most blunt and honest of the bunch. The Taylor one can be a little dry but all four are worth listening to.
Next on the list are four radio spots for the film and then a theatrical trailer.
Finally the section concludes with The Remix, which presents notes by Eddie Kramer covering the restoration, and then there is also a brief text bio on the man.
The main menu then concludes with MIPFF which is a small note on the Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation.
The second disc presents the films Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey. In its presentation Criterion actually breaks the two films out. From the main menu you can either select Jimi Plays Monterey or Shake! Otis at Monterey and then be taken to their individual menus that include the options to play the movie, go to the chapter or audio options menus, or watch their respective supplements. You can then go back to the main menu by selecting “Main” from any of the menu screens.
Supplements are all found under their respective film’s menu.
For Jimi Plays Monterey we get one of the best supplements on here, an audio commentary by music critic Charles Shaar Murray. The same as the one found on the DVD it’s an absolutely fantastic commentary track. He talks very little about the film itself, and only talks briefly about the actual Monterey festival, and instead spends most of the track talking about Hendrix himself and his career. He gives a brief bit of information about Hendrix’s career and early life (he saves more material for another section of the disc) but his main focus is to talk about Hendrix’s performance at Monterey. It’s a quick, often time’s humourous track helped by the fact Murray is obviously enamoured by the musician. He loves pointing out Hendrix’s techniques, loves talking about his guitars and his style, and just can’t stop praising his performance. It’s an absolutely wonderful track, a real treat.
And I can only assume Murray couldn’t contain his enthusiasm during his commentary because Criterion has also included an additional 44-minutes worth of material from the man under Additional Audio Excerpts, which plays in an audio only presentation (over an still of Hendrix) apart from the film. The film itself is only 49-minutes so I’m guessing this is material that was edited out to fit the timeframe of the film. I’m glad Criterion decided not to dispose of this material as it’s all golden, with Murray further getting into Hendrix’s personal life, his life in the military, his political views, how he would string his guitar to play left hand, and Hendrix’s obvious love the for guitar. It’s a great expansion on the commentary track and is definitely worth listening to.
Interview presents a short 4 and a half minute interview with Pete Townshend recorded for VH1 in 1987. On Murray’s commentary found on this disc and then elsewhere in the special features on the first disc there’s mention of an apparent fight that occurred between Hendrix and Townshend on who would perform first. There was suspicion it had to do with the fact both wanted to be the first to destroy their instruments on stage, though here Townshend says he wanted The Who to go first because he feared following Hendrix. Most of the interview excerpt pertains to this with a little about Monterey as a whole. It’s a shame more of the interview wasn’t included but I guess Criterion figured it only made sense to include material that had to do with Monterey and Hendrix’s performance.
The supplements for this film then conclude with a trailer.
Shake! Otis at Monterey is the shorter film, running only 19-minutes, and only gets a few supplements.
This film gets two audio commentaries, both by music critic Peter Guralnick. The first track talks specifically about Otis’ performance at Monterey while the second is a brief, quick, 19-minute bit about Otis’ early life and career. Unfortunately it pales in comparison to Murray’s energetic and excited commentary track, and at times it sounds like Guralnick may be reading from notes. It actually moves at a leaden pace, stunning for a film that’s only 19-minutes, and offers little in the way of insight I found.
Better is the interview with Redding’s manager Phil Walden. Running 18-minutes he gives a better account of the man with some wonderful anecdotes (such as how Redding helped Walden raise his tuition for school,) Stax Records, and how a European tour led to Monterey. He also recalls freaking out about the psychedelic effects used during other performances and worried how the crowd would react to Otis, but Otis didn’t seem concerned and just went out and did his thing. With text notes thrown into expand on certain subjects it’s an excellent interview and far better than the two commentary tracks for the film.
The third dual-layer disc presents the Outtake Performances, over two-hours worth. All are presented with Dolby Surround 2.0 tracks, though a few get Dolby Digital 5.1 work overs. You either have the ability to “Play All” or go through each day of the festival (four in total with Day 2 broken into two sections) and selecting each group and then a song. There’s also an “Artist’s Index”.
“Day 1” presents The Association and the song “Along Comes Mary” and Simon and Garfunkel and the songs “Homeward Bound” and “Sounds of Silence”.
“Day 2 (Afternoon)” only has a couple of performances. Here you will find Country Joe and the Fish with the song “Not-So-Sweet Martha Lorraine”, Al Kooper with “(I Heard Her Say) Wake Me, Shake Me”, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and “Driftin’ Blues” (which is presented in a video edit along with the complete audio recording, which contains some drops and pops,) Quicksilver Messenger Service and the song “All I Ever Wanted to Do (Was Love You)”, and then The Electric Flag with “Drinkin’ Wine”.
”Day 2 (Eve)” presents The Byrds and the songs “Chimes of Freedom”, “He Was a Friend of Mine”, and “Hey Joe”, Laura Nyro with “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Poverty Train”, and then Jefferson Airplane with “Somebody to Love”.
”Day 3” presents The Blues Project with “The Flute Thing”, Big Brother and the Holding Company with “Combination of the Two” (and a 5.1 remix of it), Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth”, The Who with “Substitute”, “Summertime Blues”, and “A Quick One While He’s Away” (also remixed in 5.1), and then closing with the Mamas and the Papas “Straight Shooter”, “Somebody Groovy”, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”, “I Call Your Name”, “Monday, Monday”, and “Dancing in the Street”.
You’ll also find footage of Tiny Tim that Pennebaker shot at the Hunt Club under “Tiny Tim”. This footage was shot in low light conditions so it doesn’t look the greatest and the audio is also a little weak, but overall it’s decent footage.
As for the other outtake performances it’s not hard to see why they didn’t make the final cut of the film. There’s some decent material in there but overall it isn’t the best work from some of these performers. Some of the performances can come off flat and out of key at moments, and the audio quality isn’t the best in a few instances, though the couple 5.1 remixes we get sound quite sharp. I’m glad to have seen them, though, and I’m sure there’s many people that will be happy with what’s here.
The set also comes with a rather thick 65-page booklet. In it you will find an introduction by Pennebaker about the films in the set, an incredibly long essay on the festival and the filming by Michael Lydon, and then two essays on the film, one by Barney Hoskyns and another by Armond White, who can’t help but point out all the films this film must have influenced or was influenced by. You also get a Rolling Stone article by Jann Wenner covering the Festival to some degree. Missing from it is an essay by David Fricke that would be included with the future individual edition of Jimi Plays Monterey / Shake! Otis at Monterey and Blu-rays of that disc and the box set. But the Pennebaker and Wenner pieces are exclusive to this release.
While not everything found here is golden, taken as a whole this is an impressive set, extensively covering the festival and the films that came from it. In all one of Criterion’s most impressive efforts. 9/10