Harvey Kubernik and Kenneth Kubernik
A Perfect Haze
The Illustrated History Of The Monterey International Pop Festival
review by Jon Kanis
(Santa Monica Press, Solana Beach, CA, 2011, 256 pages)
Book review [on page 26] for issue #33 [Spring/Summer 2012] of Ugly Things magazine [filed on March 9, 2012]
I think that maybe I’m dreaming… unless you were born before 1950 chances are pretty slim that you were in attendance at The Monterey International Pop Festival on the third weekend of June in 1967. There is a LOT of mythology (and a fair amount of hype) surrounding this hallowed occasion. When Monterey happened Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had only been in the racks for a fortnight and it was in this cultural milieu that a couple of L.A. music biz entrepreneurs co-opted the locale for a one-day commercial concert with a financial coup d’état – morphing it into a three-day charity music festival that unflinchingly mirrored the zeitgeist and established the template (which persists to this day) for how to present big business rock and roll spectacle. Without Monterey you wouldn’t have had Woodstock. Or Altamont.
So how did producer Lou Adler and Mamas And The Papas ringleader John Phillips end up pulling off this logistical impossibility? The answers are all here with the publication of Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik’s A Perfect Haze, a glossy, coffee table scrapbook with a plethora of dazzling photos. There are cool period reproductions of concert programs, telegrams of artist confirmations, periodicals from ’67 as well as a ton of fresh interviews that sit comfortably with eyewitness observations of the day. While a number of important players have written in their memoirs about what being at Monterey meant to them, no one has documented how the event came together and how what went on behind the scenes influenced what audiences saw from the main stage. For that reason alone A Perfect Haze is a vital and long overdue piece of rock archeology. Make no mistake, Monterey was a game changer and it tickles the funny bone to learn about the delicate dance of egos that managed to pull off this historic weekend. Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham speaks dismissively about visiting San Francisco Chronicle writer Ralph J. Gleason in a public relations maneuver with Adler, Phillips and Derek Taylor to bridge the gap between the L.A. “contingency” and their suspect neighbors north in the Bay Area. “I did not take to him; he was like a schoolteacher I was lucky enough not to have. He almost gloated like he was marking our term papers, which of course he was.”
Prior to arrival of A Perfect Haze the Monterey experience has been chiefly represented by the 1968 D.A. Pennebaker film Monterey Pop [greatly expanded in 2002 on The Criterion Collection edition] and the four-CD audio only box set that Rhino put out in 1992. Both of these documents offer up a generous amount of music but precious little context about how the event came together. With 31 different acts performing over three days the majority of the musicians are not represented in the original film. The Kubernik brothers’ research shows that not everything was recorded on tape or captured on film. It would be great to find out what The Paupers or Beverly sounded like or if The Group With No Name was really as bad some folks have written. There are at least some cool photos of them in action.
Of course Monterey made the reputations of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who and Otis Redding and it demonstrated to the world at large that you could put on a large spectacle and make a lot of money. The canniest move that Adler and Phillips pulled was turning the event into a charity to benefit music scholarship programs, a foundation that continues to this day. All of the artists involved at Monterey donated their services [they did get first class expenses covered] knowing full well that the resultant exposure would be priceless to their careers. Adler: “It wasn’t about the weather or traffic jams. It was and will always be about the music.” A Perfect Haze doesn’t let you hear the music, but the historical significance of the Monterey International Pop Festival sings throughout these pages and it sets the record straight on what an important and vital time this was as rock and roll came of age and had the greatest coming out party ever.