Just about everything has been ported over from Criterion’s DVD box set, one of my favourite releases from the company, though they’ve managed to fit everything from that three-disc set on two Blu-ray discs.
The first disc presents the film Monterey Pop and all of the supplements related to the film.
The same audio commentary recorded for the DVD by director D. A. Pennebaker and festival producer Lou Adler in 2002 is here. 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 for the film are then all found under Supplements in the pop-out menu.
First up are over 2-hours worth of Outtake Performances, which again were only available previously in the three-disc DVD box set. All the same performances are again available here. Disappointingly the audio is still the same Dolby Surround tracks that were on the DVD, except for a couple of cases where the audio was remastered for Dolby Digital 5.1. You either have the ability to “Play All” or go through each day of the festival (three in total) and selecting each group and then a song.
“Day 1: Friday June 16” presents The Association and the song “Along Comes Mary” and Simon and Garfunkel and the songs “Homeward Bound” and “Sounds of Silence”.
Slightly different from the DVD (which divided the day into two sections, “Afternoon” and “Eve”) “Day 2: Friday June 17” combines all the performances under one section. 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)”, The Electric Flag with “Drinkin’ Wine”, 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: Sunday June 18” 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 “Hunt Club” (the DVD listed his performances under “Tiny Tim” in the menu.) 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.
As mentioned before these were only available previously in the DVD box set and were not included with the single-disc DVD edition of Monterey Pop. They are now again included in this Blu-ray box set and also are found on the solo release of Monterey Pop on Blu-ray.
Moving on to “Interviews” you’ll first find 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.
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.
”Promotional” presents a few promotional items including a theatrical trailer and then five radio spots.
”Festival Ephemera” 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, 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 here is the Festival Program, which presents a copy of the actual program that you can navigate through using the arrows on your remote. On the DVD Criterion also gave the option to display the text up close so you could read the articles. Criterion improves on this feature by allowing you to press the BLUE button on your remote. Once pressed a pop-up displays which allows you to scroll through the text and read the article. You can then press the BLUE button again to close it and continue navigating through the program. I liked this feature on the DVD but must admit I like the snazzier presentation here on the Blu-ray.
The Supplements section then closes with notes on the Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation.
Under “Audio Options” you’ll also find text notes by Eddie Kramer on the remix and then a brief bio about Kramer.
The second disc presents the films Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey. The pop-out menus for this Blu-ray recreate a similar menu structure the DVD presented. The main pop-out menu displays the two film titles and then the audio options. When you select a film another menu flies out listing all the options for that specific film, including the ability to play the film, the chapter list, all the features, and then the audio options again.
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.
Unique to the Blu-ray box set is of course Criterion’s Timeline, which is available for all three films. You can open it from the pop-up menu of the film you’re watching or by pressing the RED button on your remote. This is a timeline that shows your current position in the film and like pop-up menus for most Blu-ray releases it appears over the film as it plays. It lists the index chapters for the film and the commentary tracks, and you can also switch to the commentary track(s) from here. You also have the ability to “bookmark” scenes by pressing the GREEN button and return to them by selecting them on the timeline. You can also delete bookmarks by pressing the BLUE button. This is pretty common on Blu-ray so it’s nothing new but I’ve always liked Criterion’s presentation.
The set also comes with a couple of booklets. The first disc, Monterey Pop, includes a 45-page booklet that closely resembles the thick booklet that was included with the original DVD box set. First you get 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. The second disc, Jimi Plays Monterey / Shake! Otis at Monterey, comes with a slim booklet containing an essay by David Fricke, senior editor at Rolling Stone, who writes about the two performers, their impact, and their untimely deaths. The original DVD box set comes with a 65-page booklet but unfortunately not everything has made it from there. Missing is the introduction by Pennebaker and then a reprinting of an article by Jann Wenner for Rolling Stone, both of which appeared in the DVD box set’s booklet. But the essay found in the second booklet does not appear in the original DVD booklet and is unique to this release and the individual DVD release for Jimi / Shake!.
Each disc is available on its own and their respective supplements are fine, but as a whole the set is an incredibly comprehensive package on the event and the artists that performed there. 9/10