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'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: Revisiting the Monterey International Pop Festival Through A Perfect Haze

12/20/2011 04:20 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2012

The Monterey International Pop Festival occurred during a three day period in June 1967, the first large-scale event of its kind. It predated Woodstock by over two years but is not nearly as well known. Yet its very existence ripped a seam in our cultural zeitgeist and changed pop culture forever. This is the meaty subject tackled in the newest of Harvey Kubernik's magnum opuses (co-written with brother Kenneth) and this book deserves an honored place on your coffee table this Christmas season.

Kubernik is the author of the brilliant Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon, a microstudy of 80 years of the music and culture fostered in that storied Los Angeles neighborhood. With A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival (Santa Monica Press), Harvey and Kenneth examine how a quiet coastal community became the center of the pop culture universe for three magical days, establishing the first official history of this important music festival.

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The incredibly colorful sights and sounds of those iconic days are brought to vivid life in these pages by many of the musicians who participated as well as festival attendees, aided and augmented by a monumental collection of posters, flyers, advertisements, memorabilia, and beautiful photographs (many never before seen) from the event. We hear from Lou Adler (the festival's producer), Pete Townshend, Ravi Shankar, Bob Weir, Al Kooper, Booker T. Jones, Roger Daltrey, Steve Cropper, and filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (whose legendary film Monterey Pop documented the festival). Literally hundreds of images dazzle the eye, taken both on and offstage. Lest we forget, Jimi Hendrix lit the world on fire at Monterey. And he was only one of many who blew minds during those three days; The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkel, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Otis Redding, and others also dealt a mighty blow to our collective consciousness.

This book is the perfect companion to filmmakers Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood's fascinating immersion experience, Magic Trip, recently released on DVD, which depicts Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters' incredible journey to the New York Words Fair in 1964 in their psychedelic school bus. The film is 100 percent made from actual footage shot by the Pranksters at the time, and securely positions the viewer in a marvelously intriguing place: that of an innocent America, seconds before it sees the dire threat posed by the counterculture and attempts, unsuccessfully, to stop it. It's a remarkable study of a moment in time we've never before had access to.

Similarly, A Perfect Haze examines a rare moment in history, two years before the '60s came crashing down on our heads at the Altamont Speedway. Two years even before the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in August 1969. The Monterey International Pop Festival took place at such a guileless time that the promoters used the word "pop" in its title. Not long after this would have been unthinkable, after the lines were drawn between "pop" music and rock and roll. The book adeptly captures the very epicenter of the nascent counterculture from which our world was forever changed.

Photo used by permission of the publisher.