Mods And Rockers Festival: Memo To Al Gore

07/21/2007 12:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011


On Thursday night the Mods & Rockers Film Festival - presented a 40th anniversary reunion celebration of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Writer Steve Hochman attended the event and it prompted him to write a note to Al Gore...

Memo to Al Gore:

Next time you want to do a big concert event, first have a look at Monterey Pop, the D.A. Pennebaker documentary of the Monterey International Pop Festival, which took place 40 years ago last month. This of course was the event that set the model for pop festivals to come, from Woodstock to Live Aid to, well, Live Earth, and it captured the moment of a societal shift, with youth culture going from indulged -- to in-charge as pop became rock and the entertainers became, officially, the leaders.

Here's the thing, though. It was organic, not really planned with anything in mind other than to be good, to bring a lot of different music and people together. There was no issue, per se. That was something heard over and over as some of the key participants in Monterey gathered Thursday at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre for a screening of the film, kicking off a three-day retrospective of Pennebaker's work, itself a centerpiece of the 8th annual Mods & Rockers Film Festival celebrating, by and large, '60s culture.

Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas (whose then-husband John Phillips organized the original event with music producer Lou Adler), Eric Burdon of the Animals, Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Miller of Moby Grape, Dewey Martin of Buffalo Springfield, Russ Giguere of the Association and Larry Taylor of Canned Heat mingled and reminisced. What was it like to see Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire? The Who smash their instruments? Otis Redding and "the love crowd" prove to be mutual revelations? Phillips proudly noted that the event was a charitable enterprise and that proceeds continue to fund inner city music programs, free clinics and other humanitarian efforts to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually through the Monterey International Pop Foundation.

Just before the movie screening, surprise guest Donovan (whose scheduled 1967 Monterey appearance had been prevented by a U.K. drug bust) was introduced to perform "Sunshine Superman". At the end of the night, he and Burdon jammed on Donovan's Season of the Witch in a small private after-party, Burdon improvising lyrics about being 66 - and finding prescription medication "too rich."

But there was also musing on whether anything remotely like Monterey could happen again.

The always-quotable Slick, not surprisingly, had the sharpest comments, as she held court in front of an exhibit of vivid impressionist paintings she has created, many of that event and era.
"We weren't pushing any agenda," she said. We were the agenda. You have to become what you're interested in promoting."

Slick had much more to say as well, much of it spinning off a written statement on display next to her colorful, slightly romanticized painting of the scene backstage at Monterey. On that she wrote that in the Monterey era, she believed love and education would save the world, but she doesn't have that faith anymore because "90% of the population is imbued with sub-mediocre reasoning skills. No matter how much you hug them and read to them, there's no correcting stupid." Monterey, she concluded, was "a celebration of youthful naiveté."

Now clearly Slick is more cynical about all this than you are, Al. And there does seem to be a place for that kind of innocence today, for that sense of being the agenda. That's exactly what you did with An Inconvenient Truth. It came about organically. Flew in under the Doppler, so to speak. And though it had an agenda, it/you also embodied that agenda.

However, Live Earth seemed like, well, I don't know ... I never really got a handle on it. Neither did the TV/internet folks it would seem, given the utter lack of handle in the tele/webcasts.

To sum up: Monterey Pop and An Inconvenient Truth were natural. Live Earth seemed forced. But then, if you had a good sense of the difference, I'd be addressing this to you at the White House ...