Spiritual Memories Captured On 'Monterey Pop' DVD

In the hit song "Monterey" -- commemorating the landmark Monterey Pop Festival of June 16-18, 1967, in northern California -- Eric Burdon & the Animals sang the lyrics: "Young gods smiled upon the

In the hit song "Monterey" -- commemorating the landmark Monterey Pop Festival of June 16-18, 1967, in northern California -- Eric Burdon & the Animals sang the lyrics: "Young gods smiled upon the crowd/Their music being born of love/Children danced night and day/Religion was being born/Down in Monterey."

These spiritual and musical memories are also reflected in director D.A. Pennebaker's 1968 documentary "Monterey Pop," now being issued for the first time Nov. 12 as a three-disc DVD set by the Criterion Collection. The project will also be available as a less inclusive, two-tape VHS set for $29.95.

"Monterey Pop" -- considered by a range of film buffs, rock historians, and music fans to be one of the greatest rock movies ever -- is a 79-minute program featuring career-defining performances by Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, the Who, Big Brother & the Holding Co. with Janis Joplin, and Ravi Shankar.

The DVD box, which contains a 65-page historical booklet, boasts a number of special features. The first disc includes a new, high-definition transfer of the film, which also starred Canned Heat, Country Joe & the Fish, the Electric Flag, Jefferson Airplane, the Mamas & the Papas, Hugh Masekela, and Simon & Garfunkel. It has been augmented by a 5.1 audio mix in both Dolby Digital and DTS and includes interviews with Pennebaker, festival producers Lou Adler and John Phillips, publicist Derek Taylor, and performers Cass Elliot and David Crosby, as well as the original theatrical trailer, radio spots, and memorable photos.

The second disc serves up the shorter spin-off documentaries "Jimi Plays Monterey" and "Shake! Otis at Monterey," along with commentaries by music historians Charles Shaar Murray and Peter Guralnick and an interview with Redding's manager, Phil Walden. The third disc offers two hours of outtakes that also feature the Association, the Blues Project, the Byrds, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Al Kooper, Laura Nyro, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Tiny Tim.

"I always knew that [including] 10 bands out of about 60 wasn't doing it justice," says Pennebaker, who put everything he had room for in the original film. And while he didn't know when he shot the footage how historically significant it would become, "we could see we had something really beautiful when we started editing," he says, noting that "virtually everything" lensed is in the Criterion set.

For Chris Hillman, then of the Byrds, Monterey was indeed "the best rock festival ever." Citing its "wide spectrum of talent," Hillman notes that unlike Woodstock -- which took place in 1969 -- there were "no drug overdoses, no mud, no lack of any amenities, no negatives at all. Everything worked, and it was such a well-run show that it set a precedent never to be equaled." Hillman singles out Shankar's performance as the event's musical highlight. He says, "You could hear a pin drop when he played, and it was just mesmerizing."

Ironically, Shankar nearly backed out of the historic gig. "I was really impressed by some of the musicians like the Mamas & the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, Otis Redding, and Janis Joplin," says the legendary Indian sitarist, who had just been introduced to the West through his association with George Harrison and the Beatles. "I also admired Jimi Hendrix's fantastic virtuosity as a musician, but then his movements with the guitar -- and finally burning it up -- were too much. And the Who breaking their whole instruments disturbed me so much that I decided not to play between such icons.

"But after a lot of discussions, we arranged to play a separate afternoon session -- with no one before or after -- and I felt very inspired," he continues. "It was a fantastic concert. And I saw the good side of the whole new hippie movement, [though] I didn't agree with all the gurus of the time, like Alan Watts and Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, about taking drugs and mixing it up with Indian yoga and everything. So the movie is a fantastic memory for me."