In June 1967, during pop culture's "Summer of Love," the Monterey Pop Festival, America's first major outdoor rock concert was held in California. Photojournalist Elaine Mayes has created a book from photographs she took at the event called It Happened In Monterey.
In 1967, Elaine Mayes, a young photographer, was assigned to cover the Monterey Pop Festival. Squeezed into a tiny press area near the stage with 3,000 other journalists, Elaine witnessed rock history in the making. She recently came across a collection of photos from the event that had been stored in her home for the past few decades. She decided to share her impressions of the festival and that era in American culture in her book, It Happened In Monterey. Along with the photos, the book includes commentary from musicians, organizers and others who were at the festival.
Elaine Mayes concurs that the Monterey Pop Festival became the prototype for similar events to come, such as New York's infamous Woodstock Festival of 1969.
"I think that Monterey was the invention of the rock festival. It was the first one and it was the one that gave people the idea that there could be more," she said. "And it was so successful in being a peaceful event and being something that seemed to flow and be wonderful, that it really set the tone for what could happen later."
From her vantage point in the press area, Elaine Mayes captured the action on stage, as well as portraits and candid vignettes of the musicians going to and from the stage and interacting with fellow performers. Some of the artists at the groundbreaking concert included Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, The Who, The Mamas and The Papas, Eric Burdon and The Animals, The Byrds and many more.
Elaine recalls some of her favorite moments from the festival.
"The performers who stuck out for me? I would say, first of all, Otis Redding. He was a revelation for everyone. We had not heard black music, for the most part, and he was wonderful," she said. "Janis [Joplin] stuck out, Ravi Shankar was amazing. You could hear a pin drop when he played. I loved the Electric Flag. Michael Bloomfield was an amazing guitarist. In general, the music was wonderful and, in a way, it's hard to choose."
The Monterey Pop Festival was held at the height of the "hippie" movement, where music, fashion and social conscience seemed inseparable. Audience members dressed in colorful tie-dye clothing, wore flowers in their hair, blew bubbles, and danced with wild abandon. And, unlike today, most of the musicians joined the audience, and watched the rest of the show after their own performances. Elaine Mayes says she wanted to show all the aspects of the Monterey Pop Festival.
"I focused on the musicians in particular, because I knew that's what the magazine wanted," she said. "The crowd pictures and some of the other things were kind of my choice. So, it was trying to capture the feeling. It was trying to show the people who were there. What they were wearing. What the mood of the situation was. And, somehow trying to make sense of all of that through organizing the pictures."
Elaine Mayes hopes that all generations, whether they lived during the 1960s or not, will come away with a more vivid impression of that era after reading her book and looking at the photos.
"I would like them to sort of understand or sense the feeling of the time, which I feel is so very different from today," she said. "It was a time when people perhaps had more fun, and it was time when it seemed to possible to change things, to open up, to begin again, so to speak. And I think that, today, life is a little more prescribed. Young people go immediately for the job. They network. There was no such idea at that moment. And I think there was a sense that things could be invented then. That's very different from the way it is now."
It Happened In Monterey by Elaine Mayes has just been released in the United States.