The BYRDS – ” Montery Pop Festival ” June 1967

Posted: March 25, 2023 in MUSIC

1967’s Monterey Pop Festival was one of the first festivals to take place in a similar format to how we know and love them today. The bash was iconic for a plethora of different reasons but one set that often gets unfairly looked over is The Byrds’ masterclass set.

Of course, the backdrop for the festival proved a unique time in history itself: 1967 marked the beginning of the fabled “Summer of Love”; the rise of the “counterculture” and hippie movement; and a period of rising tensions in Vietnam. The Byrds were just one of a highly eclectic line-up, which included established psychedelic-rockers like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service; East Coast folkies Simon & Garfunkel; and West Coast pop acts the Mamas and the Papas, Scott McKenzie, and The Association. It would also mark one of the last great performances by soul sensation Otis Redding, who would die in a plane crash just six months later.

The Byrds set at Monterey Pop is left out of the larger conversation but it was one of David Crosby’s most important shows of his career as his onstage antics on the biggest of stages ultimately played a role in his departure from the group not long after. Crosby, to the irritation of his bandmates, decided to give lengthy in-between-song speeches on a bizarre array of topics. The somewhat rambling interludes acted as red flags for the band as he spoke on stage about the JFK assassination and the benefits of giving LSD to “all the statesmen and politicians in the world”.

“They’re shooting this for television. I’m sure they’re going to edit this out. I want to say it anyway, even though they will edit it out. When President Kennedy was killed, he was not killed by one man. He was shot from a number of different directions, by different guns. The story has been suppressed, witnesses have been killed, and this is your country, ladies and gentlemen.”

Crosby may have had a swell of support within the free-loving crowd but he showed a considerable disregard for his bandmates. Following their set, he then played with rival group Buffalo Springfield at Monterey, filling in for ex-member Neil Young—who he would have course link up within the not so distant future.

Despite talking on a number of no-go areas whilst on stage, Crosby was actually on fine form when he performed his songs rather than ranting, with the cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Chimes of Freedom’ being a shining example of The Byrds’ enormous talent.

The track featured on their debut album which was appropriately named after their more famous Dylan cover and lead single Mr Tambourine Man, but ‘Chimes of Freedom’ ended up becoming a stalwart of The Byrds’ live sets all the way up until their initial split in 1973 despite not being released as a single.

Judging by thier performance at Monterey, it’s not hard to understand why they enjoyed playing it so much. If there was one festival that has spawned the birth of the most incredible artists it has to be the Monterey Pop Festival. The famous event saw the introduction of the unstoppable Janis Joplin as the leading lady of Big Brother and the Holding Company and, with it, her fiery vocal performance, the voice of her generation, was finally given the stage she deserved. Joplin was one of many stars permanently discovered that day.

Monterey Pop Festival, Monterey County Fairgrounds, California (June 1967)

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