It’s been fifty some years since I first flew up to Monterey with Lou Adler and John Phillips. John and Lou were planning a huge music festival of pop music and it was going to take place there. Now I was going to see what it looked like and figure out how to film a music festival, my first. I assumed that there would be some sort of arena for the show to take place in but what we found was a kind of park for agricultural exhibitions. We were going to have to build our own stage and in fact build a whole festival layout. And when the thirty or forty bands arrived and started playing I would have to figure out how to film them.
The music performances would be recorded on eight track recorders, which had only recently been invented and were quite rare. The real complication was getting the film we shot to sync with the sound. The cameras we were going to use weighed heavily on my mind as we had made them ourselves. There were no commercial cameras we could handhold that would run the film in real time and sync to the sound. And the syncing was not always perfect. At one point in the Jefferson Airplane performance of “Today,” in a striking close-up Grace Slick can be seen singing but the voice you hear is Marty Balin. They were singing a duet but only half, Marty’s half, got recorded.
We knew that there was going to be much more music than we could fit into a ninety minute film so Bobby Neuwirth tended a red light at the edge of the stage which would be on for the songs we had chosen so all the cameras would know what to shoot. But when Jimi Hendrix or Otis Redding or The Who got going, the red light never went off.– DA Pennebaker