The people came and listened.
Some of them came and played.
Others gave flowers away,
(Yes they did)
Down in Monterey (2x).
Young gods smiled upon the crowd
Their music being born of love.
Children danced night and day;
Religion was being born
Down in Monterey.
The Byrds and the Airplane did fly.
Oh, Ravi Shankar's music made me cry.
The Who exploded into firelight.
Hugh Masekela’s music was black as night.
The Grateful Dead blew everybody's mind.
Jimi Hendrix, baby believe me, set the world on fire!
His majesty, Prince Jones, smiled as he
Moved among the crowd.
Ten thousand electric guitars
Were groovin' real loud.
If you wanna find the truth in life
Don't pass music by.
And you know I would not lie.
No, I would not lie,
No, I would not lie
Down in Monterey.
Three days of understanding,
Of moving with one another.
Even the cops grooved with us--
(Do you believe me? Yeah!)
Down in Monterey (4x)
I think that maybe I'm dreamin'!
Eric Burdon and the Animals had an uneven psychedelic career in terms of quality. Their biggest psychedelic hit, San Franciscan Nights, released in August 1967, attempted a softer sound than one was accustomed to from Eric Burdon, with scales used as an acoustic melody line. Despite some cleverness in the lyric, it fell short of my standards for the Psychedelic Masterworks collection, being little more than a folk tune. (The same could be said of Donovan’s contribution to the Summer of Love, a calypso number titled There is a Mountain released about the same time.) However, San Franciscan Nights did introduce the public to Eric Burdon as a reporter on the hippie scene. (This had been attempted once before, alluding to names in pop culture, in Donovan’s The Trip.)
Burdon’s Monterey picked up on Donovan’s dropping of names in lyrical reportage. He’d done something similar with the album cut Winds of Change, but that had offered a long historical view; Monterey reported on a particular moment. Unfortunately this tendency to drop names in later records would make him seem something of a sycophant. Prince [Brian] Jones smiled as he moved among the crowd! Indeed! (In the present hip hop scene, The Game sometimes strikes much the same sycophantic note.)
Despite my reservations about Burdon’s working class take on psychedelic “royalty”, I feel he did a service to the hippie subculture in creating this song as a memorial to the Monterey Rock Festival, held in June 1967. (Renaissance Fair by the Byrds and Woodstock by Joni Mitchell also memorialize important festivals, but not as reportage.) Whereas LSD had held the truth in Burdon’s Sandoz (“We could all learn something from your love”) in April 1967, by December it was music itself that held great promise (“If you want to find the truth in life / Don’t pass music by.”) Many of the acts Burdon sings of with such enthusiasm were new to the American market. (The Who, popular for years in England, had just entered the American music charts in 1967.) Some of these performances sounded like nothing that had been heard before. Burdon tries to give you a taste of them musically with each line. (Maybe they are cuts from their records. The only time a real sitar is used in the song is in reference to Ravi Shankar. Unfortunately an electric sitar, first introduced on the radio in the Summer of 1967 with Stevie Wonder’s I Was Made to Love Her, was used for much of Monterey and when contrasted with Ravi Shankar, accentuated the lack of resonance in the electronic instrument. When electric sitar scored a number 2 hit in April 1968, with the Box Top’s Cry Like a Baby, it for the most part replaced real sitar playing.)
I have to admire Burdon’s complexity of songwriting in Monterey. Riding on a driving bass pattern, swaying between two chords, the poet improvises out of the background three distinct melodies with their own dynamic before returning to the first melody. The repetitions in the lyric are limited to the refrain Down in Monterey. My last note is on Burdon’s quotations in Monterey that create a meta- and therefore postmodern framework. The first is an allusion to Burdon & the Animals’ previous hit in which Burdon had sung that Old cop young cop feel alright / On a warm San Franciscan Night. In Monterey he sings that Even the cops grooved with us. And this seems to be the realization of the dream contained the other quotation, I think that maybe I’m dreamin’, direct from the Byrd’s Renaissance Fair, the first such event that found its way to song. At rock festivals back then, love always seemed to conquer any adversity..