1967’s Monterrey 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. It was a performance that saw them delight the audience and gather up fans, particularly with this gorgeous cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Chimes of Freedom’.
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.
The Monterey Pop Festival would see a range of some of the best musicians the world has ever known given their first taste of fame on a large scale and an audience which dwarfed it. The Who would find their feet across the pond with their performance at the event, Jimi Hendrix would also gain the notoriety he deserved, Ravi Shankar would also benefit from the increased American exposure.
The Byrds set 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”.
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 this performance at Monterey, it’s not hard to understand why they enjoyed playing it so much. Check it out, below.