Writer reflects on past

A guidance counselor at San Diego State University once told Harvey Kubernik he had no communication skills. On top of that, the SDSU student newspaper rejected his application to be a staff writer.

So when he started getting published in outlets like the Los Angeles Free Press, many journalism and English majors he knew who were struggling to get jobs wrote into the paper complaining that he had no right to have those kinds of opportunities.

Purple haze · Harvey Kubernkik’s latest book, A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival, takes an in-depth look at the iconic concert and its performers. - Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Press

“They didn’t have my rock’n’roll soul,” Kubernik said. “They were just robots taking college classes.”

Kubernik, a renowned rock journalist and the co-author (with his brother Kenneth) of the recently published A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival, could probably talk all night about the history of music, counterculture, literature and the icons and practitioners of these movements.

He’s the author of four books, each of which uniquely touches on the personalities behind the modern music that has shaped American culture. But his most recent publication probably ranks as his most personal work.

“All books reflect your life and who you are, but it’s only personal because this one is not exclusively about me — it’s kind of about a festival and how myself and my brother serve the festival,” Kubernik said. “The festival is always the star of this book.”

Though the Monterey International Pop Festival — which took place in 1967’s “Summer of Love” — carries its fame in the unforgettable image of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar, the Kuberniks’ book serves as a testament to the festival’s greater importance as a world-changing moment of many characters and energy.

It’s a vivid portrait of a time when popular music served the cosmic consciousness rather than individual egos — a time when Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones wandered the festival grounds without an entourage or bodyguard; a time when Jimi Hendrix casually went shopping for flowers on his free afternoons. The book furthers the intensely human quality of the images provided by documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker’s 1968 film Monterey Pop.

“That really kind of shows you that everybody wasn’t star-struck and there weren’t the safety concerns that have kind of emerged in the last few decades at rock concerts and everything,” Kubernik said. “It adds to a different world we’re visiting.”

Kubernik has been compiling interviews, images and media surrounding the festival since 1997, and his attachment to the festival dates back to the first time he saw the 1968 film with a girl he asked out on a date in high school.

“A whole new world was exposed to me,” Kubernik said. “I had been aware of this world. I had some of the albums from these people already. I knew who they were. I had read about them. It was being touted on the radio.”

After marinating on the thought of doing a book on the subject, Kubernik decided to include his brother (also a music journalist) because of the extended knowledge and perspective he could bring to the project.

“Since so many siblings don’t get along with each other, we thought we’d show one time they can work together. You know those ‘I don’t talk to my brother’ or ‘I don’t talk to my sister’ people?” Kubernik said. “We’re determined not to have that.”

The Kuberniks grew up going to many shows together, and the brothers have steeped their consciousness in the memory of Monterey.