Mar y Sol Festival
"The hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do.
It was just very difficult." - Alex Cooley
|Location(s)||Manatí, Puerto Rico
(In those days, that area was thought to be part of the town of Vega Baja)
|Founded by||Alex Cooley|
|Date(s)||scheduled: April 1–3, 1972,
but ran over to April 4.
|Genre||hard rock, blues rock, folk rock, jazz, jazz fusion, progressive rock, and salsa.|
Mar Y Sol (Sea And Sun) was a Woodstock-like music festival that took place in Manatí, Puerto Rico, on April 1–4, 1972. It was held on 420 acres (1.7 km2) of countryside by Los Tubos beach in Manatí on the north shore of the island.
Approximately 50,000 people attended this festival which aside from the music had another big attraction; it was adjacent to the beach. There was also a creek which could also be used by anyone.
A large number of attendees, many of the performers and some production people have described Mar Y Sol as a unique and great experience. Some even refer to it as one of the most important events in their lives. However this festival is also know for the many problems the producers had with Puerto Rican government and other groups of activists who were against it due to the festival being held during Holy week. In turn, there were many production complications.
Almost every review by newspapers and magazines condemned the festival of being unsuccessful and uncomfortable. These included Creem, The New York Times as well as local newspapers El Nuevo Día, El Imparcial, El Mundo and The San Juan Star. One exception was New York Times reporter Les Ledbetter who printed a column on April 9 titled "It was a success – ask the people".
Several accidental deaths at the beach and a murder were also damaging to the festival's reputation.
An arrest warrant was issued for promoter Alex Cooley, who avoided arrest by leaving the island before the festival was over.
- 1 Preparation
- 2 The festival
- 3 Music albums
- 4 Legacy
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The idea of the festival started in early 1971 with different producers and performers. The original name was "Fiesta Del Sol" (Party of the Sun). Due to many difficulties, including attempts by the Puerto Rican government to prevent the festival from happening, it took place in April 1972.
The organization ended up in the hands of promoter Alex Cooley (Atlanta International Pop Festivals, Music Midtown Festival), who decided that the festival should take place on April 1–3, 1972, coinciding with religious festivities. After promotional posters had been printed, news of the Puerto Rican government's determination to stop the festival led some bands to decide not to participate. Names of new artists were added to the performers' list during the last day before the festival began.
Mar Y Sol took place in an area that included mainly a countryside and extended to the Los Tubos beach. This area is located between the beach and the Tortuguero Lagoon and is divided by a public road (which was closed during the festival). On the side facing the beach they had the main showering area, camping areas, the infirmary and the festival office. On the side facing the lagoon they had the stage and merchants area.
In those days, that area was known as being part of the town of Vega Baja by the people as well as the press, even though maps of the island in those days showed that area inside of Manatí. However, through the years that misconception has been corrected. Specially when a new yearly music festival "Festival Playero Los Tubos de Manatí" started being held in that area about a decade later. In the 70s people would say "Los Tubos beach of Vega Baja"; a decade later they referred to it as "Los Tubos beach of Manatí". However because of the proximity to the border of Manatí/Vega Baja plus the fact that back then that was the belief by most people, it is accepted to refer to Mar Y Sol as being held in Vega Baja.
These are the performers of which there is evidence (audio, photos or multiple witnesses) that they did play at the festival:
- Alice Cooper
- Allman Brothers Band
- BB King
- Banda del K-rajo (local rock band)
- Billy Joel
- Brownsville Station
- Dave Brubeck w/ Gerry Mulligan
- David Peel and the Lower East Side
- Dr. John
- Elephant's Memory
- Emerson, Lake & Palmer
- Fran Ferrer y Puerto Rico 2010 (local salsa band)
- J. Geils Band
- Jonathan Edwards
- John Baldry
- Herbie Mann
- Mahavishnu Orchestra w/ John McLaughlin
- Michael Overly
- Osibisa (last band to play)
- Pot Liquor
- Rubber Band (first band to play - local jazz band)
John Lennon's recorded message
John Lennon wanted to attend the festival along with his wife Yoko Ono but ended up not flying down to the island due to problems he was having with the government at the time regarding their attempts to deport him. Instead he sent a recorded message with his friend David Peel who was set to perform at the festival. During his performance (April 2) and after a short introduction, David Peel played the tape to the audience which was mainly greetings from John and Yoko.
Billy Joel's first major performance
One performance that stood out was Billy Joel's. At the time nobody knew who he was. Just another one of the many new groups at the festival. He had only released his first album Cold Spring Harbor with a small record company called Family Productions and the album was not doing very well. But his performance at Mar Y Sol electrified the crowd and got a major boost for his career.
"His performance was brought to the attention of Clive Davis, the head of Columbia Records, who was impressed with Joel's artistry."—Ken Bielen, The Words and Music of Billy Joel, page 23
Billy was eventually signed by Columbia Records in 1973.
Some artists cancelled due to the legal problems the festival promoters were having with the government of Puerto Rico. Some were cancelled by the producer due to bad planning of the schedule.
- Black Sabbath - They were ready and waiting at the Cerromar hotel in Dorado the last day of the festival. However, at the moment there were no more helicopters available and it was decided that they would never make it by street due to the bad traffic caused by the festival.
- Bloodrock - Were at the festival but got cancelled by producer.
- Fleetwood Mac
Other listed artists
It is unclear if the following artists performed or not. They were part of the performer's list and some were even mentioned at the beginning of the festival but there is no further information on whether they were cancelled or if they played.
- Al Kooper
- Ashton, Gardner and Dyke
- Billy Preston
- Flash Cadillac
- Goose Creek Symphony
- Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina
- Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels
- Roberta Flack
- Savoy Brown
Sound / Woodstock
Alex Cooley also had Eric Blackstead, producer of Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, as his audio consultant.
The album Mar Y Sol: The First International Puerto Rico Pop Festival was released in 1972 by Atco Records. It features well-known artists such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Dr. John, Long John Baldry and The Allman Brothers Band, as well as up-and-coming artists such as Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin, John Nitzinger, Osibisa, Jonathan Edwards and Cactus. The album was never released on CD.
That same year Cactus released the LP 'Ot 'n' Sweaty which included 3 songs from the festival on side one and 5 new studio songs on side two. Although most songs were new studio recordings, the album art as well as the title were inspired by the festival. All photos used on the album were also taken at the festival during their performance.
In 2011 (thirty nine years later) Emerson, Lake & Palmer released Live at the Mar Y Sol Festival '72 which included their entire performance at the festival. The original 16-track tapes were found by the band in 2006 and released for the first time in 2007 in the boxed set From the Beginning (on Disc 5).
That same year Alice Cooper released an instrumental version “School’s Out” from their Mar Y Sol performance in his boxed set "Old School: 1964-1974" (Disc 2, track 2).
There's other music of Mar Y Sol that exists only as bootlegs. One of them is the entire set of Billy Joel which is a deteriorated version of the official soundboard recording. There's also a 3 CD series of audience recordings by attendees Pedro Collazo and Oscar Mandry (from Ponce, Puerto Rico) called "The Collazo/Mandry Tapes" which was edited and prepared by Mar Y Sol Festival's historian, Reniet Ramirez, for free online distribution. This series of bootlegs include songs by: Allman Brothers Band, BB King, Brownsville Station, Dave Brubeck (w/ Gerry Mulligan), David Peel and the Lower East Side, Faces, Fran Ferrer y Puerto Rico 2010, Herbie Mann, J. Geils Band, Jonathan Edwards, Nitzinger and Pot Liquor.
Mar Y Sol site today
- South side: The area of the festival on the side facing the lagoon (where the stage was located) was never used for anything else and was eventually made into a nature reserve.
- North side: The side facing the beach was eventually divided in two areas; one section was made into a balneario while the rest remains almost intact, including the showers structure (originally used to provide water to cows) and a water tank. This area is also used every year to hold the Festival Playero Los Tubos de Manatí.
Attendees 40th anniversary reunion
In 2012, Mar Y Sol historian, Reniet Ramirez, announced on his Mar Y Sol Festival Facebook page that he would be making a documentary about the festival for which he was going to film some footage at the original site of the festival and that anyone who wanted to stop by and keep him company was welcome to do so. A total of 22 people (including festival attendees as well as younger people who are enthusiasts of the subject) showed up on Saturday March 31, 2012 and an improvised gathering was formed including walks through different areas of the festival while storytelling. Although a small and improvised gathering it was covered by local newspaper El Nuevo Día to be included in the 40th year anniversary article.  . Footage of this gathering was used for his amateur documentary Mar Y Sol: The Reunion, 40 Years Later.
- Les Ledbetter, "It Was a Success -Ask the People" New York Times
- Bill Dial, Remembering the Mar Y Sol Festival
- Mar y Sol Festival, p. 59, at Google Books
- Festival Mar y Sol, el Woodstock boricua