Mar Y Sol Pop Festival
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"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 mistakenly thought to be part 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.|
The Mar y Sol Pop Festival (referred to mostly as Mar y Sol Festival or simply Mar y Sol) was a rock 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.
Mar y Sol means Sea and Sun and it is pronounced mar-e-sol.
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 known 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 Video
- 5 Legacy
- 6 Gallery
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The planning of the festival started in early 1971 with different producers and performers. The original name was Fiesta Del Sol (Party of the Sun). There were five promoters, three of them were from the US (Samuel T. Harmon, Robert "Bob" J. Salstrom, and multimillionaire Glenn W. Turner) and the other two were local (basketball player Ray Rivera and Tito Molinary).
Fiesta Del Sol was having production problems and the estimated date kept being postponed. The reasons for these problems is not completely clear. Some say it had to do with government permits but it is also very possible that it had to do with legal problems Glenn W. Turner was having at the time with the US government regarding taxes. If he could not be part of the project, it would be almost impossible to produce the festival as he was considered (as stated in local magazine TE VE Guia) the "financial spinal cord" of the festival.
The project was almost over but eventually some of the promoters were able to get Alex Cooley (Atlanta International Pop Festival, Texas International Pop Festival and 2nd Atlanta International Pop Festival) to take over. Cooley decided that the festival should take place on April 1–3, 1972, coinciding with Holy Week.
This sparked a high volume of criticism by both the government and the press of Puerto Rico. "Then the newspapers [from Puerto Rico] got a hold of it and they started just slamming it." said Cooley in a 2006 interview. The Puerto Rican government was determined to put a stop to the festival and these news led some bands to decide not to participate. Names of new artists were added to the performers' list during the last weeks before the festival began.
The designated area for Fiesta Del Sol/Mar y Sol was mainly in the 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's office. On the side facing the lagoon they had the stage and merchants area. The coordinates are: 18°28'20"N 66°26'46"W 
In those days, that area was known as being part of Vega Baja by most people, 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 of Vega Baja"; a decade later they referred to it as "Los Tubos of Manatí". However because of the proximity to the border 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:
- Allman Brothers Band
- Long John Baldry
- Banda del K-rajo (local rock band)
- Brownsville Station
- Dave Brubeck w/ Gerry Mulligan
- Alice Cooper
- Jonathan Edwards
- Elephant's Memory
- Emerson, Lake & Palmer
- Faces w/ Rod Stewart
- Fran Ferrer y Puerto Rico 2010 (local salsa band)
- J. Geils Band
- Billy Joel
- Dr. John
- BB King
- Mahavishnu Orchestra w/ John McLaughlin
- Herbie Mann
- Osibisa (last band to play)
- Michael Overly
- David Peel and the Lower East Side
- 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 - They were at the festival but got cancelled by the producer
- Flash Cadillac
- 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
- 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.
Various artists: Mar y Sol
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.
Cactus: 'Ot 'n' Sweaty
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.
ELP: Live at the Mar y Sol Festival '72
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).
Alice Cooper: Old School: 1964-1974
Also in 2011 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). The entire soundboard recording of their performance at the festival exists but there is no indication that this will ever be released in its entirety.
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 was going to be filmed professionally but the film makers backed out due to the many legal problems the promoters were having in the island. It is believed that most, if not all, news footage has been lost. Only amateur footage exists and so far only three 8mm films have been found and published online. None of this footage contains full songs from any performer, instead they capture random footage from different areas of the festival.
In 1978 Puerto Rican poet Manuel Abreu Adorno published a 12 short story book titled "Llegaron Los Hippies" (The Hippies Came). The main short story, also titled "Llegaron Los Hippies", was written about Mar y Sol. The book was very rare and has been out of print for dacades. In 2011 it was translated and published again. The new version contains all 12 short stories in both English and Spanish.
Remember Mar y Sol, the concert
In 1982, in celebration of the 10th year anniversary, a concert was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico called "Remember Mar y Sol". This concert had nothing to do with the original producer (Alex Cooley) and the only performer from the original festival was David Peel. Information about this concert is very scarce but most people remember it being a complete failure.
A revived subject
As opposed to Woodstock and other similar music festivals from those days, the subject of Mar y Sol was quickly forgotten. Most reviews (both local and in the U.S.) described the festival as a failure and a mistake. There was never a film, a documentary or book about it to prove otherwise or to at least serve as a source of information. Mar y Sol became a rare subject that through the years kept disappearing. The only souvenir available was the Mar y Sol LP which was eventually discontinued and never released on CD.
In 1993 however, a Puerto Rican teenager named Reniet Ramirez, found out about Mar y Sol when his barber showed him the LP 'Ot 'n' Sweaty by Cactus (which contains 3 songs from Mar y Sol). He became obsessed with the subject specially because there was no easy way to learn more about it. In 2004 after moving to Las Vegas, Nevada and finishing a course in web design he decided to become the historian of Mar y Sol and started his research in his next trip to Puerto Rico in late 2004 by getting reprints of all newspaper articles from those dates before and after the festival from newspaper and university archives.
Even though he was not at the festival (as he was born 5 years later) he had gathered enough information to be able to start his website marysol-festival.com. The website started to get a lot followers who also contributed with photos, corrections, audio and other material which made the website grow more and more. Among those followers was award-winning photographer Glenn Abbott who lives in Puerto Rico and was one of the photographers at Mar y Sol for local magazine "Bohemia de Puerto Rico". Abbott became his right hand for a few years helping with getting extra material for the website including the first professional photos that had ever been published online of the festival (taken by Abbott himself) and the first footage of the festival (two 8mm films) ever shown on the internet. He also helped him find part of the original site of the festival which was also forgotten by most people.
Ramirez has made 2 amateur documentaries about the festival and his research has been featured in local newspaper articles as well as a radio special. For the past years Mar y Sol has developed a cult following by both attendees as well as people from a newer generation like Ramirez himself. Wearing Mar y Sol shirt replicas has become a new fashion and some college students have done special projects about the festival in recent years.
"It’s been a lot of hard work which for me is a very pleasant hobby. But this web site has been growing and becoming what it is today with the amazing help and support from it’s visitors who have contributed with additional information, corrections, pictures, etc. Including Alex Cooley himself (producer of Mar y Sol), photographers, artists, crew members and people who were at the festival."  - Reniet Ramirez
Reniet is still very active with his Mar y Sol research.
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.
40th anniversary attendees 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.
Alice Cooper performed around 5:00am on Sunday April 2
[photo: Pedro Collazo]
Herbie Mann performed in the morning of Sunday April 2
[photo: Pedro Collazo]
- Les Ledbetter, "It Was a Success -Ask the People" New York Times
- Bill Dial, Remembering the Mar y Sol Festival
- TURNER v. COMMISSIONER
- wikimapia.org/Mar y Sol Pop Festival 1972
- Mar Y Sol Pop Festival, p. 59, at Google Books
- The Hippies Came
- Festival Mar y Sol, el Woodstock boricua
- Festival Mar y Sol, el Woodstock boricua