Tag Archives: The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Rocks In The Attic #591: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘Live At Woodstock’ (1969)

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A couple of weekends ago, I saw a screening of Woodstock: The Director’s Cut at Auckland’s majestic Civic theatre as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival’s Autumn Classics programme. I have seen Michael Wadleigh‘s film many times, having owned it on DVD for half my life, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see it on the Civic’s supersized screen.

Of course, the biggest draw-card is the appearance at the end of the film by Gypsy Sun & Rainbows, the de-facto name for Hendrix’s temporary band on the day (despite Chip Monck’s stage announcement introducing them as the Jimi Hendrix Experience).

Hendrix was billed to headline the festival, the last act on the third and final day of music (Sunday). However, the storm that ripped through the festival over the weekend, coupled with several technical delays, caused the event to over-run. Hendrix was offered to play at midnight on the Sunday night, but his manager declined, wanting him to perform as the festival’s closing act, as he was billed and contracted to do so.

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The result is good and bad. Unfortunately, half of the audience had gone home by the time Hendrix walked on stage at 9am on the Monday morning, presumably back to their jobs working for ‘the man’ as the week started. On the film of Hendrix’s full performance, it’s clear to see the disappointment on his face on numerous occasions as he looks out at the grounds – half-full of rubbish, and half-full of tired hippies.

It’s also worth considering whether Hendrix’s meandering set-list was influenced by the time of day he played, and the massive reduction in audience numbers compared to the rest of the weekend. It’s far more improvisational than usual, particularly when you compare it to his set at the Isle Of Wight festival a fortnight later.

The one positive aspect of Hendrix playing early in the morning, is that the resulting film of his performance looks fantastic. The stage-lighting at the festival over the previous three evenings was basic, to say the least, and it’s nice to see a rare instance of Hendrix playing in daylight.

While the original cut of Woodstock only featured three songs by Hendrix (The Star Spangled Banner, Purple Haze and Villanova Junction), the expanded director’s cut also adds in a jam (the almost schizophrenic Woodstock Improvisation) and a jaw-dropping rendition of Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).

For the longest time, I was bored by Hendrix’s set at Woodstock – too few actual songs, and too much improvisational material. Over the years, the jams have grown on me and now the performance is one of my first go-to’s when I put a record on the turntable. I’ve gradually become obsessed with the performance, going so far as buying the film of his set on blu-ray.

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The lucky thing about the filming of the festival is that they had enough actual film to capture all of Hendrix’s set. Due to the delays over the weekend, the film crews used up far more film than planned, and by the time Hendrix walked on stage on the Monday morning, they had almost run out. The Hendrix performance was also captured by a pair of enterprising young men who smuggled their movie camera into the festival and snuck on stage just before the band’s performance started. This film, a grainy black and white image, is interesting given the different perspective it provides. Presumably so that they wouldn’t run into the festival’s official camera crew, they set up their tripod behind Hendrix and so it’s great to see a moment like Hendrix throwing the peace sign at the start of The Star Spangled Banner, from a reverse angle.

This 3xLP version of Live At Woodstock is the most complete version of Hendrix’s performance available. The two songs sung by rhythm guitarist Larry Lee (Master Mind and Gypsy Woman) are excised completely, while his guitar contributions across the rest of the set are very low, almost inaudible, in the mix.

The record’s greatest mistake however, is in the sequencing of songs between sides. The segue of feedback between Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) and The Star Spangled Banner – mere seconds before one of the defining moments of the 1960s – is split across sides four and five. Sacrilege!

Hit: The Star Spangled Banner

Hidden Gem: Message To Love

Rocks In The Attic #487: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘Live At Monterey’ (2007)

RITA#487What a performance! From the moment that Jimi kicks into the electrifying opening guitar riff from Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor to the destruction of western pop music on the Troggs’ Wild Thing, he’s really setting out his stable to American audiences.

I’ve always regarded Hendrix as a British act – two thirds of the Experience were English, and Jimi had to come to London to kick off his solo career. Who knows what would have happened if he’d have turned down Chas Chadler’s offer to go to London? Would he have kept playing as a sideman? Would he have been noticed in some other way? They say that the cream always rises to the top, but there are plenty of examples of people being overlooked completely, or finally noticed by the mainstream when they’re well past their prime.

This was the Experience’s first show on American soil, at what was undoubtedly an important performance. After winning a coin toss to decide who played first, The Who played before Hendix, resulting in Pete Townshend destroying his guitar and Keith Moon kicking over his drum kit. Hendrix and his band had to follow this, and it’s clear that they don’t sound intimidated or nervous. Hendrix would of course upstage the Who, by not only destroying his guitar but by setting fire to it (with the help of some lighter fluid).

I recently saw the Hendrix biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side. I was excited to see it; Jimi’s one of my musical heroes. I had heard that Hendrix’s estate had not authorised the use of any of Jimi’s songs in the film, and this didn’t sound very promising. In the end, I didn’t miss any of Hendrix’s songs (Stevie Nicks’ guitarist Waddy Wachtel – he of the Edge Of Seventeen riff from Bella Donna – does a great Hendrix imitation), André Benjamin was uncannily outstanding as Hendrix, and the film covered enough of the events from that London scene before he broke through.

The problem with the film seemed to be the editing. It really felt like we were watching something that hadn’t been finished. Such a shame really, as it ticked a lot of boxes and failed at the last hurdle in how it was presented. Aw shucks.

Hit: Hey Joe

Hidden Gem: Killing Floor

Rocks In The Attic #337: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘Stone Free’ (1981)

RITA#337I got accused the other day of not listening to enough Jimi Hendrix. The accuser was my wife, and I guess there’s plenty of worse things she could have accused me of (laundry, the rubbish bins, etc). The thing is, with Hendrix, there’s not a great deal of material to listen to, and I think I got it all out of my system in my teens.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy, but I’m not going to listen to him endlessly in case I get sick of him. Hendrix is one of the cornerstones of my taste in music, my record collection and my guitar playing. Without him, my taste in music wouldn’t be as refined, there’d be some pretty major gaps in my record collection and my guitar playing would be much more average than it is now (which is pretty average).

I tend to listen to Electric Ladyland more than anything else these days – it’s a bit more of a voyage, with some really eclectic and experimental material. If I want something shorter and more immediate, I tend to go for Are You Experienced?; but of the three, the purity of Axis: Bold As Love will always be my favourite.

I found this compilation in a record shop in Withington, and you know what? Something on it really surprised me. A diehard Hendrix fan, I thought I knew it all. You see, after I devoured the three studio albums, the important live recordings (Monterey, Woodstock, Isle Of Wight, Band Of Gypsys), and a decent mid-‘90s compilation (The Ultimate Experience), I stopped. I didn’t want to dilute my interest by delving into the posthumous studio albums that were released in the late ‘90s.

These albums – First Rays Of The New Rising Sun and South Saturn Delta (both 1997) – were official releases, driven by the Hendrix family, and fully realised with the help of Eddie Kramer in the producer’s chair. They’re cash-in releases, but at least they’re a bit more authentic (and interesting) than your typical grab-bag compilation album.

Ezy Rider, one of the tracks on First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, is a true hidden gem and was included here on this 1981 compilation album, Stone Free. Before I heard it, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Hendrix. Turns out, I didn’t.

I’ve since listened to those two late ‘90s albums, together with two later releases – Valleys Of Neptune (2010) and People, Hell And Angels (2013) – and they’re not great. There’s some interesting material, but the best of the bunch had already seen the light of day on lesser releases like this one.

Hendrix fans should listen to Ezy Rider, if they haven’t already – it really stands up to the quality of material on his three original studio albums. It also proves that the man can still surprise, long after he’s dead.

Hit: All Along The Watchtower

Hidden Gem: Ezy Rider

Rocks In The Attic #233: Various Artists – ‘Withnail And I (O.S.T.)’ (1987)

RITA#233In memory of the recently departed Richard Griffiths. Monty, you cunt!

Earlier in the year, I got an email newsletter from Amoebe Records in San Fransciso, the world-famous record store. They had one copy of this soundtrack album, on vinyl, still sealed. I jumped at the chance to buy it – but the newsletter would have gone to thousands of people around the world, right? There was no chance it’d still be available, but it was, and I’m listening to it right now.

The reason I was so eager to get my hands on this soundtrack was that for a very long time, it’s been out of print. The estate of Jimi Hendrix pulled the release because they didn’t want his music to be associated with a film depicting drug use. I guess they should have thought about that when they licensed his two songs to be used in the film in the first place, but maybe that was just an oversight.

I don’t think this is the original release from 1987. I don’t think it would have spent so long, sealed, in such a high-profile record store. Instead, I think it might be a reissue, especially since it’s on DRG Records, a New York label, rather than the original 1987 release on the British Silva Screen Records imprint.

The two Hendrix songs, All Along The Watchtower and Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), used so devastatingly in the film, are replaced here with inferior live versions (possibly as an attempt to get past Hendrix’s estate?), so it’s not a perfect reproduction of the film’s soundtrack. The 1931 song Hang Out The Stars In Indiana, used to soundtrack Withnail, Marwood and Monty’s trip into Penryth ‘to get fitted with some good quality rubber boots’ is also dreadfully cut short to only what you hear in the film, so they’ve taken a few liberties in compiling this album.

Before I left the UK, I bought a bootleg version of the soundtrack on CD, subtitled The Embalmer, from a guy on eBay who, as it turned out, lived around the corner from me in Chorlton. A quick Google search suggests that this is now a well-sought after item, and it should be – it has all the instrumental score sections used in the film, together with all the unabridged, original versions of the ‘pop’ songs used in the film.

I can’t say enough about the film, Withnail And I. Ever since I saw it on the big screen at University (as part of our Film Society, although it did have a minor re-release in the UK at that time around 1999), it’s been a constant favourite of mine. I think I’ve owned it on all home video formats over the years too. I originally bought it on VHS, then on DVD, and now I own a Blu-Ray copy autographed by Paul McGann from a couple of years ago when I saw a screening in Auckland in which he was in attendance.

As far as scripts go, Bruce Robinson’s script for Withnail And I might be almost perfect. It’s of such high quality, that it’s intensely rewarding for repeat viewings, and for me is up there with This Is Spinal Tap – even if it isn’t lauded as much as that film.

Hit: While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles

Hidden Gem: Marwood Walks – David Dundas & Rick Wentworth

Rocks In The Attic #226: Jimi Hendrix – ‘Band Of Gypsys’ (1970)

RITA#226The end of the ‘60s captured on vinyl – if only because this was recorded at New York’s Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve in 1969.

This isn’t usually the Hendrix album I reach for first. I’d opt for the three studio albums any day over this, but it’s well recorded and nice to hear Jimi play in a more relaxed setting than the Experience. There are some really nice, laid-back jams on this record – and then songs like Machine Gun which explode into frantic explorations.

As you might expect, it also sounds much blacker than any of the three studio albums, especially due to the soulful backing vocals provided by Buddy Miles. I never really think of Hendrix as a black artist, in the same way that I don’t consider him to be an American musician – mainly because across the three Experience albums, the backing vocals by Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell are very, very white and very, very British.

As much as I love Hendrix on record, I always struggle to stay interested when I’m listening to him play live. I have the same feeling about Jimmy Page. Both are fantastic guitarists but their fondness for improvisation can sometimes turn me off. There’s a fair bit of that kind of improvisation here, and when you look at the full set-lists for the two New Year’s Eve shows that this was cut from, you can see that they’ve avoided a lot of the three minute pop songs, in favour of material not previously associated with the Experience.

I have the European re-release version of this record. Instead of the six songs included on the original release (two on the first side, and four on the flip side), the reissue I have has nine in total (five on the first side, and four on the flip side). This obviously makes the album much longer, and even the inclusion of Foxy Lady is deceptive – it’s a six minute rendition!

Hit: Foxy Lady

Hidden Gem: Who Knows