It is testimony to the genius of Jimi Hendrix that despite 4 decades having elapsed since his death on Friday 18th September 1970 his influence among guitarists continues unabated. Hendrix had spent many years as a struggling musician playing in back up bands for artists such as Little Richard and the Isley Brothers. However, he was eventually brought to the attention of ex-Animals bassist Chas Chandler in 1966 by Keith Richard’s girlfriend Linda Keith. Chandler was looking for an artist to manage and realised he was on to a winner as soon as he saw Hendrix play live.
Hendrix flew into London and within a matter of hours began to make his mark. Keen to play with Eric Clapton, who he admired greatly, Chandler managed to arrange for Hendrix to guest with Cream at the Central London Polytechnic on a version of Killing Floor. Clapton in a state of shock left the stage asking Chandler ‘is he always that fucking good?’
It didn’t take long for word to spread about the man who had blown Clapton off stage and having formed the Experience with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding he entered the studio and over the next 4 years recorded just 3 studio albums released during his lifetime (Are you Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland) and a reputation as a firebrand live performer. As one of our contributors who was lucky enough to have seen Hendrix live remembers:
“I was hooked on Hendrix as soon as I heard him – what a revelation he was when he hit the scene. I remember well his last concert in London. It was at the Royal Albert Hall 24th February 1969 – my 20th Birthday, and what a treat that was. It was everything I expected and more. The place was rocking and after we shouted for more, he gave us a half hour encore. After all these years, it is still etched in my mind as one of the best musical experiences of my life. What a privilege it was to be there. What a legend.” (John Isaacson)
Never happier than when he was in the studio he eventually opened his own in New York that he called ‘Electric Ladyland’ and which still operates today. There he would jam with numerous musicians including Miles Davis for hour after hour. Since his death numerous albums have been released, official and otherwise, containing just some of the music he laid down during these sessions.
There was never a major connection to Wales; however, he did play in Cardiff twice in 1967. The first time was 23rd April at the Capitol on Queen Street and later that same year at Sophia Gardens 23rd November on a package tour that included Pink Floyd, the Move, Amen Corner and the Nice. Hendrix also attended the album launch by Welsh singer Mary Hopkin at the post office tower in 1969. Mary’s grandmother Blodwen said she had enjoyed the event and had spent time chatting to a young man about life in the Welsh countryside, milking cows and so on. That young man turned out to be none other than Jimi Hendrix!
If you are yet to discover the music of Jimi Hendrix we would recommend starting with the 3 studio albums he recorded during his lifetime and also getting hold of a DVD of his Monterey performenace from 1967. That should give you a good introduction to the brilliance of the man and his music.
There are several events taking place to mark the 40th anniversary of his death including an exhibition at his old home on the site of the Handel Museum in London and an exhibiton of photographs taken by Gered Mankowitz at the Snap Galleries in Picadilly.
John Cooper Clarke
The Incredible String Band