Uncut Editor's Diary

Jimi Hendrix: Not Necessarily Stoned. . .But Beautiful

Allan Jones

Jimi Hendrix: Not Necessarily Stoned. . .But Beautiful

A few of us from the office went last night to the launch of the Jimi Hendrix Live At Monterey DVD and CD at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square, a swanky former nightclub now used for corporate events. I was last there for a party that followed IPC’s annual editorial awards, an event made especially memorable by a spectacular fall down a particularly steep flight of stairs, after which things become very vague, my memory of subsequent events – getting home, things like that – almost wholly non-existent.

No such dramas tonight, I am relieved to report, and surprisingly clear recollections of the entire evening – which may have something to do with the fact that by the time we got there, the organisers had run out of the VIP passes we’d been promised would get us free drinks at the bar and we were pretty cleaned out after a single round at the prices being charged.

I was greatly amused when the evening began with the appearance on stage of my old friend, Keith Altham, the legendary former NME reporter and later PR for, among others, The Who, the Stones and The Police. Back in the day, Keith was probably the hippest rock writer on the scene and is still dining out handsomely on his adventures back then, which were legion and usually hilarious.

Keith, you may remember, wrote up the account of Jimi at Monterey we ran a few issues back – and tonight’s someone’s had the bright idea of asking him to repeat the story, now inflated from anecdotal length to a full-blown epic, only slightly shorter than something Homer might have put his name to.

Keith’s got it all typed up, and proceeds to read from it for what seems like the next 40 minutes, quietly enough for it to become somewhat difficult to hear what he’s saying. I’m laughing, because I’ve read the original copy and the jokes are funny enough for me to remember them and know when they’re coming. Others, more restless, quickly start to wonder how long this is going to go on for and whether dynamite may have to be used sooner or later to remove the affable Altham from sight, so the evening’s principal entertainment may commence.

And it does eventually, I’m relieved to say, with the showing of American Landing. This is a new documentary included as one of the bonus features on the Monterey DVD, which indeed ends with spectacular footage of Jimi and The Experience blowing minds at the festival. It’s extraordinary stuff, and 40 years on remains jaw-droppingly amazing, people moved to clap and cheer and give up the occasional whoop as if they were watching an actual gig.

Which we soon are – the night’s second Big Marketing Idea, as announced in the official press release and elsewhere, has been to invite drummer Mitch Mitchell, the only surviving member of The Experience and Billy Cox, bassist with Band Of Gipsies, to play with grizzled guitar stalwart Gary Moore, who I now recall exchanging blows with at a record company reception when he tried to break up a brawl I was having with Phil Lynott.

Anyway, the brawny Moore duly takes station, squeezed by no doubt expert hands into a rather too-tight black shirt, whose buttons even before he’s started throwing grimly predictable guitar hero shapes are under some considerable strain, threatening from the off to pop, probably blinding someone in the process.

There’s no sign at this point of Mitch and Billy, and there’s a rumour going around that Mitch, always apparently a handful, has this afternoon thrown a fearful strop, has locked himself in his hotel room and cancelled all the interviews lined-up for him, including a chat with Uncut. I’m not sure anyone actually introduces Gary’s rhythm section, but all three of them are on a hiding to fucking nothing, of course – we’ve just seen 30 minutes or more of absolute transcendent genius at work and now this bunch of brickies are playing some of the same songs and they are bound to suffer by comparison. In fact, it’s like swapping a Ferrari for a lawn mower.

They have a lot of fans here, though, several of whom are playing air guitars with some gusto, transported by the burly Moore’s rough house treatment of Hendrix’ music which was surely intended to be played with a lot more psychedelic sensuality than Moore’s heavy-handedness is capable of. I don’t know how long the trio holds the stage for, but I’ve got a beard when they finally quit and I’m already getting my coat on when Keith Altham reappears to announce Billy and a rather bemused Mitch, who has the somewhat distracted air of someone still trying to recover his senses after going through things he couldn’t believe were happening to him at the time.

He sits down on the drum stool and disappears from sight. Billy Cox, a congenial old duffer in a stylish Fedora, then takes a vocal lead on “Red House”, the long blues from Are You Experienced, which they follow with “Stone Free” and a version of “Voodoo Chile” they still haven’t finished by the time I get home.


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