Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Jimi Hendrix - 1986 - Jimi Plays Monterey

Jimi Hendrix 
Jimi Plays Monterey

01. Killing Floor 3:35
02. Foxey Lady 3:34
03. Like A Rolling Stone 6:51
04. Rock Me Baby 3:29
05. Hey Joe 4:10
06. Can You See Me 2:42
07. The Wind Cries Mary 3:24
08. Purple Haze 3:18
09. Wild Thing 9:10

- Jimi Hendrix / guitar, vocals
- Noel Redding / bass
- Mitch Mitchell / drums

Released February 1986
Recorded June 18, 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival, Monterey, California, USA

In the evening of June 18th 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played The Monterey International Pop festival, in between The Grateful Dead and The Mamas & The Papas (who also had Scott McKenzie with them). The Who had played before The Grateful Dead and neither they nor Hendrix wanted to follow each other – for good reason as The Who were on guitar-smashing top form. As for The Jimi Hendrix Experience, they were virtually unknown in The States at that time. Like many of the artists that appeared at that festival that would not remain the case – in slightly less than 45 minutes, The Monterey International Pop Festival made their reputation.
You will note that Monterey was not billed as a Rock Festival. It was very much a pop festival and the range of artists from Ravi Shankar to Otis Redding to Hugh Masekela to Jefferson Airplane to The Byrds to Lou Rawls to Simon & Garfunkel to Johnny Rivers is quite staggering. Organised by John Phillips of The Mamas & Papas and their producer, Lou Adler, with producer Alan Pariser and publicist, Derek Taylor,  Monterey is often overlooked when compared, say, to Woodstock but it was better organised, had better sound and probably better weather. It was held at the same venue as The Monterey Jazz & Folk Festivals. The festival was filmed by D A Pennebaker – I have the film plus out-takes - and it is all great (although I can see why Simon & Garfunkel did not make the final cut - their harmonies were way-off!).
But back to The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The trio were Jimi Hendrix – guitar & vocals, Noel Redding – bass & backing vocals and Mitch Mitchell – drums and they were already a major attraction in the UK. Hendrix seemed to be enjoying himself  -  although nerves probably account for some of the mistakes – but from the opening of “Killing Floor” – (A Howlin’ Wolf song) to the closing “Wild Thing” where Hendrix upstages The Who by setting his guitar on fire (“A Sacrifice” as Hendrix puts it) you can tell that Jimi Hendrix was determined to make his mark. He wasn’t the only one – Monterey made stars of Janis Joplin, Laura Nyro, Canned Heat, Otis Redding (he was more or less unknown to white audiences), Canned Heat, The Steve Miller Band & Ravi Shankar and enhanced the reputations of others.
I am not sure how this festival was so influential – The Beach Boys who were a “no-show” for many good reasons – never regained their reputation – not fully – but it was.
But now I want to turn to the CD of The Jimi Hendrix Experience performance – no visuals – just the music. It is worth pointing out that the CD I have was released in October 2007. It was engineered by Eddie Kramer who worked as an engineer on all of the albums Hendrix made in his life-time and has looked after the Hendrix albums since The Hendrix family gained the rights to Hendrix’s material – the label is “Experience Hendrix” and while there has been definite barrel scrapping of late, “Live At Monterey” is pretty much essential. The same set was issued in February 1986, the earlier version being produced by Alan Douglas whose work on the posthumous Hendrix material has been heavily slatted. I have no idea if this CD sounds any different – I have not heard it but it has a different cover – a picture of a burning guitar and is called “Jimi Plays Monterey”. There is also an earlier release – from August 1970 – just a few weeks before Jimi Hendrix’s untimely death. This was a vinyl album called “Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival” and was produced by John Phillips & Lou Adler. Side one was The Jimi Hendrix Experience – 4 tracks of the nine song set – “Like a Rolling Stone” – the Bob Dylan song, “Rock Me Baby” – the BB King blues standard, Jimi’s own “Can You Hear Me” and the previously mentioned “Wold Thing”. Side two consists of the five songs Otis Redding performed at the festival – Otis had to curtail his set but those five songs changed history – but that is another story. Of these, despite missing out the third verse (and Dylan when he performs “Like a Rolling Stone” tends to omit it) “Like a Rolling Stone” is stunning. – and the other three are not bad, either.
Back to the CD. Following the introduction by Brian Jones – and I can’t believe he flew out specially just to introduce The Jimi Hendrix Experience – the other songs consist of the three songs that had provided Jimi with UK hits – “Hey Joe”, “The Wind Cries Mary” & “Purple Haze”  - all excellent as is “Foxy Lady” not a UK single but it was an American one. This was a set that was designed to sell Jimi Hendrix to an American audience. It certainly worked. The guitar playing is superb – no long solos here - as is Mitchell’s drumming. Redding’s bass was the weak link – but his playing was OK and suited Hendrix until the arrival of Billy Cox.
“Live at Monterey” is an historical document but it is still great music and it is worth buying for “Like a Rolling Stone”. The fact that the rest is great, too, is a bonus.



  2. Robert Christgau's review of Hendrix's performance makes it clear how dimwitted certain rock critics of the time could be:

    "Hendrix is a Negro from Seattle who was brought from Greenwich Village to England by ex-Animal Chas Chandler in January. It was a smart move. England, like all of Europe, thirsts for the Real Thing, as performers from Howlin' Wolf to Muhammad Ali have discovered. Hendrix picked up two good English sidemen and crashed the scene. He came to Monterey recommended by the likes of Paul McCartney. He was terrible. Hendrix is a psychedelic Uncle Tom. Don't believe me, believe Sam Silver of The East Village Other: "Jimi did a beautiful Spade routine." Hendrix earned that capital S. Dressed in English fop mod, with a ruffled orange shirt and red pants that outlined his crotch to the thirtieth row, Jimi really, as Silver phrased it, "socked it to them." Grunting and groaning on the brink of sham orgasm, he made his way through five or six almost indistinguishable songs, occasionally flicking an anteater tongue at that great crotch in the sky. He also played what everybody seems to call "heavy" guitar; in this case, that means he was loud. He was loud with his teeth and behind his back and between his legs, and in case anyone still remembered The Who, Hendrix had a capper. With his back to the audience, Hendrix humped the amplifier and jacked the guitar around his midsection, then turned and sat astride his instrument so that its neck extended like a third leg. For a few tender moments he caressed the strings. Then, in a sacrifice that couldn't have satisfied him more than it did me, he squirted it with lighter fluid from a can held near his crotch and set the cursed thing afire. The audience scrambled for the chunks he tossed into the front rows. He had tailored a caricature to their mythic standards and apparently didn't even overdo it a shade. The destructiveness of The Who is consistent theater, deriving directly from the group's defiant, lower-class stance. I suppose Hendrix's act can be seen as a consistently vulgar parody of rock theatrics, but I don't feel I have to like it. Anyhow, he can't sing." (Esquire magazine, Jan. 1969)