New previously unreleased and never-before bootlegged concert footage from the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 performance at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles has been unearthed, is being released, and you can hear a track from it right now.
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967 is that rare thing, a unicorn find for Hendrix obsessives, and the first track – an incendiary cover of Howlin’ Wolf classic Killing Floor – has been shared ahead of the album’s release on 10 November.
This performance captures Hendrix on the cusp of greatness as his mastery of his Fender Stratocaster was cresting, and his sound would resonate with a wider audience and help define the pop-cultural zeitgeist of the decade. Here was the Jimi Hendrix Experience at one of the greatest venues on the US tour circuit, supporting the Mamas and the Papas.
This was not his crowd, not yet. He had made a name for himself in the UK but that was yet to translate into anything tangible back home in the States. Nights like this were crucial, and soon to be rare.
It would be one of the last opportunities Hendrix would have to introduce himself to an audience, 17,000-strong, and as such maybe there is a little more fire in the belly.
There is certainly an edge to the way the Howlin’ Wolf blues standard is reinterpreted as a new era for electric guitar was being ushered in by players such as Hendrix, and he must have been bruised by his early failures in the States.
Backed by Mitch Mitchell on drums, Noel Redding on the bass guitar, the trio had recently inked a US record deal, turned in a live show for the ages at Monterey Pop, only to see new single Hey Joe fail to chart, with Purple Haze languishing outside the Top 50. A string of dates supporting the Monkees only served to disillusion Hendrix – that was a mismatch.
But the Jimi Hendrix Experience had their fans Stateside. Some of whom were very influential – not least, “Papa” John Phillips, leader of the Mamas and the Papas, who had helped put on Monterey, and at whose invitation the Jimi Hendrix Experience would perform on that sunny evening in Hollywood.
Brian Ray, Paul McCartney’s long-time guitarist, was in the audience that night and recalls the crowd being bewildered by what they had saw. They had never seen anything like it.
“They haven't heard of Jimi Hendrix. I'd never heard of Jimi Hendrix, and he couldn't be more opposite of The Mamas & The Papas as an act, culturally, physically, in every possible way he was the opposite,” says Ray. “Here comes this guy and there's only three of them on stage and they have these afros and these wild, ornate, very theatrical clothes. Jimi proceeds to shred, and it’s loud but it’s musical, and then it becomes so physical.
“He starts playing the guitar under his leg, and now it’s behind his back, and now he’s playing it with his mouth, and now he’s on the ground on his knees and he's like humping it, and it, to me was mind blowing.”
Not everyone was of the same opinion. Polite applause greeted Hendrix and Co. But the dye had been cast. Those, such as Ray and his sister – who “were going bananas” – were paying attention to this new sound. And there would be more like them, and soon.
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967 is being released by Experience Hendrix LLC in partnership with Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony. The set-list features performances of the then-unreleased Foxey Lady and Fire, with Hendrix leaning into his repertoire and covering Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone and Wild Thing, by the Troggs.
When Ray recalls Hendrix “humping” the electric guitar, you can imagine it is to the prehistorical I-IV-V progression of Wild Thing.
Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas had been “mortified” by Hendrix’s performance at Monterey. She wasn’t quite ready to see an artist setting fire to his instrument with lighter fluid. “I really was shocked. I had no experience with this kind of rock and roll theatre,” she said Phillips. “And that was the first time I had ever seen it.”
When she saw it again at the Hollywood Bowl, it all made sense. “I absolutely loved him,” she said. “He was a gentleman, he was lovely, he was funny.”
There is also a new YouTube documentary charting Hendrix’s run from Monterey Pop to the Hollwood Bowl that you can check out above. Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967 is available to preorder now.