The Trick Is To Keep Going

Concerts Vol. 13: Jimi Hendrix

by on Feb.21, 2011, under Music


By the fall of 1968, I had seen Cream four times, another of my favorite artists The Paul Butterfield Band five times, The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield, Traffic, The Stones, The Beach Boys, among a host of other artists, but I had yet to see Jimi Hendrix.

Jim Hendrix at Woolsey Hall, Yale, Nov. 1968. Photo by Joe Sela. Courtesy of Wolfgang's Vault.

Jim Hendrix at Woolsey Hall, Yale, Nov. 1968. Photo by Joe Sela. Courtesy of Wolfgang’s Vault.

Two members of the Bram Rigg Set, Peter Neri and Rich Bednarzyk along with the group’s road manager Mike Geremia had met Hendrix on the street in Greenwich Village in the summer of ’67. The three had ventured into the city after the first night of a weekend engagement in Brewster, N.Y. The group’s drummer, Beau Segal, and I had driven back home after the gig and our lead singer Bobby Schlosser had also opted for his long trek back to Rhode Island.

The boys had run into Hendrix at about 3 a.m. on Bleecker Street I believe opposite the Cafe Au Go Go and he was affable, friendly and wished them well.

Beau got to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience by accident that same year in the fall. He traveled into the city to the Cafe Au Go Go to see a show billed as Eric Burdon and The New Animals and found when he arrived that The Experience had replaced them on the bill. Nice surprise. And, of course, Beau raved about them.

Hendrix was still a bit of an unknown quantity at the time here in the States as opposed to the United Kingdom, where he was a sensation with a string of single releases and his first album.

Notwithstanding the bizarre ads in Billboard during the summer that showed the three Afro-adorned musicians on the inside cover of the industry magazine and the buzz in musicians’ circles, the album Are You Experienced? had just been released and there was no single from it running up the charts. It was probably getting the majority of its play on the new FM radio stations, particularly the college stations, which were just starting to play what became known as Album Rock programming.

When I had played the first track of the album for guys in my dorm at Boston University in Sept. 1967, before I transferred to Berklee School of Music, some of them thought there was something wrong with their record players. True. Those same guys would come to love Hendrix in a few months.

So, I was dying to see him by the time the Woolsey Hall concert at Yale in New Haven was announced for Nov. 17, 1968, two shows at the same site I had seen Cream earlier in the year in April. Cream, by this time, had already broken up and we caught them on their Farewell Tour in October at The New Haven Arena, a lackluster show compared with the three previous times I had seen them. Hendrix would give a nod to his friends during the Woolsey Hall show as he had been doing previously on this tour.

One of the things I remember most about the show was Hendrix was late. Dreadfully late by about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. So when we arrived around 8 for the 8:30 show, he was just going on for the first show! Never really heard the explanation for this, but we didn’t get into the venue until at least 9 p.m.

When we finally got settled in we had seats very similar to our Cream seats, left side Orchestra about 20 to 25 rows back. This was the original Experience with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding, bass. I knew they were going to be loud, since Cream was quite loud in the Hall, which is all hard surfaces and built for classical, acoustic music. But I had no idea. The group as a whole wasn’t much louder then Cream but whenever Hendrix hit his wah-wah foot pedal, not necessarily to use it as a wah-wah but to increase his high end by leaving it in the treble position, he was absolutely ear-shattering and difficult to listen to. It was unbelievably piercing and I definitely had to cover my ears a few times during the show.

The opening act was Cat Mother & The All Night Newsboys, a group Hendrix was inexplicably producing in New York for its debut album. From what I recall they were a Greenwich Village group that had more in common with The Lovin’ Spoonful than the Hendrix Experience. Maybe Jimi was getting experience behind the engineering desk. We didn’t care much for this group, despite our love for The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Hendrix sporting white boots at Woolsey Hall. Photo by Joe Sela, Courtesy of Wolfgang's Vault.

Hendrix sporting white boots at Woolsey Hall. Photo by Joe Sela, Courtesy of Wolfgang’s Vault.

Next on was Terry Reid, who was excellent. One of the great unheralded rock, blues and soul singers from England, who turned down a chance to play with Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin and suggested Page check out Robert Plant. Reid is still around, by the way, still playing and sounding just fine.

There is a show on Dagger Records, the official bootleg franchise for Experience Hendrix, which handles all of Jimi’s posthumous releases, that is uncanily similar to the set he played in New Haven. But that’s not so unlikely since it is from the same tour, only the European leg. Live at Woburn, Bedfordshire from July, 1968 has an almost identical set list to New Haven.

I had heard from Beau that Hendrix had taken to opening with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as early as that Fall, ’67 Cafe Au Go Go show and that’s what he opened with in New Haven. He always used it as a short introduction though and quickly segued into one of his most effective live tracks, Fire. This track smokes live and there are many examples of it, most notably on the Live At Winterland set and the Woburn CD.

I don’t recall Tax Free, which is on the Woburn disc, one of my favorite instrumentals by Hendrix, but I certainly remember Red House, the extraordinary slow blues workout that Reprise elected not to include on the U.S. Are You Experienced? release. The classic cut finally showed up in the States on Smash Hits. A slightly different version was on the U.K. AYE? release.

Then he played some familiar fare from AYE?, Foxey Lady and Hey Joe, followed by a cut from the recently released Electric Ladyland, Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) with an extended solo section that included Sunshine Of Your Love as a tribute to Cream and a drum solo by Mitchell. All of these were excellent, except for the aforementioned volume at times.

They closed with Purple Haze, as on the Woburn disc. Somewhat of a letdown, another older tune. We were more interested in the Electric Ladyland material, but you can’t complain too much about seeing Hendrix perform live. He was riveting.

As in the second photo above, I clearly remember those white boots with his pants tucked in and the scarf tied around his leg. He wasn’t wearing the fringe jacket during the second show, so I believe these photos are both from the first.

Hendrix did a lot of his trademark moves, playing behind his neck, seemingly with his teeth (I could never really see if he was in fact doing that or not. His volume was such that he didn’t even use a pick or his left hand at times, but I don’t seriously doubt it because the tone did actually sound like he was plucking with his teeth!). But this was the start of his keying it down. He didn’t want to become known solely for his showmanship and by Woodstock the next year and Isle Of Wight in 1970 he was hardly moving on stage.

In all, though, unforgettable. The concert is vivid in my memories. It was the only time I would get to see Hendrix play live. Two years later, I was devastated by the news of his death. I remember where I was, at my parent’s home and the news came across in a news brief bulletin on TV while I was in the living room. I couldn’t believe it. Yeah, it was a risky time to be a pop celebrity but this was so unexpected. One of the true greats was taken from us. Soon there would be more.

 

 

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13 Comments for this entry

  • Tom Smith

    Hi Paul,
    I was at the show too. I recall that the power blew halfway through Fire, so that’d be a good clue as to whether the Dagger Records boot is in New Haven or not. When this happened, I vividly remember Hendrix bowing primly at the lip of the stage before walking off – very funny, considering how long we’d been waiting for him.

  • Paul Rosano

    Hey Tom,
    Thanks for remembering that. Mike Geremia mentioned the power failure also.
    Paul

  • TIM LOWRY

    Hey Paul. Since this “conversation” began I’ve been thinking about the shows I saw at [just] Woolsey Hall. I realized that it’s a pretty cool, eclectic list, though I’ve probably left some out.

    AL STEWART
    CHICK COREA
    CREAM
    DAN FOGELBERG
    DR. JOHN
    JACKSON BROWN
    JIMI HENDRIX
    JEFFERSON AIRPLANE
    JONI MITCHELL [ONCE SOLO, ONCE W/L.A. EXPRESS
    KEITH JARRETT
    LARRY CORYELL
    LEON RUSSELL
    MARIA MULDAUR
    MILES DAVIS
    PAUL WINTER CONSORT [2 OR 3 TIMES]
    PETER, PAUL & MARY
    PHOEBE SNOW
    POCO
    TOM RUSH
    WENDY WALDMAN

  • Paul Rosano

    Hey Tim,

    Amazing list. I wasn’t even aware some of those artists played at Woolsey Hall. Larry Coryell, Leon Russell, Dr. John. I was at the Joni Mitchell show with L.A. Express, a very young Robben Ford! Poco, Mile Davis, Keith Jarrett, Jackson Brown. I didn’t realize the list of musicians over the years was so extensive and varied. I wonder when they stopped and why. Not generating enough revenue from the site or too much of a problem for some reason? Thanks for the comment and list.

    Paul

  • Paul Rubin

    Hey Paul—I hadn’t looked at your site for awhile, and happy I did this morning. Hope all is well. I, too, was at that concert–front row, first balcony–and I remember the power outage and the beginning of “Voodoo Chile” the most, as well as the delay of the show. It was amazing stuff. I also recall an outdoor show with Hendrix at an outdoor stadium in Bridgeport in the summer of ’68, with Soft Machine and Eire Apparent. He opened with Are You Experienced? But the Woolsey gig was special, and wish it was on a boot somewhere. BTW, I was part of that crew that drove down to NYC after the date at McCarthy’s in Brewster. I remember that Jimi was wearing the same wild “eye” shirt that he donned for the first album cover, and that he was accompanied by a pair of British blonde “birds” who were giggly. Wonder what they look like now? He was very nice, and when we were walking back to the van, a limo passed by, the passenger lowered a window, and waved at us and said good night. I believe that “Are You Experienced?” was released within a few weeks. I also have a vivid recollection of the rest of that evening, but this is a family blog, right? (Ha!) All the best, and I will look you up again when I visit Mom, possibly in a few months. pr

  • Paul Rosano

    Hey Paul,

    Sounds good. Thanks for the added details about the trip into NYC and where you guys saw Jimi. I wasn’t sure if you made that trek or not but I had a suspicious feeling I was leaving someone out.

    Paul

  • James Velvet

    Hi Paul,
    For some crazy reason I was not at Hendrix’ Woolsey Hall show! I probably figured he’d be back soon.
    But to add to Tim Lowry’s list of Woolsey Concerts I remember seeing Country Joe & The Fish, Donovan, Moby Grape, Big Brother & The Holding company, Sun Ra & Arkestra, and Charles Lloyd. And those are just the ones I can remember! Many, many great stories about these concerts, but I’ll share only two. When Cream was playing it’s farewell show at The Arena, Moby Grape was at Woolsey. My friends and I snuck into the Cream show, but soon realized they had left it at home. So we walked over to Woolsey, snuck in, and listened to Moby Grape play to about twenty people. They were great, loose as could be, and they delivered on their promise as a pop band who could jam. — Second story: Big Brother and I got into an argument about ticket prices in the back room at George & Harry’s (Naples Pizza) on Wall Street. Eventually they bought me a beer (I was seventeen) I think just to shut me up.
    Ahhhh. . .

  • Paul Rosano

    Hey James,

    Love that Big Brother story. Amazing that Moby Grape was booked on the same night. I agree about Cream’s performance. Nothing like the previous times I’d seen them.

    Paul

  • Rob Nankin

    Hi, I was also at the Woolsey Hall show and sat in row 2 on the left side. I swear Jimi looked right at us (we were all long haired hippies) when he sang “Excuse me, while I kiss the sky”. At the time we thought he sang that for us. I also was at the Cream show in the Arena and we actually liked it. I remember Eric holding up five fingers and that is how many songs they played (I think). Also Cream at Oakdale and that show was killer. I was at the Bridgeport (Kennedy Stadium?) show for Hendrix and the Randall’s Island gig I think in 70. Speaking of Kennedy Stadium I also saw Blind Faith there. Now living in Albuquerque and our most recent concert was Arlo Guthrie a few weeks ago. He still puts on a great show.

  • Paul Rosano

    Rob,
    Thanks for your remembrances. I was at some of those same shows and most were great. It was an amazing era and I’m thankful I was able to see so many wonderful artists. Take care. Thanks again.

    Paul

  • Garry W.

    I was there to see Hendrix, 2nd rock show I’d ever seen. Fantastic,that spring I saw the Jeff Beck group, do I need to say the incredible band with him. All the regulars plus Nicky Hopkins on piano. Okay, Rod Stewart, Ronny Wood, were the big names. Stewart’s mike kept going out. Jeff Beck was extremely louder than the rest of the band, so well it should have been. Short set, but cool. No one’s mentioning that about 2 weeks before Jimi, Big Brother and the Holding Company played a great show. Cheap Thrills all night. They were truly the days.

  • Tom Harper

    Hi Paul, I am yet another New Haven bass player from those days. I was at this show and have an awful photo of Jimi that I took with a Kodak Instamatic camera to prove it. Thanks so much for this memory!

    Cheers,

    -Tom Harper

  • Paul Rosano

    Hey Tom,
    Just saw this note after the later one. Yeah, I remember this show well and I’m glad to have been there.
    All the best,
    Paul

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