Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jimi Hendrix ... and the Monkees

One of our Forgotten Hits Readers, Ken Voss, has been working on a piece detailing the brief tour that Rock Guitar Legend Jimi Hendrix did opening for The Monkees.

Now Ken is a certified, card-carrying member of The Jimi Hendrix Preservation and Appreciation Society ... and has gone out of his way to help keep the legacy of Jimi Hendrix and his music alive ... so I am VERY pleased to be able to present his "work in progress" here in Forgotten Hits.  

(We covered some of this in our own Jimi Hendrix Series a few years ago ... you can find that posted here: Click here: Forgotten Hits - Jimi Hendrix ) ...  but Ken has gone into much greater detail in his piece, exploring this Monkees / Hendrix combination exclusively.)

So, without any further adieu ... and with Ken's kind permission ... here is his "first draft", running exclusively in Forgotten Hits!!!

By mid-1967, The Monkees were an American phenomenon. Created not as a band, but as a musical group for a television show (the show aired from September 1966 to March 1968), the combination of music and campy, cartoonish comedy captured the hearts of the pre-teen crowd. The group consisted of Micky Dolenz (drums), Peter Tork (bass), Mike Nesmith (guitar) and Davy Jones (vocals). Certainly as big as The Beatles (The Monkees went on to chart a dozen Top 10 hits and sell over 65-million records), their popularity created the demand for the group to tour. 

And Hendrix? An unknown, recently “discovered” at the Monterey Pop Festival the month before, word was just starting to seep out about his amazing guitar mastery and flamboyant stage presence.

So, how did it come that Jimi Hendrix became an opening act for the Monkees?

Being part of the musical community, the guys in The Monkees were already familiar with Hendrix’s music and performances. Micky Dolenz recalled seeing him in New York, while Mike Nesmith was introduced to him through a Beatle.

“I was in London visiting John Lennon, and I was having dinner with him, (Paul) McCartney and (Eric) Clapton,” Nesmith remembered writing his autobiographical volume Total Control. “And John was late. When he came in he said, ‘I’m sorry I’m late but I’ve got something I want to play you guys.’ He had a handheld tape recorder and he played ‘Hey Joe.’ Everybody’s mouth just dropped open. He said, ‘Isn’t this wonderful?’ So I made a mental note of Jimi Hendrix because Lennon had introduced me to his playing.”

Dolenz and Peter Tork met Hendrix at Monterey Pop, where the seeds were planted for a tour together. In an interview with TV Guide, Dolenz remembers his most memorable moments of Monterey were, “seeing Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar and The Who, they all stick out in my mind. Musically, Ravi Shankar was my favorite memory, because that was the first time I'd heard those types of rhythms. As a studying, working drummer at the time, that just blew me away. But as far as just hanging out with everybody, I remember how on the last night after the event, it was hard to get everybody to leave. I was sitting in a tent and somebody dragged in a generator and some amps, and Jimi Hendrix came in with some people and they jammed all night long. Nobody wanted to go home. It was pretty intense.”

Actually Dolenz had seen Hendrix before. “I was in New York a few months before (Monterey) and someone told me, ‘You got to go down to the Village and see this guy play guitar with his teeth.’ He was playing lead guitar for the John Hammond band. Sure enough, there was this young black guy who, besides being an extraordinary guitar picker, would occasionally raise the instrument up to his mouth and play it with his teeth. I don't remember his name even being mentioned. Months later I go to the Monterey Pop Festival and on stage comes this band and it was the same guitarist. It was Jimi Hendrix.”

You have to remember, the Monterey appearance by Hendrix was not part of a planned tour, but an invitation from Beatle Paul McCartney for Hendrix to return to America to unveil his Experience. Management had no immediate plans or tour scheduled. Peter Tork actually took Hendrix under wing and invited him to stay at his house. Tork lived in Laurel Canyon, which was an artists haven for musicians.

As a matter of fact, Jackson Browne recalls in an interview posted on, “We would catch a ride to Peter Tork's house on Willow Glen. Peter had been a dishwasher at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach and now he was a TV star, a Monkee. My friend Ned Doheny (The Mamas and The Papas) and I would say, ‘Let's go up to Peter's house, see what's going on.’ Sometimes you would walk in and there would be twelve girls in the pool, naked. And they were beautiful women, people of substance, not bimbos - not that we would have minded if they were bimbos. One time Jimi Hendrix was up there jamming with Buddy Miles in the pool house, and Peter's girlfriend was playing the drums, naked.”

Throughout the summer of 1967, Stephen Stills and Dewey Martin’s Malibu home became the site of informal jam sessions involving Stephen Stills, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles, David Crosby … and Monkee Peter Tork. Stills played bass, deferring lead guitar duties to Hendrix. All of them ultimately ended up living at Tork’s Laurel Canyon spread, which, as previously mentioned, featured a gaggle of young groupies who spent an inordinate amount of time lounging around the pool in various states of undress.
In considering Hendrix as an opening act for the Monkees tour, Dolenz later said that he viewed both acts as theatrical and that they could be “a perfect union.” The Monkees proposed that the tour promoters contact Hendrix about opening for the band’s summer tour.

“I told our producers at the time about the Experience and that's why they got him,” Dolenz remembers. “We needed an opening act and we were going out on tour right after the festival, so it seemed like a good fit. Jimi was quiet, but he was a very theatrical guy. I thought he would work well with the Monkees, because the Monkees were an act as well.”

Although Hendrix had publicly insulted the Monkees a few months earlier (calling them “dishwater”), manager Mike Jeffery actively pursued the opportunity and accepted the offer from promoter Dick Clark. Again, Hendrix was an unknown entity, and even though he had three Top-10 hits in England, had yet to chart in the United States. The opportunity to play in front of tens of thousands of people across the country that immediately was not an offer to turn away.

For their part, the Monkees, who had already been privy to Hendrix’s talent, just wanted the opportunity to watch Hendrix up close. To Monkees producer and songwriter Tommy Boyce, it was "A personal trip. They wanted to watch Jimi Hendrix every night; they didn't care if he didn't fit."

Hendrix and the Experience joined The Monkees on tour in Jacksonville, Florida, on July 8.

While The Monkees were thrilled to have the band on the bill, Monkees fans were another story.

As everyone should have expected, things went badly right from the start, as precious few of the anxiously screaming Monkees fans cared to sit through an act they could neither comprehend nor appreciate.

"Jimi would amble out onto the stage, fire up the amps, and break into ‘Purple Haze’ and the kids in the audience would instantly drown him out with, ‘We want Davy’,” Dolenz remembers. “God, was it embarrassing."

Mike Nesmith recalled that as Jimi opened the show, “he walked into the beast. There were twenty thousand pink waving arms. He would sing ‘Foxy’ and they would shout, ‘Davy’ – ‘Foxy’ – ‘Davy’ ... Oh, man, it was a seriously twisted moment."

As Mike Nesmith admitted, “The Jimi Hendrix Experience ... were the apotheosis of sixties psychedelic ribbon shirts and tie-dye, they had pinwheels for eyes and their hair was out to here ... I thought, "Man, I gotta see this thing live." So that night, I stood in front of the stage and listened to Hendrix at sound check. And I thought, "Well, this guy's from Mars; he's from some other planet, but whatever it is, thank heaven for this visitation." And I listened to him play the sound checks and the concert. I thought, "This is some of the best music I've heard in my life."

Watching Jimi, Nesmith recalls, “Jimi was just playing through one Marshall stack at the time. I’d just never heard anything like it. You never heard any power like that in your life!”

July 8, 1967 – Coliseum, Jacksonville, Florida
July 9, 1967 – Convention Hall, Miami, Florida
July 11, 1967 – Coliseum, Charlotte, North Carolina
July 12, 1967 – Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
July 14-16, 1967 – Forest Hills Stadium, New York, New York

Hendrix joined the tour midstream as The Monkees were on a swing of the southeast and eastern seaboard. The packaged tour included The Sundowners and Lynne Randell.

The Sundowners were a little known act originally from New York who had transplanted to the west coast after some modest regional success. They were playing an engagement at the famed Sunset Strip club Ciro's when Micheal Nesmith saw the band perform. Impressed, he invited them to join the group's summer concert tour as their opening act, and they also backed the Monkees for a show-closing medley of rock oldies.

In the mid-60s, Randell was Australia’s most popular female performer, known in her home country as “Miss Mod.”. It was during this time she was having a brief affair with Monkees’ lead singer Davy Jones, and was added to the tour package. As a matter of fact, she had already experienced Hendrix. “After Monterey, Peter Tork had asked me to come with Micky to the Whisky (July 2) to see the Experience and I just couldn't believe what I was seeing or hearing. Before that, I'd never wanted to stand up on top of a table and scream.”

 “We joined the Monkees in Florida,” recalled Experience bass player Noel Redding in his autobiography Are You Experienced. “Our first show was 25 minutes long, playing to a strange audience for us – mostly girls aged 7-12 – but we went down surprisingly well.”

But after the first two shows, Hendrix had a different opinion, quoted as saying, “they gave us the death spot on the show – right before the Monkees. The audience just screamed and yelled for the Monkees,” it was noted in Eyewitness: The illustrated Jimi Hendrix Concerts 1966-1967.

Of the tour, Lynne Randell recalls, “When we were in Miami, Davy, Peter, Mike and Micky gave us all a tremendous surprise. They rented a gorgeous 71-foot cruiser, loaded it with 30 of us ‘Monkee show people’ and we all put out to sea for a whole day of fun and laughter together.” Randell had actually kept a diary of the tour as she also was writing a story on the tour for Go Set magazine.

The tour entourage flew first class, as the Monkees had their own private DC6 with The Monkees logo and big red guitar stenciled on the fuselage. On the flights, “We got high together,” remembers Tork. “We had this DC6, with this lounge in back. There were some reporters on the plane, so we would leave the reporters in front and go into the back and smoke it up.”

“Climbing on a plane nearly every night after the gig meant another excuse to drink and smoke too much,” recalled Redding. “This led to some awkward moments as the tour was very straight,” he said, who tells tales of amyl nitrate uses in his book Are You Experienced.

On to Charlotte. But, the Experience didn’t fare much better. “In Charlotte, we really died the death,” Redding recalls in Are You Experienced. “Jimi pulled a moody, which meant he turned his back on the audience and got unreasonably pissed off when his guitar went out of tune or his amp hummed. He’d get flash and say, ‘I can’t play with this’ and then slop through the show. Mitch and I carried on and pulled it through. The next night we bounced up again.”

While opening acts didn’t get much press, a review of the Charlotte concert at least gave them some acknowledgement. “Before the Monkees came on for this concert, three other acts performed to warm up the audience (these kids needed warming up?), dressed in costumes from blue brocade pants and shirts with rhinestone buttons in orange ruffled shirts. They were groovy and plenty loud but when the Monkees came on stage it all broke loose and didn’t stop till an hour later when the show was over,” it was written in the 7/12/67 Charlotte News. But there was no mention of the artists’ names.

The lack of press attention frustrated Hendrix. As the Experience had joined the tour in progress, there was no mention of their appearances in the concert posters or ads. “We were not getting any billing,” groused Hendrix. “All the posters for the show just screamed out – MONKEES!”

It probably didn’t help to join the tour in the part of the country they did. Not only did the Experience have to battle the teeny-bopper Monkees audiences, they had to cope with the southern bigotry of the period. Being part of the Monkees entourage eased some of those tensions.

Nesmith related one of those stories in Total Control: “We would typically go in and take over a wing of a hotel. The police would come and block off the wing, and generally stand guard down the hallway … because we would always attract a large number of people to the hotel. The hallway was lined with probably five or six on either side of these stereotypical Southern police with big beer belly, and different color blue shirts, and a very Southern kind of redneck attitude. I’d just come out of my room, guess it was one or two in the morning. A door opened and there was this kind of eerie blue-red light that came in from it because of the exit sign over it. Hendrix appeared in silhouette with this light in back of him, and of course his hair was out to here, and he had on what has become his famous ribbon shirt. And he took a step forward, and it was like it was choreographed. Noel and Mitch both came up on either side of him, and they made the perfect trio. It looked like the cover of Axis. None of these guys was very big, and all those copes were like 6’5”, and Hendrix just started walking down the hall with these pinwheels in his eyes. And to see him walk under the nose of those cops, and these guys lookin’ at him going by was something to see. Jimi was in absolute control. He had such a command of himself.”

As Redding mentioned, the Experienced fared much better as the tour moved on to Greensboro.

“Finally, they agreed to let us go on first and things were much better,” recalled Hendrix. “We got screams and good reaction, and some kids even rushed the stage. Then some parents who brought their young kids complained that our act was vulgar.” The realization was setting in that the tour was putting Hendrix in front of the wrong audience.

The tour then headed to New York for three nights at the 5,000 capacity Forest Hills Stadium, an outdoor bowl that was home to the U.S. Open Tennis Championships.

A review of those shows in the 7/27/67 edition of New York’s Village Voice notes, “Forest Hills Stadium glowed with pubescent purple passion. These were the usual screams, and constant strobe of flashbulbs as The Monkees emerged from grassy wings. But nobody charged the stage. And posters strange to a teen event – signs ready “Peace” and “Lover power” – dotted the grandstand. True, a hefty maiden disrupted some whining Jimi Hendrix electronics with a hefty plea: ‘Enough with the psychedelic, already,’ but most screamed for the new music, even if what they got was only old noise.”

Perhaps, the more musically aware urban audience of New York was going to accept and adopt Hendrix. A review of the shows in Go magazine noted, “Jimi Hendrix really wowed the crowd with his guitar work and he looks like he’ll be picking up a lot of fans as the tour progresses.”

In a report in Eyewitness, “At the concert, Hendrix sauntered out and went into his regular set. The audience didn’t care. They were there for The Monkees and had never heard of Jimi. Suddenly, Jimi took his guitar, threw it down and stomped off stage.” Rock writer Lillian Roxon, who had been travelling with the tour entourage, noticed, “by the time it was over, he had hummed and nuzzled his guitar with his lips and tongue, caressed it with his inner things, jabbed at it with a series of powerful pelvic thrusts. Even the little girls who’d come to see The Monkees understood what it was all about.”

Things came to a head at the Forest Hills shows.

“The tour manager nagged Jimi to tone down his set,” recalls Redding. “Jimi acquiesced at the Forest Hills gig by turning off completely. Usually intolerant of his on-stage moodies, this time I agreed with his tactic. We were told to get off the tour, or else … Or else what? Get thrown off the tour? Second prize was being asked to stay on.”

As Hendrix met with negativity from both audiences and critics, one journalist asked Peter Tork, “why are you subjecting him (Jimi) to this?” His response, “I love him. He’s got to work.”

By this time, the word on Hendrix was getting out. The media attention from the Monterey performance had now swept the nation. “Purple Haze” was starting to see chart action. Acknowledging the mix of Hendrix and the Monkees was not working, whether by mutual consent and promoter decision (no one has ever truly confessed to the final decision), Hendrix was kicked off the tour.

With hindsight, the coupling of Hendrix with the Monkees was not a good mix. As Tork candidly stated, “nobody thought Jimi’s screaming, scaring-the-balls-off-your-daddy music,” would be in such contrast with the Monkees. And start to cause some dissention from parents who were taking their pre-pubescent daughters to these concerts only to be affronted by Hendrix’s volume and sexuality.

“The whole thing was a disaster,” promoter Dick Clark claimed.

“We knew for certain we were off the tour when we were moved from a posh hotel to a crappy hotel,” said Redding. “Publicity wise, getting off the tour did us a lot of good. Getting thrown off the Monkees tour was as good as not being invited to the White House as far as credibility went.”

Certainly, the Hendrix publicity machine took advantage of the situation. The urban legend tales is that Hendrix didn’t ask to leave the tour; he was kicked out. That rumor (according to began with music critic Lillian Roxon, who was traveling with the tour. She and a friend came up with a silly press release that claimed the Daughters of the American Revolution had demanded Hendrix’s firing, because his act was “corrupting the morals of America’s youth.” The release was mistaken for the truth, and was reported as fact in many publications, in turn becoming rock and roll legend.

Manager Chas Chandler later acknowledged, “We sat and cooked up the Daughters of the American Revolution story that afternoon. I had to tell all these lies that Hendrix was (considered by the DAR) too outrageous and obscene to be seen by The Monkees’ pre-pubescent admirers.”

-- Ken Voss