It was 46 years ago Sunday (September 18th, 1970) that Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27, about two months shy of his 28th birthday. Over four decades later, the events surrounding his death remain sketchy at best, with the only clear fact being that the coroner report stated that Hendrix had asphyxiated in his own vomit, which mainly consisted of red wine. Monika Dannemann, his girlfriend at the time, has long contended that he was alive when placed in the ambulance.
Hendrix fans are in for a treat with the September 30th release of Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69. The new collection from Experience Hendrix L.L.C., fully documents the debut performance of Jimi Hendrix’s short-lived post-Experience trio, Band Of Gypsys featuring drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox. In total, the band played four groundbreaking shows at the legendary Manhattan theater — two on New Year’s Eve 1969, and two on New Year’s Day 1970.
According to the set’s press release, “never before has the first of these sets been available in its entirety. The vast majority of the performances have never seen the light of day in any configuration.” Hendrix’s legendary engineer Eddie Kramer mixed Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69 from the original one-inch, eight track master tapes.
The tracklist to Jimi Hendrix – Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69 is: “Power Of Soul,” “Lover Man,” “Hear My Train A Comin’,” “Changes,” “Izabella,” “Machine Gun,” “Stop,” “Ezy Ryder,” “Bleeding Heart,” “Earth Blues,” and “Burning Desire.”
- Last summer saw the release of the latest Hendrix vault release, the CD and DVD — Freedom: Jimi Hendrix Experience Atlanta Pop Festival — which took place on July 4th, 1970 — just 10 weeks before his death. In addition to that, Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church, a new documentary focusing on the guitarist’s Atlanta Pop appearance premiered on Showtime last year.
- The doc features interviews with Hendrix’s bandmates Billy Cox and the late Mitch Mitchell, as well as Paul McCartney, Steve Winwood, the Black Crows‘Rich Robinson, Metallica‘s Kirk Hammett, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi, Atlanta Pop organizer Alex Cooley, and many others. That fall, Experience Hendrix L.L.C. and Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, released the DVD and Blu-ray version, which featured bonus content not included in the Showtime version.
- In May 2015, Rolling Stone reported the Jimi Hendrix estate has given the green light for an official Hendrix biopic from director Paul Greengrass. The deal with Legendary Pictures sees 8 Mile screenwriter, Scott Silver, on board, with the estate proving permission for Hendrix masters to be used for the film and accompanying soundtrack. The movie was almost on track to be made four years ago with actor Anthony Mackie being tapped to portray the legendary guitarist, but the filmmakers and Hendrix estate couldn’t come to terms.
- September 2013 saw the first large scale, big screen Hendrix biopic, Jimi: All Is By My Side, directed by John Ridley and staring Andre Benjamin.
- That year the two-hour documentary, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin,’ was released on DVD along with the new concert CD culled from Hendrix’s two concert appearances on May 18th, 1968 as part of the Miami Pop Festival.
- The two releases capped off the yearlong commemoration of what would’ve been Hendrix’s 70th birthday.
- In March 2013, the guitarist’s latest mainstream vault release, People, Hell And Angels, debuted at Number Two on the Billboard 200 album charts.
ODD CIRCUMSTANCES OF HENDRIX’S DEATH
Hendrix aide James “Tappy” Wright claimed in his recent memoir Rock Roadie that Hendrix’s final manager Michael Jeffery confessed to killing the legendary guitarist a year after Hendrix’s death in September 1970. According to Wright, Jeffery claimed that he plied a semi-conscious Hendrix with enough pills and alcohol to kill him so that he could collect insurance money and not risk Hendrix breaking their management agreement.
Wright, who also roadied for Elvis Presley and Tina Turner, among others, said that Jeffery said in his confession: “I had to do it, Tappy. You understand, don’t you? I had to do it. You know damn well what I’m talking about. . . I was in London the night of Jimi’s death and together with some old friends . . . we went round to Monika’s (Dannemann’s) hotel room, got a handful of pills and stuffed them into his mouth . . . then poured a few bottles of red wine deep into his windpipe. I had to do it. Jimi was worth much more to me dead than alive. That son of a bitch was going to leave me. If I lost him, I’d lose everything.”
- Jeffery, who died in 1973, had told Wright that he had taken out a $2 million policy out on Hendrix, which named him as the chief beneficiary.
- The official cause of Hendrix’s death was “barbiturate intoxication and inhalation of vomit.”
- The events surrounding Hendrix’s death have always been shady, especially when it comes to how Hendrix was found and who exactly called for an emergency crew — neither things which are ever out of the ordinary in an O.D. case.
FRIENDS AND FANS REMEMBER JIMI HENDRIX
- Eddie Kramer, who was the engineer on the Jimi Hendrix Experience albums Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love, and Electric Ladyland, recalled his memories of Hendrix’s death: “We had just completed Electric Lady Studios, and we were halfway through a record which was going to be called The Cry Of Love. I spoke to Jimi a week before he died, and he was very positive, and was looking forward to coming back to America. His death was an unfortunate accident, there’s no question about that.”
- Journey guitarist Neal Schon first saw Hendrix play when he was only in his teens, and says that he was simply the greatest guitarist he ever saw perform:“Y’know, if I had to pick one guy, I’d probably say Jimi Hendrix, just because he was so innovative in inventing the electric guitar, almost reinventing it.”
- Steve Miller told us that even today, Hendrix’s talent still manages to floor him: “Y’know, and I was just watching the film of Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival, and just had to stop and sit down and watch and admire what an (laughs) amazing performer he was (laughs) — just how great.”
- One of Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley‘s greatest rock moments was July 17th 1970 — the day he got to become his idol Jimi Hendrix’s roadie: “I roadied for Jimi Hendrix, believe it or not, at his last concert at New York’s Randall’s Island a couple of months prior to his death. I snuck in backstage and they put me to work. I’m setting up Mitch Mitchell’s drums, I mean it was bizarre. Back in those days they didn’t have laminates and stick-on passes, it was just free love and free everything. I had hair down to here and yellow hot-pants on and a snakeskin star so obviously they thought I was in one of the bands. So I just walked backstage and looked at the guy and he just let me walk backstage. And when they realized I wasn’t in a band they just put me to work.”
- Aerosmith‘s Brad Whitford has been a mainstay of the ongoing Experience Hendrix outings, which celebrate and bring to life Hendrix’s legendary music live on tour. Whitford spoke about the personal difficulty of mastering Hendrix’s style: “Well, first of all, you can never really play it like Jimi played it, anyways, so probably what most of us do is some guys will be incredibly faithful to a recording that exists, but there’s a lot of license. Y’know, you have hints of the music, but then there’s a lot of improvising going on, adding your own flavor to it, which is, y’know, it’s great. That’s the great part of it, y’know, you’re honoring his music and his songs.”
- Janie Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix’s step-sister and president and CEO of Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix, told us that Hendrix was always good to his fatherAl and was about to buy the family a new house — but one a bit different than the one he’d grown up in as a boy: “He was gonna come stay with us, and he told my dad to go look for a house on Mercer Island, which here it’s a little island that you can get to via bridge. It was where all the upper-class people lived, and he wanted him to go find a house in that area, and he was going to come stay with us.”
- Carlos Santana told us that he’s always felt a tight connection with Hendrix, whom he met in the late-’60s in San Francisco: “Jimi and I, we went together for a long, long time, and his father came to my house, and I miss them. Y’know, I miss Jimi’s father, and I miss Jimi terribly.”
- Stephen Stills spent hours jamming with Hendrix and recalled that Hendrix turned him on to restringing lefty guitars for righties for a better sound:“Jimi showed me up close and personal, something about the positioning with the pickups made them sound better upside down. But I had a ’50s lefty Strat, and that went away. Somebody nabbed it.”
- Woodstock promoter Michael Lang recalls trying to talk Hendrix out of his closing spot at the legendary 1969 festival: “I think they came in Sunday morning. I asked them if they wanted to go on earlier. And Michael (Jeffery, Hendrix’s manager) said ‘No, we definitely want to close the show.’ I said ‘Well, closing the show might not be good idea. It’s running approximately 12 hours behind. Chances are you’re going to be closing in the morning,’ and they sort of insisted on it. Unfortunately, most of the audience was gone by the time Jimi played. But he played an unbelievable set.”
- Chicago trombonist and co-founder James Pankow recalls the band touring with Hendrix being a life-changing experience: “That was quite an experience. He was a god, if you will. He could snap his fingers and disappear into thin air, in a matter of speaking. He was psychedelic ladyland. Musically he was daring and innovative as anybody was — if not more. I mean, an African-American who played guitar left-handed, a trio who had a bigger sound than big ensembles, and did music that was not only expressive, but was characteristic of the day.”
- Band Of Gypsies bassist Billy Cox was asked what he thinks Jimi Hendrix would have accomplished had he not died in 1970: “I get asked that question quite often, and we were gravitating toward more, like, The Rays Of The New Rising Sun. We were gravitating toward classical music, I think. We would’ve taken those modes into a classical vein. And then he had thought about perhaps maybe going to Juilliard, and there’s no telling. (He) always talked about it.”
CHECK IT OUT: Jimi Hendrix & Band Of Gypsys on December 31at, 1969 performing “Power Of Soul” as featured on Machine Gun: Fillmore East 12/31/1969: