Hendrix played the Woburn Abbey Festival. We had to be there.
We camped in a field which the farmer had, rather maliciously, sprayed with liquid manure. The smell infested our tent forever. It had to be thrown away.
Geno Washington was the act who had the unenviable slot before Hendrix came on, but the tension of anticipation was too great. Everyone wanted Hendrix, poor Geno had no chance. No matter how good he was he wasn’t Jimi. The crowd booed and threw everything they could get their hands on at the stage. They wanted him off. There was electricity in the air. Everyone was baying for Jimi. Eventually, Geno gave up and left. The roadies began setting the stage up.
Everything was ready. The stage was empty but it held such promise that all our attention was focussed on it. There was a pregnant pause that seemed to go on and on as we impatiently waited. Everybody was up on their feet, calling out, clapping, chanting, trying to contain the nuclear energy of expectation. This is what we had all been waiting for.
Then Jimi, Noel and Mitch came out on to the stage. The whole arena erupted and surged forward taking me off my feet.
The band plugged in and began to play. The speakers were crap. The sound was distorted. The speakers were just too small to deal with a big outdoor space; they couldn’t handle the volume. It didn’t matter. We could hear it and we could see them. The bass formed a wall of noise. Hendrix’s guitar soared and whined through it all. The drums pounded and the vocals punched over the top. The sound quality might not have been first-rate but it was good enough!
The crowd surged forward to get even nearer, I was in the crush near the front. We all wanted to watch Jimi as he performed his magic. He was so much larger than life in a big black broad-brimmed hat with a coloured sash around it, a floppy bright flowery psychedelic shirt, green loons with a scarf tied around the leg. He held that guitar like a weapon and unleashed it on us. The excitement was palpable – hysterical. The band were multicoloured giants storming around the stage. Noel stood still, studiously playing, while Mitch pounded away and Jimi stole the attention. You could not take your eyes off him. Hendrix was magnificent. The band blazed. Who cared about the sound quality? This was a wall of excitement the like of which an outside concert had never witnessed. We were bouncing up and down, caught up in the overwhelming group mania, living every note, every growl and wave of the hand.
He stroked, caressed and wrenched at his white Stratocaster, pulling out every trick. He played it between his legs, upside down and behind his head. The sound roared and the fanged beast he had produced and set free, devoured us.
Afterwards, in the press, they said that this was one of the jaded performances. If that was below par then bloody hell. It was the most exciting gig I’ve ever been too. Any more excitement and it would have been heart attack time. He was stupendous.
I only managed to see Jimi perform three times in a small club – I think Klooks Kleek, where he was mind-blowingly brilliant, at Woburn, where he was fabulous, and at his farewell concert at the Albert Hall which was nowhere near as exciting.
I’m glad I was alive to see such jaded dreams. I so wish Jimi was alive to have given us more of that magic. I’ll never experience anything like it.