Jan 26 2023
By John McDermott.
In January 1969, the fortunes of The Jimi Hendrix Experience had never burned brighter. The group had barnstormed America and Europe for better than two years propelled by a string of extraordinary singles and two ground-breaking albums Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold As Love. Their third and most recent album, Electric Ladyland, enjoyed wide acclaim throughout the world [particularly in Europe, where it remains Jimi’s best selling studio album even to this day].
Much of 1968 had been dedicated to rigorous touring across the US where The Experience quickly blossomed from college gymnasiums to filling sports arenas. The road to such previously unfathomable success was not without its cost. The relationship between the three musicians, particularly Hendrix and Redding, had begun to fray. The Experience had no deep roots together—having been conceived in a hiring hall with Redding picked in part for his hairdo and Mitchell the result of a coin flip—that they became Hendrix’s brilliant compatriots was entirely unforeseen.
By 1968, Redding, a converted guitarist, was eager to advance his own agenda. He formed Fat Mattress and began to perform and record with them in addition to his duties as the bassist for The Experience. “We had actually talked about the idea of each member starting a solo project but with The Experience as our main band,” Redding later explained. “Mitch [Mitchell] would do some jazz type stuff. He had a name called ‘Mind Octopus’ in mind for that. Hendrix was going to do something like Suns and Rainbows, Band of Gypsys or whichever title he had. I had actually started Fat Mattress in 1968. The idea in 1969 was to go on tour with Mitch’s band, my band, and Hendrix’s band, and then, as a finale, we all come on as The Experience. That was the actual plan, but, unfortunately, it didn’t happen.”
Electric Ladyland was riding high in the sales charts when The Experience embarked across Europe in January 1969. The group had not performed in Germany since 1967 and audiences there enthusiastically welcomed them—perhaps none more vocally than those who packed Sporthalle, an indoor arena in Cologne. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Cologne, the twelfth release in the Dagger Records official bootleg series, documents this spirited, January 13, 1969 performance.
“Listen. That is our code word tonight.
Listen and feel. You don’t scream in church.”~ Jimi Hendrix
An electric atmosphere greeted The Experience as they strode onstage at Sporthalle. Cologne had never witnessed anything remotely like this before. Jimi was a veteran of the stage despite the bedlam which surrounded him. He addressed his audience directly, looking to settle them down and convey his sincere intentions. “Before we start we would like you to forget everything that happened outside this arena,” Jimi stated. “This arena will be like a tent OK? Everybody will feel free but you must listen though.” Many in the audience couldn’t contain their enthusiasm, screaming excitedly as Jimi once again tried to garner their attention. “You must listen,” he asked them. “Everybody sit down so that everyone else can see OK? Can you do that?” Jimi then stated his usual appeal for time to tune up before he kicked off the proceedings with a scalding “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)” from Electric Ladyland. This Earl King chestnut had long been a favorite of Jimi’s and here he began with a driving solo introduction before signaling Redding and Mitchell to join.
Any possible English/German language barrier remaining was immediately overcome as soon as Jimi announced “Foxey Lady.” The packed house roared with approval as Jimi dedicated the performance to “somebody’s girlfriend tonight. We don’t know who it is yet but we will find out after the gig.” The Experience then tore through a blistering version of this perennial stage favorite.
An abrupt tape cut precedes a memorable rendition of “Red House.” Thankfully the performance is essentially complete lacking only Jimi’s prefacing stage banter, offered as he likely changed guitars before starting. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” followed next, not yet established as Jimi’s closing number as it would become later in 1969 and remain so throughout his career, but no less muscular. Jimi then shifted directly into “Fire” and then a thunderous “Spanish Castle Magic.” The Experience were clearly locked in sync, pushing each other throughout all to the delight of their audience.
The Experience never backed off, launching next into their first single “Hey Joe.” Jimi had to do some quick tuning on the fly, but he pressed on undaunted, boldly dashing off a lick from The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” as he barreled through this up-tempo rendition. This driving intensity built up after the solo, underscored by Jimi’s rhythm guitar work and Mitchell’s superb drumming before culminating in a rousing finale. “Sunshine Of Your Love” was offered in tribute to Cream, all to the delight of the audience whose howls of approval can be heard even during Redding’s bass solo. “Star Spangled Banner” and “Purple Haze” capped off a truly memorable night and then The Experience were gone, whisked off to the next city and another unsuspecting audience.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Cologne is like other releases in the Dagger Records series. This album was not drawn from professionally recorded masters but instead an amateur, monophonic audience recording. As a result, the recording is not without various technical flaws and sonic limitations. Nonetheless, this special ‘official bootleg’ stands as a captivating document of this important chapter of Jimi’s legacy. Enjoy!
THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE: LIVE IN COLOGNE
The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Cologne, the twelfth release in the Dagger Records official bootleg series, documents this spirited, January 13, 1969 performance at the Sporthalle in Cologne, Germany.
1. Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)
2. Foxey Lady
3. Red House
4. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
6. Spanish Castle Magic
7. Hey Joe
8. Sunshine Of Your Love
9. Star Spangled Banner
10. Purple Haze