Nov 24 2023

By Dave Thompson.

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967

It was, though no one could have known it at the time, the last hurrah of the Summer Of Love; the end of an era in concert promotion; and quite possibly, the single greatest touring package ever assembled on one bill. For three weeks in November/December 1967, aboard a fleet of buses which combed the British roads, leaving no major town unturned, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Move, Amen Corner, Pink Floyd, The Nice, The Outer Limits, and Eire Apparent set out to bring a taste of swinging London to the provinces …

And what a taste it was. The headliners, of course, were familiar to all, in name if not in person, but even the bands who popped up at the foot of the bill were something special; you had only to catch their new singles to know that. “The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack,” by The Nice, “The Great Train Robbery” by The Outer Limits; at a time when the possibilities of rock were exploding through outer limits of their own, records like these were pushing frontiers that were all but unimaginable a mere year before. And it wasn’t just the musicians who knew it. The music industry itself understood.

“The idea was to cram as many bands onto the bill as possible because it gave massive exposure to bands who might otherwise never get out there.”

Throughout the 1960s, package tours were the lifeblood of the industry. Talking shortly before his death in 1995, The Move’s manager Tony Secunda explained, “The idea was to cram as many bands onto the bill as possible, not simply because it made financial sense, but also because it gave massive exposure to bands who might otherwise never get out there.” A couple of decades later, Perry Farrell came to much the same conclusion with his Lollapalooza brainchild, and it’s interesting to note that the basic formula hadn’t really changed one iota.

The Experience closed the show with 40 minutes; The Move received half an hour; Pink Floyd had 17 minutes; Amen Corner got a quarter of an hour; and at the foot of the bill, The Nice had 12 minutes; Eire Apparent and The Outer Limits eight minutes apiece.

“But eight minutes was enough,” Secunda shrugged. “If you were a new band, and you couldn’t prove yourselves in eight minutes, you might as well give up there and then.”

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967
Tour poster for The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s second UK Tour (November 14-December 5, 1967)

Sixteen cities, 31 shows in all – more than a quarter of a century later, Secunda still recalled the itinerary with bemusement: “Somebody threw darts at a map, then joined the dots,” he swore, and a glance at the zig-zagging date sheet appears to confirm his suspicions: 14 Nov: Royal Albert Hall, London; 15 Nov: Bournemouth, Winter Gardens; 17 Nov: Sheffield, City Hall; 18 Nov: Liverpool, Empire; 19 Nov: Coventry Theatre; 22 Nov: Portsmouth, Guildhall; 23 Nov: Cardiff, Sophia Gardens; 24 Nov: Bristol, Colston Hall; 25 Nov: Blackpool, Opera House; 26 Nov: Manchester, Palace Theatre; 27 Nov: Belfast, Queens College; 1 Dec: Chatham, Town Hall; 2 Dec: Brighton, Dome; 3 Dec: Nottingham, Theatre Royal; 4 Dec: Newcastle, City Hall; and 5 Dec: Glasgow, Green’s Playhouse.

At its best, the tour buses followed the road from point A to B. At its worst, however … the U.S. equivalent would be to play New York on Saturday, Boston on Monday, then slip in Seattle in between. “And this was before they’d finished building most of the motorways as well,” Secunda continued. “So, you’d be crawling along two-lane roads, one lane north, one lane south. It was exhausting.”

The Nice’s guitarist Davy O’List agrees with him. Almost as soon as the show was finished in one city, the tour would be on The Move again, with just a handful of roadies delegated to scour the neighborhood in search of stray band members. “Immediately after you finished your set, you could leave, which was great; we used to go on third; sometimes I’d stay back to watch Floyd play, but otherwise it was off to the nearest pub or wherever and wait to be hauled out again.” Or not, as it sometimes transpired.

“Everyone used to hang out with everybody else”

“Everyone used to hang out with everybody else,” confirms Noel Redding. “Us lot (The Experience) were really close with The Move. Trevor Burton, the rhythm guitar player with The Move, always used to travel with us, and if I was running late, I’d travel with The Move. So, after the show, we’d all go to pubs together, get pissed, then attempt to get on the coach at the proper time; we’d miss the coach and have to get buses and trains.”

The thought of however many drunken musicians, trying to negotiate their way through the labyrinthine intricacies of a late-night British railroad timetable beggar’s belief, but Redding is adamant: “We did it, and we went everywhere.”

The Move, of course, were familiar faces around the Hendrix camp. Old friends of Redding’s, Burton and Move vocalist Roy Wood had already guested on The Experience’s forthcoming second album, trooping into the studio to add backing vocals to “You Got Me Floating,” after the two bands found themselves sharing Olympic Studios.

Wood also treasures another example of the two bands’ friendship. “The best thing I ever heard was Jimi Hendrix play ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ after rehearsal once.” The master’s rendition of The Move’s second hit single, Wood averred, “was brilliant.”

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967
Newspaper promos for The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s second UK Tour (November 14-December 5, 1967)

A lot of the credit for the internal success of the tour must surely go to promoter Tito Burns, of the Harold Davison Organisation. Every group on the bill had had (or would have) its share of horrific concert mismatches, from The Experience’s shows with The Walker Brothers earlier in the year, to The Nice being billed alongside Sammy Davis Junior the following summer. Indeed, a competing package that same fall highlighted The Who and Traffic, before spiraling into unabashed teenybop appeal with The Tremeloes, The Herd and The Marmalade. One can only imagine the backstage vibes on that tour.

But on the Hendrix outing, there wasn’t a single dissenting voice in the house. “They were great people,” confirms Kathy Etchingham, Hendrix’s girlfriend throughout his years in London. “But none of those bands was really Jimi’s type of music at all. You’d never have found a Pink Floyd album in our record collection. He liked Amen Corner, they were kinda bluesy at that time, they were alright, and of course Eire Apparent, we know about them.”

Alongside Outer Limits, a recent addition to Andrew Oldham’s legendary Immediate label, Eire Apparent were probably the least-known quantities on the bill, although fame by association, at least, was not far away. Robert Wyatt, of Soft Machine, produced the Irish band’s first album; Hendrix handled their second, Sunrise.

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967
The Jimi Hendrix Experience are photographed at Jimi’s London apartment on November 7, 1967.
Photo: Tony Gale / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

In November 1967, however, the Irish group were relative newcomers to the London scene, and complete unknowns almost everywhere else. Indeed, they were very much a late addition to the tour schedule, having signed with manager Chas Chandler just weeks earlier. The fact that the tour made only one scheduled stop in all of Ireland, at the Festival Of Arts in Belfast, only added to the group’s dislocation, although years later, vocalist Ernie Graham would acknowledge, “It was a learning experience, as was everything else we did with Jimi. And audiences seemed to like it.”

Etchingham continues, “I can vaguely remember we went to see them somewhere, Jimi and I, with Chas. I think it was the 100 Club or some place like that; that was just before the tour started. But the tour was when Jimi really got to know them.”

The Nice, too, were still an obscure unit, although all four band members were certainly familiar faces on the live circuit: keyboard player Keith Emerson and bassist Lee Jackson with the eternally gigging Gary Farr & The T-Bones; the 16-year-old O’List and drummer Brian Davison with The Attack. Like Outer Limits they, too, were newly signed to Immediate, but The Nice’s pyrotechnic stage show, and vigorous blending of rock and classical music had already earned them a scrapbook’s worth of press cuttings, just three months into their union.

Emerson in particular was a dynamo, an ebullient showman whose nightly routine included impaling his Hammond organ with thrown knives; beating it with a bullwhip; even setting fire to it. A few months before, he had ensured that The Nice stole the show at the annual Reading Festival, by exploding several dozen smoke bombs inside the tent where the band was playing, convincing several hundred concertgoers that a major disaster was unfolding before their eyes. A few months later, he would succeed in getting The Nice banned from the Royal Albert Hall, after torching an American flag during the band’s performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “America.” Normally, the venue’s management probably wouldn’t have minded, but this night was a charity event, studded with American performers and tourists.

Today, of course, Emerson is as revered a keyboard player as Hendrix was a guitarist, and for much the same reason—he was one of the few rock showmen who could match his visual flash with musical flamboyance. Even he, however, would acknowledge how much a debt he owed to Hendrix, for “The Barbarian,” a track from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s debut album.

“‘The Barbarian,’” he explains “was kind of dedicated to Hendrix; we went on stage the night he died and announced to the audience, ‘this song’s for Jimi,’ because that song started almost with the ‘Purple Haze’ chords.”

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967
Ticket stubs from The Experience’s second UK Tour

Moving further up the bill, of course, there was little doubting the stellar nature of the performers. Welsh blues heroes Amen Corner, led by future Roger Waters and Eric Clapton sideman Andy Fairweather Low, joined the tour armed with their second Top 30 single, “World Of Broken Hearts.” The month before, on October 22, DJ John Peel’s legendary “Top Gear” radio program had broadcast the group’s first-ever BBC radio session, one of the best broadcasts of the entire year.

Not at all coincidentally, The Nice made their own session debut that same evening; the impending tour was widely regarded as one of the concert events of the year, and “Top Gear” was to prove vital to its promotion. In those days, before MTV and the Internet, such advance promotion was invaluable, particularly as tour tickets were about to go on sale. Peel’s audience of devoted, “serious,” fans of psychedelic music was exactly the kind of crowd the promoters – and the bands – hoped to attract, and Pink Floyd, The Move and The Experience would all record Peel sessions that same month. (For the record, The Experience’s October 15 session featured “Little Miss Lover,” “Driving South,” “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp,” “Hound Dog,” and “Experiencing The Blues,” together with two tracks which were not initially broadcast, an alternate version of “Driving South,” and a Motown jam – “Jammin’” and “I Was Made To Love Her” – with Stevie Wonder.)

Pink Floyd, with their legendary guitarist/songwriter Syd Barrett still on board, were probably the most surprising addition to the bill. Two Top 30 hits earlier in the year, a Top 10 album, and several tours of their own had already established the band amongst the country’s top-flight psychedelic attractions, and there was little doubt that they could comfortably have taken second billing alongside any band in the country.

According to Secunda, however, Floyd’s managers knew exactly what they were doing when they slipped the band into such surroundings. ” Basically, they were worried about Syd Barrett. They needed to keep the band’s name out there, but nobody knew whether Barrett was up to it. The general feeling was that he wasn’t.”

By the fall of 1967, Barrett was indeed busily building the reputation for eccentricity which would subsequently become his epitaph.  And no matter how lowly the band’s billing may have appeared, the tour only added to the legend.  Co-manager Peter Jenner recalled, “[Syd] was going onstage and playing one chord throughout the set. He was into this thing of total anarchistic experiment and never really considered the other members of the band.”

Offstage, too, Barrett was hard to pin down… literally. “Every night when we reached a new town,” O’List recalled, “Syd would go off for a walk, and not get back to the venue until just a few minutes before the band was due onstage.  He’d play the show, then go off again, come back hours later, in time for the second set.  But one night, he didn’t turn up at all, so they asked me to go on instead of him.”

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967
Not everyone understood The Pink Floyd. Fan feedback making headlines in Melody Maker.

The Floyd’s set, with characteristic unconventionality (but again with an eye for Barrett’s own unpredictability), comprised just one song, a full-on version of “Interstellar Overdrive.”  “It was a fairly straightforward guitar thing, so I was able to pick it up quite quickly,” recalls O’List.  “At first, I kept my back to the audience while we were playing, and the audience was getting impatient, shouting ‘turn round, Syd,’ things like that.  So, I turned round, and they all shut up immediately.  Then I turned back and carried on playing.”  After Barrett’s departure from the Floyd was confirmed, O’List admits, he entertained hopes that he might be invited to replace him full time.  “But of course, they’d already decided on Dave Gilmour by then.

“Syd was an amazing guitarist,” O’List continues. “He really was unique, as much as Hendrix in his own right.”  And in later years, with both Jimi and Barrett long since absent from the scene, British journalists slavered at the thought of how these two geniuses of the guitar might have related to one another.  Indeed, while history, and sundry Floyd biographies, record Hendrix as drolly addressing Barrett as “laughing Syd,” it appears that any further contact between the pair was minimal.  Writing in the English New Musical Express in 1974, journalist Nick Kent asked Peter Jenner, “surely the two uncrowned kings of acid rock, Hendrix and Barrett, must have socialized in some capacity?

“Not really,” replied Jenner. “Syd didn’t talk to anyone.”

Move bassist Ace Kefford agrees.  “Syd never spoke to anyone.  He could hardly move sometimes.  He was on another planet.” 

“Once the Floyd started having hits, Syd changed dramatically,” Tony Secunda confirmed.  “I remember different members of The Move, and the other bands as well, tried to get through to him, but it was like he had this shell around him.  Personally, I think the best thing that could have happened to him would have been a night out with The Move.”

Or with The Experience.  Practical jokes are an inevitable part of the package tour life, and Noel Redding remembers The Experience gave as good as they got.  “It was hilarious.  I remember The Move were playing once, and I rode a bicycle across the stage,” Redding smiles.  “Another time we put stink bombs underneath [drummer] Bev Bevan’s foot pedal.”

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967
The Jimi Hendrix Experience on stage at City Hall, Sheffield, UK (November 17, 1967)
Photo: © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

Offstage socializing notwithstanding, there was a lot of rivalry between The Experience and The Move.  Although Secunda insisted that “in Britain in 1967, there were only two bands that mattered, The Beatles and The Move,” The Experience had risen fast, as their premier place on the bill amply indicated.  Six months earlier, The Move would indeed have been billed over Jimi, but the tables had turned since then.  The Experience had scored more hits – four, to The Move’s three – and while The Move could point to higher chart positions, The Experience were the band of the moment. 

Everyone had seen The Move play by now, Secunda had seen to that.  But Jimi and co had only given a handful of British shows over the last six months, and most of them were in London. This tour, at last, was the provinces’ chance to find out what all the fuss was about… and The Move’s chance to make up some lost ground.  Redding explains, “we played for 45 minutes, they had half an hour, and it was like the shows we did with The Who; they’d try and upstage us, we’d try and upstage them.”

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967
Newspaper headlines published during The Experience’s second UK Tour

Further spice was added to the battle by the two band’s reputation for showmanship, a battle in which The Move had long since grasped the initiative.  Back in March 1967, the Experience toured with The Walker Brothers.  The Move had been banned from the same outing, because of the violence of their stage act! 

By November, of course, it was difficult to say whose act was the most outrageous, and as the tour wound on, most observers agree that the two bands emerged with honors even.  In terms of straightforward crowd pleasers, The Move might have inched ahead: short, sharp and to the point, a travelling jukebox blasting out the hits, it was difficult to argue with any live set which included “Night Of Fear,” “I Can Hear The Grass Grow,” “Cherry Blossom Clinic” and “Flowers In The Rain.”  But for sheer pyrotechnic elan, The Experience were unstoppable.

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967
Newspaper headlines published during The Experience’s second UK Tour

At the packed Royal Albert Hall opener on November 14, the Experience opened their set with “Foxey Lady;” slid effortlessly into “Fire” and “Hey Joe;” picked up more pace with “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp” and one new song to preview their forthcoming sophomore album, “Spanish Castle Magic”; then it was into the closing salvo of “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Purple Haze.”  It was a devastating performance; a far cry, perhaps, from the marathon workouts which Jimi would later turn into his onstage trademark, but interims of unrelenting punch, these seven songs said more for The Experience’s power than any other set they ever played.  The band was already confident when they went into tour.  By the time they come out the other side, they were on top of the world.

November 1967, on the other hand, was a very fraught time for The Move. Engineering one of the most audacious publicity stunts of his life, manager Tony Secunda had recently circulated a promotional postcard depicting British Prime Minister Harold Wilson in what can only be described as compromising, not to mention libellous, circumstances. 

Certainly, Wilson thought so.  Intended simply to promote The Move’s new single, “Flowers In The Rain,” the postcards instead embroiled them in a hopeless legal battle with the most powerful politician in the land.  Wilson then donated his winnings – the entire proceeds from the single – to charity, but Secunda acknowledged that while “things got out of hand very quickly,” there was a funny side to the affair.

“Before the lawsuit got started, the government put all these guys in shades, driving big black limousines, on our case. We’d come out of a show and there would be this big limo parked across the road.  It’d follow us to the greasy spoon [all night cafe], to the next gig, wherever we went.  And Hendrix was doing his nut, because he thought it was the FBI or the CIA or someone, coming after him.  It was really bizarre, we’d say ‘Jimi, why would they be after you?’, and we were thinking maybe they wanted to send him to Vietnam, maybe this, maybe that, and he’d just go ‘no, you don’t understand, they’re spooks, it’s the secret service, they want to know what I know,’ like there was some huge conspiracy he was involved in, UFOs and alien earwigs in the White House.  So, he spun this out for hours, and then he finally cracked up, ‘and man, you guys are so gullible’.”

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967
Jimi Hendrix at his London apartment, November 7, 1967
Photo: Tony Gale / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

The “spooks” may not have been after him, of course, but Hendrix was in demand, nonetheless.  A solidly sold-out headlining tour made sure of that; that, and the imminent release of Axis: Bold As Love, an album which ranked second only to the Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties’ Request in terms of the holiday season’s most eagerly anticipated new releases. 

On November 13, the very eve of the tour’s opening night, anyone listening to the BBC’s World Service would have caught The Experience’s second BBC session of the season, a three-track cracker which paired them with Rhythm’n’Bluesman Alexis Korner for live renditions of “Driving South,” Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Of Your Window?,” and that legendary version of “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man,” truncated when Jimi broke a guitar string.

On November 25, at Blackpool’s historic Opera House, a large slice of The Experience’s set was filmed by the BBC: concert staples “Fire,” “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary” were joined by typically idiosyncratic versions of the Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts club Band” and the Troggs’ “Wild Thing.”

“The thing about Hendrix on that tour was that he hadn’t bought into his own legend yet.  He still felt he had something to prove.”

Two nights later, bands and media alike descended upon the Belfast venue to join Jimi’s 25th birthday celebrations, and everywhere else they went, the local press turned out in force to catch “the wildman of rock” in full, fiery swing.  Jimi seldom disappointed them.  “The thing about Hendrix on that tour,” Tony Secunda recalled, “was that he hadn’t bought into his own legend yet.  He still felt he had something to prove.  Later, he could complain that it didn’t matter what he did, or how badly he screwed up, the audience would always applaud.  And that got to him, of course it did.  But when he toured with us [The Move], he knew he had to pull out all the stops, and that there wasn’t room for mistakes.  We’d have eaten him alive otherwise.”

THE LINE-UP OF A LIFETIME – On The Road With The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Second UK Tour – Nov/Dec 1967
Advertising and newspaper coverage of Christmas On Earth Continued (December 22, 1967)

Whether or not Jimi really was pushed to new heights by The Move – or anybody else on the bill, for that matter – we’ll never know for sure.  But his performances on that tour remain legends; legends which were only amplified by Axis: Bold As Love. Released in Britain on December 1, it entered the Top 40 two weeks later, and drove unerringly towards its Top Five destiny.  As Christmas drew closer, and The Experience wound up their first year together, they knew they had competed with some of the best bands around, at home and abroad, and had come out on top.  1968 was looming brighter every day.

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