Mar 15 2023

Interview by Tony Palmer.

REAL AMBITION – Backstage With Jimi Hendrix

When the The Jimi Hendrix Experience rolled into Worcester, MA to perform two shows at Clark University’s Atwood Hall on March 15, 1968; the trio were riding high with their smash debut Are You Experienced and their recent sophomore release Axis: Bold As Love.  

On site for the night’s event was producer Tony Palmer and a BBC film crew who would record a few segments of the performance for a disjointed 1968 documentary film, All My Loving.  Presented here, is an interview conducted backstage in the dressing room following The Experience’s first show that night. It affords readers a candid opportunity to hear insights about the band’s recent successful, the perils of stage gear and road travels plus the band’s real ambition—to be respected as musicians and songwriters.

This complete recorded interview, plus additional interviews conducted following the evening’s second performance are available in audio form on the Dagger Records exclusive album release The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At Clark University (Released: July 9, 1998).

“The real ambition, man, is like for us to be known for, for us to be respected as musicians and, you know, like songwriters, now that we’re trying to get into that.”

Tony Palmer: Start talking about what happened tonight.

Jimi Hendrix: Well, like that’s the first time we ever used that PA. You know, it’s first time we used it. It completely went out soon. You know, we didn’t get chance to sing any songs really decent. And there was a drag because I couldn’t hear myself sing. I know, plus I couldn’t get into tune so good, you know. But we still got another show to go, so we’ll be all right.

REAL AMBITION – Backstage With Jimi Hendrix
Amps seeing better days.  Jimi Hendrix on stage at Woolsey Hall, Yale University (November 1968)
Photo: Jeremy Ross / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

Palmer: Does that kind of thing happen a lot?

Hendrix: No too much. Most of the time it’s the amplifier blowing up or you know, something popping or something giving away.

Palmer: What sort of equipment troubles do you have?

Hendrix: Well, it’s like we play very loud, you know. Not necessarily loud, but it’s very, we try to get heavy since it’s just the three of us, you know. And we like, tend to put the amps through the changes. A lot of changes you know, and they just can’t take it sometimes. So, we’re getting some special ones made-up.

“Well, it’s not necessarily loud, it’s a certain feeling you get from playing at certain volumes; like all of our songs just aren’t with the same volume.”

Palmer: Why do you want to play so loud?

Hendrix: Well, it’s not necessarily loud, it’s a certain feeling you get from playing at certain volumes; like all of our songs just aren’t with the same volume, you know. Like I think we did “The Wind Cries Mary” or something like that, so then we dropped the volume according to the song itself.

Mitch Mitchell: So, when you know the dynamics and things go down it’s a shame. It’s just an awful drag when things do go down, you know especially about equipment, because like, you know, we’ve really got to sort of enjoy ourselves on stage so that people can take it from there, and things go and what not.

Palmer: Every description I read of your music, is it always describes it as Blues music.

Hendrix: Yeah, I know.

Palmer: So clarify it for me Jimi, I mean, talk about the fact that it’s, it’s always described as Blues music and your reactions to that. Well, Soul music.

Hendrix, Mitchell & Noel Redding: Soooouuuullll.

Palmer: I know. I mean, I’m with you. But I mean, you’re quite right …

Hendrix: Everybody say ‘Yes!’

Mitchell: Yes!

Redding: No.

Hendrix: Everybody say, ‘do you feel alright?’

Redding: Uhhh, plastic

Hendrix: Yes, I feel alright. Look out, look out, that’s ‘66.

Man, I can’t say nothing about our music, but I know what it isn’t. It isn’t classified, I don’t consider it as R&B, like Top 40 Rhythm and Blues. I don’t consider this strictly Blues, you know?

REAL AMBITION – Backstage With Jimi Hendrix
Mitch Mitchell performing at Ackerman Ballroom, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA (February 13, 1968)
Photo: Chuck Boyd / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

So, like, like Noel digs Rock and it comes through, you know, straight English rock, like it’s very hard. And Mitch is like on a jazz kick, like Elvin Jones and so forth.  And I like Blues myself, you know. But I like all kinds of music, and it just comes out some kind of way. But I don’t, I wouldn’t call it Blues. It’s best not to call it anything cause you know …

Mitchell: It’s just us really.

Hendrix: Yes …

Mitchell: It’s just it’s a bit different.

Hendrix: Yeah, because then you get yourself uptight and you get us uptight trying to play what you think that way.

Palmer: All right. Well, if somebody never heard it, how would you describe it?

“come to the gig and dig it.”

Hendrix: I’d just say, “come to the gig and dig it.” I’d tell them there’d probably be a few feedback notes here and there in the night.

Mitchell: It’s like asking how do you describe, you know, Picasso or something, and how do you describe my brush strokes?

Palmer: I mean, I agree it’s just that it always in every description you read of it.

Mitchell: Yeah, but that’s, you know, people shouldn’t bother about that in the first place. You know, people always want to tie things up into a package for instance.

< music playing in the background>

Hendrix: That’s the Soft Machine you hear right now.

Palmer: When we’re talking … he thought that all Pop music had a Soul beat.

Hendrix: I know. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But the words say this, I was misused and much just, you know, it sounds so silly to use it now. That’s how you know, you have to scrape around your drawer, find a new word, you know. And you know, call it that.

REAL AMBITION – Backstage With Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix performing at Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA (February 10, 1968)
Photo: Chuck Boyd / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

But everything has a feeling to it, you know, and a meaning like, we mean what we’re trying to do, we mean it really at least, you know. What you really mean in your music? Like, really dig it, you know, but not know. I wouldn’t label like Soul or this or that. It’s a really bad scene when you do because you might not want to feel like playing that type of thing that you’re labeled, you know, all the time.

Mitchell: To tell the truth, you know. A lot of it really isn’t about music anyway, it’s, you know, a lot of it’s about emotion. It just depends how you feel at that particular time because I mean you’re never the same. You do the same numbers maybe every night, but you never did any the same twice. Yeah, it just depends how you feel in that particular time. It depends on…

Palmer: What kind of what kind of things do you want to get across when you’re playing music?

Redding: Music …

Mitchell: I don’t know that you’re in there for getting anything across, you know, people are gonna take what they can, what they see, you know.

Hendrix: We just… we just got thrown together, man. You know, we just got thrown together. We got a group together, we started playing.

Palmer: Can you can you describe how you came together and…

“we’re not trying to prove anything. Like every single song is its own type of song.”

Hendrix: We were just doing what you call a jam session, and then because Chas [Chandler] had a lot of telephone numbers, so they call up a few people. Mitch was some of the people that came down. Noel was one of them, he came down with a guitar. We asked, in due course, could he could play bass, he’s never touched one before, so he started playing then.  And yeah, we dug the way Mitch was playing, so we all got together like that.

And you know, we’re not trying to prove anything. Like every single song is its own type of song. You can’t take a bunch of it and snap it in one big barrel and say, well, this is ‘blah’ or this is ‘woof.’ You know.

Palmer: Woof?

Hendrix: It’s never a scene like that. You know, it’s like we’re just playing man, you know, like anybody else is doing, there’s nothing, you know.

Mitchell: It’s just that, you know, you basically get tired of working for other people after a few years, you know. You just want to do anything.

REAL AMBITION – Backstage With Jimi Hendrix
The Jimi Hendrix Experience backstage at Ackerman Ballroom, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA (February 13, 1968)
Photo: Chuck Boyd / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

Palmer: Jimi, can you say what, what things do you think you’ve gained by you three playing together that you didn’t have before?

Hendrix: It was a completely different sound than all of us had playing separate or in other groups. Which is interesting to try to play with. To create, you know, see if you can get something out of it. Like it’s at the very beginning now, you know, we’re just starting up. We’ve been together now for about 15 months, and it takes time really, you know. But like we’re feeling each other out, finding each other out.

Like we get tired quite naturally, anybody would get tired of playing ‘Purple Haze’ or you know, something like that every single night, so quite naturally messing around with a little bit according to how we feel. If we feel down or something, you know, regardless of the audience reaction, we’re just going and play it straight. You know, scenes like that.

Palmer: How much? How much does the audience affect you, I mean? You’re you, you’re a marvelous performer and you mean, you’re doing this left, right, and center, you know, how important is the audience to you? What? What can you do to the audience whose watching?

“The best thing you can do is go on and play the way you feel, you know.”

Hendrix: Well, like sometimes, half the time, like on this tour or now, you can hardly see the audience, you know, except maybe about the first 10 rows, you know. So I mean, what do you have to work with? So, the best thing you can do is go on and play the way you feel, you know.

Quite naturally, the audience says, “hooray” clap, clap, clap. Quite naturally going to, you know, that’s going to give you some kind of inspiration, you know. But like, if they’re just going to sit there like mud or plaster or whatever you know, you’re just going to play the way you feel regardless, you know. Dig it. I don’t think we play according to the audience reaction, except maybe on the good reaction side of it. All we do is say, if they’re going to boo, then as long as they boo in key, it’s all right with us.

“Sex is the farthest thing from my mind, you know, when we’re playing.”

Palmer: I mean, do you want to try to excite them? Do you try to excite them?

Hendrix: Well, sometimes all depends on … oh no man, sex is the farthest thing from my mind, you know, when we’re playing. Sometimes, I’ve seen a few films that we did once, it was too much. Oh wow. I didn’t know we was going through all that, you know? But I still just played the way I feel at a particular time, like a certain note, you might have to squeeze it out a certain way, you know.

Palmer: So you don’t want, you don’t want to excite… I mean when you saw yourself when you…

Hendrix: Yeah. Quite naturally you want to excite people. I mean you, like you know, but you can’t let that interfere. You can’t let your whole performance like strictly entertaining the people themselves. You can’t destroy your whole life for that you know 45 minutes, right?

They say here I am, “take me” or something like, you can’t do that. You have to have something for yourself. I should be playing for, that’s what your music is, not necessarily giving this note over this section, giving that note for this section, or teasing that girl over there, so you know. I do that because I feel like doing it. You know, I might, I might do it to a cat because I, you know, can’t see that quick. I might just point to the audience as a whole maybe or so forth and so on. But it’s no scene… like were working according to the audience.

REAL AMBITION – Backstage With Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix performing with The Isley Brothers Essex County Country Club West Orange, NJ (August 1965)
Photo: Frank Seay / MoPOP / Authentic Hendrix, LLC

Palmer: Go on. Talk about it being a whole life being on stage I mean, a means of expression.

Hendrix: Well, like this, like I probably had to start like, like OK, like when I got out of the Army, I was very interested in the music, you know, like I always have been all through my life. Like playing between different groups and sitting in here and there. And like when we sit in like, you travel all over the country, you don’t have no group. You’re sitting there and you get a chance to express yourself, so you, you know, you really can do it.

And like then you start playing behind groups, like they called Top 40 R&B, Rhythm & Blues groups – Little Richard, Isley Brothers so forth and so on. And I was a backing musician. It was really getting to be a hang up because like I might have an idea for a song, you know, you might get tired of playing the same old song over and over. Might have an idea, you know, and they said, “No, man, you need to have it exactly right. You have to do steps.” You’re wearing patent leather shoes plus the hairdo to match, you know, and really everybody looks like, you know, completely alike.

“Playing on stage is the only kind of way you can express yourself.”

And like it was really getting to be a hang-up so I went to the Village.  Chas you know, all that thing. I put my own group together. And like playing on stage is the only kind of way you can express yourself, really for me anyway. Because when you get into deep conversations like this, they’ll say, “Well, what kind of person are you?” Oh well, how can you ask? That you know. Like I could change about 20 times, that’s because, like, you’re constantly thinking of music. I am, you know. All the time and creating it and to this part of my life, so much that everything I do, or what has to do with music, it’s very, very serious, to me, you know.

REAL AMBITION – Backstage With Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix performing at Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA (February 10, 1968)
Photo: Chuck Boyd / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

And like our stage appearance, like for us, when they say that this too erotic and sex and all this… I don’t think of it at all completely in that basis. I think of this as another way of pushing that note out or that certain feeling or sound or that, you know that certain life for that second now, you know. I just can’t help it, that’s just the way it happens for me.

Palmer: When you get on stage, are you aware of that sort of experience happening or does it just happen?

Hendrix: What is that? You mean? Like what are the people gonna think?  Well, no. We’re like it’s, it’s like us being born every time we go on stage. It might be bad, it might be good. We don’t know, you know? When we go on, not necessarily scared, but I’m just thinking in my mind, you know, how you know what we’ll play first and what should we do second?  We never did call for songs in order. We, you know, we just played exactly the way we feel this.

It goes along long if Noel wants to take off his jacket. Just stop. Wait a minute. Hold on. You know, between songs, take his jacket off, get really comfortable and get into it, you know?

And therefore, like we, must we, what do you call, like, play around with a lot of songs like because you get very bored and especially something like, as I said before, music is a top in my whole life, something that’s serious. You know, I keep saying that over and over again, but you know it’s, it’s just saying that. But there’s no time to be joking in other words, everything you do is for meaning, at least for me.

Palmer: Why do you think you think you’ve been so successful in England? Why do you think that?

“I said myself, ‘Damn… what happened, you know? Did we do good, or what?’”

Hendrix: I really don’t know because I remember the first gig we did in England, it was people, they stood there with their mouths open. So, I said myself, “Damn… what happened, you know? Did we do good, or what?”

And like, maybe it might have been the visual scene, you know. We would like to think, later on maybe they could catch hold and dig how we can actually get some songs nicely together, like some slow soft songs that we do. Every time they mention us they show shockwaves, you know, “owrrrhh’” and all this and, you know, and crash, bang, wallop, you know.

Palmer: What do you mean people make films about it?

Hendrix: No, no, we’re… like put like this and this, this and there everything is big. Crash, bang, wallop, you know. It just gets to be a hang-up at times.

Palmer: That sort of what sounds right? Well, I mean. That’s an image. I mean, what sort of image would you like?

“I just want people to listen to us. That’s all. You know, they don’t have to dig us. Just listen and give us a chance to be here, since this is the only way I can express myself personally.”

Hendrix: Man, it’s really hard to say. There you go. Very hard to say. It really doesn’t make a difference. I really don’t care. I just want people to listen to us. That’s all. You know, they don’t have to dig us. Just listen and give us a chance to be here, since this is the only way I can express myself personally.

Palmer: Also music. To go on and play, do you want to go on and then…

Hendrix: I like to chance it, what do you call it? Chance and just let it happen. Let it flow out of you. It’s how your mind is set for right now. We like to augment here and there; like Mitch has some beautiful ideas for some completely different sounds. And if we dig it, then we’ll go into it. You know, but we have to like it ourselves, you know, not necessarily following any trends.

“We’re very lucky to be heard”

Palmer: What do you think about the trends in music?

Hendrix: Well, we’re very lucky to be heard—heard the first time, you know. There’s so many groups now, that’s trying to start new things, but they’re actually good cats, you know, and they’re starving. We’re just lucky to be heard. So why join the bag going all the way and say come on, “Oh yeah, the next thing out is a purple bell bottoms.”  So, you know, dive into those you know, just a perfect condition. You know we could wear purple belt bottoms, but we’d have to wear them our own way though, you know. I think I had these pants on for about…

Palmer: Do you like wearing the clothes you wear whilst you’re performing?

Hendrix: Oh, I love them, man. That’s, that’s my saying, you know, I dig it! You know. Oh, sometimes we have friends, you know, like some of our friends making for us. Jagger. What’s his name? Little J, Jay, Chris, Dandy Fashions made a lot of our things. A little girl named Jennifer Taylor. You know, there’s a lot of friends.

Palmer: Do you actually like pounding from place to place every night.

Hendrix: Yeah, it’s really… especially if you don’t get a chance to see, you know. Like Mitch just came back from London not too long ago because like it was really is getting to be a where you don’t know where you’re at. All you remember places like maybe Arizona and Colorado, you know. You’re grabbing onto any kind of memories you can have because what is a tour man if you can’t remember nothing to see anything, or just you know, see the skyline, at least to the city to see what it looks like.

REAL AMBITION – Backstage With Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix on the road and in the car. Oakland, California (September 1968)
Photo: MRPI / Authentic Hendrix, LLC

Sometimes you go to the city at night, you know, you do press conference all in the daytime, play the gig that night and leave again. You don’t know what the city looks like. You don’t know nothing about. Nothing. So how can you say, oh, yeah, we was up in Chicago last week, you know. It’s, you feel guilty about saying that, you know, because you know you say, “Wow.” But we’re waiting but did we see anything. But that’s part of the thing that we’re in, so you know, there’s no use arguing or fussing about it.

Palmer: When you get to a recording studio. Do you make a different kind of sound, I mean, are you aware there’s a difference between one and the other.

Hendrix: Sometimes we go through those motions and recording. If we get on it. Like how we made ‘Bold As Love.’ Oh, guess what, man? We had such so much fun. The real song was about 30 minutes long and it goes into so many different movements, you know this, and then all of a sudden it comes out to ‘Bold As Love’ again, he said, “Oh, you mean we’re still in that song, you know?” And but we was jamming. It was nothing but a jam. And oh, we had it so much together. It was about 30 minutes long and it was really going to the thing with the arm and, you know, just smashing it against the mics and all that. You get certain sounds. You can love it. Because the mic goes ‘whirly whirly’ you know? Oh, we really had it together nice. And Mitch had about a 10-minute drum solo in it. Noel killed everything with this 12-string, 8-string bass what was it, we had a little solo; man  It was really outta sight.

“It’s to entertain myself sometimes and to get different sounds, you know.”

Palmer: Why do you do all these other activities, is it just to get different sounds?

Hendrix: It’s to entertain myself sometimes and to get different sounds, you know. Like you can hit it against with your ring, get a certain sound. You can scrape it across here and get it, you know, like that. You know, like we play so loud that you can do it like that; but with a pick, it doesn’t really work. You know everybody does it with a pick, but, you know, if you play too loud, just it’s nothing… you have to do it with your arm, or your kneecap, whichever comes first.

Palmer: What do you think of all the people who try and label and stick images on you.

Hendrix: Yeah, I just, you know, I just hate to disappoint anybody. But you know it’s really bad if they try to put you… well, that’s their category or that’s that category. You know is this bad for both of us? For the people and for me, you know, because I might not want to be in that scene. So it’s best to accept us the way we are, as we flow you know. If they, if they dig us that much, you know, if they like us, that’s great.

REAL AMBITION – Backstage With Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix on stage at Music Hall, Houston, TX February 18, 1968
Photo: William Warner / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

Palmer: Do you get very sort of jumpy about messages …

Hendrix: No, no, no, not too much because then I know what I want to try to do and  I know what I’m trying to do. I have a, you know, I have a good, very solid idea, so you know, like say all they’re you know, sometimes you get uptight, but quite naturally, anybody does. You’re just in the past because you know exactly what you’re trying to do or where you’re at.

Palmer: OK. Well having said that, now describe what you want to do.

Hendrix: Well, there you go? It’s very bad for me to do it in conversation. You know? It’ll take like another LP or two or three. Another this and that you know stage shows.

Palmer: All, I’m trying to get out. There is a sort of statement about what you’re trying to do. I mean, you obviously trying to do it through your LP, I mean…

Hendrix: Right. Well, like, yeah, but because singles are very hard to work with. Like something like I said, I’m trying to do it. I’m trying to say, trying to say to you, I know… I know myself, but it’s very hard to try to get on, you know.

Yeah, because it might change tomorrow, might change tomorrow. But you still have a solid thing you know little things here little, little fringes on the side like you might want to get into that later on, or get into that, but your solid ambition is, you know.

And once you do that, then you still want something else to do so. That’s what I’m saying. I know we’ll be satisfied; maybe happy, you know. There’s always so much more to … in music.

Palmer: Talk about your ambition.

“The real ambition, man, is like for us to be known for, for us to be respected as musicians and, you know, like songwriters, now that we’re trying to get into that.”

Hendrix: We we’re very lucky to make some money, you know. So financially, some of that money, like later on, you know, it’s like, well, the more my hair falls off, my grandchildren should run all over my back, you know? And like I’ll be trying to get some real estate together, you know and like, cause human beings always have a place to stay and sleep, you know, and eat so forth. So, I like to get into that scene. You know, you know.

But, but the real ambition, man, is like for us to be known for, for us to be respected as musicians and, you know, like songwriters, now that we’re trying to get into that. Right, you know. I mean, for this, they don’t have to respect us as songwriters, it just like dig our words and listen to what we have to say. You know, it’s more than this music itself, you know. The words we try to make our words flow in with the music. At least that’s what I try to do, you know. Try to make it such a tight connection that in other words I’m talking to you or saying what I feel like for that that three or four minutes, whatever that that certain track takes. Then the next track that I’m talking to you again on in another way, another side, maybe another, you know.

It’s to be respected, that’s all. Because, like beforehand, who was it? Everybody likes. Oh, great, you know, get inside. That’s all. Man. I can’t sing them. No, no, man. It’s going to put you out, mate. You know? And also then we get a group together. Not everybody’s trying to tell us how to play the drums. How to do this. Yeah, man, you are, you’d be as good as Clapton, man. If you did this solo way up there. Bring it, you know, so I said, yeah. OK, brother. OK, man, you know.

I don’t want to live anybody else’s life? I want to live my own, you know, and play my own thing. But initially I’ve learned from a lot of cats by listening and getting beautiful ideas from like, you know, Elmore James, B.B. King and Albert King and so forth and so on, Eddie Cochrane, Jean Vincent and you know all these cats I like to dig Bach, Mozart, Mozart really was a drag after awhile.

“When you make it yourself, that’s your note, you should you really feel proud of it, you know? And like, be respected from other cats, by the world, the music world is to be respected.”

But like yeah, man, you like, like you get your inspiration everything, and every note you make, that’s yours. Quite naturally, might have been around all over the place, you know, millions of years ago. But when you make it yourself, that’s your note, you should you really feel proud of it, you know? And like, be respected from other cats, by the world, the music world is to be respected.

Palmer: That respect is obviously very important to you.

Hendrix: Yeah, but I’m not going to hang me up if they don’t get it. I’ll go on an island and listen to my beard grow and dig myself playing guitar. I think I’ll do that if nothing else happens.

Palmer: What would you most like to do?

Hendrix: Oh, go on an island, dig myself, play guitar, and listen to my beard grow maybe for about 2 months and then come back maybe. Recharge my brain, if there’s anything less to recharge after this tour man.

Palmer: It’s all been terrible?

Hendrix: No, it’s been it’s been really …

Redding: It’s been harsh …

Hendrix: it’s been very yeah … so much too much. It’s great, though. It’s really out of sight. It’s so surprising. I can’t believe it really. It’s nice.

Can you hear? Well, this is like America, man. Oh, great. All these places at the Fillmore, I played there before with Ike & Tina, you know, and the good old “you doing all right” days and then also we play there as a group of ourselves representing our own selves. And it was such a good feeling, especially in your own home country. And I guess they feel the same way.

“[Chas] takes me to England and we got this fantastic group together.”

Palmer: Why did you come from America?

Hendrix: So, like I just explained it before like I was in the Village like beforehand, I was playing behind other groups, wasn’t really trying to, you know, I really was very shy, you know, never to speak up, never got paid and all this, you know. And then I said Chas and Mike Jeffery gave us, gave me the break. He takes me to England and we got this fantastic group together. That’s the way. I look at it, man, you know.


Experience one night with The Jimi Hendrix Experience as the legendary trio performs at Clark University’s Atwood Hall on March 15, 1968.  Featuring both pre and post-show interviews with the band, plus five scorching live performances.

Track Listing:

1. Jimi Hendrix: Pre-Concert Interview 20:56
2. Fire 3:33
3. Red House 7:09
4. Foxey Lady 4:31
5. Purple Haze 5:05
6. Wild Thing 8:12
7. Noel Redding: Post-Concert Interview 7:13
8. Mitch Mitchell: Post-Concert Interview 8:58
9. Jimi Hendrix: Post-Concert Interview 4:54

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