Mar 22 2022
By Jon Price.
It’s early Saturday evening on January 4, 1969. This is traditionally the time for variety programs on British television, time for family viewing ’round the idiot box and this week, for the nation’s pleasure, The Jimi Hendrix Experience are to play a couple of numbers on a show called Happening For Lulu.
The Lulu shows, which were billed in the BBC Radio Times as a “series of programs of music and laughter,” were broadcast entirely live and as such the schedule was sacred. Each guest was allotted their precious time, giving just enough at the end to allow Lulu to close each show with that week’s contribution for the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest.
So here we go with something to rattle the teacups and get the kids sent to bed. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, ladies and gentlemen, live on your TV screen. Sent to you with love from Auntie at the BBC Television Centre and first up for your entertainment is a concise rendition of that quiet little ditty, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” ending with that most Hendrix of trademarks, the oral guitar technique.
As the applause dies away Lulu begins her introduction of the band’s next number but she’s hardly into it before some guitar feedback barks in the background, making her pause. She glances toward the source of the intrusion. Eyes flashing wide in theatrical consternation, eyebrows arching upwards as she carries on, “Ha, ha … they’re gonna sing for you now the song that absolutely made them in this country and I love to hear them sing it. ‘Hey Joe.'”
From BBC Arts – BBC.co.uk
Now some sources suggest that Lulu was to do a duet with the band on “Hey Joe.” Mitch Mitchell recalled, “As soon as we arrived, they said, as they had done with The Dusty Springfield Show, ‘what about a duet, gotta do a duet with Lulu.’ At the rehearsal Hendrix said, ‘No problem, we’ll do the duet on the show and we’ll deal with it then.’ I think she was supposed to do ‘Hey Joe’ or something.”
Whatever the case, by this point a duet is off the menu. Mr. Hendrix has other ideas.
“Plug your ears. Plug your ears,” he warns as he launches a dazzling fanfare of whammy bar, Wah Wah-driven feedback, before finally chugging in with “Hey Joe,” but the bottom E string is out of tune and a bum note wades in. Undaunted and grinning cheekily, he de-tunes as the band continues with the song.
“An’ I forgot the words.”
He throws the solo away and, with a smiling glance to Redding and Mitchell, Hendrix brings the song to an abrupt ending. Is this pre-planned anarchy or just confusion for the show’s production team?
“We’d like to stop playin’ this rubbish and dedicate
a song to The Cream, regardless of what kind of
group they might be in. We’d like to dedicate it to
Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce.”
“We’d like to stop playin’ this rubbish and dedicate a song to The Cream, regardless of what kind of group they might be in. We’d like to dedicate it to Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce,” says Hendrix, and the band rockets into an instrumental version of The Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love.” Never mind that The Cream had decided to call it a day at least six months before; Hendrix has a dedication to make to his friends.
Changing tune in mid flow may be one thing, a small indiscretion easily forgiven, but as the precious seconds of airtime tick rapidly away, the show’s production team is increasingly nonplused. There’s more than a bit of consternation as they attempt to halt the band, which by now is spinning along conscious of the time restriction of the broadcast. Hendrix shouts, “We’re bein’ put off the air,” and slowly staggers the tune to a thumping halt.
Afterwards, the band retired for a bit of BBC hospitality. As Mitchell recalls, “I remember going up to the BBC club in White City and being told, ‘You’ll never work for the BBC again,’ and I don’t think we ever did! Fun and games, isn’t it? A man’s got to have a hobby!”
They never did work at the BBC again but their appearance on the Lulu show has lived on as one of those legendary moments in rock ‘n’ roll television.
# # #