Experience Hendrix, L.L.C. in partnership with Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, is releasing Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967 on vinyl, CD and all digital platforms. This live concert performance, captured just five days before the US release of Are You Experienced, their album debut, is notable for being one of the last times the band performed in front of an audience as relative unknowns. Having already conquered the band’s UK base as well as Continental Europe over the previous ten months, the vast majority of the 17,000 plus Los Angeles concert goers were there to see headliners The Mamas & The Papas and were caught off guard by Jimi Hendrix’s electrifying musicality and showmanship. Finally, the set can be enjoyed by the rest of the world for the first time ever; amazingly, not a single second of this unique, two-track live recording has ever been released before in any capacity, either via official channels or elsewise.
After the Seattle-born Jimi Hendrix moved to London in September of 1966, the Experience was formed with a British rhythm section consisting of drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding. The new band promptly enjoyed commercial success in the form of three top 10 singles and a string of performances that overwhelmed audiences and won praise from the likes of Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. Word of these achievements reached Reprise Records chief Mo Ostin and a US deal for Hendrix was confirmed in March 1967. Two months later, at the urging of McCartney, the Jimi Hendrix Experience made their triumphant US debut at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June. However, the immediate prosperity the band enjoyed in the UK was not replicated stateside. Their first two US singles were flops – “Hey Joe” didn’t chart at all, “Purple Haze” only reached #65 – and Are You Experienced wouldn’t be released domestically until late August. In their attempt to crack America, the Experience did a five-show stint at the Fillmore in San Francisco followed by a US tour opening for The Monkees that only lasted nine dates before Hendrix dropped off due to unappreciative teenybopper audiences who were strictly there to see the headliner. In a scramble to book dates after this debacle, John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas, who co-produced the Monterey Pop Festival, invited the Experience to open for his group at the Hollywood Bowl on August 18.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience blazed through originals such as “Purple Haze,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and yet-to-be-released classics “Foxey Lady” and “Fire,” as well as their own re-imagining of favorites by The Beatles (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”), Howlin’ Wolf (“Killing Floor”), Bob Dylan (“Like a Rolling Stone”), The Troggs (“Wild Thing”) and Muddy Waters (“Catfish Blues”). The majority of the crowd had purchased tickets months in advance to see The Mamas & The Papas and were wholly unfamiliar with the jarringly different Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Brian Ray, longtime guitarist for Paul McCartney and Etta James, was among The audience members transfixed by what they witnessed. “The audience was there to see The Mamas & The Papas,” recalls Ray. “They haven’t heard of Jimi Hendrix. I’d never heard of Jimi Hendrix, and he couldn’t be more opposite of The Mamas & The Papas as an act, culturally, physically, in every possible way he was the opposite. Here comes this guy and there’s only three of them on stage and they have these afros and these wild, ornate, very theatrical clothes. Jimi proceeds to shred, and it’s loud but it’s musical, and then it becomes so physical. He starts playing the guitar under his leg, and now it’s behind his back, and now he’s playing it with his mouth, and now he’s on the ground on his knees and he’s like humping it, and it, to me was mind blowing. It was sort of every human characteristic; it was beauty, grace, it was sexual, violent, gentle, it was just everything all at once in one band coming out of this one guy. I wouldn’t say that the audience response was quite the same as the response I was having. My sister and I were going bananas, and the audience was like [soft clapping] and they were trying to figure it out.”
However bewildered the audience may have been, their brief tenure opening for the Monkees had hardened the group, and they leaned into their repertoire with ferocity.
Michelle Phillips, the only surviving member of The Mamas & The Papas, first saw the Experience perform at the Monterey Pop Festival. “We had never heard of him,” Phillips remembers. “I had absolutely no idea what to expect. And when I saw him perform I was mortified. I had never seen anything like this, I’d never seen anybody treat their instruments like this. He was pouring lighter fluid over his guitar and then setting it on fire and – I really was shocked. I had no experience with this kind of rock and roll theatre. And that was the first time I had ever seen it.” Backstage at the Hollywood Bowl weeks later, Phillips was won over by Jimi Hendrix. “I absolutely loved him,” recalls Phillips in the liner notes for Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967, penned by Jeff Slate. “He was a gentleman, he was lovely, he was funny.” She softened her view of “rock and roll theatre,” which was somewhat antithetical to the more stayed and pitch-perfect folk tradition from which her group emerged. This very concert wound up being The Mamas & The Papas’ last, while the Experience’s star was rising; they would return to the Bowl the following year as headliners. Phillips remembers, “In a couple of days or months, Jimi Hendrix was the hottest thing happening.”
The Experience Hendrix team of Janie Hendrix, John McDermott and Eddie Kramer prepared this special album for its release. Kramer, Hendrix’s long standing recording engineer, recently restored the audio, and three-time Grammy Award winner Bernie Grundman served as mastering engineer. Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967 will be available on CD as well as audiophile grade, individually numbered, 150 gram vinyl, complete with many previously unseen photos by Ed Caraeff, Henry Diltz and Allen Daviau from that night. These include performance shots as well as candid backstage images of band members co-mingling with The Mamas & The Papas, scene maker Rodney Bingenheimer and manager Chas Chandler.