Doors opened at 11 p.m.
for the midnight show on New Year's Eve. The Joshua Light Show kept the
audience entertained with clips from the movies Dr. Strange
Love and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then the
Voices of East Harlem returned to fill the hall with gospel-inspired
renditions of Sing A Simple Song, Run,
Shaker Life and Let The Sunshine In. At
three minutes before midnight the youngsters danced offstage as a large
clock image was projected on the screen. Richard Strauss's Also
Sprach Zarathustra (popularized as the theme for the movie 2001:
A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick 1967) blared from
loudspeakers as the stage screen was lifted.
For several minutes the light show gear was
revealed as its aurora borealis patterns danced directly on the crowd.
Tambourines rattled at fever pitch when the screen was lowered and
large numbers flashed superimposed on the clock. Everyone chanted the
countdown to 1970 in unison before a thousand "Happy New Year" cheers
accompanied the Lombardo Orchestra's recording of Auld Lang
Syne. Hendrix then appeared and led the Gypsys through their
own arrangement of Auld Lang Syne, a rendition
later described in Downbeat magazine as "a bluesy
thing of strange beauty."
The set that followed contained extended jams of
new material as well as several old Experience standards. But, as a
review in the New York Times noted, Hendrix seemed
"as if he were molding a living sculpture of sound rather than
fulfilling the normal role of the entertainer...more important than the
form of the song is the amount of aural and personal pyrotechnics he
can cram into it."
BOG on New Year's
Joseph Sia's split-crotch photo of Hendrix on New
Year's Eve gives us a rare glimpse of all four sound effect foot-pedals
that Hendrix was utilizing on stage at this time. To the far left is
the Vox Wah-Wah pedal -- for transforming guitar tones into
muted-trumpet-like bass-to-treble alterations; next to that is the
custom made Octavia box -- for electrically doubling the pitch of
guitar notes (Hendrix began to use this new portable Octavia unit in
the summer of 1969, but the first time it is heard on a contract
recording is within this second BOG set during Machine Gun
and Stone Free, where he applies it to the Cherokee
Mist melody); a patch cord then connects the Wah-Wah and
Octavia to the round Fuzz-Face distortion unit -- for ballooning guitar
tones into static feedback; and to the far left is the Univibe pedal,
which when depressed accelerates a wavering flutter and turns feedback
From this second BOG show comes a beautiful color
film by Amalie Rothschild of Hendrix, Miles, and Cox performing Stepping
Stone, Fire and parts of Ezy
Jan Blom's videotape of the next show, the New
Year's Day early show (containing Side A of the 1970 BOG album),
forever preserves an unearthly set which, ironically, was described by
one reviewer as a "disappointing musical experience...Hendrix was
unimpressive...if the audience had charged him to practice in front of
them, it would have been a much better concert."
Except for 30 seconds of pelvic thrusts during Foxy
Lady, Hendrix remained stock-still during this set and caused
a reporter from Rolling Stone to write, "It's as if
Hendrix doesn't care about putting on a show for whitey anymore; rather
he is into really playing the guitar instead of shucking and jiving
with fancy tricks." Then the article went on to call Buddy Miles a
"run-of-the-mill R&B singer" and report that a lot of the new
BOG songs "sounded like Purple Haze" -- even though
Hendrix's new social-message songs were in fact a big departure from
his past outer-space and/or love themes.
The final BOG show at the Fillmore continued on
until dawn the next day. Having satisfied the tape machines, Hendrix
returned to the stage with his full array of freak-flag
postures and unleashed multiple encores of Voodoo Child,
Wild Thing, Hey Joe
and Purple Haze.
Madison Sq. Garden - Jan. 1970
Afterwards in the dressing room, Al Aronowitz
asked if there was a reason for the change in Hendrix's music. He
replied, "Earth, man, earth. Now I want to bring it down to
earth. I want to go back to the blues, because that's what I am."
Four weeks later, on January 28, 1970, the BOG
gave one last performance. Appearing on a bill with 10 other acts
before a sold-out house at Madison Square Garden, the occasion was a
special benefit concert for the Vietnam Moratorium Committee. It was
only one week before the show that Moratorium organizer Phil Friedman
first approached rock entrepreneur Sid Bernstein with the idea for a
Peace Festival to raise badly needed funds for a $50,000 Moratorium
Committee deficit. Hendrix's friend, producer Alan Douglas, was asked
to procure the BOG for this benefit appearance.
Hendrix, Miles, and Cox were scheduled to play
just prior to the closing set (by the cast of Hair).
The program was already proceeding behind schedule by the time Hendrix
appeared on stage past 3 a.m. After opening with an elegant version of Who
Knows and running through a chaotic try at Earth
Blues, Hendrix sat down on the stage and did something that
seemed strangely appropriate when one considers the real purpose for a Vietnam
Moratorium -- he became ill and walked off.