by Michael Fairchild

After a winter of European concerts in 1969, the Jimi Hendrix Experience returned to the States for a ten-week tour while hundreds of thousands of Americans from coast to coast were preparing to join Easter weekend demonstrations against four years of Vietnam. On the 4th of April U.S. combat casualties surpassed the total for the Korean War. The following Friday, Jimi, Mitch and Noel went on the road as draft students rebelled at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, and New York's Queen College. Dozens were injured during sit-ins and strikes. During the 1969 spring semester, 292 American campuses hosted anti-war rallies; one-quarter of them included violence. The nation stood polarized between pro-war hawks and anti-war doves. As a black artist in that volatile season of upheaval, Jimi Hendrix attained an unprecedented level of popularity among white audiences.

Jimi had been on the road for three weeks when the new album Sunrise that he produced for the Irish band Eire Apparent came out. Then on May 3rd Hendrix was busted at Toronto Airport while en route to a gig. Packets of heroin were found by customs officials in his carry-on flight bag. Jimi was arraigned and faced heavy duty jail time. "The bust obviously messed up Jimi's head for weeks," wrote Noel Redding. "He worried quietly, he found it terribly hard to open up to people. He'd been feeling very positive before the bust." 1

The tour took a swing through the South and then headed for New York. During the week leading up to Jimi's Madison Square Garden debut, President Nixon announced a plan to replace the hated draft system with a lottery that would induct 19-year-old boys first.
Two days later 300 hundred policemen in Berkeley, California cleared students out of a small patch of land called People's Park. The incident sparked a week of violent protest. On May 16th, 2,000 Berkeley demonstrators battled with police. Rioting spread to other campuses. That night The Experience resumed their East Coast dates with a concert in Baltimore. In Vietnam the gory battle for "Hamburger Hill" was reaching a peak during this weekend.

When Sunday the 18th of May dawned, Apollo 10 lifted off to orbit the moon. But New York's counter-culture was barely aware. They were heading for an even more spaced out rendezvous with Jimi. Around dusk on Sunday The Experience orbit the Fillmore East to catch a set by The Who. But, as bassist Noel Redding records in his diary, mid-way through the show smoke begins to fill the hall. "A fire started in the grocery store on the comer," recalled Bill Graham. "Someone threw a Molotov cocktail in there because the owner refused to pay protection money to whoever had been shaking him down for it." 2

Cops invade the Fillmore stage and cause a fracas as the crowd is ushered out. Guitarist Larry Coryell escortes The Experience to safety. The JHE arrive at the Garden for the 18th gig of their 26-concerts tour. The last time they played the Big Apple was for November's "Electronic Thanksgiving" concert in Philharmonic Hall.

At Madison Square Garden tickets for the 19,000-seat sold-out show ran from $4 to $6.50. After sets by Cat Mother, and The Buddy Miles Express, Jimi is ushered on to the stage by a ring of cops. His shinning white Strat jutted forward like a gladiator's sword. Flashing bulbs strobe the band as Jimi steps steps up to the mic. A blue crown of silk sits over his clear malted skin, with a cigarette positioned between his parted lips. It looks as if Jimi has been moulded from a caramel chocolate bar and draped in gypsy moth butterfly wings. His exotic wardrobe is from a Village boutique manned by foxy ladies named Colette and Stella.

The new issue of Rolling Stone (dated May 31, 1969) had just hit the streets and on the cover Jimi is pictured as a caped Pied Piper under the headline: "Hendrix Busted in Toronto." It seems like every photographer in New York turns up at Madison Square Garden to shoot what could possibly be the last Hendrix tour for years.

"Forget everything that happened today or yesterday or last night," he said, "today we'll make our own little world." Jimi digs into a ferocious intro and with a whack of his white Strat Lover Man cuts loose. After singing his very first verse, a guitar string pops. Roadies scramble to get him a black Strat replacement. Noel and Mitch play on until Jimi slips on the axe and jams into a solo. A thousand flashbulbs glitter the background.

It's rock 'n' roll at the Apollo until, incredibly, at the tag-out coda, Jimi breaks another guitar string. Two strings in one song! Removing the black Strat he grabs the re-strung white one and tells the crowd, "Hey, listen, listen, I'd like to ask, not too much of those pictures! Alright? Because it's takin' away, I can't, you know, we can't concentrate if you take too many pictures, alright?"

Jimi's annoyed by this flawed entrance and distracted by the onslaught of flashes. To make matters worse the band is standing on a revolving stage, which Jimi hates. He launches into Come On (Part 1), an Earl King tune included on the JHE Electric Ladyland double-album that reached #1 on the charts last fall. Only ten concert recordings of Come On are known to exist.

Jimi must have figured that some of the pictures being snapped would become posters and publicity shots. A majority of famous '60s concert posters originated from New York, L.A. or San Francisco. Hendrix posters and poses became famous from NYC locales like Central Park, Hunter College, Fillmore East, Singer Bowl, and Philharmonic Hall. With such high energy media present in the Garden, Jimi may have been nervous, but he gets triple annoyed when towards the end of Come On he actually breaks a third guitar string! Of more than 150 Hendrix concert tapes, none reveal him breaking three strings in one show. Did the roadies forget/neglect to change the strings after his show last night in Providence and the night before in Baltimore? Mitch did speak about how the road crew would "sabotage" the band's gigs because the roadies had a "star complex." By the end of Come On in the Garden Jimi senses that this is going to be a uniquely off-kilter show.

Cursing the busted string, he notices some crowd commotion and asks the people, "Are you all supposed to be sitting down?" Three weeks earlier at his L.A. Forum debut some of the crowd got out of control and mobbed the stage. The Garden was the same size as the Forum. In the spring of '69 rock music was still at a point where only a handful of 'Superstars' could fill such big venues. But Jimi wasn't impressed by this 'bigness' - he preferred playing in small clubs. "It's terrible to have to rely on the Madison Square Garden all the time," he once said, "'cause those places are not for real, good, rock music. Then you have to go to the small clubs and get your ears blasted away. I think they should make special buildings, like they make special buildings for restaurants and hotels. They should make special buildings for loud, or whatever you want to call it, electronic rock music." 3

Maybe the Fillmore firebomb before the show has already frayed his patience. Like an elder parent scolding disobedient kids, Hendrix suddenly barks at the Garden crowd, "YA'LL! I HAVE TO ASK YOU ONCE AGAIN - we're-not-gonna-play-another-song-if-you-keep-flashing-that-camera, alright?" He rambles at nineteen-thousand people as if they're all familiar neighbors. Jimi is an NYC resident, but maybe his intimacy with the community stems from the investment he's making in the Village. During the week of the MSG concert, construction had begun on his 8th Street dream studio - Electric Lady. The project would drain Jimi's concert profits for the rest of his life.

Warming up - backstage at MSG, May 18th

After he straps the re-strung black Strat back on, the music continues with Jimi picking the intro to Red House. The band is bathed in red light. Normally Jimi uses a Gibson SG or a Flying V to play blues on stage. And backstage at this show engineer Ed Kramer had even photographed him with a 1969 Flying V (see pic at left) never to be seen again in any other Hendrix photo. However, for the next six songs Jimi plays the black Strat, starting with a slow blues. Red House brings the concert into focus.

"Rebirth of the Blues" is the title of a current Newsweek magazine cover story this week. In the article Jimi is quoted speaking about youth unrest. "Lots of young people now feel that they're not getting a fair deal," he observes, "so they revert to something loud and harsh, almost verging on violence; if they didn't go to a concert, they might be going to a riot. Music is such an important thing now. If parents really want to love their kids, they should be aware of their music." 4

Jimi said much more to Zimmerman that was left out of the Newsweek article:

When I was upstairs while the grown-ups had parties listening to Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, and Ray Charles, I'd sneak down after and eat potato chips and smoke butts. That sound was really - not evil - just a thick sound. The content of the old blues was singing about sex - problems with their old ladies - and booze. Now people are saying so much more with music. Guitar is the basic thing for me, voice is just another way of getting across what I'm doing musically. It's hard for me to think in terms of blues anymore, so many groups are riding the blues bandwagon. Blues groups today that might be classic groups tomorrow. The blues are easy to play but not to feel. The background of our music is a Spiritual Blues thing. Blues is a part of America.

Paul Zimmerman interviews Jimi for Newsweek - NYC May 1969

We're making our music into Electric Church Music; a new kind of Bible, not like in a hotel, but a Bible you carry in your hearts, one that will give you a physical feeling. We try to make our music so loose and hard hitting so that it hits your soul hard enough to make it open. It's like shock therapy or a can opener. Rock is technically blues-based. Rock is like a young dragon until the establishment gets a hold of it and turns it into a cabaret act with the big voice and patent-leather shoes and the patent leather hair.

We're in our little cement beehives in this society. People let a lot of old time laws rule them. The establishment has set up the Ten Commandments for us saying don't, don't, don't. Once you say "don't" you've made two points against yourself. Then all of a sudden kids come along with a different set of brain cells and the establishment doesn't know what to do. The walls are crumbling and the establishment doesn't want to let go. We're trying to save the kids, to create a buffer between young and old. Our music is shock therapy to help them realize a little more of what their goals should be. They are young; the establishment hasn't put them in a cage yet. Their music hasn't been put in a cage yet. It's more than music. It's like church, like a foundation for the lost or potentially lost. That's why the kids don't mind when you take fifteen minutes setting up for a concert. It's like watching something being born. They guys come out and set up instruments; they turn their backs to the audience taking time to get ready. The kids like it. It's not the establishment. They become like fathers to the music.

Almost anyone who has the power to keep their minds open listens to our music. Black kids think the music is white now, which it isn't. The argument is not between black and white now. That's just another game the establishment set up to turn us against one another. But the black kids don't have a chance too much to listen, they're too busy trying to get their own selves together. We want them to realize that our music is just as spiritual as going to church.

The soul must rule, not money or drugs. If you can do your own thing, just do it properly. A guy can dig ditches and enjoy it. You should rule yourself and give God a chance. The drug scene came around and looked good for a while, but we found that was just another thing to get hung up on. Definitely I'm trying to change the world. I'd love to! I'd like to have my own country, an oasis for the gypsy minded people. My goal is to erase all boundaries from the world. You have to set some heavy goals to keep yourself going. As long as I know there are people out there who aren't fully together I can't withdraw to lesser goals.

If I quit making money I would still want to change the world. The money scene can turn you into a slave to the public, a zombie, a penguin. If I starve tomorrow it would just be another experience to me. I don't want to be so big that I'm a slave to the public. That's why people get so sad when someone dies. They haven't finished using him. They're selfish.

I'm trying to keep my music from being prostituted. I just call it raw, spiritual music and it's up to the person himself to make what he wants of it. Singing is letting off a certain frustration that I'd have to get married and beat up my wife to do otherwise. If our music were really an assault we wouldn't have an audience after the fourth or fifth gig.

The establishment is so uptight about sex that all it wants to do is make the groupies look bad. Any art has its group of female admirers. We call the groupies Band-Aids, they're just innocent little girls trying to do their thing, but the insecure man puts labels on them - suck your favorite star! They don't talk about the ones who bring flowers and then go home to their mothers. Kids are wiser than grown-ups in some respects. Conflict comes when insecure older people overprotect their young.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Experience slams into Fire and it seems like a new show just began in the Garden. Jimi's hands jab upper D-register leads. During the solo he swings the guitar up around on his side. As it faces Mitch, Jimi's bare naval peeks at the crowd. The band pounds out one of the most frenetic versions of Fire on record. A critic for Billboard noted in his review that Hendrix "was loose and leering, bucking and flinching to the groans of his guitar...squeezing from his arsenal of guitars every shock of plugged-in power and psychedelic beauty." 5

Mitch begins a drum solo that unwinds majestically into Spanish Castle Magic, the one song off their Axis: Bold As Love album that the band plays frequently on stage. In 1969 this tune became fertile composing grounds when improvised live. At the Royal Albert Hall show in London on February 18, 1969 Spanish Castle Magic had developed into a jam in which the main riff for a new song called Message To Love showed up during the solo. In Toronto on May 3rd Jimi injected into the middle of Spanish Castle Magic with the only known stage rendition of Little Miss Lover. And during later concert tours Castle housed haunting Hendrix interpretations of The Breeze And I. But in 1969, Jimi's Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night gigs in Baltimore, Providence, and New York showcased a Trinity of magic Castles all in a row. It started in Baltimore where during this song he breaks into an incredible chordal solo. That Baltimore flamenco fantasy is the original prototype for August's Woodstock Improvisation.

Following Baltimore, the next night in Providence brought another Spanish Castle Magic surprise. Imbedded in the jam is heard the first surfacing of another new tune titled Earth Blues. Then for a Sunday night Castle climax in the Garden Jimi unleashes a symphony of sustained wails and feedback. It's as if the velvet smooth tones imitate his wardrobe. This music's harmonic development contains a Woodstock preview. Many of the same embellished figures that became famous a year later from Jimi's music on the Woodstock album got a test-run in New York. Like Woodstock, this MSG jam slowly trickles down into the serene 12-bar Villanova Junction Blues interlude. A graceful swirling oasis within the Spanish Castle sandstorm. In the hushed eye of the Garden, Jimi plants delicate nuggets of unearthly beauty. MSG is his last New York concert before Woodstock.

Spanish Castle Magic at Madison Square Garden

Hear My Train (aka Getting My Heart Back Together Again) came next at the Garden show. Along with Lover Man this is the second song of the night that had yet to be released on any album. Of two known audience-made tapes from this Garden show, the copy that originates from a recording made by Bruce Kulick (current lead guitarist with the group Kiss) preserves the best sound quality. At some moments during Train the tape contains near-excellent reproduction. Jimi riffs and solos, swaying and channeling to his Shaman rhythms.

I Don't Live Today is played next, inspiring one reviewer to note how Jimi's "fierce, almost sadistic manipulation of the guitar's personality is arrogantly featured in his act as he humiliates the instrument by raking it across the microphone stand, playing it disinterestedly behind his back, pushing up the volume till it whines out in pain." 6

During the feedback freak-out Hendrix incorporates the first twelve notes of the Star Spangled Banner. Absent from all known May 1969 gigs is the Banner. The number was a staple at the gigs during April and Jimi had really just got the hang of his arrangement. Then the Toronto bust interferred. With media and authorities breathing down his back, Hendrix must have sussed that his inflammatory Banner was too much of a risk while he was facing trail by the establishment. Following the Toronto bust, the only known complete SSB heard prior to Woodstock is from late June at the Denver Pop Festival. And that was a stadium gig with heavy police brutality where Jimi sang, "I gotta get out of this Roman Coliseum!" That Denver scene really called for a chaos-twisted Anthem, Toronto trial or not.

Likewise, Jimi again rose to the occasion at Woodstock, where the occasion brought a release of all those pent up SSBs he didn't play in May. Jimi accepted the risk of super media visibility and jeopardized the upcoming Toronto verdict in order to sock-it to the establishment properly at Woodstock.

Back at the Garden a flashing frenzy intensifies around the stage. Jimi is "industry" to the new rock media, especially in New York. Hard boiled paparazzi don't give a shit if they disrupt his gig. Jimi introduces Voodoo Child (sight return) with a quip. "It's very bad sometimes, you know, to concentrate on what you're doing when there's a lot of people flashing cameras and running around, like I said before, and so we'd like to dedicate this to the people that came listen, okay? (Cheers) We're gonna play some old blues."

After Voodoo Child Jimi tells people to get off the stage. "We've been touring for a while," he says softly, "so it's very hard to try and concentrate on this system. Next time we come we'll play outside, so there won't be so many bad professionals cooped up in one building. This revolving stage is one thing, you know? Thank you very much and goodnight." Good to his word, next time Jimi plays this neck of the woods is at Woodstock - outside, in daylight, no bulbs!

To conclude the Garden set he trots the white Strat back out and launches into Purple Haze. The band plods forth a somewhat perfunctory intro which inspired a writer for Circus to observe Jimi's "Madison Square Garden image of a huge-loined desperado whumping and jacking-off his axe tiredly, and then retiring to his den of lions, while the pimply boys and girls in the crowd leave with their images working overtime, but almost feeling cheated." 7

This assessment was more apt to describe Jimi's usual gyrations during Foxy Lady, but ironically, MSG is one of the handful of recorded Hendrix shows not to feature Foxy. Jimi once said that Foxy Lady was one of the few "happy songs" that he wrote, and he wasn't happy this night in New York, so he didn't play it. He's ending a three-night stand of travel to big concerts so he probably is pretty beat, but Purple Haze didn't suffer for it. The number concludes at the outer limits of intensity, as if Jimi is making up for the show's botched beginning.

"LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, STAY OFF THE STAGE!" warns an arena official with a threatening tone. The crowd boos his rudeness. Jimi is relieved to split this scene of gladiator battles and inconsiderate distractions. His frame of mind is usually "heightened" so that he can more effectively stretch out his music in these threatening arenas. But such states of mind can leave one vulnerable and defenseless. Jimi stood in the Garden like a rose among thorns. "New York's killing me," he told a reporter. "It's positively claustrophobic! Things are going so fast you might as well get ready to step on a roller-coaster each time you move outside your door." 8

He tells another journalist, "We can play violent music, and in a way it's like watching wrestling or football for them. It releases their violence. It's not like beating it out of each other, but like violent silk. I mean, sadness can be violent." 9

A fabulous 9 minute 16mm color film of the MSG show preserves precious concert scenes of Lover Man (both black and white Strat scenes), Come On Pt. 1, along with parts of Red House and Fire. The last third of the film is comprised of a collage of overlapping stage scenes superimposed over each other. During this part of the movie Jimi is seen riffing solos from Hear My Train and manipulating his guitar's feedback freak-out dring the break for I Don't Live Today The final frames of the MSG film focus on Voodoo Child and a glimpse of Purple Haze.

16mm Film of JHE at MSG in NYC:

Noel noted that the Garden show "was such a really HUGE concert. Too big maybe...I really felt the show was no good - not sure why - and escaped to the Scene Club to get drunk with Keith Moon...All the shows are so big and impersonal now." 10

A listen to the MSG tape reveals why Noel remembers it as "no good." It isn't because of the music. It's the memory of Jimi standing there pissed off with the scene. Noel isn't the only one who had to "escape" that drag. After the show Jimi too wrote out his feelings, a poem titled I Excaped (sic) from the Roman Coliseum:

I excaped from the Roman Colliseum - - - May 18, 1969 -

As I reached the cave by way of flying night bird
I layed down my relax...
I decided to play with my old friend, time.

Then all of a sudden
Jesus took on through the
Mirror just ahead of me

I said what brings you here, today?
He said...I heard my name
mentioned as I was passing along
the way...And I figured this
was a good time to say
what I forgot the last time - you know, what I meant to say.

That's when I realized that he was as spaced out as me.

Something about women being
the whole 1/2 of today
And not being treated the way
they should. "Well it's understood..."
I said as I passed Him
another glass of - vintage A.D. O2 wine.
I said this is 69, what a year
for the snow to fly...And if that's your
space ship parked outside let's take
a ride and we can rap about it on the
way to the Red Cross station. I left my
stash there, the best stuff anywhere, I'm
gonna grind the stuff to powder, pack it
in a bomb and turn on the whole nation, let
'em know what the good stuff is like.
And he said (song)

Don't you think they might get just a little
Don't you think it's bigger than it's little
Don't you think they might get just a little too stoned?

And I said as we fled and through our hair
the cosmos streaked and bled "Ah, hell no,
they're Americans, we'll be the last to go."

Jesus looked me in the eyes, said almost in a
chuckle "Sometimes you talk like the devil and
he's in late and getting sorry for his trouble."
Well I pounced kinda nervous you know and exclaimed
"Well, I sure ain't you so what you want me to do,
go back to Earth and witness the royal change of the rubble?
I'm trying to be saved on my own two feet,
tell me some news so's I can throw it in the street.

Earth's "royal change of the rubble" is the coming asteroid disaster that Jimi is trying to find a way to warn us of. The "mirrors" and mistreated woman of the poem turn up a few days after the MSG show when he records Message To Love at the Record Plant. To the riff that surfaced during his Spanish Castle Magic solo back at the Royal Albert Hall in February he adds lyrics:

I carry love for all in the mirror of my hand...
Here comes a woman, sweat all down her back
For birth or pleasure, she's on the right track.
But for being free she ain't supposed to plea
and don't rely on no man - to try and understand...

It was one of Jimi's American girlfriends (who wishes to remain anonymous) that took the initiative to show him how he was being mistreated. "I stole a contract off one of the office desks that showed how much money Jimi made at Madison Square Garden," she said, "but that's not what he was paid. He knew about it. His time with (manager) Michael Jeffery was coming to an end already, when there was no money. Jimi said, 'I'm trying to get out of it, but everybody's suing me left and right. They all want rights to this, rights to that.' Michael was bringing a lot down on Jimi. Michael was in debt and he counted on Jimi's revenues. Jimi's thing was the only thing that was bringing in any revenues and everybody else (managed by Jeffery) was operating at a loss. Jimi was the only one supporting the whole stable. Jimi wanted to move on and do other stuff but Michael didn't want him to move on." The MSG show had generated $101,280 from ticket sales, as reported in Variety on May 21st: by Ed Perlstein

Jimi Hendrix has become another piece of apple pie in America. The juvenile crowds that were frightened and offended by his initial tour with the Monkees two years ago have now become faithful legions with instant information concerning Jimi's eye color, astrological sign and guitar serial number. His Madison Square Garden, N.Y., concert Sunday (18) sold out for a $101.280 gross with tickets scaled to $6.50. The Buddy Miles Express and Cat Mother & the All-Night Newsboys completed the bill.

Although hampered by the revolving stage and popping flashbulbs, the Experience delivered a driving set featuring Hendrix's brutally enticing guitar and vocals backed by Noel Redding's explosive bass patterns and Mitch Mitchell's relentless drumming.

Playing their acid-rock in a post-psychedelic era, the Experience and the Who (who also played New York this weekend) prove that fads come and go, with the best of each fad remaining to perpetuate that particular brand of music.

Variety - May 21, 1969

Six weeks after the May 18, 1969 Madison Square Garden concert, to the dismay of Michael Jeffery, Noel Redding quit the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Jimi recruited his old army buddy Billy Cox to play bass. Drummer Buddy Miles joined them to form the first successful all black power trio, A Band Of Gypsys. It is with this group that Jimi gives his second and final performance at MSG on January 28, 1970. The occasion was a Moratorium Benefit gig for the bummer war in Vietnam. Fittingly, Jimi becomes sick and leaves the stage after performing just two songs. A Band Of Gypsys disbands a few days later. "I figure that Madison Square Garden was like the end of a big long fairy tale," said Hendrix a few days after that gig, "which is great, you know. I think it was the best ending I could possibly come up with. It's like the end of a beginning, or something..." 11

[NOTE: The article above was published in the May "1995" issue of UniVibes magazine. The article was originally commissioned as the Introduction for a book from a photographer who shot a dozen pictures of Jimi at Madison Square Garden. The photographer, "Mona the Madhatter," was asking several Hendrix associates to comment about their memories of Jimi during May 1969. Monika Dannemann and Ed Kramer said that they would not participate if I were involved in the book project. So after I finished the Introduction, "Gladiator In Silk," Mona informed me that she wouldn't include it in her book. I interviewed her about this and caught a bizarre recording of Mona screaming at me accusations that I was attacking "the baby Jesus" (!?!) - (she isn't known as the "Madhatter" for nothin'...) Anyway, I phoned UniVibes magazine and my story was published in their next issue - May "1995".]


1 Redding, Noel. Unpublished typescript, p. 97.
2 Graham, Bill, and Robert Greenfield. Bill Graham Presents, p. 273. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
3 Hall, Douglas Kent, and Sue C. Clark. The Superstars: In Their Own Words, p. 160. New York: Music Sales, 1970.
4 Zimmerman, Paul D. Newsweek, May 26, 1969, p. 82.
5 & 6 Ochs, Ed. Billboard, May 31, 1969, p. 23 and 28.
7 Hodenfield, Chris. Circus, November 1969, p. 15.
8 Ledgerwood, Mike. Disc and Music Echo, September 12, 1970.
9 Unknown author. The Times, September 1, 1970.
10 Redding, Noel. Unpublished typescript, p. 97-98.
11 Burks, John. Interview conducted on February 4, 1970 in New York City for Rolling Stone.

[Please be aware that for years the owners and staff at the Yahoo search engine have artificially/surgically removed this website from all listings under the words "jimi hendrix." Following the example of Paul Allen, the owners of Yahoo are intent on concealing the insights and research of Hendrix scholar Michael Fairchild, out of sheer pathological jealousy.
- James Sedgwick]