We set off as usual from Holborn Tube Station and crossed Kingsway to stand outside Boots - it was here on this site in a small recording studio belonging to De Lane Lea Music Ltd., beneath a bank, on 23rd October 1966 that Jimi Hendrix attended his first recording session.
He had arrived in London on 24th September 1966, having been talent spotted by Chas Chandler formerly of The Animals, and it was he who brought Jimi to London and together they formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience over the next few weeks, with Noel Redding (Bass Guitar) and Mitch Mitchell (Drums). It was here that they recorded Hey Joe and Purple Haze among other great tracks. It wasn't without problems however, as the noise from the music disrupted the bank's computers! In the CD reissue of Stone Free, is a copy of an invoice issued by De Lane Lea Music Ltd. to Chas Chandler which reads as follows:-
To: Recording Session with Jimmy (misspelt) Hendrix per Chas Chandler 21st December 1966:-
4 track recording 3hours at £18.0.0 per hour £54.0.0
600 feet Ampex tape (1/4") £ 1.0.0
1 x 7" Plastic Reel (five shillings and sixpence) 5/6
1 x 5" Plastic Reel (four shillings and sixpence) 4/6
Total: (Fifty five pounds and ten shillings) £55.10.0
We then walked down Kingsway to stand outside No1. Kingsway, formerly the home of Rediffusion Television. It was here that Ready Steady Go was recorded on Friday nights. Before 1965 groups would mime to their songs but from 1965 they performed 'live'.
On 13th December 1966 in Studio 9, the Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared on Ready Steady Go, their TV debut, as part of the recording deal they had signed. Also appearing that night were The Troggs, the Mersey Beats and a very young Marc Bolan singing Hippy Gumbo. The show was broadcast across the UK on 16th December 1966 in black and white. Whilst the band were the talk of London they were not really known outside of the capital. This all changed when this programme aired. Unfortunately no recording survives.
We now turned up Drury Lane and eventually came to 135-149 Shaftesbury Avenue. Now the Odeon Cinema, this was once the Saville Theatre, built in 1931, it opened on 8th October that year with a play called 'For the Love of Mike' a play with music by H. F. Maltby. The front of the theatre has a wonderful sculptured frieze by Gilbert Bayes running along for almost 40 metres.
It was here in the 1960s that Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, hired out the theatre for groups to play there. On 29th January 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience played there for the first time. They were not top of the bill, that spot was taken by The Who, but it was their most prestigious London gig to date and they had some famous faces in the audience. John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison were all present and went backstage both before and after the show. They played Hey Joe and a cover of the Troggs song 'Wild Thing' among others. They made a further appearance before the end of the month.
On 7th May 1967 they played another concert at The Saville but this time they were top of the bill. There is a story that a young David Bowie, who was in the audience, wrote a letter complaining about Jimi's appearance to the Record Mirror.
Their next appearance was on 4th June 1967, a concert that made the Jimi Hendrix Experience into a phenomenon. Again they topped the bill. The concert opened with Procul Harum who played their famous song 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'. The Chiffons and Denny Lane were also on the bill. Paul McCartney had been telling everyone that the Jimi and the band would make a great headline act for the Monterey Music Festival and it was this concert that was to guarantee them that booking.
Three days before this concert Jimi got a copy of The Beatles new album, released that day 1st June 1967 - it was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Just thirty minutes before they were due to go on Jimi told Noel and Mitch that they were going to open with the first track. Noel thought he had 'gone daft'. They had had no rehearsal and even worse John, Paul and George were in the audience. However, Jimi emerged on stage in an orange velvet suit and they played a one hour set - including Sgt. Pepper and closed the show by smashing his guitar. It was a triumph. Paul McCartney said "the show was simply incredible, perhaps the best I have ever seen him play." And he added later that the cover version "was one of the greatest honours of my career".
It was at a further concert at the Saville on 27th August 1967 that Chas Chandler was told that the whole band were taking LSD. This was also the day that Brian Epstein was found dead in his flat. A second concert due that night was cancelled as a mark of respect.
Two further concerts at The Saville took place in October 1967, one of which ended with Jimi tussling with a reluctant Noel Redding, before he smashed his guitar and amps.
Jimmy went on to perform at the iconic Woodstock Festival in 1969 before his death in September 1970 at the age of 27.