Although new Hendrix audience tapes continue to surface with startling frequency, such discoveries still are rare and we thought it would be fun to describe how such an event took place in one instance. UniVibes subscriber Jeff Mason begins our story....
Jeff Mason: It is the dream of any Jimi Hendrix fan to discover new, previously unknown recordings. The joy of discovery, the thrill of hearing a tape unknown to the Hendrix world, and the excitement of uncovering yet another piece of the Hendrix puzzle all play a role in this dream.
More than a year ago in Boulder, Colorado, my friend Dick, a musician, and I got together as we often do to listen to blues music and knock off a few drinks. Because I frequently tied our conversations to Jimi Hendrix, he knew of my interest in his music. Still, I was taken aback when, on one occasion, he casually said: "Say, speaking of Hendrix, the brother of a buddy of mine back in Minneapolis actually snuck a tape deck into a Hendrix show and recorded it back in 1970." "Really?' I said, trying to remain calm, "Which show was that, Dick?" "St. Paul," he replied.
The 1970 Cry of Love tour is one of my favorite periods in Jimi's career the new sounds he got with the Uni-Vibe effect unit, the fresher set lists and more mature guitar playing all produced, for me, some of his best music. So I set out to research the St. Paul gig. I quickly found that the Cry of Love band had indeed played St. Paul's Civic Center in Minnesota on 3 May 1970. And no tape was known to exist from that show up to that point in time.
Dick supplied a few more details that convinced me his story was true. Meanwhile, upon the occasion of one of Caesar Glebbeek's visits to Colorado Springs earlier this year, I met Phil Carson, a fellow Hendrix fan living nearby. These two gentlemen advised me to find out more about the alleged tape. But their urging wasn't really necessary.
This past summer Dick told me that his friend Jim, the tape owner, would be coming to Boulder. After some "friendly persuasion" on my part, Dick got Jim to agree to bring the master reel-to-reel tape of 3 May 1970 with him. I told Phil Carson that an opportunity might present itself to listen to the tape, but I wasn't certain that I would be able to include him, which seemed to aggravate him a bit. If he couldn't be inside listening to the tape, he said, we shouldn't be surprised to see a black van parked outside with some sort of rotating surveillance antenna on its roof!
Finally, in late July, Jim came to town, and he brought the tape in question. At about 9 p.m., Dick called my place and invited Phil and myself over. The night before Dick had warned me they had sampled the first track on the St. Paul '70 tape and found it suffered from a bit of distortion. Phil and I prepared ourselves for the worst. But let's let Phil pick up the story from here.
Phil Carson: The 90 mile drive to Boulder proved unremarkable except for the heavy rain and the way the lightning lit up the mountain peaks to the west. I was ready for the big moment an unknown 1970 tape! I had always wondered how tapes surfaced and now I was about to find out. Jeff reminded me not to shriek too much and possibly drive up the price of the tape should we ever get the chance to acquire it.
Dick and Jim were gracious and friendly, and seemed genuinely amused that Jeff and I had such an avid interest in an old tape of Jimi Hendrix. (Imagine!) Though of course they were all, let's say, casual Hendrix fans. Dick displayed his understanding of the situation, however, when he joked that he would have to check us for hidden recording devices. (How did he know?!)
With our refreshments in hand we settled down for the show. The five inch reel of quarter inch tape, recorded in mono at 3 3/4 i.p.s., was taken out of its original box. Inside was a small clipping, an advertisement for the show at the St. Paul Civic Center, which began at 8 p.m. on Sunday, the third day of May, 1970. Tickets sold for $4.50, $5, and $5.50. The sound system would be run by McCune of San Francisco. Two groups appeared in support of Hendrix Savage Grace and OZ but nothing of their performances appears on the tape reviewed here. The concert was presented by an outfit known as Concept Nine Ltd.
I asked Jim where the tape had been these past 27 years. "It was in a cardboard box with a bunch of other, old reel-to-reel tapes," he said. "They were just left on a shelf in my basement. Definitely no hightech storage going on!" (Both authors contributed to the following account of the St. Paul tape. Though we describe our first listening, we later got a chance to hear the tape a second time and make detailed notes, included here.)
Dick mounts the tape on an Akai four-track tape deck, corrects a bad hum and the tape opens with a smattering of applause. At this point in Jimi Hendrix's reality, one might say, he had opened his Cry of Love tour at the Los Angeles Forum a week earlier. His pentup excitement at touring again after nearly a year off the road burst forth at the Forum show. Though he stumbled the next day at the Cal Expo show in Sacramento, he regained his footing five days later in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 1 May. He played in Madison the next day. Then he hit St. Paul.
THE "MINNESOTA NICE" TAPE
"Does everybody feel alright?" someone says in their best Wolfman Jack imitation. The crowd yells, "Yeah!" "Walkin' out here right on time!" the voice continues in a normal tone. It's Jimi. From photographs taken at the show by snapper Mike Barich, we know he's dressed in black leather pants, a faux leopard skin belt, ruffled shirt, floral vest, and head band. The photographs show Jimi with both a black Stratocaster and a white one. "Give us about another twenty seconds and we'll get our guitars in tune and so forth. You know we haven't been here in such a long time..." A tape dropout obscures Hendrix's next comment.
"We have Mitch Mitchell on drums, hammering away there." More dropout, then: "Billy Cox on bass. Yours truly on the public saxophone." Jimi tunes his guitar, then lets loose with a couple of savage runs at extremely high volume. "Thank you, and now for our next tune... We're glad you came and everything. We'd like to do a thing called, 'Let Me Stand Next To Your Old Lady,' uh, 'Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire.' One, two, one two three four..." "Fire" (3:07) literally screams out of the speakerswith considerable distortion.
Alright baby, dig this... You don't care for me, I don't care about that You got a new fool, Hah! I like it like that I have only one burning desire, let me stand next to your fire...
Immediately, just the feeling of Jimi's guitar work tells us we are in luck. This will be a spirited performance. The sound quality, however, will have to improve, though there's no discernible "darkening" due to age at the beginning of this tape. Jimi's guitar dominates the mix, Billy's bass is faint at first, and Mitch's drums sound alternately crisp or a bit muffled. But clearly the band is already warmed up.
"Yeah, thanks a lot anyway," Jimi says to enthusiastic applause after the first song. His stage banter comes through quite clearly. Jeff and I attempt to feign indifference, but we exchange glances.
"We'd like to, ah..." Hendrix is drowned out by a burst of unprovoked distortion. "...same bullshit again, a little bit of trouble right here, but it's only going to take a second. Ain't no bad vibes can hold me down. We'd like to dedicate this one to whoever's listening." Crowd laughter. "Shit, now I'm all out of tune," says Jimi to more laughter. "What the hell, cowboys want to stay in tune anyway. We got this one song...goin' through a few changes here and there that some of us do once in a while so, it's called 'The Room Full Of Mirrors.' It explains itself. There's a certain point where we'd like to get out of it and see what else the world has to offer, you know, besides ourselves."
Jimi begins "Room Full Of Mirrors" (3:23) with furious rhythm guitar work, then lead over rhythm for several bars longer than usual before he recites the lyrics. A brief, incisive solo follows. He even performs the vocal equivalent of echo with the line, "Yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah, yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah." Too soon he sings along with a set of descending notes and the song is over. Though this song difficult to perform in concert due to the complex layering of guitar tracks he had laid down in the studio became a staple of Jimi's 1970 sets, it is unique to find him playing it this early in a show. But this seems to reflect a go for broke attitude demonstrated throughout the St. Paul concert.
"Yeah, then we got this other one, it's called, 'Look Out Baby, I Must Be Splitting, 'Cause Here Comes Your Lover Man,' and he just got back from the war, so you know he must be able to kick some...(garbled). Anyway..." The band cranks up "Lover Man" (2:48), a good old rocker that often graced the early portions of Jimi's 1970 shows. After the first chorus, Jimi plays the signature glissandos that describe the melody to "Flight Of The Bumble Bee." The band is tight.
At this point Jeff casually comments: "Well, I've heard better, and I've heard worse." Though this spirited Hendrix performance is clearly unique, Jeff's comment neatly captures the tape's apparent sonic qualities. So far it is clear enough to be enjoyable, yet not quite deserving of a "very good" rating.
Suddenly, after a prolonged burst of unprovoked feedback, the sound quality settles down and one can clearly hear the buzz of the group's amps. "All this static around," Jimi says. "Here we are trying to make some good, decent static for you and we're getting all this other static. I'd like to, um, I don't know really. I'd like to do a slow blues about this cat who feels kinda down, 'cause his old lady put him down, and his people and family don't want him around, so he had this big old long frown, and had to drag his ass down to the railroad station, waitin' for the train to come take him away on the road, be a voodoo child, magic warrior, come back, do it to his old lady one more time, give her a piece because she's all nice to him again." The crowd laughs and Jimi slips into one of his comic voices: "And that's what this song is (about), thank you very much. It's called 'Getting My Heart Back Together.'"
The blues song (10:02) begins to unfold in that slow, measured pace that promises so much to follow. One hears a distinct change in the nature of the tape, apparently from adjustments to the house sound system, and the entire band is suddenly more audible, fairly well balanced as audience tapes go. The audience itself is noticeably quiet. (The tape owner, Jim, describes this phenomenon as "Minnesota Nice.")
After reciting the lyrics, Jimi suddenly lashes out in the higher registers with a five minute solo that is both gut wrenching and mind bending. Then, with his Wah wah kicking in, he quiets down and plays some marvelous, introspective leads. The hall grows quiet as Jimi lets the crowd in on a few secrets of his soul. The sound quality now is definitely "very good."
Phil Carson: About this time I begin to wonder if, perhaps, I have "over prepared" for the audition. From where I'm sitting Dick begins to look a lot like Christopher Walken. Just as Hendrix plays his quiet, tasty leads, Jim begins to tell me a story about the time he was jamming with the band Devo at a Wisconsin music festival. Naturally, I'm torn between politeness and rapt attention to the music. Next to me, Jeff is writhing in his seat. "Listen to this," he hisses quietly, trying to remain inconspicuous and fire off a few maniacal looks at the same time.
On the tape, low, pervasive feedback begins to rise ominously, heralding another stunning solo. Jimi lashes out again and again, sometimes in patterns reminiscent of the stellar version from Berkeley nearly four weeks later, if less structured and dramatic than that classic piece. Abruptly, he brings the song to a close.
After a bit of tuning, Jimi announces: "Yeah, we'd like to do another song, called 'Ezy Ryder.'" After a long, slow blues number Jimi wants to rock. (He always knew how to pace a show.) Now Mitch begins a drum intro that as with much of the set so far would be completely unfamiliar to the St. Paul audience, as Jimi had not played the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) since 2 November 1968. Tonight we recognize Mitch's beat instantly as the lead in to "Ezy Ryder."
With a close reading of the lyrics, Jimi leads the band through an almost raucous version (3:57) of this new composition. Jimi's Stratocaster shrieks out the solo, which at its peak goes over the top, threatening to transcend humanly audible frequencies. This perhaps is not the very tightest version of "Ezy Ryder," but the energy definitely surpasses most other versions.
Jimi: "Yeah, we might as well do another song for you, as soon as we get tuned up. We dedicate this one to the soldiers fighting in Milwaukee, and, uh, Chicago, Philadelphia, oh yes, and Vietnam and Cambodia. There's so many wars going on though. This is actually dedicated to a lot of other people fighting wars within themselves." A bit of tuning follows, then the opening lines to "Machine Gun" (10:10) ring out across the arena. Jimi intones the lyrics and his Strat cries in anguish. At three and a half minutes Jimi makes his guitar scream and the UniVibe drenches the sounds, lending a hypnotic quality to the music. Billy's bass and Mitch's drums come through well, though Mitch occasionally seems a tad off the beat.
Three times the pain, and your own self to blame Yeah machine gun, let your bullets fly like rain...
There's a lot of great guitar work here that defies description, as anyone might imagine. A huge blast of feedback and a bit of tape strangeness mark the end of this song. The tape side is over and the reel needs to be flipped.
When the music resumes, another new song, "Freedom" (3:20#), is already in progress. (Perhaps the taper did not flip the tape in time to catch the song's opening.) At least one subsequent tape dropout renders this song difficult to enjoy, though the nearly complete track exhibits verve and imagination, including some unusual work (for this song) with the Wah wah pedal.
Suddenly the familiar soaring feedback of "Foxy Lady" (3:24) fills the air. After a half dozen new songs Jimi lays his audience on to an old favorite, a rouser that usually draws crowds to their feet. (What's nice about this tape, however, is that the usual sounds of nearby audience members never intrudes.) The band delivers an energetic version though it stumbles for the first time. Then the tape briefly drops out and the song is over.
Without a word, quiet cascading notes played at a casual pace signal the start of "Red House" (7:03). (This track is complete and free of glitches!) Jimi is in no hurry, but as he warms to his task his solos include a number of stylistic surprises. Perhaps most unusual, the band maintains the same measured pace during the entire song, not slipping into those jazzy, up tempo variations that often cropped up in 1969 shows. Though definitely not the most fiery version, this track exudes a rather unusual mood.
"Yeah, right," Jimi says casually after closing out "Red House." "Everybody stand for this number so we can help each other out. It's the American anthem." Then, in a farcical voice: "So we're all Americans, right? Let us stand and support our country. Everybody stand..." Jimi then drowns himself out in a blast of feedback. "...because we'll play it exactly as it is today." Jimi plays a roaring version of the "Star Spangled Banner" (2:20) with the usual digressions for bombs and screams, he yells somethingunintelligible, then: "...and our flag was still there..." and suddenly the band is raging into "Purple Haze" (3:11). Miraculously, Jimi's guitar is still in tune.
Whatever it is, that pig over there put a spell on me!
Jimi definitely injects some enthusiasm into this old standby hit, though his solo is economical and unremarkable. There is "Minneapolis Nice" applause and without further ado Jimi plays the introductory licks to "Voodoo Child (slight return)" (6:55). The solo here is ferocious, with Jimi wringing anger, anguish, and a haunting lament out of his instrument.
Didn't mean to take up all your sweet time, sorry! I'll give it back to you one of these days...
Jimi weaves in a quotation from "Cat's Squirrel" and moves on.
'Cause I'm a voodoo child Lord knows I'm a voodoo child...
After the chorus Jimi again heads for the stars, apparently completing his solo with his teeth. After quoting the closing hook, he repeats it with his teeth. Then it's over. The crowd, understandably, cries for more. An MC heads to the mike. "We do have one announcement to make," he says. "MORE!"
"Next Sunday..." he says, as the crowd instantly quiets down. "...at three p.m. ("MORE!") direct from London a live telecast featuring the Beatles, the Rolling Stones. I wish we could have more Hendrix, too. I've been told he will not be back (for an encore)... Tickets for that live telecast...will be on sale... Again, the great Jimi Hendrix. He's on his way to New York. He does have a plane to reach." (Apparently not until after the post concert party!)
The tape has lasted just under 72 minutes. A second or two later we are shocked yes, shocked then, totally amused, to hear Led Zeppelin playing live. About five minutes of Zep doing "Bring It On Home" finishes off the tape. Apparently someone had taped the Hendrix concert over a Led Zeppelin show, probably from 12 February 1970 at the Metropolitan Sports Center in Minneapolis.
Feeling a tad blown away, we attempt to make a casual exit from Dick's apartment after pressing several issues of UniVibes into Jim's hands and murmuring something about writing an article on the St. Paul tape. At this point we dared not yet hope for the tape itself. Ultimately, however, Jim proved admirably cooperative in both respects. As a Hendrix fan himself, he gladly got us in touch with his brother, John, who'd made the tape and could tell us a bit more. And, of course, Caesar Glebbeek had long ago tracked down Mike Barich, the snapper who'd been to the show and an after show party, and a review that appeared in the next day's St. Paul Dispatch.
In mid September we caught up with the taper, John (45), by telephone. These days, he sells software in California. "I wished I'd had a mike stand, instead of holding the microphone above my head during the entire show, which is what I was doing," John tells us. "It was a mono mike, as I recall. I'm going to guess that I recorded this with an Electret condenser microphone, a battery operated microphone that requires a charge in the microphone element, not like the typical voice, coil driven microphone. This is the common microphone you see in use on a lot of videocassette machines. They were introduced in the '70s. They were known for having a little better response in the high end range."
"It [the tape deck] must have been battery reel-to-reel. I don't know how else I would have done that. I cannot remember the machine. But it wouldn't have been a reel-to-reel. At that time there weren't many battery operated reel-to-reels; they were German and really expensive. It would have been something small that you could fit under your coat. I routinely dubbed everything I had onto reel-to-reel." (John says he cannot imagine that the original tape has survived the past 27 years, though we urged him to search for it.)
"I was on the floor [of the St. Paul Civic Center]. My purpose in going was to hear the concert. I was there to tape... Part of the distortion problem might have been from the microphone. It might have been a little over driven. I can't believe that that was taped on the cassette machine that I still have, which is a little Panasonic that runs on size D batteries. It might have been. That machine has no levels on it. It has an automatic gain control."
"I'm sure it was sold out," John recalls. (A call to the St. Paul Civic Center, now called the River Center, confirmed that its ultimate capacity is about 17,632. It may have been substantially lower for a rock concert, as opposed to a sporting event. John guess-timated about 10,000.) "I never went to a lot of concerts. I recall people doing the matches thing from the seats above me, all around the place. [After a show, people would hold lighted matches aloft.] The stage was at one end of an oval floor.
"I was out in the middle of the audience. I think I remember kneeling, not being very comfortable. And not moving, either. I was probably in a group that was there to listen and who were sitting down. The concert scene changed later, where you had a bunch of people jumping around up front."
"That was the second time I'd seen him," John continues. His first show was on 2 November 1968 at Minneapolis Auditorium and, he is quick to add in response to a question, "I did not tape it." "I remember listening to Hendrix warm up, with the curtain down. Kind of a soundcheck thing. So when the curtain came up I was surprised to see that all of the speaker cloth a substantial portion of them had been ripped, just torn, hanging down in shreds. I remember thinking, 'Did that just happen? Was it some kind of Who thing? I remember being surprised at that.
"Besides that I don't remember much, other than being really excited to see him. They had their gear on the stage and that was it. They stood quite far apart. These three guys were essentially at different ends of the stage. That's not a huge place, maybe a bit bigger than the Fillmore out here in California.
"I have to say that, compared to what he did in the studio, I was disappointed. There was no overdubbing to be expected, right? There wasn't the richness of the sound that he would do in the studio. It compelled him to play more in the high registers, this fast Hendrix stuff. It felt a little more obligatory. Even then I sensed that it was a little over the top. He did that his whole career. I was struck by that seeing him for the first time. He had to work hard at maintaining an interest in the show. He didn't really move. He wasn't very physically active at either one of the shows I saw."
"Really the only interest I had in tape manipulation is because of what I got from Hendrix...," John concludes. "He inspired me and it took me in a certain direction for a while... My daughter's friends come over [now] and they all like to listen to Hendrix. His music was different enough that it doesn't fall into categories. For me, I don't always get to see the generational rediscovery of music, so it's kind of cool."
PROFESSIONAL SNAPPER PRESENT
Photographs of the St. Paul gig taken by Mike Barich also are kind of cool. Caesar Glebbeek met Mike Barich during May 1989 in a hotel in Minneapolis. Mike told Caesar that he'd gone to The Tower on 1st Street in Minneapolis after the Hendrix show, where a local promoter, a gentleman named Joey Southern Davis, was throwing a party. On the way up to the party Barich snaps a few photos in the elevator. Then Barich shoots inside the party where he catches a few scenes, including one [it's Janie's favorite!] in which Jimi and a man named Carl Bradley are captured with a "Pass It On" joint. Mike recalled that he didn't feel too comfortable, for some reason (he remembered being the only white guy there, though two of his photos doesn't back that up), and he left early. Maybe the party goers didn't fancy having their pictures taken, joint in mouth?
After his spirited St. Paul performance, Jimi attended the after show party and headed to New York City to play in a benefit for Timothy Leary at the Village Gate. He left behind a pretty good impression on the only known St. Paul concert reviewer. "Jimi Hendrix sheds excess showiness, puts focus on guitar" reads the headline of a local review in the St. Paul Dispatch the next day, written by Marshall Fine, identified in a tagline after the piece as "a student in journalism at the University of Minneapolis." (Fine later became a fairly well known musician in Minnesota.)
"It's as if lead guitarists have fallen out of vogue," Fine wrote. "Suddenly everyone is into horns; it's as if the days of the guitar solo are numbered. Jimi Hendrix, sans horns, brought all the focus back to the guitar Sunday night during his concert at the St. Paul Auditorium.
"Hendrix was leaner and meaner than when he played here in November 1968 (at the Minneapolis Auditorium). The most notable improvement is the cut away of excess flash that used to be a standard in his act. More appreciable now is Hendrix's amazing talent that has been lurking beneath the garish showiness since he made his American debut at the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967.
"Hendrix started off Sunday with a fast, light version of "Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire," one of the songs from his first album. His short solo showed right away that he is calmer, cleaner and more imaginative than he was over a year ago. There was fluidity in his guitar work that he's never shown before. All Hendrix's concentration was on his playing and very little of his effort was devoted to the backbends and gymnastics that were once his trademarks.
"He also showed a foxy sexuality in his singing and in his little introductions to each song. His movements were as graceful and as lustful as his playing. He displayed a controlled abandon in the faster numbers which come closer to rhythm and blues than anything else.
"He's currently being backed by Mitch Mitchell, his drummer from the original Jimi Hendrix Experience, and by bassist Billy Cox, who was with him in a short lived group called A Band of Gypsies. Both were competent and provided a good back ground but the show belonged to Hendrix.
"Preceding Hendrix were two groups, Savage Grace and Oz. Savage Grace had an excellent pianist and good vocal arrangements. Their sound was solid but they had little showmanship and ended up being fairly boring. Oz, on the other hand, started slowly, then picked up speed with two or three country rock numbers which also featured some nice harmonies. They were good enough to make the audience want more, but [the] group quit while they were ahead."
Readers may be heartened to know that the St. Paul 1970 tape has recently been carefully archived in the digital domain for preservation. As of this writing it is being "cleaned up" for everyone's eventual enjoyment.
In retrospect, Jeff Mason comments: It is truly amazing to consider all of the circumstances that had to fall into place in order for this tape discovery and follow up to occur. I've always wondered how 'new' Hendrix tapes are discovered after so much time and now I know. 'A friend of a friend's brother taped a show...' sounds like the stuff of dreams. In this case, we hope the reality made more interesting reading.
NB With thanks to Jim, Dick, and Danny Studen.
First published in UniVibes issue #27, December 1997.
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