Jimi Plays Monterey

Not Rated

With the Rainbow Shriek of his flaming Stratocaster at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, Jimi Hendrix dramatically announced the arrival of the new Aquarian age of peace, love and spiritual aspiration. At the same time, he liberated rock & roll guitar once and for all from the choke of Top Forty dictums. The way he tore into "Purple Haze," scratching the song's elephantine funk intro with sawtoothed distortion, and calmly skated up the shimmering, ascending chorus of "The Wind Cries Mary" had no precedent in rock guitar and, even at Monterey, no equal. Pete Townshend's guitar-demolition finale was a calculated reenactment of mod frustration. Hendrix' sacrificial burning of his guitar was a ritual gift to the crowd.

Nineteen years later the raw live sound of Hendrix at Monterey – not to mention his graphic superstud showmanship – beats any concept video or twelve-inch dance remix you can name for sheer aggression and mesmeric sensuality. Issued here for the first time complete and in sequence, the American debut of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at Monterey on June 18th, 1967, is still a revelation, an orgasmic explosion of singing feedback, agitated stretches of jazzy improvisation and recombinant R&B guitar. Sucking the crowd into his hurricane sound, Hendrix dragged Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" through Mississippi-blues mud, attacked his own "Can You See Me" with amphetamine impatience and, egged on by Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell's rhythmic frenzy, drove "Wild Thing" head-on into a wall of white noise.

Hendrix' death in 1970 was an incalculable loss to music. But the wondrous ferocity and impish cosmic humor of his performances live on here. As he said before he doused his guitar with lighter fluid, "There's nothin' I can do more than this." You can still feel the heat.

From The Archives Issue 471: April 10, 1986