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March 19, 1967
The Star Club
On March 19, 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was concluding a weekend stint at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany where The Beatles had honed their act five years earlier. The Experience played two shows each night so as Mitch Mitchell put it in his autobiography Inside The Experience, the Experience “didn’t have to do the whole matinee thing – it was winding down a bit by then anyway.” The Beatles had put it on the European rock map and some of the performers and bands associated with Jimi Hendrix who played there before it closed for good on December 31, 1969, included Little Richard, Cream and Soft Machine. (Alvin Lee, who Jimi called “the Gene Cochran of rock and roll” after his scene stealing bit in Woodstock playing “I’m Going Home” (“by helicopter” as he said in the movie) also played the Star Club as member of The Jaybirds, which was his pre-Ten Years After band.) The building burned down in 1987.
It wasn’t The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s first shows in Germany. After concluding the recording of “Hey Joe”, “Stone Free”, and “Can You See Me” at De Lane Lea Studios in late October-early November, The Experience had flown off to play six shows at The Big Apple in Munich on November 9-11, 1967. Bassist Noel Redding had played Germany previously with The Loving Kind but for Jimi, it was his first visit to Germany. By the time he departed he had acquired a new tool in his arsenal of live act tricks: the smashing of the guitar. Just a few years later he was to say “… I didn’t know it was anger until they told me what it was, you know, all their releases, where they can do a releases at. So my room was a stage.” And that first room was in The Big Apple in Munich.
It was much more an act of spontaneous combustion than the first time he set his guitar on fire, which was carefully planned to upstage better known acts on a package tour. In Munich, the power trio was playing two 45-minute sets each night. The Experience’s first hit single was in the can but nobody had heard it yet. In Germany it didn’t matter. The Germans had taken to The Experience and according to Redding in his autobiography “… the crowd was going crazy and began to pull Jimi into the audience. He panicked, and to save his guitar, he threw it onto the stage.” But instead of saving the guitar, he had damaged it and Jimi – upset at damaging his Fender Stratocaster – “just went barmy” according to Chas Chandler, his manager. “The German audience loved it and we decided to keep it in as part of the act.”
The same guitar was smashed each night, carefully glued back together and then smashed again, no doubt during at least one of the six shows in Hamburg’s Star Club.
Next post in 365 Days In The Life of Jimi Hendrix will be on March 21st.