Austin Mitchell in Univibes #15: ): “The first time I ever saw a photo of Hendrix it flipped me out. It was on the cover of Melody Maker, early in ‘67. It was two years before I even touched hallucinogens, but I had this hallucination; I was seeing his face through a hole burned in the paper, and seeing a live, laughing face behind the page. All I could get from this was a premonition that Hendrix would become a significant figure in my life. With 20/20 hindsight, I can testify that this was accurate…”
“…I was trying to avoid a growing conviction that Jimi wouldn’t be around too long. This feeling was connected to the premonition which had hit me when I first saw his picture on the cover of Melody Maker.
What the piece [I wrote in the Observer] lacked in conveying him, was the vivid, searing impact of his live performance. All the text and pictures that could be created on a page could never even hint at this.
Over the following week I started ringing up my few contacts in film and TV – ‘Somebody should preserve this man’s work on film.’ Mostly I met with a ho-hum. This was still an era when rock music on TV was strictly confined to the top twenty shows like ‘Top Of The Pops’. Rock had no status as an art form; there was no Rolling Stone; no sort of intelligent context to work in. A colleague of mine on The Observer, Brian Haynes, told me that David Frost’s company was thinking of producing some independent music films for TV – ‘Why don’t you make a film yourself?’
I had a friend called Peter Neal, who worked for an independent documentary company struggling along making low- budget, gritty 16mm movies with a strong left bias. Peter had directed a fine black-and-white film about ‘The Watersons’, a traditional a cappella singing group from Yorkshire, poles apart from the hyper-amplified, strobe lit circus of ‘acid rock’. But Peter, who played fine bluegrass guitar was as smitten as I was when I took him see Hendrix warming up at the Royal Albert Hall for the opening concert of his first headlining UK tour 14 November]. Peter cobbled together a budget and we managed to get a couple of hundred pounds from the Frost organization to make a start.
At 1967 prices, this was sufficient to buy some film stock, hire three cameramen and a sound man, plus equipment and a van for the nine-hour drive north to Blackpool, to catch Jimi on one of his tour dates, at Blackpool’s Opera House. The cameramen took a look at the early evening show and voted to turn around and go home, since they felt that there was insufficient light to film, and the tour’s stage manager wouldn’t give us any more light. Peter told the cameramen to boost the exposure to the max and pray.
The Opera House manager had generously given us camera positions in the royal box, in the orchestra pit and allowed us access to the stage. Meanwhile, the sound man had his problems. No one bed ever tried to make a ‘live’ recording of anything like the volume at which Jimi Hendrix played, which was like trying to tape an artillery bombardment.
Hendrix gave me a fraternal greeting and told me to watch out for Keith Emerson, playing with one of the support acts [‘Nice’]: “He’s doing everything on keyboards that I do on guitar.”
We filmed “Purple Haze” and “Wild Thing,” the latter badly out of tune up to the second chorus. Back in London prayers were answered; when the film came back from the labs we had good takes on all three cameras, and the sound was pretty good. Peter had put together an all-pro crew. Better still, he quickly edited together a rough cut of “Wild Thing” which got shown on BBC TV the week that my piece finally appeared in The Observer [on 6 December on BBC2’s first colour broadcast during ‘Late Night Line Up’]. This was a great encouragement to the backers.'
Noel Redding, Bass guitar player in the Jimi Hendrix Experience later wrote in his diary:
“Audience was terrible both shows, but the sound was exceptionally good.”