50 Years Ago: Jimi Hendrix Joins the Monkees Tour
What do you get when you cross a guitar genius with one of the world's bestselling pop bands? A frustrated guitarist, a disappointed band and a bewildered and confused audience.
As unlikely as the match-up sounds, the Jimi Hendrix Experience joined the Monkees during the summer of 1967 for a short run of concerts. The rising guitarist joined the tour on its first date in Jacksonville, Fla., on July 8, and stuck it out for six more shows, exiting after a run of three concerts at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York City on July 14, 15 and 16.
Both Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork had attended the Monterey International Pop Festival in June and saw Hendrix's groundbreaking performance. Like everyone else, they were knocked out. "Micky said, 'We gotta get this guy,'" recalled Tork in the documentary The Monkees Story. "Micky was just enthusiastic about his music."
"You can't imagine what it must have been like for an act like Jimi Hendrix opening for the Monkees," Dolenz wrote in his autobiography I'm a Believer. "It was evident from the start that we were witness to a rare and phenomenal talent. I would stand in the wings and watch and listen in awe."
Tales from the tour reveal that everyone involved got along great. "He was such a sweet guy," said Tork. "It was really just a pleasure to have him around for company." But the group's young audiences, as well as their parents who often accompanied them at shows, didn't feel the same way.
"[The parents] were probably not too crazy about having to sit through a Monkees concert," said Dolenz, "much lees see this black guy in a psychedelic Day-Glo blouse, playing music from hell, holding his guitar like he was f---ing it, then lighting it on fire ... Jimi would amble out onto the stage, fire up the amps and break into 'Purple Haze,' and the kids in the audience would instantly drown him out with, 'We Want Davy!!' God, it was embarrassing."
Tork said that "it didn't cross anybody's mind that it wasn't gonna fly." But rumors began to surface that Hendrix was asked to leave the tour after the Daughters of the American Revolution complained about his "lewd and indecent" conduct during his performances.
Legend has it that Hendrix flipped off the audience as he left the stage on the final date of his run. Either way, he decided enough was enough, and asked to be released from his contract and the remaining shows. "I was sorry to see him go," wrote Dolenz. "We did have some great times, running around the New York City psychedelic scene like kids in a candy store, tripping at the Electric Circus and jamming until all hours of the night in the hotel room."
Shortly after Hendrix left the tour, both "Purple Haze" and Are You Experienced? started to climb the charts, revolutionizing modern music in the process. And in certain parts of the world, the Monkees were viewed with just as much respect. While they were considered mostly a disposable pop band in the U.S., in the U.K. the Monkees were seen in a different, more kaleidoscopic light. A Melody Maker critic wrote about the band's tour of England in 1967: "I suddenly realized the Monkees were actually freaking out properly and much better than many of the much vaunted psychedelic groups."
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