By Angela Lovely
Jimi Hendrix arrived in London on 24 September 1966 and shook up London’s music scene. With contributions from the Hendrix family, Sir Paul McCartney, and former band mates Billy Cox, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, a new documentary — Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’ — presents an in-depth look at Hendrix’s life and career that was tragically cut short at just 27 years old in 1970.
But what the documentary fails to mention is the time Hendrix got up on stage to play at the students’ union of The Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) at the Little Titchfield Street building in Fitzrovia.
The students’ union was founded in 1965 and held a busy social programme with gigs at Little Titchfield Street. Depending on the audience expected, these used either the Portland Hall or the gymnasium — or the wall could be lowered between the two to create one large space.
Perhaps the most famous concert was Eric Clapton and Cream on 1 October 1966. This was one of Hendrix’s first UK performances, as he was invited onstage to jam with the band just a week after arriving in the country. The one song he played with them would surprise not only the audience but also Eric Clapton.
In 1966 Eric Clapton was the undisputed king of rock guitar in Britain. Hendrix had only been in England for a week, yet there was already talk of this amazing American guitarist who had been creating a storm in London’s blues clubs.
Hendrix took to the stage with Cream and ripped through a version of Howlin Wolf’s Killing Floor at breakneck speed. Cream quickly regretted allowing him to join them. Hendrix’s physical performance and dazzling guitar playing blew Clapton off the stage. Clapton — completely out-classed by the shy black musician from Seattle — asked Chas Chandler (Hendrix’s manager) afterwards “Is he always that fucking good?”
Jimi Hendrix: Hear my train a comin’ — BBC iPlayer. Available until 11:04PM Tue, 17 Dec 2013.
Film: Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’ — PBS.