If I can just get my mind together,
the first “real” concert I ever attended as a wee Canadian tyke was The Jimi Hendrix Experience at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, fifty years ago this very night… on May the 3rd, 1969.
I’d already been a fervent fan for a couple of years, having spent most of my Grade 8 art class making swirly sketches of Jimi in charcoal. Plus the Are You Experienced album was right up there – almost – with the Monkees Headquarters LP on my 1967 Most-Played List.
Fast-forwarding, Christmastime ’68 was spent, between runs down the local toboggan hill, riding all eight vinyl sides of The White Album AND Electric Ladyland and, most likely as a direct result, my gym-class rhythm section and I were just starting to assemble our very own semi-power trio when word filtered along the groupvine that the Experience were planning to stop by our very own neighborhood in a few months as part of their possibly-Farewell World Tour.
In a word then? WOW.
My most-trusted pal Ric scored two tickets in the MLGardens’ nosebleed section and I fibbed to my parents that we were off to a hootenanny (!) for the evening. Yet no sooner did we approach the venue that word began a’buzzin’ that our hero had just been busted for carrying a batch of non-pharmaceutical mood enhancers into Toronto Airport. Hmmm…
Undaunted, we climbed skyward to our seats and sat on sonic needles and pins through the opening act (the pretty cool Cat Mother & the All Night Newsboys, whose big hit “Good Old Rock ’n’ Roll” my little band was already struggling to learn) (…and if Noel Redding’s Fat Mattress was rolled out as well that evening, it would be news to me) until, finally, the one and only Jimi Himself sauntered on stage. Seemingly very cool, quite calm, and perhaps even collected.
Now considering all the man had already been through that day, I guess it should have been no real surprise the evening’s set ran quite down-casted through a severely blue “Red House” – with lyrics duly modified to include a plaintive “soon as I get out of jail I’m gonna see her” …though Jimi did graciously treat our teenaged throng with occasional bursts of that fabled, fiery Foxy Purpleness of yore.
And then, suddenly, he was gone. Experience over.
However! James Marshall Hendrix returned to town briefly that December; just long enough to be completely exonerated of all narco-charges (“Canada has given me the best Christmas present I ever had!” he exclaimed to the Toronto Daily Star), but I suppose one could question if, or why, that life lesson ultimately went unheeded. And I suppose it does say something that out of all the delicately detailed minutiae forever etched upon my grey matter concerning that momentous concert many long, long Toronto May’s ago, I can still most vividly recall EXACTLY what Jimi was wearing (all Harlem-Ashbury chic all the way), what I was wearing even (don’t ask), the appropriately brilliant weather, the commuter train Ric and I snuck on after we told our parental units we’d just be folking around …heck, I even remember the proto-Bowzer moves Cat Mother & Co. deployed whilst performing their one hit wonder!
And the moral, if one must, to this all? Well, after all is said and sung, and after one whole half-century later…
lately things just seem the same: I still find myself revisiting Ladyland on almost as regular a basis as I do, yep, the Monkees’ Headquarters.