Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Jimi Hendrix at Coventry Theatre 1967

Pete Clemons tells the tale of Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Move and Amen Corner at the Coventry Theatre November 1967 for the Coventry Telegraph.

Moved by Jimi and Pink Floyd.
Pete Clemons 

THE YEAR of 1967 was a tremendously important one for rock music with the release of so many incredible albums and 45s.

Among the many great releases from that particular year were 'Are You Experienced' and 'Axis Bold as Love', both by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' by The Pink Floyd and The Move's then latest single release 'Flowers in the Rain'.

From November 14 through until December 5, 1967 all three bands were a part of a package tour of the UK. They shared the bill with The Amen Corner, The Nice, Outer Limit and Eire Apparent and the tour, which was compered by Radio 1 DJ Pete Drummond, took in 31 shows across 16 cities.

And on Sunday November 19, 1967 the tour stopped off at Coventry Theatre for two shows. Jimi had been inspired musically by the blues and initially his success was in the UK and Europe. However, after appearing at the Monterey Pop Festival in California during 1967, his name quickly spread across his native America. Later on in his career, he would perform at the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Shortly after that Isle of Wight performance he died in London on September 18, aged 27.

The first of the two Coventry shows was scheduled to start at 6pm and the other began at 8.30pm. In terms of stage time The Jimi Hendrix Experience had been given a 40 minute slot per show, The Move 30 minutes, The Pink Floyd 17, Amen Corner 15, The Nice 12 and the others eight minutes each. The whole event had been described as one of the most exciting happenings to take place in the city since the visit of The Beatles a few years earlier.

More than 3,000 people attended the two houses. Apparently most of them appeared to rush the stage when Jimi Hendrix and his backing group 'The Experience' appeared while, those that didn't, stood on their seats. Everyone was in great anticipation and they were not to be disappointed. Jimi was totally uninhibited and completely went for it.

His showmanship and musical brilliance shone through. Every trick in his book was revealed from playing with his teeth, or behind his back, lying on the stage. The result was a stunning, completely individual performance which included hits like 'Hey Joe,' 'The Wind Cries Mary' and 'Purple Haze,' and the wildest version yet of 'Wild Thing.' The Coventry Telegraph reported at the time that he had 'mixed pop's new sounds with the rawest of blues combined with a brilliant musical technique. He can play guitar better, with it behind his head, than most with the guitar in the more 'conventional position'.

The same Telegraph report was, however, not so complimentary when it came to The Pink Floyd. The same report continued 'but the teenagers who had stood on their seats for Jimi Hendrix were unmoved - and I guess somewhat bewildered - by The Pink Floyd, a group for whom the new wave is more of a spring tide. The Floyd's extended instrumental/electronic experiments were fascinating, almost hypnotic, but unappreciated by an audience probably expecting their hit tunes'.

After a bit of research I believe that The Pink Floyd performed two extended tracks on the tour. The first was a piece called 'Take up thy Stethoscope and Walk' and the second being 'Interstellar Overdrive'.

The Pink Floyd's iconic leader Syd Barrett had been in very poor shape at the time of that 1967 tour. The band had just returned from a disastrous tour of America where his problems had really begun to surface. Syd's personal issues had caused the band to arrive late at pre-arranged dates and the cancellation of several concerts. Where he did appear he would stand motionless and simply stare into space. In the words of the band 'he was unable to function'.

I may cause some disappointment and debate here but after reading several books and interviews with those involved in this tour, I am convinced that Syd did not actually play at those Coventry Theatre gigs at all. I am certain, in my mind that, the guitar player under the floppy hat that night was actually Davy O'List of The Nice. In a recent interview with Davy he alluded to how he had deputised for Syd on the tour: "We were kind of similar in build and had similar length hair so the image fitted. We played the same colour Fender Telecaster so the image fitted. And when I came on girls began screaming loudly and I was convinced I would be recognised from being on stage earlier with The Nice."

Of course, I might be totally wrong in my assumptions but, ultimately, those previously mentioned issues led to Syd being replaced in the band by David Gilmour early in 1968.

Birmingham band The Move got a warm reception and their set did include their top ten numbers 'I Can Hear the Grass Grow', 'Fire Brigade', 'Night of Fear', 'Something Else' and 'Flowers in the Rain'. Carl Wayne, the group's bass player, was no stranger to Coventry.

He and his band The Vikings had performed here several times prior to forming The Move.

Both The Nice and The Amen Corner were also highly praised for both of their sets. The Amen Corner included 'Gin House Blues' and 'Bend Me Shape Me'. And, in particular, the group's fine lead singer Andy (Fairweater) Low was singled out for special praise as his vocals on 'World of Broken Hearts' brought a section of the audience to fever pitch excitement. The Nice, whose classical influences gave them a more avant garde feel and who were a precurser to Emerson, Lake and Palmer performed 'The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack' and 'Rondo'.

Nowadays, I guess, it is hard to imagine three or four of the biggest acts in world music appearing on the same stage at a humble venue a short bus ride from where you live. But it did used to happen.

And during the 1960s music fans were blessed that these artists brought their music to the masses by turning up in their towns and cities to play at the local cinema or concert hall.


  1. I was there! Coventry Theatre, 19th November 1967.

  2. I was there too. To see Amen Corner originally - fell in love with Jimi. Had a paper flower he kissed and through into audience for years. Happy memories. X