Earlier this week, PBS aired the latest episode of its American Masters series with Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin.
This bio of Hendrix rocks on for about two hours, covering the basics of his short life, depicting him as a man obsessed with creating music. It also features many of the famous live performances like the Monterey Pop Festival 1967 where he made is return to the States in dramatic fashion, and a few glimpses of performances not nearly as iconic.
The PBS special also covered his work with other artists, other musicians who played in his bands, and the people who managed things behind the scenes. It’s even got the footage of Hendrix on the Dick Cavett show where he dressed like he was the Hawaiian Bruce Lee.
One thing I noticed in the documentary was a photograph of Hendrix relaxing in a bunk which had a Louis Armstrong poster on the wall. I don’t know if was his poster or not, but I could easily believe it was.
Hendrix did the same thing with his guitar that Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker did with their horns. When the time was right to do so, they played what they felt. Improvisational interludes are fairly common on recordings of live Jimi Hendrix performances.
Noticeably missing from the PBS documentary covering Jimi’s career was any mention of one particular live performance from March 1968 at the Scene club, 301 West 46th Street, in New York. That night, Hendrix was joined on stage by another short-lived rock star, Jim Morrison of the Doors.
The recording was quote-unquote officially released in 1994 on an album called Bleeding Heart, but if you look hard enough online, you can find bootleg copies that are much older than that, but they often vary in title and quality.
The most notable thing about this performance, aside from some great blues guitar-work from Hendrix, like in Red House for example, is that it’s pretty obvious Morrison is smashed. Maybe even blackout smashed. So when it comes to his parts of the show, bad sound quality is hard to discern from the vocalizations of a warbling drunkard, but definitely don’t make you hate yourself later by buying a bad bootleg where even Hendrix sounds shitty now.
Apparently the Lizard King liked to push the dirt button, and when he found himself on stage with a mic in his hand and the guitar-god himself backing him up on guitar, he must have thought, “Now is the perfect time to announce my fetish to the world.”
It might not have been the best decision on Morrison’s part.
His declaration comes in a track titled Morrison’s Lament, and it provides one of the best moments on the recording.
While Jimi noodles around on the guitar on Morrison’s, Morrison takes the mic, yells the phrase, “Fuck you in the ass, baby,” a few times, and inspires the guitar master to point him to a different microphone. The mic Hendrix pointed him to, coincidentally, just happened to be one set to a much lower volume.
It left me wondering if the folks who claim Jim Morrison was a better drunk than a poet, who if it weren’t for being a drunk wouldn’t have even been half the bad poet that he actually was because drunk thoughts can be funny, were right.
This live recording proves two things.
When Hendrix improvised, audiences were treated to brilliant works like his rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock and the version of Red House on Bleeding Heart. When Morrison improvised, audiences were assaulted with language so raw it could make the tattoo on Sailor Jerry’s arm blush and he could confuse a cat better than Python.
Check it out for yourself.
You can watch the all of Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin on the PBS website.