Jimi Hendrix Celebration DVD To Be Released

By Phyllis Pollack, Contributor
Wednesday, November 20, 2002 @ 10:21 PM


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More than thirty years after it was filmed, Universal Music Group will release the DVD/CD package Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix: Live At The Isle Of Wight this November to commemorate the fact that the guitarist would have been sixty years old on November 27 of this year, had he lived. The August 1970 concert was held just eighteen days before the guitarist’s death, the result of taking an overdose of Vesperax tablets that were given to him by the late Monica Danneman, and the circumstances surrounding his death are still veiled in mystery.

Mistakenly, this performance is often billed as Jimi Hendrix’s final concert, despite the fact that several days later, on September 6, the legendary guitarist played a thirteen-song set at the heavily attended Fehmron Love & Peace Festival in Germany.

The set’s live CD is a stunning testament to Hendrix’s ability to captivate a live audience.

In addition to the concert footage from the Isle Of Wight, the highly-anticipated film release will also contain interviews with a few of the people who were involved in the concert on the Isle, although it includes little behind-the-scenes or backstage footage of Hendrix, himself. Included in the individually numbered limited edition packages containing the live CD and the film on DVD, there will also be a memorabilia section that displays items such as the rock fest’s concert poster and other related works.

To this day, the historic Isle Of Wight Festival still possesses the top number for the highest concert attendance, with an estimated audience figure of 600,000, far greater than other concert events, including Woodstock.

One detractor in the film condemns the rock fest as being the result of “black power and Communism.”

Curiously, the concert footage rarely shows bassist Billy Cox on stage, as it solely focuses on Hendrix and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The performance, preserved by this footage directed by Murray Lerner, starts out with Hendrix sounding cheerful in his opening statements, made just prior to the prolific guitarist breaking into a rendition of “God Save The Queen” and the Beatles’ “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Hendrix, however, would have clearly lost any pretext of that feeling by the time the concert was over.

If anything, by this point, upon his ascending the stage at the Isle Of Wight, Hendrix was clearly war torn. A mire of hardships beset the most celebrated rock and roll guitar player in the world. By now, Hendrix was plagued with management problems, a paternity lawsuit, wanting to find a way to start his own record label, and he was desperately seeking a way in which he could gain some control over his business affairs, so that he would have more power over his career. Within this time period, Hendrix had now told others he felt his life was in danger, and he often complained of being tired.

Also frustrated musically, as a result of wanting to break free of just playing his past hits, Hendrix ventured into new territory at the Isle Of Wight concert, as he played a few of the songs that were at that point still unreleased, and would ultimately not be released until after his death. Throughout the concert on the Isle, members of the audience screeched out the names of his previously released hits. After playing “Purple Haze,” Hendrix is seen telling the audience, “You want to hear those old ones? Damn, man. I’m trying to get some other things together,” alluding to his yet unreleased songs that would become further monuments to his unequalled guitar prowess.

Although in this performance, he focused more on the music and less on his anticipated on-stage theatrics, he still managed to slip into a few of his trademark visual licks that included mesmerizing the audience, while tonguing his guitar during “Foxy Lady,” and teasing the audience, stating “I ain’t came yet.”

Other stunners witnessed in this classic set include “All Along The Watchtower,” “Dolly Dagger,” and “Red House.” For those who never witnessed Hendrix playing live, the DVD will demonstrate to the viewer why his on stage engagements have been unequalled to this day. Despite the ever-mounting difficulties in his life, both personal and professional, throughout this stunning concert performance, Hendrix still managers to chop down a mountain with the edge of his hand. A performance oriented film, Blue Wild Angel never delves into Hendrix’s state of mind, and no one interviewed talks about Hendrix, only about the event. Another upcoming Hendrix film is currently in the works by director/producer David Kramer that promises to answer questions often asked about the iconic guitarist.

Blue Wild Angel serves as a work offering witness to yet another slice of the times of the tragically short career of Jimi Hendrix. At the end of the concert, an obviously disillusioned Hendrix throws his down guitar to the side, and quickly makes a perfunctory remark about “peace and happiness.” That moment represents the ultimate end of the Sixties, perhaps more so than any other in concert lore.

In other Hendrix related news, the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle will host an event which is co-sponsored by the family-owned Experience Hendrix LLC. It takes place Sunday (November 24), and will feature performances by blues great Buddy Guy; Hendrix's Band Of Gypsys (with the original rhythm section of bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles); former Earth, Wind & Fire members Sheldon Reynolds, Larry Dunn, and Johnny Graham; guitarist Eric Gales; guitarist Kenny Olson of Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker band; and others. In addition to Sunday's concert in the EMP's Sky Church auditorium, the Fender Musical Instruments Corp. will present the Hendrix family with an exact recreation of the guitarist's famous white Stratocaster (the original is in EMP's collection). On Tuesday (November 27), Hendrix's actual birthday, EMP will present a special screening of the new DVD Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live At The Isle Of Wight in its JBL Theater.

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