Baby Child as a man
as a living grain of sand…
Sitting on the ever changing shore,
Greeting the sunrise…
Picked up upon the Gypsy woman,
Hair Flaming Night as ravens even sleep…rainbow cloth
Tambourine complimenting her chant and choice of graces,
And Love Her God…
– Jimi Hendrix
Band of Gypsys is a live album and a band, but it isn’t any kind of band. It is the band that was formed by Jimi Hendrix after The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Band of Gypsys (the band) is Jimi Hendrix backed by Billy Cox (bass) and Buddy Miles (drums). They made one album before Jimi Hendrix died, but what an album!
The Songs were recorded at the Fillmore East on two nights, New Years eve 69 and New Years day 70. The Band of Gypsys played four concerts on these dates, but only songs from the final two shows was included on Band of Gypsys (the album). These shows were the live debut of Band of Gypsys.
Jimi Hendrix disbanded the Jimi Hendrix Experience in early 1969, and is rumoured that he formed Gypsy Sun and Rainbows just to fulfill the contract that The Experience had to play Woodstock. But he said that The Band of Gypsys was another name for the band in his introduction to the performance. Bassist Billy Cox (Jimi’s army buddy) had played with Hendrix since April, but the band was short-lived.
Then Jimi formed the Band of Gypsys, this was also due to contractual obligations. This time for an album (of new material) for Capitol. Jimi Hendrix had mentioned his plan for the album as early as March 1969.
The concerts featured mostly new songs, as the songs for the Band of Gypsys (the album) would have to be original to be included as part of the contract with Capitol. There are filmed footage of the concerts, but the picture quality is “so and so”. The performances however are fantastic!
The record is produced by Jimi Hendrix. It was released just six months before his death in 1970, this was the last album he authorized, and the only Hendrix-authorized album to be released on Capitol Records.
“The Doll Cover”
In some markets the album was released with a cover that featured dolls of Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Bob Dylan and John Peel (an early supporter of Hendrix).
Puppetmaker Saskia De Boer:
To have enough material for 4 concerts, the band needed a lot of material and played a lot of the Experience favorites to stretch the sets.
At the end of the fourth show, Hendrix said, “We’re just trying to figure out something to play, but we only know about six songs right now…seven…nine.” He then launched into a version of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”.
After a show at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1970, where Hendrix insulted a woman in the audience, played just two songs and then left the stage, Band of Gypsys was disbanded.
A very interesting documentary entitled Band of Gypsys: Live at the Fillmore East was released on DVD in 1999. It has concert footage shot by a fan, and talks with people that were involved with Hendrix at the time:
Equipment problems had plagued him in past live shows as well, but everything was perfect for the Fillmore shows. His absolute mastery of his guitar and effects is even more amazing considering that this was the first time he used the Fuzz Face, wah-wah pedal, Univibe, andOctavia pedals on-stage together. The guitar tones he gets on “Who Knows” and “Power to Love” are powerful and intense, but nowhere is his absolute control more evident than on “Machine Gun,” whereHendrix conjures bombs, guns, and other sounds of war from his guitar, all within the context of a coherent musical statement. The solo on “Machine Gun” totally rewrote the book on what a man could do with an electric guitar and is arguably the most groundbreaking and devastating guitar solo ever.
I’m sittin’ here thinkin’, “how the hell could there be 24 better live albums than this one?” But there is, I look forward to do posts about them.
(Sources: Rolling Stone, Allmusic, Wikipedia)
Posts in this series:
24. Live At The Apollo by James Brown
25. The Band of Gypsys – Jimi Hendrix (this post)
26. The Köln Concert by Keith Jarret
27. On Stage by Elvis Presley
28. One for the road by The Kinks
29. Waiting for Columbus by Little Feat
30. Wings over America by Wings