After dinner on Friday
September 18, 1970 I sat on the floor glued to the TV screen, flipping
frantically from one news show to another in hopes of catching a
glimpse of Jimi. The only film clips most people had seen of Hendrix at
that time were scenes from the movies Monterey Pop
Suddenly I froze at the sight of Jimi's name on
the ABC channel.
Anchorman Frank Reynolds
announced; "The Jimi Hendrix Experience is
over. The acid rock musician died today in a London hospital,
apparently from an overdose of drugs. During his short career,
Hendrix flailed his electric guitar into some of the most
unusual sounds of an unusual music. A report now from
ABC's Gregory Jackson."
A fuzzy industrial wail
inflated the soundtrack as my view
focused on a belt of metallic butterflies encircling Jimi's waist.
He stepped forward seemingly out of the TV screen. The
butterflies sparkled as Jimi clutched the white guitar straddled
before him. In the background Mitch pounded his drums in a
sleeveless white tank-top while Noel bobbed along at far left
The Experience was flying
through a splashy performance of
Foxy Lady. Our view cut to an angle from
stage rear and I
could see Jimi facing masses of people stretching back into
distant grandstands. It was the Miami Pop Festival held in
Florida's Gulf Stream Park Race Track on May 18 and 19, 1968. In
addition to hosting the last gig of Jimi's spring 1968
U.S. tour, Miami's "Underground Festival" also featured the
Mothers Of Invention, Blue Cheer, Chuck Berry, John Lee
Hooker, The Blues Image, Tiny Tim, and Arthur Brown.
The event was produced by Michael Lang, who would
to produce the Woodstock Festival in 1969. In his book
Festival Remembered Lang described some scenes
from Miami Pop; "We couldn't figure out how to build stages
quickly that would hold everybody surely. We called around
and found six flatbed trucks and rolled them onto the track.
We set them up two by two so that we could structure the
show on three rotating stages. It was going to be a two-day
event; two shows a day, afternoon and evening. We rented
out booths to sell head-shop gear and assorted psychedelia.
We managed to get everything arranged and the crowds came.
After the music began we realized somebody had forgotten to
pick up Hendrix at the airport. I sent cars out to get him, but
Jimi had gotten impatient and decided to rent a helicopter.
This turned out to be beautiful. Just as Jimi was due on stage
and we were going beserk, this helicopter came hovering over
the stage and Jimi comes down a ladder. He played an
incredible set. I guess the seed for Woodstock was sown
during the Miami Pop Festival...The second day we almost
got rained out. We had been in the middle of a drought, so we
hadn't bothered to get rain insurance. Sunday morning the
city decided to seed the clouds. No one would go on stage
because they were afraid of being electrocuted."
The ABC-TV footage shows Jimi with freaky blonde
dyed through his flailing hair. Frills on his white satin shirt
sway to the music as his tensed face emotes sounds from his
soul. It seems like the stage is showered with an energy field
that causes Jimi's hair to stand on end. His exotic "doo" in Miami
resembles the top of a nearby palm tree.
& Jimi at Miami Pop
A camera shooting from
stage rear reveals carpeting beneath the band and faces
in the audience staring in disbelief. Appearing full-figure from
behind, Jimi crouches forward to gracefully swipe his elbow
along the length of his instrument's neck. After a final diving
guitar growl, the scene switches to backstage. The view pans
over to Jimi as he takes a bite from a diagonally sliced
sandwich. Gregory Jackson continues, "It may well be
that the story of Jimi Hendrix is a small picture of the overall
explosive power and wealth of rock." An innocent-lamb's
expression from Jimi seems to ask "Who? Me?" as he daintily
positions a pinky to pick at food particles between his teeth.
Next we see him moving towards the stage with his guitar
slung neck down like a bolstered pistol alongside his hip.
Under a broad rimmed Australian bush hat he looks like a
walking guitar solo! The view cuts to another stage sequence,
this time from the evening set. Perspiration shimmers on
Jimi's skin beneath a dangling gold medallion. He weaves,
heaves, and breathes with the music to grind out a squirrelly
finish for Foxy Lady.
I adored every frame of
this two-minute ABC-TV
report. I never forgot the scenes during all of the dozen
years it took me to find a video copy and watch it again.
To me, Miami is the most mysterious and fascinating
JHE gig. Of the thousands of Hendrix photos that I've seen,
my favorite color picture remains Linda Eastman's "split-
crotch" shot of Jimi with guitar "implant" on stage in Miami.
Jimi was inspired in Miami, his fame had been spreading like wild fire
through America ever since his break through at the Monterey Pop
Festival nearly a year earlier. Frank Zappa was on the bill with the
JHE at Miami Pop and said he owned a guitar that Jimi set on fire in
Miami, but there are no pictures of Jimi burning a guitar there. Jimi
set guitars alight only twice, and it seems Zappa's memory of Miami is
crossed with some other concert.
"This guy comes along...to give us some
extra energy, but it turned out to be some sort of hallucinogen...I
looked up and saw the guy who gave us the powder in a lighting tower
about twenty-feet above the stage. Suddenly I was on the same level as
him, looking down at this empty shell playig the drums. Obviously the
powder wasn't what we thought! I looked across and there's Jimi up here
with me and we kind of look at each other and nod...it was straight out
of Twilight Zone."
- Mitch Mitchell
During a deluge the next day Jimi wrote a new song
for his next album.
"'Rainy Day, Dream Away' was written in
Miami, I'll never forget. I
was in the back of a car. We were pulling away from
Gulfstream Park...Everything was rained out. It was a
torrential rain storm, and then he started to write it right
- Eddie Kramer
I became more enthused about Miami Pop when a two-track soundboard
recording of the Jimi's second (nighttime) show in Miami surfaced in
pics of Jimi's late show). The taped songs include Fire,
Hear My Train, Purple Haze,
and Foxy Lady - the same version we hear in the
ABC-TV report with Gregory Jackson's voice-over.
For years I had been told
that Jimi's Miami shows were filmed for a movie to be called Electric
Shades Of Gray. As the story goes, the films were all
destroyed in a fire. I mourned the loss and then forgot about it.
Here we see two TV
cameramen in front of Jimi
Then recently I was
researching the archives of ABC-TV and
I found log sheets that are enough to make any Hendrix fan
gag. For sixteen days in May 1968 ABC-TV film crews
followed Jimi around for a story listed as "JIMI HENDRIX
EXPERIENCE". The first log sheet begins with the date "May 3, 1968."
The location is New York. The cameraman's
name is "Roy". On May 3rd Roy shot the following rolls:
"ORIG. COLOR A-600 SOF. MAG.; B-1000 SOF. MAG.,
C-900 FULL COAT". The contents of this first 2,500-feet of
film is listed and described as follows; "Shot of girl sketching
Jimi as he plays guitar and sings, preparation for a recording,
managers and recording engineers listening outside of
recording room; Hendrix performing; Drummer; Back-up
guitarist (bass) for Hendrix playing and reading paper with
friend; Inside recording studio with Eddie Kramer, Interview
with Kramer - He says, "Jimi's music is here to stay. Jimi is
easy to work with, imaginative and quick. Jimi appeals to 12-
16 age teeny-boppers and the 20-up older age group as well."
Kramer discusses Jimi's performing and artistic ability.
Interviews with Michael Jeffery and Chas Chandler - they
discuss Jimi's talent; Hendrix playing guitar and in recording
studio, Drummer and bass. More of Hendrix recording;
Hendrix in sound room with Kramer; Hendrix writing lyrics;
More of Hendrix and back-up musicians playing to the
In case anyone is still wondering, the "recording
to the Record Plant and the "performance" which ABC-TV
happened to film there on May 3, 1968 was non other than
Jimi recording his classic Voodoo Child (slight return)
Electric Ladyland album!
Child (slight return) somebody was filming when we started
doing that. We did that about three times besause they wanted to film
us in the studio, to make us, (pompous voice:) 'Make like you're
recording, boys' - one of them scenes, so, 'Ok, let's play this in E
there - one a-two and a-three,' and then we went into Voodoo
Child." - Jimi
For years I've heard people speculate
footage of Jimi playing a sunburst
Strat, and wearing a tan buckskin jacket with fringe, are
scenes from the lost
Record Plant films. I disagree. Jimi's hair style gives
the period away. That footage comes from TTG Studios in Los Angeles
October 1968. He wears an outfit seen frequently in photos from his
November 1968 U.S.
tour. The original reels of this October studio footage have
recently been found and they contain scenes of Jack Casady
jamming with the Experience as well as an unidentified flute
player (probably Virgil Gonsales, who had jammed on stage
with Jimi at Winterland a couple of weeks earlier).
palm tree resemblance to Jimi's hair,
and helicopter top - is this intentional?
The next ABC log listing is dated May 18, 1968 and
location is Miami, Florida. The cameraman's name is
"Stanford". He shot the following rolls: "ORIG. COLOR A-
810 SOF. MAG.; B-800 SIL. & TCK." The contents of this
1,600-feet of film is listed and described as follows: "Jimi
Hendrix in outlandish clothes leaving hotel; Members of his group
joining him in limousine; Shots of girls drinking beer
during the ride in car; Hendrix and his
friends getting into the helicopter; Helicopter flight, Shots of the
concert advertising poster, Hendrix in a restaurant, surrounded by
young people; Girls at a pool; Jimi
followed by a crowd of young people; Shots of Jimi in a
dressing room with his friends eating; Shots of them arriving
at the stadium; Daylight performance; Young people
watching; More of Hendrix and his band."
The last ABC log listing
is dated May 19, 1968 and the location
is still Miami. Stanford is the cameraman and he shot the
following roll: "ORIG. COLOR 625 SOF. MAG.". The
content of this footage is an interview with Jimi. Jimi discusses
his work while a friend listens to him. "Hendrix talks about his
group getting started, playing blues, rock and free form
musics. Jimi introduces 'Frank' (Zappa) and a back-up
member of the group. They discuss audience reactions. When
Jimi isn't playing music he writes 'words'. He likes football.
He says he's working on a new type of music which will give pop more
respect. Discusses his moods and ideas."
Also among the ABC
listings is a description for an "EDITED
FILM establishing Jimi Hendrix and his group in a
psychedelic, surrealistic style using beautiful colors,
formations, movement, very brief shots of old and new
buildings are used. The interior of a building, an eerie
staircase, a rag doll, beautiful girls in bikinis, a GO-GO girl and
other objects. All are inter-cut with colors, shapes, suggestions
of movement. All are extremely brief shots. Jimi in a light
show. Lights flashing on stage - audience in foreground. Jimi
singing, playing guitar, shots of his group playing. Fireworks
over the stage."
Several things intrigue me about this description.
It could very
well be that this footage comes from the Foxy Lady
clip, shot at the "Rudolph Valentino" mansion in Los Angeles on August
1967. However, first there is the reference to "Jimi in a light
show. Lights flashing on stage - audience in foreground." I
was told that the ABC crew worked on the JHE story from May 3 through
May 19, 1968. Besides Miami Pop, the only other JHE gig
during this period was at the Fillmore East in New York on
May 10th. Noel Redding stated in Musician (August 1986, p.
76) that "they filmed our May 10 Fillmore East shows"...Elliott Landy's
this concert reveal an elaborate full-screen light show behind
the band. Surely the ABC film crew was aware of this New
York gig when they turned up to film at the Record Plant a
week earlier. It is likely that the film crew also showed up for
some concert footage at the Fillmore as well. Possibly the
"interior of a building" and "eerie staircase" scenes are
descriptions of shots inside the Fillmore, or more likely these are
scenes that later showed up in Hendrix
promotional videos, this video contains that staircase at 2:34.
We'd think that whomever has/had this ABC "eerie staircase" footage
would also have the Miami scenes, but then why were the JHE Miami Pop
concert segments never used (except the brief scenes from ABC News TV
coverage of Jimi's death)? Lastly, the ABC log reference to "Fireworks
over the stage"
probably refers to the climax of the Miami Pop Festival when
fireworks formed a large peace symbol over the crowd.
A friend of mine saw Jimi
in concert three times; once in May
1969, once in September 1970, and at the Miami Pop
Festival. He says forget the rest, Miami was the killer. So
where is the killer footage? And where is the footage of
Voodoo Child (slight return) as it was
being recorded? On
each of the listings from ABC archives are printed the words:
"LOST ABC 9/73". I was told that someone who probably
worked there simply slipped the film reels into a suitcase and
walked off with them. They were all discovered to be missing
in September 1973.
We know that the films
were available on September 18, 1970 when ABC used several brief scenes
for their report of Jimi's death. But we've been deprived of all the
rest at the hands of a villainous art thief.
Did the thief die and leave the unattended films
to rot into
dust? Are the reels locked away in some forgotten vault or
stashed in an attic? Were the films destroyed in a fire,
deliberate or accidental? Is some private collector viewing
them at this moment? We may never know. Only the as of yet
untraceable videotape of Jimi's monumental April
1970 L.A. Forum concert surpasses the missing ABC-TV footage
Holy Grail of all lost Hendrix memorabilia.
Color Scenes of Jimi at Miami Pop filmed by Andy Seipos
[NOTE: The above article (not the film clip) was
published in the May 1991 issue of UniVibes
magazine, and it also appears in the book Best of UniVibes
(1992). A research thief called Mr.
Rob(ber)y has published a book in which he credits himself
for the work Michael Fairchild did in 1991 about the lost ABC films of
Jimi at the Miami Pop Festival.