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Doors opened at 11 p.m. for the midnight show on New Year's Eve. The Joshua Light Show kept the audience entertained with clips from the movies Dr. Strange Love and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then the Voices of East Harlem returned to fill the hall with gospel-inspired renditions of Sing A Simple Song, Run, Shaker Life and Let The Sunshine In. At three minutes before midnight the youngsters danced offstage as a large clock image was projected on the screen. Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra (popularized as the theme for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick 1967) blared from loudspeakers as the stage screen was lifted.

For several minutes the light show gear was revealed as its aurora borealis patterns danced directly on the crowd. Tambourines rattled at fever pitch when the screen was lowered and large numbers flashed superimposed on the clock. Everyone chanted the countdown to 1970 in unison before a thousand "Happy New Year" cheers accompanied the Lombardo Orchestra's recording of Auld Lang Syne. Hendrix then appeared and led the Gypsys through their own arrangement of Auld Lang Syne, a rendition later described in Downbeat magazine as "a bluesy thing of strange beauty."

The set that followed contained extended jams of new material as well as several old Experience standards. But, as a review in the New York Times noted, Hendrix seemed "as if he were molding a living sculpture of sound rather than fulfilling the normal role of the entertainer...more important than the form of the song is the amount of aural and personal pyrotechnics he can cram into it."


BOG on New Year's Day 1970

Joseph Sia's split-crotch photo of Hendrix on New Year's Eve gives us a rare glimpse of all four sound effect foot-pedals that Hendrix was utilizing on stage at this time. To the far left is the Vox Wah-Wah pedal -- for transforming guitar tones into muted-trumpet-like bass-to-treble alterations; next to that is the custom made Octavia box -- for electrically doubling the pitch of guitar notes (Hendrix began to use this new portable Octavia unit in the summer of 1969, but the first time it is heard on a contract recording is within this second BOG set during Machine Gun and Stone Free, where he applies it to the Cherokee Mist melody); a patch cord then connects the Wah-Wah and Octavia to the round Fuzz-Face distortion unit -- for ballooning guitar tones into static feedback; and to the far left is the Univibe pedal, which when depressed accelerates a wavering flutter and turns feedback to swish.

From this second BOG show comes a beautiful color film by Amalie Rothschild of Hendrix, Miles, and Cox performing Stepping Stone, Fire and parts of Ezy Ryder.

Jan Blom's videotape of the next show, the New Year's Day early show (containing Side A of the 1970 BOG album), forever preserves an unearthly set which, ironically, was described by one reviewer as a "disappointing musical experience...Hendrix was unimpressive...if the audience had charged him to practice in front of them, it would have been a much better concert."

Except for 30 seconds of pelvic thrusts during Foxy Lady, Hendrix remained stock-still during this set and caused a reporter from Rolling Stone to write, "It's as if Hendrix doesn't care about putting on a show for whitey anymore; rather he is into really playing the guitar instead of shucking and jiving with fancy tricks." Then the article went on to call Buddy Miles a "run-of-the-mill R&B singer" and report that a lot of the new BOG songs "sounded like Purple Haze" -- even though Hendrix's new social-message songs were in fact a big departure from his past outer-space and/or love themes.

The final BOG show at the Fillmore continued on until dawn the next day. Having satisfied the tape machines, Hendrix returned to the stage with his full array of freak-flag postures and unleashed multiple encores of Voodoo Child, Wild Thing, Hey Joe and Purple Haze.

Madison Sq. Garden - Jan. 1970

Afterwards in the dressing room, Al Aronowitz asked if there was a reason for the change in Hendrix's music. He replied, "Earth, man, earth. Now I want to bring it down to earth. I want to go back to the blues, because that's what I am."

Four weeks later, on January 28, 1970, the BOG gave one last performance. Appearing on a bill with 10 other acts before a sold-out house at Madison Square Garden, the occasion was a special benefit concert for the Vietnam Moratorium Committee. It was only one week before the show that Moratorium organizer Phil Friedman first approached rock entrepreneur Sid Bernstein with the idea for a Peace Festival to raise badly needed funds for a $50,000 Moratorium Committee deficit. Hendrix's friend, producer Alan Douglas, was asked to procure the BOG for this benefit appearance.

Hendrix, Miles, and Cox were scheduled to play just prior to the closing set (by the cast of Hair). The program was already proceeding behind schedule by the time Hendrix appeared on stage past 3 a.m. After opening with an elegant version of Who Knows and running through a chaotic try at Earth Blues, Hendrix sat down on the stage and did something that seemed strangely appropriate when one considers the real purpose for a Vietnam Moratorium -- he became ill and walked off.

VIDEO: GLADIATOR IN SILK - Jimi Hendrix at Madison Square Garden "1969"

Band Of Gypsys Madison Sq. Garden, Jan. 28, 1970:

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- James Sedgwick]